Trump is Bent on a New Arms Race

Nuclear Arms Control, or a New Arms Race? Trump Seems Bent on the Latter.

Daryl G. Kimball

Even as the world’s nuclear-armed states squander tens of billions of dollars each year on nuclear weapons amid an epic and costly pandemic, the Trump administration is compounding the damage to global stability through ill-considered, unilateral actions that are destroying major pillars of the international security architecture. At risk are key agreements and arms control treaties that Republican and Democratic administrations have built to safeguard not only the United States but also its closest allies.

Multiple actions and comments just this month signal the administration’s intentions. In an interview published May 7 in The Washington Times, President Donald Trump’s new arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, suggested the United States may abandon the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in February 2021 unless Trump takes up a Russian offer to extend the agreement by five years. New START verifiably limits each of the two nations’ long-range (i.e. strategic) nuclear arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

But instead of extending New START, which effectively caps Russia’s strategic arsenal, Billingslea is doubling down on Trump’s gamble that Russia accept U.S. terms for a new arms control agreement involving not only Russia but also China. In remarks during an online discussion with the Hudson Institute on May 21, the envoy said the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race, if they don’t agree to Trump’s terms for a new deal.

Then on Friday night, May 22, The Washington Post revealed that senior Trump officials recently discussed the option of conducting the first U.S. nuclear test explosion in 28 years as a way to pressure the Russian and Chinese leaders to accept the U.S. terms. The idea itself is provocative and reckless. A U.S. nuclear test blast would certainly not advance efforts to rein in Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals or create a better environment for negotiations. Instead, it would break the de facto global nuclear test moratorium, likely trigger nuclear testing by other states, and set off a new nuclear arms race in which everyone would come out a loser.

Unless the Trump administration comes to its senses and adjusts course—or a new presidential administration led by Joe Biden is elected and pursues a more enlightened approach—New START may disappear, other critical nuclear risk reduction agreements may fall by the wayside, and the door to an ever-more dangerous and costly global nuclear arms race will swing wide open.

Trump’s Record of Failure

The Trump administration came into office without a clear strategy to deal with what arguably is the paramount responsibility for a U.S. president: managing and reducing nuclear weapons risks. Trump arrived in the Oval Office with an irrational dislike for anything that President Barack Obama had been involved in creating but without a viable strategy for coming up with something better.

The administration’s official nuclear policy document, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, barely discusses arms control as a risk reduction tool. It passively states that “the United States will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit.” The result has been the dismantling of key nuclear and security agreements and failing efforts to make progress on new ones.

In 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally and formally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. the Iran nuclear deal, and re-imposed nuclear-related sanctions in violation of the agreement, despite the fact that Iran was meeting all of the restrictions mandated by the seven-party deal. The JCPOA had been a major success: it curtailed Iran’s capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear material; requires a very robust international inspection system; and it prevented a major proliferation crisis and potentially a war. But Trump insisted the deal was not good enough. In addition to resuming sanctions that had been waived under the deal, he demanded more concessions from Tehran. The result; no new deal, no negotiations, and Iranian retaliatory steps to bypass many of the nuclear restrictions that were set by the original deal.

Last year, the Trump administration withdrew from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated 2,692 U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles and prohibited either country from deploying these weapons. The withdrawal followed a brief and perfunctory effort by the United States to find a resolution to allegations that Russia tested and deployed a missile in excess of the treaty’s 500 km range limit and Russian concerns the United States might use missile defense launchers in Europe for INF-prohibited offensive missiles. The U.S. withdrawal doesn’t eliminate the Russian missiles of concern, knows as the SSC-8, and now both sides are free to test and deploy INF-class missiles, which are inherently destabilizing because their relatively short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced the administration’s intention to unilaterally withdraw from yet another international security treaty that helps to keep the post-Cold War peace with Russia and is widely supported by the United States’ allies in Europe: the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. Open Skies helped preserve the post-Cold War peace by allowing the 34 participating nations, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation aircraft over one another’s territory. This helps preserve a measure of transparency and trust, thereby enhancing stability and reducing the risk of conflict.

Like many treaties, especially one involving hundreds of flights over others’ territories, there have been troublesome implementation disputes, including restrictions set by Moscow on flight over its Kaliningrad enclave. Such problems can and should have been resolved through professional, pragmatic diplomacy, not by abandoning treaty commitments.

In a rebuke of Washington, 11 European nations, including France and Germany, issued a statement on May 22 expressing “regret” about the U.S. decision. They said they will continue to implement the treaty, which “remains functioning and useful.”

