The rising threat of the first nuclear war is the most urgent matter in the world

Caitlin Johnstone: The rising threat of nuclear war is the most urgent matter in the world

21 Apr, 2021 21:29

There is no more urgent matter on earth than the looming possibility that everyone might die in a nuclear war. It’s madness that we’re not talking about it all the time.

US Strategic Command, the branch of the US military responsible for America’s nuclear arsenal, tweeted the following on Tuesday:

“The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”

The statement, which STRATCOM called a “preview” of the Posture Statement it submits to the US Congress every year, was a bit intense for Twitter and sparked a lot of alarmed responses. This alarm was due not to any inaccuracy in STRATCOM’s frank statement, but due to the bizarre fact that our world’s increasing risk of nuclear war barely features in mainstream discourse.

US Strategic Command

@US_Stratcom

#USSTRATCOM Posture Statement Preview: The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.

9:09 PM · Apr 19, 2021

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STRATCOM has been preparing not just to use its nuclear arsenal for deterrence but also to “win” a nuclear war should one arise from the (entirely US-created) “conditions” which are “neither linear nor predictable”. And it’s looking increasingly likely that one will as the prevailing orthodoxy among Western imperialists that US unipolar hegemony must be preserved at all cost rushes headlong toward America’s plunge into post-primacy.

The US has been ramping up aggressions with Russia in a way that has terrified experts, and it looks likely to continue doing so. These aggressions are further complicated on increasingly tense fronts like Ukraine, which is threatening to obtain nuclear weapons if it isn’t granted membership to NATO, either of which would increase the risk of conflict. Aggressions against nuclear-armed China are escalating on what seems like a daily basis at this point, with potential flashpoints in the China Seas, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, India, and any number of other possible fronts.

STRATCOM commander Charles Richard told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that China’s nuclear capabilities are advancing so rapidly that they’re not even bothering with intelligence vetted more than a month ago in their briefings because it’s probably already out of date, urging an upgrade in America’s nuclear infrastructure. Richard reportedly testified that a portion of China’s nuclear arsenal has been recently primed for ready use.

The fact that those in charge of US nuclear weapons now see both Russia and China as a major nuclear threat, and the fact that US cold warriors are escalating against both of them, is horrifying. The fact that they’re again playing with “low-yield” nukes designed to actually be used on the battlefield makes it even more so. This is to say nothing of tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and nuclear-armed India, between nuclear-armed Israel and its neighbors, and between nuclear-armed North Korea and the Western empire.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has the 2021 Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, citing the rising threat of nuclear war:

Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory last year. Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension. Events like the deadly assault earlier this month on the US Capitol renewed legitimate concerns about national leaders who have sole control of the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear nations, however, have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks. By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war–an ever-present danger over the last 75 years–increased in 2020. An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats—what we called ‘the new abnormal’ in 2019—tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe.

In a recent interview with Phoenix Media Co-op‘s Slava Zilber, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft nuclear policy specialist Joe Cirincione described a ramp-up in weapons technology among all nuclear-armed nations in the world, the future of which he described as “bleak”:

We right now have a global nuclear arms race. Each of the nine nuclear-armed nations are building new weapons. Some are replacing weapons that are getting old. Others are expanding their arsenals. But all of these new weapons represent new capabilities for these countries. So you’re seeing a qualitative and a quantitative arms race that is completely unchecked.

 “If you look at the data that’s collected by the Federation of American Scientists, for example, you see that – since the 1980s at the height of the Cold War – we have slashed the global nuclear arsenals. We went from a world in 1986 where there were almost 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world down to where we are now where there’s just about 13,500 nuclear weapons. Tremendous progress. 85% reduction in the stockpile…

“But it’s flattened out. There really haven’t been significant reductions for years. The 2010 New START agreement was the last successful arms control agreement. That was 11 years ago. There’s been no reduction agreement since then. There’ve been no talks about new reductions agreements. Now I think the future of arms control is bleak. It’s bleak. And I see no interest really in a new round of arms control either from the United States or from Russia. So I’m pessimistic about our prospects.

