“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That statement, which President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issued in 1985, helped end the Cold War. It meant something because until then, both countries believed the other was ready and almost willing to destroy the other with its large nuclear arsenal. They backed up their words by reducing their armories and banning their most dangerous weapons.
Almost 40 years later, the risk of a nuclear conflict erupting between the United States and Russia, and increasingly between the United States and China, is dangerously high. Without concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States could end up in a nuclear war it says must not be fought.
Story continues below advertisement
Tensions over Ukraine or Taiwan could get out of hand quickly, with uncertain outcomes. Just this past week, Russia made veiled threats of deploying more battlefield nuclear weapons in and around Ukraine. Worse, the United States, Russia and China are all rapidly modernizing or expanding their nuclear and missile capabilities, as are Britain, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
It is understandable that the international community welcomed the Jan. 3 statement by the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council collectively known as the P-5, that adopted the historic 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev statement for the first time. But despite their stated rejection of nuclear war in reality, the United States and Russia exercise daily for such war, and both invest heavily in nuclear weaponry.
The United States continues to target high-value Russian and Chinese military targets — nuclear and otherwise — the destruction of which, U.S. leaders believe, would produce “favorable” outcomes. Russia does the same to U.S.- and European-based targets. The goal: to control the battlefield and to create an outcome that political and military leaders can, inconceivably, consider a “victory.” If that is not a nuclear war, what is?
Story continues below advertisement
When it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States should be precise about its intentions. Declaratory policy can be a powerful tool in reducing nuclear risks. It is conventional wisdom that America stopped a Soviet invasion of Western Europe by declaring that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons in response to such an attack. The same can work in reverse. Adopting a more limited role for nuclear weapons can reduce the concern that a country might cross the nuclear threshold early in a conflict. Clarity on this stance, backed by changes on operations and forces to make it credible, can reduce the risks of nuclear preemption.
The Biden administration is preparing its own Nuclear Posture Review, which will lay out President Biden’s policies. As a senator, vice president and presidential candidate, Biden indicated that he might be ready to accept a more restrictive set of nuclear policies, including adopting a clear statement that the sole mission for U.S. nuclear forces is to deter and, if necessary, respond to a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies. The Nuclear Posture Review would be just the place for issuing this overdue statement of clarity. But U.S. statements must be credible, which means also implementing changes to force structures, targeting and procurement.
Saying that Washington opposes nuclear war-fighting while pursuing more than $1.2 trillionover the next three decades in nuclear modernization — including new missiles, submarines, stealth bombers and hard-to-track cruise missiles — damages America’s credibility. Moscow’s own modernization, and signs that China is increasingly seeking some form of nuclear parity with Russia and the United States, further undermine the value of the P-5′s feel-good statement. Though that statement was a step in the right direction, the words remain hollow and even dangerous if not followed by concrete actions.
Story continues below advertisement
Being specific about when nations would use nuclear weapons is one way to ease, if not eliminate, the pressure. But more must also be done to reduce the risk of clashes that could escalate to nuclear conflict. For example, members of the P-5 and the other nuclear-weapon states should adopt and implement proven risk-management tools to deal with the new challenges in space, cyberspace, missile and air defenses, and conventional weapons that are becoming more accurate, fast-moving and stealthy.
High-level strategic stability discussions should also seek concrete moves to prove that nuclear war-fighting is not part of the plan for members of the P-5. This can include taking weapons off alert status, cutting back modernization programs, pursuing binding reductions of nuclear forces and adopting observable norms on other weapons that threaten to undermine stability.
The danger of escalation to nuclear war remains all too real. Rejecting nuclear war-fighting in all of its forms should be a minimum approach for Biden. Failure to do so would only worsen the ongoing arms race among the United States, Russia and China.
BOOK REVIEW: Blown to Hell: America’s Deadly Betrayal of the Marshall Islanders
By: Walter Pincus / Diversion Books
Reviewed by James Lawler
The Reviewer: James Lawler devoted more than half of his career as a CIA case officer to penetrating and disrupting foreign weapons of mass destruction programs. As Chief of the A.Q. Khan Nuclear Takedown Team, which resulted in the disruption of the most dangerous nuclear weapons network in history, Mr. Lawler was the recipient of one of the CIA’s Trailblazer Awards in 2007. He is the author of Living Lies, an espionage novel about the Iranian nuclear weapons program, and the novel, In the Twinkling of an Eye, about recruiting a spy at the heart of a covert Russian-North Korean genetic bioweapons program to be released April 25.