Though the Open Skies Treaty won’t necessarily die without the United States, it would be wounded. And the U.S. stands to lose valuable capabilities that cannot be replaced with other intelligence tools. Open Skies flights provide valuable information about Russian military exercises, they have helped counter Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and they have been used by the United States to overfly Russia’s former nuclear weapons test site.

Is New START Next?

On Feb. 5, shortly after the next presidential inauguration, New START is due to expire unless extended by mutual agreement “for a period of no more than five years unless it is superseded earlier by a subsequent agreement,” as allowed for in Article XIV of the treaty.

With eight months left before the expiration date, there is simply not enough time to negotiate, sign and ratify a new follow-on agreement. And New START is too important to throw away.

U.S. military and intelligence officials greatly value New START’s warhead and delivery-system ceilings and the associated monitoring and verification provisions, which provide predictability and transparency and help promote a stable nuclear deterrence posture vis-à-vis Russia.

Without the New START extension, the United States and Russia will be without limitations on their nuclear stockpiles for the first time since 1972. An already difficult relationship between the two nations will become far worse. Potentially, each side could rapidly upload – within months – hundreds of strategic warheads on their land- and sea-based strategic missile systems and exceed the original treaty limits. Without the treaty’s robust verification, on-site monitoring, and information-exchange requirements, each side’s confidence in assessing the other’s nuclear capabilities and plans would diminish.

For these and other reasons, all U.S. allies, in NATO and in East Asia, support the treaty’s extension. And among Americans, 80 percent of the public, based on recent polls, say they support the treaty’s extension. A bipartisan coalition in Congress supports extending New START.

In a video appearance on May 20, President Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, George Schultz, called on the White House to extend New START. “It’s up to us, the U.S. Let’s get going.”

But with the clock winding down on the treaty, Trump and his team continue to rebuff President Vladimir Putin’s offer to extend New START. In his Hudson Institute remarks, Billingslea made clear the administration is not satisfied with New START and may not extend it. “Any potential extension of our existing obligations [i.e. New START] must be tied to progress towards a new era of arms control,” Billingslea said, without defining “progress.”

The goal of “a new era of arms control,” he says, is a new agreement that limits both Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons and its tactical nuclear weapons, and that also involves China. Experts have debated and discussed how to move beyond talks on bilateral U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions to third-country nuclear arsenals for some time. The practical challenge is how and when. Tough rhetoric from U.S. officials will not, by itself, deliver results, given the fact that Bejing has never been part of such a negotiation and has a nuclear stockpile of about 300 nuclear weapons, which is less than one-tenth the size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals.

Not surprisingly, senior Chinese officials have repeatedly said they are not interested in an arms control deal so long as Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals remain orders of magnitude larger than theirs. Russian officials say they are open to talks with China, but it is up to the United States to bring China to the table.

When asked what should motivate the Chinese to join U.S. and Russian officials in arms control talks, Billingslea argued that “if China wants to be a great power — and we know it has that self-image — it needs to behave like one. It must demonstrate the will and the ability to reverse its destabilizing nuclear buildup, and it should engage us bilaterally and trilaterally.”

Really? Maybe that argument works for Kim Jong-un, who craves the legitimacy that is conferred by direct talks with Trump. But that isn’t going to persuade Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to talks with Washington on unspecified limitations on China’s arsenal.

New Types of Russian Weapons Systems

As for U.S. and Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons, negotiations to account for, reduce, and eliminate those arms are overdue, but they won’t be easy either. Russian officials say they are prepared to do so, but only if U.S. leaders are willing to address Russian concerns, including U.S. missile defenses—an issue U.S. officials say is non-negotiable.

Trump officials also say they are worried that several new types of Russian strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems may not be covered by New START. “They should simply wrap those programs up and discard them,” Billingslea told The Washington Times.

Billingslea is either ignoring or is ignorant of the fact that Moscow announced earlier this year that New START would, in fact, cover two of those new Russian systems: Sarmat, a new intercontinental ballistic missile, and Avangard, a hypersonic glide vehicle. Without an extension of New START, these weapons, like all of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons, would not be limited by any treaty. The other new Russian weapons—a nuclear-armed long-range torpedo and a nuclear-powered cruise missile—are still under development. Independent experts estimate they will not be ready for deployment before 2026, which would be after the maximum period New START could be extended in any case.