As I all too frequently find myself having to remind people, the primary risk here is not that anyone will choose to have a nuclear war, it’s that a nuke will be deployed amid heightening tensions as a result of miscommunication, miscalculation, misfire, or malfunction, as nearly happened many times during the last cold war, thereby setting off everyone’s nukes as per Mutually Assured Destruction.

The more tense things get, the likelier such an event becomes. This new cold war is happening along two fronts, with a bunch of proxy conflicts complicating things even further. There are so very many small moving parts, and it’s impossible to remain in control of all of them.

People like to think every nuclear-armed country has one “The Button” with which they can consciously choose to start a nuclear war after careful deliberation, but it doesn’t work that way. There are thousands of people in the world controlling different parts of different nuclear arsenals who could independently initiate a nuclear war. Thousands of “The Buttons”. It only takes one. The arrogance of believing anyone can control such a conflict safely, for years, is astounding.

A 2014 report published in the journal Earth’s Future found that it would only take the detonation of 100 nuclear warheads to throw 5 teragrams of black soot into the earth’s stratosphere for decades, blocking out the sun and making the photosynthesis of plants impossible. This could easily starve every terrestrial organism to death that didn’t die of radiation or climate chaos first. China has hundreds of nuclear weapons; Russia and the United States have thousands.

This should be the main thing everyone talks about. There is literally no more urgent matter on earth than the looming possibility that everyone might die in a nuclear war.

But people don’t see it.

On a recent Tucker Carlson Tonight appearance, former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard did a solid job describing the horrors of nuclear war and the very real possibility that it could be inflicted upon us due to America’s insane brinkmanship with Russia. She spoke earnestly about how “such a war would come at a cost beyond anything we can really imagine,” painting an entirely accurate picture of “hundreds of millions of people dying and suffering, seeing their flesh being burned from their bones.”

Also on rt.com Stop the ‘saber-rattling’ & begin de-escalation before Russia-Ukraine conflict turns into ‘nuclear holocaust,’ Gabbard tells Biden

Gabbard is correct, and was right to give such a confrontational account of what we are looking at right now. But if you read the replies to Gabbard’s tweet in which she shared a clip from the interview, you’ll see a deluge of commenters accusing her of “hyperbole”, saying she’s being soft on Putin, and admonishing her for appearing on Tucker Carlson. It’s like they can’t even hear what she’s saying, how real it is, how significant it is.

People’s failure to wrap their minds around this issue is a testament to the power of normalcy bias, a cognitive glitch which causes us to assume that because something bad hasn’t happened in the past, it won’t happen in the future. We survived the last cold war by the skin of our teeth, entirely by sheer, dumb luck; the only reason people are around to bleat “hyperbole” is because we got lucky. There’s no reason to believe we’ll get lucky in this new cold war environment; only normalcy bias says we will. Believing we’ll survive this cold war just because we survived the last one is as sane as believing Russian roulette is safe because the guy passing you the gun didn’t die.

It’s also a testament to the power of plain old psychological compartmentalization. People can’t handle the idea of everything ending, of everyone they know and love dying, of watching their loved ones die in flames or from radiation poisoning right in front of them, all because someone made a mistake at the wrong time after a bunch of imperialists decided that US planetary domination was worth rolling the dice on the life of every terrestrial organism for.

But mostly it’s a testament to the ubiquitous malpractice of the Western media. It’s inconvenient to the agendas of the imperial war machine to have people protesting these insane cold war games of nuclear brinkmanship, so their media stenographers barely touch on this issue. If mainstream journalism actually existed, this flirtation with nuclear war would be front and center in everyone’s awareness and people would be flooding the streets in protest against their lives being toyed with as casino chips in an insane all-or-nothing gamble.