Review: “The horror! The horror!” murmured Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz as he dies in The Heart of Darkness. Those words and their thinly-veiled reference to European colonial brutality towards indigenous tribes in Africa, echoed in my mind as I read Walter Pincus’s Blown to Hell, a gripping description of U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific. Altogether, there were 67 such tests from 1946 until 1958 in what is now the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
When we contemplate the almost unimaginable fury of nuclear weapons, it’s usually about the awesome blast of heat, the terrible shock wave near the speed of sound and immense radiation from the fireball, but not the ultrafine and frequently invisible scourge of radioactive fallout that is produced by a ground burst or near-ground burst. Rather than the very brief duration – milliseconds to a few seconds – of a fireball, however, the lingering devastation of fallout can persist for decades with silent and deadly effect. Perhaps it is fitting in this pandemic time of another invisible killer, that we have Pincus’s new, masterful and tragic account of these tests, which were conducted too close to a relatively primitive culture of peaceful islanders, whose lives focused on fishing and processing coconuts and its copra biproduct.
Pincus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post on intelligence and national security issues for fifty years and now a Senior National Securty Columnist for The Cipher Brief, never accuses the U.S. government of intentionally exposing the Marshall Islanders to this highly radioactive fallout, but his meticulously documented book carefully builds a case for reparations and the damages inflicted on the victims through miscalculations of nuclear yield and weather effects of trade winds and rain, which can be callously summed up by the classic bureaucratic understatement: “mistakes were made.” Indeed, he takes his book’s title from a joke by Bob Hope in 1947, after the Crossroads series of nuclear tests: “As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on earth that hadn’t been touched by war and blew it to hell.” After you read this book, however, you won’t be laughing.
Pincus expertly discusses nuclear weapon designs and testing as well as radiation effects that the lay reader can easily understand. For example, the pernicious radiation contamination cycle is described as lagoon algae absorbing radioactive particles, which are consumed by small fish, which, in turn are consumed by larger fish, and then is returned to the algae when the larger fish died and the cycle begins again with the long-lived fission products. After the Bikini Atoll tests, scales from the skin of some lagoon fish could emit enough radiation to create an x-ray picture.
The Navy was not completely unmindful of the nuclear weapons effects and did relocate various groups of islanders away from the test sites, but these relocation efforts sometimes far underestimated the yield of the weapon and the distance that fallout would spread on the unpredictable winds.
Pincus rightfully focuses a lot of attention on the 1954 Bravo test of a thermonuclear weapon. The initial predicted yield was six megatons (i.e. six million tons of TNT), but it was in fact fifteen megatons, or two and a half times as powerful. This was one thousand times as powerful as the “Little Boy” fission weapon, which destroyed Hiroshima, killing an initial 80,000 people and tens of thousands more who later died from radiation exposure. To add to the hellacious explosive effect, Pincus points out that Bravo “vaporized an estimated three hundred million tons of sand, mud, coral and water in a mushroom cloud that within five minutes, went through both the troposphere and into the stratosphere.” The uppermost cloud was at one-hundred-thirty thousand feet. One cannot even imagine the huge dispersal area of that radioactive fallout.
The Marshall Islanders, however, suffered no such deficit of imagination as the fallout rained down on them, and over the next several decades contributed to deaths, miscarriages, shortened lifespans and various cancers. To compound their misery, they were frequently relocated to remote uninhabited islands, which were highly unsuitable for their way of life and means of survival. As early as 1948, a decade before Pacific testing was ended, the Honolulu Star Bulletin quoted a Navy official as saying, “The Navy is running out of deserted islands on which to settle these unwitting, and perhaps unwilling, nomads of the atomic age.”
Pincus details the strenuous efforts of the Marshall Islanders over the decades to obtain compensation for their loss of life and lifestyle, health, and happiness. Some U.S. compensation has in fact been made, and then recalculated, and further contributions made over the years. It appears from his account, however, to remain woefully insufficient, and at times only grudgingly made. One should contrast these relatively tiny amounts of money with the many billions, indeed trillions, of dollars spent on our nuclear weapons program and how the Marshall Islanders’ sacrifices contributed ultimately to our national security.