At the close of his May 21 Hudson appearance, Billingslea warned Russia and China that if they don’t agree to Trump’s terms, “the president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it,” Billingslea claimed.

No One “Wins” Arms Races

Such bravado ignores the fact that the White House doesn’t approve federal spending, no country can afford an all-out nuclear arms race, and no one “wins” arms races.

The estimated price tag for the U.S. plan to replace and upgrade its nuclear arsenal is currently estimated to be around $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years. This plan was excessive, unaffordable and unsustainable before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, with the exploding federal debt, the need for trillions more spending for economic stimulus and relief, plus the other demands of the $700 billion plus annual defense budget, Congress will want to — and will need to — delay, trim, or even cancel some of the major elements of the nuclear modernization plan. Options for trimming the scale and the massive cost can be pursued in a way that maintains the U.S. nuclear force at New START levels, or at lower levels as part of a strategy for further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions.

A Better Way

Trump’s impulse to pursue more ambitious nuclear arms control talks is laudable; attempts to cajole adversaries with threats of further treaty withdrawals or nuclear test explosions are not. Negotiations to achieve deeper, verifiable reductions in all types of U.S. and Russian weapons are not a new idea, and they are very much overdue. After all, in 2013 Obama sought such talks to achieve a further one-third cut in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, but Putin rejected the idea.

Engaging China and the other nuclear-armed states more deeply in the nuclear disarmament enterprise is also important for international peace and security. Such negotiations, however, if they are to actually start and are to be successful, need to be pursued smartly and without threats of arms racing. They require persistence and skill, as they will complex and time-consuming.

At the moment, team Trump has no realistic chance of concluding a new agreement along these lines before New START is due to expire. It would be irresponsible to gamble away New START, or to conduct a nuclear test explosion, in a desperate attempt to coerce unilateral concessions from China and Russia on a new arms control deal. But that is what Trump’s circle of advisors seem to be contemplating.

Instead, if Trump were to agree to extend New START by five years, he would create the time and the necessary environment for a follow-on deal with Russia that addresses other issues of mutual concern, including tactical nuclear weapons and missile defenses. A New START extension also could put pressure on China to provide more information about its nuclear weapons stockpile, and perhaps agree to freeze the overall size of its nuclear arsenal or agree to limit a certain class of weapons, such as nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The decisions made in the next few months will determine whether we face an even more complex and dangerous nuclear future, or a slightly more stable one with good options for halting and reversing the nuclear weapons competition and the risks that entails.

 

Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

New York Times

By SAM ROBERTS

JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

Indian Point nuclear power plant to test sirens for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 11)

Drone photo of Indian Point Power Center in Buchanan on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Indian Point nuclear power plant to test sirens today

The siren system for the Buchanan nuclear power plant will be tested between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. in Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties.

Sirens will sound at full-volume for about four minutes as part of a regular, quarterly test of the system, said Entergy, Indian Point’s owner.

The public is not required to respond to today’s siren sounding.

John Meore & Peter Carr/The Journal News

In the case of an actual emergency, the sirens would sound to alert the public to tune in to a local Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio or television station for important information and direction. 

Stations are listed in the emergency planning booklet mailed to households and businesses in the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone surrounding Indian Point. An electronic version of the booklet is posted on the Indian Point web site.

Indian Point’s Unit 2 reactor shut off earlier this month after generating electricity for Westchester and New York City for nearly 46 years. Its sister reactor, Unit 3, will be decommissioned this time next year, when Indian Point shuts down for good.

Isabel Keane covers breaking news throughout the Lower Hudson Valley. Click here for her latest stories. Follow her on Twitter @ijkeane. Check out how to support local journalism here.

Russia’s New’Invincible’ Hypersonic Nuclear Missiles (Daniel 7)

Russia Building Stealth Bomber That May Carry ‘Invincible’ Hypersonic Nuclear Missiles: Report

On 5/27/20 at 5:15 AM EDT

Reuters reported that the prototype build for the stealth bomber—known as the PAK DA—has now begun, citing a report by the state-run Tass news agency which cited two sources “in the military industrial complex.”

One source told Tass that work building the cockpit of the PAK DA—an acronym that stands for the Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation program—has already begun.

The source said that the production of the airframe will be handled by a plant run by the United Aircraft Corporation, an aerospace and defense corporation in which the government is the majority stakeholder. “Material shipping” for the project has now begun, the source added.

A second unnamed source said that the prototype should be ready by 2021 though Tupolev—the aerospace company designing the bomber which is overseen by UAC—declined to comment. Newsweek has contacted Tupolev to request clarification on the reports.