Also on rt.com Next stop, the apocalypse? The bumbling Biden administration’s claim to fame may be jumpstarting World War III

This is so much bigger than any of the petty little things we spend our mental energy on from day to day. It’s bigger than whatever your number one pet issue is. It’s bigger than your disdain for Moscow or Beijing. It’s bigger than my disdain for the US empire. It’s bigger than our political opinions. It’s bigger than whatever argument we might be having on the internet. It’s bigger than whether or not we’ve got a problem with Tulsi Gabbard appearing on Tucker Carlson.

Because once the nukes start flying, none of that will matter. None of it. All that will matter is the fact that this is all ending. If you open the door and see a mushroom cloud growing on the horizon, all of your mental priorities will rearrange themselves real quick.

We should not be in this situation. There is no good reason governments should be playing these games with these weapons. There is no good reason we can’t just get along with each other and collaborate toward a healthy world together. Only the psychopathic agendas of power-hungry imperialists perpetuate this insane balancing act, and it benefits none of us ordinary people in any way.

The rising threat of nuclear war is the most urgent matter in the world, and it’s absolute madness that we’re not talking about it all the time.

Let’s do what we can to change that.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Antichrist’s Committee to Address Christian Property

New Committee to Address Christian Property in KRG

04/21/2021 Iraq (International Christian Concern) –  The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) moved to create an ad hoc committee to address the issue of illegal expropriation of property owned by minority ethnic and religious groups, beginning with the area’s Christians. The Committee will consist of several high-ranking officials from various departments, tasked with identifying and stopping the property seizures.

In 2016, the outcry over stolen property began in earnest. One report indicated that in Dohuk governorate alone there were 56 villages where land was illegally taken from Christian families, which amount to 47,000 acres. A joint Christian protest was also organized in front of the KRG Parliament to seek support for protection from illegal expropriation. This new committee will be responsible for investigating and verifying claims in order to create a new mapping of Christian property.

This is the second committee in the Iraq-KRG region as one formed by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr in January has already begun returning homes and land to their rightful Christian owners.

Soldiers Invade Palestinian Farmlands Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Soldiers Invade Palestinian Farmlands In Southern Gaza

Several Israeli military vehicles invaded, Wednesday, Palestinian farmlands near the perimeter fence, east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and fired many rounds of live ammunition.

Media sources said seven Israeli military vehicles, including bulldozers and tanks, stationed in military bases across the fence, invaded the Palestinian lands and advanced dozens of meters into the an-Nahda neighborhood, east of Rafah.

They added that the soldiers bulldozed several sections of the invaded lands, and installed sand hills, while firing smoke bombs.

The Israeli army frequently invades Palestinian lands near the fence across the eastern parts of the besieged coastal region, in addition to the constant attacks targeting the fishermen in Palestinian territorial waters.

The attacks are part of frequent Israeli violations against the Palestinians, especially the fishermen, farmers, shepherds, and workers in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip, and have led to dozens of casualties, including fatalities, in addition to serious property damage and the confiscation of many boats after abducting the fishermen.

Babylon the Great Prepares for Nuclear War

STRATCOM commander calls on Congress to update US triad as China’s nuclear program advances weekly

Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 20, 2021.

FROM A SASC VIDEO

The Chinese military’s nuclear capabilities are increasing rapidly and, for the first time, might be primed for use, the U.S. military officer in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal warned Tuesday as he urged Congress to upgrade America’s aging nuclear infrastructure.

In an effort to describe how quickly the Chinese nuclear program is advancing, Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had just ordered all briefs on Beijing’s nuclear weapons contain no intelligence information vetted more than one month earlier “because it’s probably out of date” that quickly.

Richard testified Tuesday that China is capable of accurately deploying nuclear weapons anywhere within its region, and it “will soon be able to do so at intercontinental range.”

“I can’t get through a week right now, without finding out something we didn’t know about China,” Richard told senators in a hearing alongside Army Gen. James Dickinson, who leads U.S. Space Command. Dickinson also fingered China as among his top military concerns, as it rapidly advances its space-based military capabilities.