On the penultimate page, Pincus states, “I want to remind people of the long-term health and environmental damage these weapons could cause if ever again used in war…The tiny islands…for the most part, still cannot be inhabited, despite attempts to decontaminate them, more than sixty-five years later…I hoped to show how much is owed to Marshall Islanders who were living simple, isolated lives far away in the South Pacific but who…are symbols of what would be the unthinkable short- and long-term medical results should nuclear weapons ever again be used.”
I should add that, although I abhor nuclear weapons and their horrific devastation and long-lasting radiation damage, I am not so naïve as to favor unilateral nuclear disarmament, especially when confronted by authoritarian and confrontational nuclear weapons states such as Russia, China or North Korea. I have also walked several times on Frenchman’s Flat at the Nevada Test Site, where fourteen above-ground and several below-ground tests were conducted, and personally experienced Conrad’s “fascination of the abomination.” This only added, however, to my sincere belief that intelligence operations to counter the spread of nuclear weapons (or biological weapons) are psychologically righteous. I believe that Walter Pincus would agree.
The old arms control model was a product of a bipolar world. The real challenge is creating a new model to deal with rising nuclear risks in a multipolar world
PREMIUMStatements and actions by the US, Russian, and Chinese leaders indicate growing tensions, with rapidly receding prospects of any arms control (AFP)
Updated on Jan 12, 2022 08:00 PM IST
Mixed signals emerging in 2022 reflect the challenge in dealing with rising nuclear risks in an increasingly polarised world. On the face of it, the January 3 joint statement by leaders of the five nuclear-weapon States (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races should have been a matter of global relief. However, statements and actions by the US, Russian, and Chinese leaders indicate growing tensions and the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race with rapidly receding prospects of any arms control.
FILE – This image taken with a slow shutter speed on Oct. 2, 2019, and provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Major shifts in U.S. nuclear weapons policy seem much less likely, and while President Joe Biden may insist on certain adjustments, momentum toward a historic departure from the Trump administration’s policy appears to have stalled. The outlook will be clearer when the Biden administration completes its so-called nuclear posture review – an internal relook at the numbers, kinds and purposes of weapons in the nuclear arsenal, as well as the policies that govern their potential use. The results could be made public as early as January.
FILE – This undated file photo shows the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. Major shifts in U.S. nuclear weapons policy seem much less likely, and while President Joe Biden may insist on certain adjustments, momentum toward a historic departure from the Trump administration’s policy appears to have stalled. The outlook will be clearer when the Biden administration completes its so-called nuclear posture review – an internal relook at the numbers, kinds and purposes of weapons in the nuclear arsenal, as well as the policies that govern their potential use. The results could be made public as early as January./
WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House nearly a year ago seemed to herald a historic shift toward less U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons and possibly a shrinking of their numbers. Even an American “no first use” pledge — a promise to never again be the first to use a nuclear weapon — seemed possible.
Now, major shifts in U.S. nuclear weapons policy seem much less likely, and while Biden may insist on certain adjustments, momentum toward a historic departure from the Trump administration’s policy appears to have stalled.
The outlook will be clearer when the Biden administration completes its so-called nuclear posture review — an internal relook at the numbers, kinds and purposes of weapons in the nuclear arsenal, as well as the policies that govern their potential use. The results could be made public as early as January.
The biggest unknown is how forcefully Biden will weigh in on these questions, based on White House calculations of the political risk. During his years as vice president, Biden talked of new directions in nuclear policy. But heightened concerns about China and Russia would seem to improve the political leverage of Republicans seeking to portray such change as a gift to nuclear adversaries.
Russia became a more urgent focus of Biden’s attention after President Vladimir Putin in recent weeks sent an estimated 100,000 troops to positions near Ukraine’s border and demanded U.S. security guarantees. Biden and Putin discussed Ukraine by phone on Thursday,and senior American and Russian officials are scheduled to follow up with more detailed talks in Geneva on Jan. 9-10.
Tom Z. Collina, policy director at Ploughshares Fund, an advocate for nuclear disarmament, says the China and Russia problems complicate the politics of Biden’s nuclear review but should not stop him from acting to reduce nuclear dangers.