Tass said that the PAK DA will be able to carry a range of “advanced” missiles and bombs, including hypersonic weapons. Russia has invested huge sums in its hypersonic program over recent years, now fielding aircraft- and intercontinental ballistic missile-launched hypersonic arms able to deliver nuclear warheads.

Tass did not specify which weapons, but Russia has already put its Kinzhal—meaning “dagger”—hypersonic missile into service following successful tests being fired by MiG-31 fighter jets and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers.

The Kinzhal was among the weapons unveiled by Vladimir Putin in 2018, which the Russian president described as “invincible.” It reportedly travels at around 10 times the speed of sound at a range of 1,250 miles, capable of hitting land-based or naval targets.

The PAK DA will be Russia’s first stealth bomber. Moscow has lagged behind the U.S. in developing stealth aircraft, fielding its first stealth fighter jet—the Su-57—in 2010. The Su-57 has since been deployed to Syria, though has not yet been produced in large numbers.

Its development was beset by delays and cost overruns, prompting frustration in India which was a partner on the project. New Delhi eventually pulled out of the project in early 2018, suggesting that the aircraft no longer met its military requirements.

Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Alexey Krivoruchko said in December that the draft PAK DA project had been approved, and later added that the first engine test for the aircraft would be held sometime this year.

Tass said the aircraft will be designed in the “flying wing” style like the American B2 stealth bomber, which entered service in 1997 and has been deployed in various U.S. military operations since. Tass said the aircraft will be subsonic and equipped with “the newest communications and jamming equipment.”

This file photo shows Russian MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets carrying hypersonic Kinzhal missiles over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2018.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

Let the Arms Race Begin (Daniel)

The Bunker: Let the Arms Race Begin

May 27, 2020

By Mark Thompson Filed under analysis

We’re up in arms here at The Bunker this week: arms spending, arms control and arms sales. So let the arms race begin!

DOES THE PENTAGON NEED A VENTILATOR?

The virus that ate the defense budget

Two weeks ago, The Bunker wrote about the Pentagon’s strategy to keep spending money on new weapons by killing old ones amid the coronavirus scourge. But it’s increasingly looking like that may be, um, bunk, as real budget cuts increasingly look like a sucking chest wound that merely moving money around won’t fix. “Given what’s going on in this country over the last two or three months…my personal expectation is we’re not going to see three to five percent growth” that the Pentagon wants, Army General Mike Murray, chief of the aptly-named Army Futures Command said May 19. “We’ll be lucky to see a flat line.”

Translation: cuts, perhaps deep, could be coming out of the Pentagon’s hide. It’s going to boil down to what scares more Americans more: a plague and its resulting economic morass, or foes salivating at the prospect of a weakened U.S. ripe for military exploitation. But, like everything else in this country these days, the two sides are far apart.

“Congress must remain focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and distributing needed aid domestically,” 29 Democratic House members wrote to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee May 19. “We must remain focused on combating the coronavirus and not on increasing military spending that already outpaces the next 10 closest nations combined.”

Balderdash! This is no time to lift the bugle and sound Retreat, counters Bradley Bowman, a former GOP Senate aide now with the Center on Military and Political Power at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Since the crisis began, Moscow has sent bombers to probe American air defenses near Alaska. China escalated its belligerent activity in the South China Sea. Iran has harassed U.S. naval vessels in international waters. North Korea launched a barrage of missiles. Hackers have pummeled defense networks and suppliers with cyberattacks. All the while, terrorists have continued attacking U.S. and partner forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he wrote at Breaking Defense May 20.

Bunker Thought Bubble: if rhetoric were money, all of our problems would evaporate.

Eventually, either wisely or painfully, the nation is going to have to recalibrate its national-security strategy. American politicians have a mile-long to-do list for the U.S. military, which is simply a recipe for doing a lot, poorly. That’s codified in the White House’s National Security Strategy, which routinely, in a long bipartisan tradition, assigns the military too many tasks given the budget the White House proposes and Congress disposes. “If we’re going to meet the demands of the National Security Strategy, we need to resource it to be able to do that,” Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, said May 20. “Or, the other choice is, you change and lower the demands of the National Security Strategy.”

“Lower” is probably not be the right word, General. But at least you’re thinking in the right direction.