In a stark warning, Richard told lawmakers that he had seen indications China had moved at least some of its nuclear forces from a peace-time status to a so-called “launch-on-warning” and “high-alert” posture, in which weapons are armed for launch as soon as an incoming enemy missile is detected.

Yet, even as China’s nuclear weapons arsenal has grown dramatically, Russia remains the primary nuclear threat for the United States, Richard said. While the U.S. has yet to field any recent updates to its nuclear forces, Russia is about 80% complete in modernizing its nuclear capabilities, the admiral said.

“While we are at 0% [modernization], it is easier to describe what they’re [Russia] not modernizing — nothing,” he said. “What they are [upgrading] is pretty much everything, including several never-before-seen capabilities.”

Those increases among the primary U.S. adversaries come as Congress debates funding for long-planned upgrades to America’s nuclear triad — its system of intercontinental ballistic missiles and its fleets of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft and ballistic missile submarines — and as President Joe Biden’s administration reviews the nation’s nuclear strategies, as incoming administrations typically have done.

Richard said he supported the ongoing review, but he cautioned against some lawmakers’ recent targeting of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the planned $95 billion replacement for the military’s 1970s-era Minuteman III ICBMs, as a potential cut to save money. Several Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Tuesday, have questioned the need for upgraded intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Minuteman III missiles must either be replaced by the GBSD or retired, Richard said, calling them “leftovers of the Cold War” that have become too obsolete to be life-extended with temporary fixes.

Without ICBMs, the United States would be forced to change drastically its approach to nuclear operations, Richard said. It could leave America entirely reliant on its submarine force to deter enemy nuclear activity because the United States since the end of the Cold War has not maintained bomber aircraft on nuclear alert.

“I’ve already told the secretary of defense that under those conditions, I would request to re-alert the bombers,” he told senators Tuesday, which would place some of the Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress and/or B-2 Spirit bombers armed with nuclear weapons and prepared to fly at all times.

Richard urged senators to watch the actions of the Chinese and Russians to modernize their nuclear forces as they debate the future of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

“It’s the only weapon system you don’t have to pull the trigger on for it to work,” he said of the nuclear weapons that he oversees.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

How to Start a Nuclear War: Revelation 16

How to Start a War

Wars often arise from uncertainty. When strong countries appear weak, truly weaker ones take risks they otherwise would not.

Sloppy braggadocio and serial promises of restraint can trigger wars, too. Empty tough talk can needlessly egg on aggressors. But mouthing utopian bromides convinces bullies that their targets are too sophisticated to counter aggression.

Sometimes announcing “a new peace process” without any ability to bring either novel concessions or pressures only raises false hopes — and furor.

Every new American president is tested to determine whether the United States can still protect friends such as Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Israel. And will the new commander in chief deter U.S. enemies Iran and North Korea — and keep China and Russia from absorbing their neighbors?

Joe Biden, and those around him, seem determined to upset the peace they inherited.

Soon after Donald Trump left office, Vladimir Putin began massing troops on the Ukrainian border and threatening to attack.

Putin earlier had concluded that Trump was dangerously unpredictable, and perhaps best not provoked. After all, the Trump administration took out Russian mercenaries in Syria. It beefed up defense spending and upped sanctions.

The Trump administration flooded the world with cheap oil to Russia’s chagrin. It pulled out from asymmetrical missile treaties with Russia. It sold sophisticated arms to the Ukrainians. The Russians concluded that Trump might do anything, and so waited for another president before again testing America.

In contrast, Biden often talks provocatively — while carrying a twig. He has gratuitously called Putin “a killer.” And he warned that the Russian dictator “will pay a price” for supposedly interfering in the 2020 election.

Unfortunately, Biden’s bombast follows four years of a Russian-collusion hoax, fueled by a concocted dossier paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Biden and others claimed Trump was, in the words of Barack Obama’s former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, a “Russian asset.”