“We do not want a new nuclear arms race with either nation and the only way to prevent that is with diplomacy,” Collina said. “We must remember the main lesson we learned in the Cold War with Russia — the only way to win an arms race is not to run.”https://www.wvnews.com/tncms/block/1626466/?disableTNStatsTracker=1
“Both Beijing and Moscow have invested heavily in efforts meant to check U.S. strengths and prevent us from defending our interests and allies around the world,” the guidance said. Biden pledged to counter with actions to strength the United States at home, repair its alliances abroad and elevate the role of diplomacy. Nuclear weapons were mentioned only briefly.
“We will take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy,” the guidance said without offering details, while also ensuring a safe and reliable U.S. nuclear force and seeking arms control opportunities.
“Because of what China has done, it has really changed the complexion of this review,” says Robert Soofer, who was the Pentagon’s top nuclear policy official during the Trump administration and led a 2018 nuclear review.
“Rather than it being a review that examines reducing the role of nuclear weapons and even eliminating a leg of the triad, now they’ve been obliged to basically stay the course and determine how to tweak it at the margins.”https://www.wvnews.com/tncms/block/1626466/?disableTNStatsTracker=1
“And so, obviously Russia is the wolf closest to the shed as it relates to the nuclear issue, but close behind is China’s desire to grow their nuclear arsenal, both quantitatively and qualitatively,” Kahl said June 23 at a nuclear policy conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Kahl did not preview the policy review outcome, but he said it is intended to fit inside a broader defense strategy, which also is to be published early in 2022.
The Pentagon has not publicly discussed details of the nuclear review, but the administration seems likely to keep the existing contours of the nuclear force — the traditional “triad” of sea-, air- and land-based weapons, which critics call overkill. It also may embrace a $1 trillion-plus modernization of that force, which was launched by the Obama administration and continued by Trump.
It’s unclear whether Biden will approve any significant change in what is called “declaratory policy,” which states the purpose of nuclear weapons and the circumstances under which they might be used.
Eight years later, the Trump administration restated the Obama policy but got more specific. “Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks. Significant non-nuclear strategic attacks include, but are not limited to, attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”
Some believed that Biden as president would go a different direction, following his own advice on a “no first use” pledge. He said in a January 2017 speech: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary, or make sense.”
But some argue that China and Russia this year have changed “today’s threats,” perhaps keeping Biden on a cautious path.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Iran will face severe consequences if it attacks Americans, the White House said on Sunday, including former officials sanctioned by Tehran for the 2020 killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Iran’s sanctions on Saturdaycame as Tehran’s proxy militias continue to attack American troops in the Middle East.
“We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 52 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences.”
Top Iranian officials have repeatedly issued threats to take revenge for Soleimani’s killing. The Qods Force general was Iran’s top military and intelligence operator in the region, organizing and guiding militant proxies.
The US warning came as nuclear talks continue in Vienna to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement, which would lift US sanctions and restrict Iran’s fast-developing nuclear program. Iran has refused to directly negotiate with the United States. Other participants in the talks act as mediators.
Iran on Saturday imposed sanctions on dozens more Americans, many of them from the US military, over the 2020 killing of Soleimani.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said 51 Americans had been targeted for what it called “terrorism” and human rights violations. The step lets Iranian authorities seize any assets they hold in Iran, but the apparent absence of such assets means it will likely be symbolic.
It was not clear why Sullivan’s statement referred to 52 people when Tehran said it had sanctioned 51.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 1 lashed out at former US president Donald Trump and others for Soleimani’s killing, saying they “will pay back for their crime.” Other Iranian officials have repeated similar threats in the past week as Tehran marked the second anniversary of Soleimani’s death.
Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria accelerated drone and rocker attacks on US forces in the first week of January.
Iran’s sanctions include former president Donald Trump, former CIA directors Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel, former UN envoy John Bolton, former defense secretaries Mark Esper and Christopher C. Miller. The list also included US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
Soleimani, was killed in Iraq in a drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, ordered by then President Donald Trump, who said he had to eliminate a “terrorist leader” who posed an immediate danger to Americans.