ARMS UNCONTROLLED

Citing cheating by others, the U.S. is bailing from arms-control pacts

President Trump has decided to pull the U.S. out of the 34-nation Open Skies Treaty, a 28-year old confidence-building deal designed to let nations fly aircraft over potential foes to sweep up data about their military operations. Although satellites can do the same thing, many signatories lack such capabilities. While the president suggested the U.S. could be lured back into the accord, some see it as a sign he is shaping the battlefield, as they say, for a much bigger to-do: scuttling the existing New START deal that caps both U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons at 1,550 each. That deal expires in February, and the president has said he’ll exit unless it expands to include China, something Beijing has said it will not do.

This would follow a well-trod path: Trump bailed out of the 2015 multilateral deal restricting Iran’s nuclear-weapons push in 2018 (it was a lousy deal, he said), and withdrew from 1987’s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia in 2019 (because the Russians were cheating, he said).

There’s plenty of cheating going on, at least by potential foes. That’s according to the State Department’s latest annual report on who’s following the rules. “In 2019, the United States continued to be in compliance with all of its obligations under arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements,” the April 15 assessment says (no word on whether there was any finger-crossing going on as that was being typed). Other participants in such agreements—let’s call them the actors of evil—are violating at least part of the agreements they have signed. They include China, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

More significantly, U.S. intelligence has concluded that “Russia has conducted nuclear weapons-related experiments that have created nuclear yield,” according to the report. That would violate the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bars all nuclear-weapons tests. It could be all the evidence the Trump administration needs to resume nuclear testing on its own. Disconcertingly, that topic surfaced at a May 15 session among top Trump administration national-security officials, according to the May 22 Washington Post.

Russia, like the U.S., signed the CTBT in 1996. Moscow ratified it in 2000. The U.S. has not. Which raises a, ahem, critical question: Is it more important to ratify a treaty and ignore it, or adhere to it before pulling out?

THE ART OF THE DEAL

Trump’s merchant of menace

President Trump has made it clear that he is eager to sell weapons around the world for the well-paying jobs they generate for Americans. (Of course, they create relatively fewer jobs per dollar than almost any other kind of work, but what’s a little income inequality among friends?) He’s doing a pretty good job at it. Trump is “a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine,” as they said of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. His administration has brokered nearly a quarter-trillion dollars through the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program, according to a Center for International Policy study released May 21.

“Arms sales have been a persistent preoccupation of the Trump administration,” the study says. “Ever since his first few months in office, when he announced a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the President has been promoting arms sales as a job creator and a boon to the U.S. economy, as strategic and human rights concerns take a back seat to economic considerations.”

Better make that inflated economic considerations. Following that Saudi deal, Trump said it would create a half-million or so U.S. jobs. Not true, the CIP report says: “The President’s claims of up to 500,000 jobs from arms sales to Saudi Arabia are more than ten times the actual total of 20,000 to 40,000 jobs.”

But, on the other side of that ledger, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia have played a major role in turning the civil war in Yemen, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the Arab world’s poorest nation, into the globe’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Blood money, indeed. And in deed.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Here’s what has caught The Bunker’s eye recently

“We never really fought to win”

That’s what President Trump said about the last 18 years of war in Afghanistan, per May 18’s Washington Post. While a bittersweet statement—especially for the families of the 1,899 killed in action there—it also happens to be true. The Bunker can well remember the day the U.S. invaded, October 7, 2001, to oust the Taliban for sheltering al Qaeda as the terrorists plotted the 9/11 attacks. But the Taliban were removed from power by 2002. Then the U.S. government, and its military, simply began treading blood, and spending trillions. That’s what can happen when you have a gutless Congress unwilling to declare war, and an all-volunteer military that comes from only 1 percent of America.

Refreshing…

….to see Pentagon research chief Mike Griffin say that he’s “extremely skeptical” about putting laser weapons on warplanes, in this May 20 article from Breaking Defense. Not sure what triggered his change of heart—he was a laser-lover only a year ago—but the head-snapping U-turn is welcome, whatever its cause.

Flyover country…

The Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels have been conducting flyovers to honor the nation’s health-care workers battling the coronavirus. Here’s a piece from Proceedings, the U.S. Naval Institute’s shipshape magazine, about that aerial tradition.

War hero

June Willenz was the driving force behind the 1997 creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial just outside Arlington National Cemetery. While she never served in uniform, she spent much of her life fighting for women in uniform and female veterans, according to her May 24 obituary in the New York Times. 1924-2020. R.I.P.