If Biden is seeking to provoke a nation with more than 6,000 deliverable nuclear weapons, he is certainly not backing up his rhetoric with force.

Biden may well decrease the Pentagon budget. He also seems to have forgotten that Trump was impeached for supposedly imperiling Ukraine, when in fact he sold Ukraine weapons.

While Biden was talking loudly to Putin, his administration was being serially humiliated by China. Chinese diplomats dressed down their American counterparts in a recent meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. They gleefully recycled domestic left-wing boilerplate that a racist America has no moral authority to criticize China.

If Trump was unpredictably blunt, Biden is too often predictably confused. And he appears frail, sending the message to autocracies that America’s commander in chief is not fully in control.

Biden has not, as he promised, demanded from China transparency about the origins of the COVID-19 virus in Wuhan. By summer, that plague may have killed 600,000 Americans.

More disturbing, as Russia puts troops on the Ukrainian border, China is flying into Taiwanese airspace, testing its defenses — and the degree to which the United States cares.

For a half-century, American foreign policy sought to ensure that Russia was no closer to China than either was to the United States. Now, the two dictatorships seem almost joined at the hip, as each probes U.S. responses or lack thereof. Not surprisingly, North Korea in late March resumed its firing of missiles over the Sea of Japan.

In the Middle East, Biden inherited a relatively quiet landscape. Arab nations, in historic fashion, were making peace with Israel. Both sides were working to deter Iranian-funded terrorists. Iran itself was staggered by sanctions and recession. Its arch-terrorist mastermind, General Qasem Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone strike.

Under Trump, the United States left the Iran nuclear deal, which was a prescription for the certain Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon. The theocracy in Tehran, the chief sponsor of terror in the world, was in its most fragile condition in its 40 years of existence.

Now, U.S. diplomats bizarrely express an interest in restoring cordial relations with Iran, rebooting the Iran deal, and dropping sanctions against the regime. If all that happens, Iran will likely get a bomb soon.

More importantly, Iran may conclude that the United States has distanced itself from Israel and moderate Arab regimes. One of two dangers will then arise. Either Iran will feel it can up its aggression, or its enemies will conclude they have no choice but to take out all Iranian nuclear facilities.

Biden would do well to remember old American diplomatic adages about speaking softly while carrying a big stick, keeping China and Russia apart, being no better friend (or worse enemy), and letting sleeping dogs lie.

© 2021 The Center for American Greatness

Iran Horn starts enriching uranium to 60% — its highest level ever

Iran starts enriching uranium to 60% — its highest level ever

Updated 17 April 2021 Arab News April 16, 2021 10:22

JEDDAH: Iran began enriching uranium on Friday to its highest-ever purity that edges Tehran close to weapons-grade levels, attempting to pressure negotiators in Vienna amid talks on restoring its nuclear deal with world powers after an attack on its main enrichment site.

A top official said only a few grams an hour of uranium gas would be enriched up to 60 percent purity — triple the level it once did but at a quantity far lower than what the country could produce.

Iran also is enriching at an above-ground facility at its Natanz nuclear site already visited by international inspectors, not deep within its underground halls hardened to withstand airstrikes.

The narrow scope of the new enrichment provides Iran with a way to quickly de-escalate if it chooses, experts say, but time is narrowing.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran acknowledged the move to 60 percent. Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian state television the centrifuges now produce 9 grams an hour, but that would drop to 5 grams an hour in the coming days.

“Any enrichment level that we desire is in our reach at the moment and we can do it at any time we want,” Salehi said. Israel, which has twice bombed Mideast countries to stop their nuclear programs, said it was determined to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

“We will do whatever it takes to prevent the extremists (in Iran) from succeeding, and definitely will prevent this regime from having a nuclear weapon,” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told reporters on a visit to Cyprus.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News that the region’s countries would be the first victims of Iran and its nuclear project.