Total global tally of nukes has dropped from 70,000 to around 14,000 in past 55 years
The five permanent member states of the UN Security Council have pledged to work together to achieve “a world without nuclear weapons”.
In what The Guardian described as a “rare joint pledge to reduce the risk of such a conflict ever starting”, China, Russia, Britain, the US and France agreed that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”. The statement of agreement echoed a commitment made by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at a 1985 summit and was signed earlier this month “ahead of a review of a key nuclear treaty later this year”, said Al Jazeera.
“We also affirm that nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war,” said the five nations.
‘Moment of truth’
The joint statement “comes as tensions between the world powers have risen to heights rarely seen in recent decades”, said CNN.
Joe Biden is also facing a “moment of truth” over Iran’s nuclear programme, wrote Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies policy institute, and former Pentagon adviser Matthew Kroenig, in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). “A nuclear-armed Iran would cause further proliferation as regional powers like Saudi Arabia build their own bombs.”
Amid that looming threat, “mistrust between Tehran and Washington is deeper than ever”, said the Financial Times – the “legacy” of Donald Trump’s decision to “unilaterally abandon” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, during his tenure in the White House.
Nuclear possessor states
“At the dawn of the nuclear age, the US hoped to maintain a monopoly on its new weapon,” according to the Arms Control Association(ACA). “But the secrets and the technology for building the atomic bomb soon spread.”
Advertisement – Article continues below
A total of at least 31 countries have “flirted with nuclear weapons at one time or another”, said The Economist.
Nine nations are currently known to have nuclear arms.
Latest data from the Arms Control Association suggests that more than 90% of the world’s total nuclear warheads belong to Russia and the US. Putin is believed to be sitting on “the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear warheads”, with an estimated total of 6,257, “followed closely” by the US, at 5,500, said CNN.
China, France and the UK “round out the top five”, the broadcaster continued, with 350, 290 and 225 respectively.
The UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which came into force in 1970, classifies these five countries as nuclear weapon states (NWS). The treaty committed the UN’s 191 member states to preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons, with a goal of achieving total disarmament.
The total number of nuclear weapons in the world has decreased from 70,000 in 1968 to around 14,000, according to the BBC.
However, three states who did not sign the historic treaty are known to possess nuclear arsenals. The Arms Control Association estimates that Pakistan has 165 nuclear warheads and that India has156, while Israel is thought to have 90.
The country’s state media agency KCNA reported that a hypersonic missile had successfully been tested at the start of 2022, news that “will alarm its neighbours, notably Japan and South Korea”, Gardner continued. This type of weapon is “unpredictable” and “hard to intercept”, and “they also leave nations guessing whether they are carrying a conventional high explosive warhead or a nuclear one”.
Iran, Iraq and Libya have also breached the treaty’s terms by pursuing nuclear activities, “and Syria is suspected of having done the same”, said the Arms Control Association.
The Economist cautioned that while the nuclear ambitions of “geopolitical minnows” such as Libya and Syria may be quashed, “in the next decade the threat is likely to include economic and diplomatic heavyweights whose ambitions would be harder to restrain”.
The Arms Control Assocation struck a more positive note, noting that “dire decades-old forecasts that the world would soon be home to dozens of nuclear-armed have not come to pass”.
Image source: German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle
Image source: German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle
By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK (IDN) — When the world’s five major nuclear powers—the US, UK, China, France and Russia—pledged to prevent nuclear wars and abandon the pursuit of more weapons, their joint statement released January 3 explicitly left out several of the demands from anti-nuclear activists, including an end to the upgrading and enhancing of existing arsenals.
Rebecca Johnson, director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, told IDN “the weak and inadequate statement” might have been welcomed because few people thought the five major powers—who are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—”would manage to agree on anything these days”.
“Their nod in the direction of recognizing that nuclear wars should not be fought would have been great if they had followed up with relevant actions.”
“But no, after reiterating the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev statement that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’, this statement ignored the TPNW and offered no concrete disarmament actions to give meaning to those words,” she pointed out.
This was barely even gesture politics, as they also ignored the fact that there are actually nine nuclear-armed states, not just five, and all of them are busy upgrading and enhancing their nuclear arsenals, said Johnson, who is the founding first president of the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
She also said: “While condemning ‘unauthorized or unintended’ uses of nuclear weapons, these five proclaimed that nuclear weapons were okay if used for ‘defensive purposes only. Was that supposed to reassure the rest of the world?”