Stolen valor

Here’s a Pennsylvanian who said he was a disabled veteran wounded in Iraq. Actually, he went AWOL from basic training in 2007 and ended up stealing nearly $17,000 from his local American Legion post. Stars & Stripes reported May 21 that a county judge sentenced him to up to 12 years in prison, including a year behind bars for lying about his military record. The Bunker knows some vets who would argue he got off light. Hard to believe it has been nearly 25 years since B.G. “Jug” Burkett stopped by my office in Washington to tell me of the book he and Glenna Whitley were writing called Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History. Burkett was driven to show how the public’s perception of him and his fellow Vietnam veterans was distorted by a slew of popular films like Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Taxi Driver. The press didn’t come out so well, either.

Speaking of long ago…

Seeing as, for us old-timers, Memorial Day will always be celebrated on May 30, guess there’s still time for a final nod to that most solemn of U.S. military holidays. Here’s something I penned May 21 for the news website in my Rhode Island hometown. It’s about the first Memorial Day I can really remember. It happened this coming Saturday, May 30, 55 years ago. Damn, The Bunker’s getting up there…

Thanks for reading, and stay safe as this strange, unofficial summer officially starts.

Center for Defense Information

The Center for Defense Information at POGO aims to secure far more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost.

America WILL Conduct Another Nuclear Test

America Should Never Conduct Another Nuclear Test | Nuclear Bombs

• The White House has reportedly discussed testing a nuclear weapon, the first such test in 28 years.

• The test—or threat of a test—would reportedly be used as a bargaining chip in arms control negotiations.

• The test is technically possible, but the negative aspects of resuming testing outweigh the positives.

The White House has discussed conducting a new nuclear weapons test, the first in nearly three decades. The idea of a test reportedly came up during a meeting of the President’s National Security Council, as a bargaining chip in arms control discussions with Russia and China. The test would be unnecessarily provocative and would weaken attempts to limit the nuclear arsenals of countries such as North Korea, Pakistan, and others.

According to the Washington Post, the matter was brought up at the meeting, but:

The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official said the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.” Another person familiar with the meeting, however, said a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing.

The U.S. conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1992, the year the tests ended. After the end of the Cold War, America’s nuclear arsenal was gradually de-emphasized: weapons were taken off high readiness alert; new bombers, missiles, and other delivery systems were cancelled or deferred; and the number of warheads were reduced by arms control agreements.

In 2018, the U.S. accused Russia of violating the 1987 INF Treaty, which it left in 2019. The U.S. has also accused Russia and China of recently conducting extremely low-yield nuclear tests, but has not offered enough details to allow independent verification. Presumably, the tests are an effort to “get tough” with both countries, demonstrating American resolve.

The U.S. government has signaled it’s open to a new deal limiting nuclear weapons, but wants China involved in a new three-way agreement. The U.S. currently has 6,185 nuclear warheads, while Russia has 6,490 nuclear warheads. China has approximately 290 weapons.

The U.S. could still test a nuclear weapon, and relatively quickly. The U.S. government, despite nearly three decades of inactivity, still has the means to do a nuclear test. The Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the National Test Site, was the site of hundreds of nuclear tests, and there are still unused testing shafts dug decades ago and available for use.

Simply put, the government would lower a nuke into the shaft and then detonate it. The test would likely be conducted on the northern side of the NNSS—the growth of nearby Las Vegas has limited how much of the range is still useful.

The use of a nuclear weapons test as a bargaining chip would cut both ways. On one hand, a new nuclear test would signal to other countries the U.S. is willing to restart the expensive process of developing new nuclear weapons, forcing them to do the same thing unless an arms control agreement were reached. A test of a weapon drawn from the national stockpile would also help prove the reliability of the arsenal.

The negatives of such a test outweigh the positives. If the U.S. resumes testing, Russia and China will likely follow suit, and the U.S. isn’t the only country that can refine its nuclear designs through testing. The test weapon might not work, a result we would definitely not want our enemies to know about. Finally, a U.S. nuclear test would encourage rogue countries such as North Korea to continue testing and developing their own nuclear weapons.

A new nuclear test is far from a done deal, and was reportedly opposed by the National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. That suggests that support for the test is drawn more from political considerations than practical ones.

The U.S has spent decades building goodwill by refusing to test. It would be a mistake to squander that goodwill on an unnecessary demonstration of strength that ends up benefitting no one.