Just one unauthorized, unintended, or so-called defensive use of nuclear weapons would cause a humanitarian catastrophe and be likely to spark a nuclear war. Beneath the rhetoric, she argued, there is dangerous arrogance and denial of reality.
“The way things are going, any of the nine nuclear-armed leaders could be foolish enough to launch nuclear weapons—by mistake or intention.”
“As long as nuclear weapons continue to be possessed, advertised or brandished by anyone, the whole world is at risk of nuclear war. That is why more and more governments are adhering to the Nuclear Ban Treaty, which aims to end this kind of nuclear posturing and exert greater financial and political costs and pressures on the nuclear programs and ambitions of all the nuclear-armed states, whether they ignore it or not”, declared Johnson
And, meanwhile, one of the realities is that the world has nine, not five nuclear powers.
But all four were explicitly missing in action (MIAs) even in a follow-up statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, which also did not single out any of the nuclear powers by name.
So, they are strictly off-the-record and not for attribution.
Asked about the omission, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “Look, our message and the Secretary‑General’s message is clear is that he would like to see all nuclear weapons eliminated. And that, as he said in the statement, it’s a dialogue with those countries that have nuclear weapons, that those countries that have openly nuclear weapons as stated in the statement that was issued and all other Member States.”
Dujarric said the Secretary-General takes the opportunity to restate what he has said repeatedly: the only way to eliminate all nuclear risks is to eliminate all nuclear weapons. He reiterates his willingness to work with the nuclear-weapon States and all Member States to achieve this goal as soon as possible.
Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2021. All estimates are approximate. SIPRI revises its world nuclear forces data each year based on new information and updates to earlier assessments.
In a report released in 2019, SIPRI said both Russia and the United States were pursuing “extensive and expensive programs to replace and modernize their nuclear arsenals, missiles and delivery systems”.
In 2018, the US Department of Defence set out plans to develop new nuclear weapons and modify others to give them expanded military roles and missions, SIPRI said in its briefing. “The nuclear arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states are considerably smaller, but all are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.”
Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation, told IDN the inconvenient truth is that nuclear weapons will continue to exist as long as nuclear-armed states continue to cling to the dangerous doctrine of nuclear deterrence—the threatened use of nuclear weapons.
More than 50 years after the NPT entered into force, the behaviour of the NPT Nuclear-Weapon States points in the opposite direction, she noted.
“All of the nuclear-armed states, including the four outside the NPT (India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) are engaged in costly programs to qualitatively upgrade and in some cases quantitively increase their nuclear arsenals”.
Despite these reassuring-sounding words, Cabasso said, the reality is that a new nuclear arms race is already underway.
“This time it is compounded by offensive cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, developing hypersonic capacities, a return to intermediate-range delivery systems, and the production of delivery systems capable of carrying either conventional or nuclear payloads.”
In 2010, she pointed out, the NPT States Parties agreed by consensus to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security strategies. Twelve years later the opposite is true; that role has been expanded.
“The scale and tempo of war games by nuclear-armed states and their allies, including nuclear drills, is increasing. Ongoing missile tests, and frequent close encounters between military forces of nuclear-armed states exacerbate nuclear dangers,” she noted.
“With potential flashpoints over Ukraine and Taiwan, the risk of another use of nuclear weapons is as high as it has ever been. The nuclear disarmament process is stalled, and the five NPT Nuclear-Weapon States cannot credibly claim they are meeting their NPT Article VI obligations.”
Obviously, the four nuclear-armed states outside the NPT will have to be involved in negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, declared Cabasso.
Dr M.V. Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security & Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, told IDN the statement, by the five major nuclear powers, was evidently prepared for the NPT Review Conference (which was scheduled for the first week of January but postponed to August because of the spreading coronavirus pandemic).
“To me, that explains why the non-parties to the NPT are not part of the statement. Further, the statement implicitly extends to them in the sense that a nuclear war among them, say between India and Pakistan, cannot be won either and should not be fought.”
“That said, I have two comments: First, the obligation to disarm applies not just to the nuclear-weapon states under the NPT but also the other four countries. In 1996, the International Court of Justice unanimously stated that ‘There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control’.”