The China Nuclear Horn is Concerned About Babylon the Great

China ‘gravely concerned’ as U.S. mulls resuming nuclear test

China on Monday expressed “grave concern” over media reports that claimed the U.S. is pondering whether to conduct its first nuclear test explosion since 1992, a decision that will reverse a decades-long moratorium on such actions and undermine a thinly-balanced consensus among other nuclear powers.

The Trump administration discussed the plan on May 15 at a meeting of senior U.S. officials representing the top national security agencies, according to a Washington Post article published Friday. The matter came up after accusations from the administration that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests – an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied, the Post reported.

“We’re gravely concerned about the report,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday when asked to respond to the article.

Noting that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) that calls for banning all nuclear explosions is an important pillar of the international nuclear arms control system, the Chinese official stressed that the treaty is crucial to attaining the global objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and world peace.

“Though it (CTBT) has not yet entered into force, banning nuclear testing has become an international norm. The CTBT is of great significance for nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and world peace and security. All five nuclear-weapon states, including the U.S., have signed the treaty and committed to a moratorium on nuclear tests,” he said.

“The U.S. has conducted the highest number of nuclear tests. We urge it to assume its due obligation and honor its commitment by upholding the purpose and objective of the treaty and contributing to the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime, instead of further disrupting global strategic stability,” Zhao reminded Washington.

The May 15 meeting of senior U.S. officials did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official told Washington Post that the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.” The daily also quoted another person familiar with the meeting as claiming that a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing.

Dubious distinction

The U.S. has the dubious distinction of being the only country to have used nuclear weapons during wartime, but since 1945 at least eight countries have collectively conducted over 2,000 tests, nearly half of which is accounted for by the U.S.

The U.S. has carried out a total of 1,032 nuclear tests – more than all other countries combined – since its first ‘Trinity’ detonation on July 16, 1945. It conducted its last test, code-named ‘Divider,’ in Nevada on September 23, 1992, before CTBT negotiations began in 1993. The treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 10, 1996, and has been signed by more than 184 nations.

However, it hasn’t entered into force as eight of the 44 specific countries that had nuclear facilities at the time of negotiation and adoption – the U.S., China, India, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Israel – haven’t ratified it. Also, India, Pakistan and the DPRK haven’t yet signed the treaty.

The enormous support for the treaty though has resulted in a general consensus with most major nuclear powers abiding by its core prohibition on testing. This has led to a near-global moratorium this century, with the DPRK being the only exception, having conducted six tests between 2006 and 2017.

Non-proliferation activists warn that any plans by a major nuclear power to conduct a test explosion now could have destabilizing consequences leading to a new arms race. A test resumption by the U.S. “would be an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told the Post.

“It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing,” he said.

(Cover: Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian addresses a press conference in Beijing, China, May 25, 2020. /China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Incendiary balloons return outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Incendiary balloons return, balloon units threaten more launches

Terror group demands medical supplies to fight COVID-19; Gaza Health Ministry announces the first death of a Palestinian infected with coronavirus in the Strip.

At least three groups of incendiary and explosive balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip on Monday, announced the terror group Ahfad al-Nasser later in the day, warning that Israel had 72 hours to send medical supplies for the coronavirus outbreak into Gaza, or they would make the Gaza envelope “hell.”

The launches of incendiary balloons have become more sporadic in recent months. The last time balloon launches were announced by the balloon units was in late April, and before that in February. While they threatened launches before the Knesset elections in March, none were announced.Countless incendiary and explosive balloons have been launched by Gaza’s terrorists in recent years. They sometimes have books or toys attached to lure children, and some have sparked large wildfires in the past. Israel has threatened and has launched strikes against the Strip in response to continued use of the balloons.

A Palestinian teenager was killed when an explosive device he was working with exploded in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to Palestinian reports.

Meanwhile, the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry announced on Saturday the first death of a Palestinian infected with coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.

The victim was identified as 77-year-old Fadila Muhammad Abu Raida, a resident of Khan Yunis.

Some 35 new cases were reported in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 55. In late April, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the Gaza Strip had only 93 ventilators.A special team formed by Israel’s Health Ministry has facilitated the entry of medical equipment and the establishment of a field hospital for coronavirus patients in the Strip. An outbreak in the densely-populated Strip could lead to a humanitarian crisis.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

Changing Hands Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

BY BRIAN PJ CRONIN

DECEMBER 21, 2019

Riverkeeper objects to potential transfer

Last month, the energy company filed an application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to transfer its licenses to operate Indian Point to Holtec International after the shutdown of the last reactor at the nuclear plant, which is scheduled for April 2021.