That obligation applies to all states, he noted.
Second, while it is good to reiterate what was said decades ago by Reagan and Gorbachev, the statement is disappointing in not making any commitments to reverse the ongoing nuclear modernization process and continued investment in maintaining their existing arsenals, declared Dr Ramana.
In their joint statement, the leaders of the five major nuclear powers said: “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented”.
“We reaffirm the importance of addressing nuclear threats and emphasize the importance of preserving and complying with our bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments. We remain committed to our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, including our Article VI obligation ‘to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’.”
Meanwhile, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) says despite progress in reducing nuclear weapon arsenals since the Cold War, the world’s combined inventory of nuclear warheads remains at a very high level: Nine countries possessed roughly 13,150 warheads as of mid-2021.
Approximately 91 per cent of all nuclear warheads are owned by Russia and the United States who each have around 4,000 warheads in their military stockpiles; no other nuclear-armed state sees a need for more than a few hundred nuclear weapons for national security.
Globally, the overall inventory of nuclear weapons is declining, but the pace of reduction is slowing compared with the past 30 years. Moreover, all of that reduction is happening only because the United States and Russia are still dismantling previously retired warheads, the FAS said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 January 2022]
Image source: German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle
The U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom and France in a statement this week said a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and agreed that the further spread of nuclear weapons should be stymied.
The powerful countries, and five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, said it is their primary responsibility to avoid war with one another and foster an environment of communication and eventual disarmament.
“As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war,” reads the rare statement.
The Jan. 3 pledge comes amid global tensions: Washington and Moscow are feuding as Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border, and the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan lingers.
On the other hand
The director of a Columbia-based watchdog group this week panned a statement issued by world nuclear powers, describing it as “disingenuous at best.”
The declaration, backed by the U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom and France, reiterates the belief that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. It also said the countries are committed to arms control and disarmament agreements.
Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements on Wednesday said he found the declaration “really offensive,” citing ongoing work in the U.S., including plutonium pit production ventures in South Carolina and New Mexico.
Plutonium pits are used in nuclear weapons. Dozens could be made every year at the Savannah River Site. They would eventually be used on the W87-1, a new warhead.
“The U.S. is not meeting its disarmament goals as required by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” Clements said. “And that’s demonstrated by the pursuit of the new nuclear weapons,” among other things.
It also comes as countries continue to modernize their respective nuclear weapons, arsenals capable of incredible destruction.
While the U.S. works to upgrade its arms and related infrastructure — including at the Savannah River Site, with a potential $11 billion pit production plant and a new tritium footprint — so does China. The Department of Defense last year reported the eastern power intends to have “at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size” of prior estimates.
“Over the next decade, the PRC aims to modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces,” the department’s report to Congress stated. (Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July 2021 told the Aiken Standard that an increasingly powerful and assertive China necessitates a “forceful, serious response.”)
The language of the recent joint statement is reminiscent of an agreement struck decades ago by then-President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1985, the two sides emphasized there are no winners in a nuclear war, and such a conflict should never occur.
The Savannah River Site has long been a vital cog in the U.S. national defense machine. For years it pumped out plutonium for the nation’s atomic armaments, and the site continues to handle and package tritium — a nuclear weapon booster, of sorts — for the military. SRS also is involved with nonproliferation efforts; the Savannah River National Laboratory has extensive experience in the field and supports the Department of Energy, intelligence communities and other organizations.
‘No one can win a nuclear war’: Superpowers release rare joint statement
UpdatedChina, Russia, the UK, the United States and France have agreed that a further spread of nuclear arms and a nuclear war should be avoided.According to a joint statement released on Tuesday morning (AEDT), the five countries – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – said they considered it their primary responsibility to avoid war between the nuclear states and to reduce strategic risks, while aiming to work to create an atmosphere of security.no one can win a nuclear warHiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The five countries making up the UN Security Council – all nuclear powers – say a nuclear war must never be fought.AP“We declare there could be no winners in a nuclear war, it should never be started,” the Russian-language version of the statement read.An English-language version was released by the White House.Related Article“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” the statement reads. “We also affirm that nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”The statement goes on to discuss the importance of addressing nuclear threats and of preserving and complying with non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control agreements.“We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorised or unintended use of nuclear weapons,” the statement reads.“We underline our desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.”Related ArticleFrance also released the statement, underscoring that the five powers reiterated their determination for nuclear arms control and disarmament. They would continue bilateral and multilateral approaches to nuclear arms control, it said.The declaration comes despite a UN decision last week to postpone a key arms-control meeting in New York – originally scheduled for February – due to rising COVID-19 infections.Diplomats had been scheduled to meet to review the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the 1970 accord designed to limit the spread of atomic arms.Under the accord, China, Russia, the UK, the United States and France were all granted dispensations to maintain stockpiles as long as they continued working toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.The urgency to reduce the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction has come into greater focus amid recent talks designed to lower tensions between the White House and the Kremlin, which administer the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals. The two adversaries are spending billions of dollars to modernise weapons systems, even as they occasionally work together to stem proliferation of weapons technologies.The statement comes amid increased geopolitical tensions between Moscow and NATO countries over concerns about Russia’s military build-up near neighbouring Ukraine. Moscow says it can move its army around its own territory as it deems necessary.Last Thursday US President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that a possible move on Ukraine would draw sanctions and an increased US presence in Europe.Reuters, Bloomberg
Even Russia acknowledges that any conventional war between the U.S. and Russia would destroy Russia but not destroy the U.S. Consequently, for Russia, any such war will not be waged. Only idiots would choose to engage in a war that they are certain to lose, and which would utterly destroy themselves. This means that if the U.S. strikes Russia by a conventional (i.e., non-nuclear) invasion, then Russia has only two options: (1) to respond with conventional weapons and assuredly be destroyed while achieving nothing; or, else (2) promptly release at least enough of its 6,255 nuclear warheads so as to maximally weaken the U.S.A.-and-allied retaliatory capability so as to be able then to go into a “Round Two” nuclear attack against the U.S.-and-allied side by having a much stronger military position than all of its many enemies (America and its allies) do.
That second option would leave BOTH SIDES, and (because of the then-inevitable nuclear winter) actually the entire planet, either doomed or else being close to being so. However, the U.S. and its many allies would be in far worse condition than Russia would be (because they’d have been greatly weakened by Russia’s nuclear first-strike); and then, MAYBE, Russians could survive that war by having lives that might be worth living.
The second option, for Russia, would be enormously less horrible than the first option; and here is why:
First of all: Russia would still retain its sovereign independence, not become a slave-nation (which the survivors in any U.S.-and-allied nation would then be: slaves, then, to Russia).
Secondly: Russia wouldn’t need to worry any longer whether the U.S.-and-allied side would be the first to go nuclear. Instead, the war would be over.
This is the reason why, ever since at least 2006, the U.S. has been planning and building its war against Russia for the U.S. side to be the first to go nuclear. (That plan is called “Nuclear Primacy,” and it replaces the previous system, which still continued on in Russia, and which was called “M.A.D” for “Mutually Assured Destruction.”)
Consequently: any idea that Russia would likely respond to a non-nuclear invasion of Russia without promptly going nuclear against the invading powers is stupid. Russia now knows how voracious America’s rulers (America’s billionaires) are. Ever since 24 February 1990, the U.S. had been secretly informing its allies that though the Soviet Union would soon end, and Soviet communism would soon end, and the Soviets’ Warsaw-Pact that they had built up in response to America’s NATO military alliance would also soon end, the U.S. side of the Cold War was to be secretly continued against Russia, until Russia itself becomes conquered and swallowed-up by the U.S. side, and the U.S. thereby becomes the unchallengeable dictator over the entire world.
Russia’s recent demand that all U.S.-and-allied weaponry that is less than a ten-minute flying-distance from Moscow be removed, and that NATO expansion be permanently halted, is a desperate attempt by Russia to avoid becoming yet-another slave-country to the U.S. regime. Russia doesn’t have good options. But, given the insatiably voracious appetite for expanding yet further America’s power that America’s rulers have, neither does any other country. And even Russia’s enormous nuclear force can’t protect Russians against so evil an enemy. But, perhaps, Russia’s nuclear force will be able to prevent Russians from becoming slaves to the U.S. regime. And that would be something worthy of achieving.