Holtec would then begin mothballing the facility, using a $2.1 billion decommissioning fund that has been accumulated by Entergy during the life of the plant. Holtec also has said it would hire about 300 Indian Point workers.

“Entergy is in the power-generation business, and decommissioning is a line of work that we’re not involved in,” said Jerry Nappi, an Entergy representative. “Holtec specializes in the management of used fuel and its affiliates have special expertise in decommissioning. They can decommission the plant decades sooner than Entergy would be able to.”

Entergy’s original plan had been to take 60 years, the maximum time allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Holtec plans to do it in 15. (Holtec did not respond to a request for comment for this story.)

The accelerated timeline doesn’t concern Richard Webster, the legal director for Riverkeeper, the Ossining-based environmental group. Many decommissioning projects start with a process called SAFSTOR, in which the plant is monitored for up to 45 years to give the radioactive materials time to decay and lower the amount of hazardous material. By skipping SAFSTOR, “15 years is a reasonable amount of time to do it,” said Webster.

Nevertheless, Riverkeeper has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (or, failing that, Gov. Andrew Cuomo) to deny the transfer to Holtec.

“Our objections can be summed up as: Bribes, lies, poor safety record and under-capitalization,” said Webster.

Holtec is no stranger to controversy. In 2010, the inspector general for the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency, found that Holtec had funneled $54,000 to a TVA manager to secure contracts. The firm was fined $2 million and barred from federal contracts for 60 days.

In Ohio, Holtec was awarded tax credits following a 2009 promise to bring 200 jobs to its facility in Orrville. But the jobs never appeared — in fact, the plant lost four positions — and the tax credits were rescinded.

Then, when applying for tax breaks in New Jersey in order to bring a facility to Camden, the company claimed that it had never been barred from working with federal agencies. To push New Jersey to grant the tax breaks, Holtec said Ohio and South Carolina had made generous counterproposals, an assertion both states denied.

Last year, a contractor at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California, where Holtec has been contracted to manage spent fuel, brought to light an apparent near accident involving a dry cask filled with radioactive fuel. (Plant officials said there was never any danger to the public.) The worker also alleged the site was understaffed and its supervisors often replaced with less experienced managers.

Finally, on the financial side, Webster said he was alarmed at Holtec’s decision at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey, which has been decommissioning for less than a year, to transfer money from the decommissioning fund to spent fuel management, a move that Holtec has signaled it would also do at Indian Point.

“That’s not what that fund is for,” he said. “And there’s a complicated set of LLCs [limited-liability corporations] designed to shield Holtec International, the core corporation. We just don’t have much information about the financial viability [of the company]. If you were running a huge international business that was making money, you shouldn’t be so desperate to get tax breaks that you have to lie on a form.”

At Entergy, Nappi said that Holtec’s recent approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission show that the issues raised aren’t of concern. “The NRC has approved the transactions for two previous nuclear power plants to Holtec, and that only happens if a company can demonstrate that it has the technical and financial qualifications needed,” he said. “We feel confident that Indian Point will receive approval.”

If that happens, Webster said he hoped that it would at least come with certain conditions, such as the creation of a citizens’ oversight committee with the power to (1) audit the decommissioning fund, (2) subpoena documents, (3) have specialists look at difficult situations, and (4) transfer questions of safety to the NRC.

At the least, Webster said, Holtec should not be allowed to keep anything that remains in the decommissioning fund at the end of the project, as it might encourage the firm to do the job as cheaply as possible at the expense of safety and other concerns.

Hamas Calls for Resistance Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Resistance Only Way to Liberation of Palestine: Hamas

In a statement on Monday, on the occasion of liberation of southern Lebanon from Zionist occupation, Hazem Qassem congratulated Lebanon on the 20th anniversary of the event.

He said the Zionist regime’s withdrawal from south of Lebanon came as a result of the sacrifices made by the Lebanese people and resistance forces.

The blood of martyrs and suffering of the POWs paved the way for this great victory, he added.

Qassem went on to say that the Zionist regime’s retreat from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is clear evidence that liberation of occupied lands is only possible through resistance.

Every year in May, Lebanon commemorates the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from its southern territories, known as Resistance and Liberation Day.

The Hezbollah resistance movement’s forces pushed Israeli troops out of the southern parts of Lebanon on May 25, 2000, after more than two decades of occupation.

The national holiday in Lebanon is seen as a turning point that changed the regional equations and debunked the myth of Israel’s invincibility.