“Therefore, they have the right to tell the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear deal’s signatory states that they are not interested in any new agreement with Tehran unless they can participate in it as a primary party.

“The nuclear deal is not valid unless Iran’s ballistic missile file is added to it, along with its terrorist activities vis-a-vis its regional proxies. Iran’s terrorist militias have expanded and set up camps in four Arab countries.

“The region’s countries are the ones most concerned with this Iranian threat, as they are the ones affected by it, so they are the ones who must be present during talks with Tehran.

“Otherwise, all options are available for them to protect their security and stability from Iran’s nuclear file, its interference in the region and its affiliated terrorist militias, as well as from the threat of its ballistic missiles, which it continues to supply to its militias, such as the Houthis, who have used them hundreds of times against civilians, oil installations and global energy sources in Saudi Arabia.”

The Russian Nuclear Horn Prepares for War

A Threat From the Russian State’: Ukrainians Alarmed as Troops Mass on Their Doorstep

Few analysts believe that Moscow intends to invade. But as Russia’s military buildup proceeds, the tension is rising in war-weary Eastern Ukraine.

April 20, 2021Updated 8:13 a.m. ET

Ukrainian soldiers north of Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, on Friday. Moscow has used the pretext of a separatist conflict to pressure the country after its Westward-looking revolution.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — There are the booms that echo again, and parents know to tell their children they are only fireworks. There are the drones the separatists started flying behind the lines at night, dropping land mines. There are the fresh trenches the Ukrainians can see their enemy digging, the increase in sniper fire pinning them inside their own.

But perhaps the starkest evidence that the seven-year-old war in Ukraine may be entering a new phase is what Capt. Mykola Levytskyi’s coast guard unit saw cruising in the Azov Sea just outside the port city of Mariupol last week: a flotilla of Russian amphibious assault ships.

Since the start of the war in 2014, Russia has used the pretext of a separatist conflict to pressure Ukraine after its Westward-looking revolution, supplying arms and men to Kremlin-backed rebels in the country’s east while denying that it was a party to the fight.

Ukrainian border guards patrolling the Sea of Azov on Sunday, with a Russian ship visible in the distance.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Buildings in Avdiivka, a frontline industrial town in eastern Ukraine. The residential area is exposed to shelling.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Few Western analysts believe the Kremlin is planning an invasion of eastern Ukraine, given the likely backlash at home and abroad. But with a large-scale Russian troop buildup on land and sea on Ukraine’s doorstep, the view is spreading among officials and wide swathes of the Ukrainian public that Moscow is signaling more bluntly than ever before that it is prepared to openly enter the conflict.

“These ships are, concretely, a threat from the Russian state,” Captain Levytskyi said over the whir of his speedboat’s engines as it plied the Azov Sea, after pointing out a Russian patrol boat stationed six miles offshore. “It is a much more serious threat.”

Many Ukrainian military officials and volunteer fighters say that they still find it unlikely that Russia will openly invade Ukraine, and that they do not see evidence of an imminent offensive among the gathered Russian forces. But they speculate over other possibilities, including Russia’s possible recognition or annexation of the separatist-held territories in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainians are awaiting President Vladimir V. Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address to Russia on Wednesday, an affair often rife with geopolitical signaling, for clues about what comes next.

“I feel confused, I feel tension,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s culture and information policy minister, said in an interview.

Mr. Tkachenko listed some invasion scenarios: a three-pronged Russian attack from north, south and east; an assault from separatist-held territory; and an attempt to capture a Dnieper River water supply for Crimea.

A member of the Right Sector, an ultranationalist Ukrainian militia, at the group’s base on Saturday.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Dmytro Kotsyubaylo, a Right Sector commander. Asked what he expects to happen next, Mr. Kotsyubaylo responded: “full-scale war.”Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Russia, for its part, has done little to hide its buildup, insisting that it has been massing troops in response to heightened military activity in the region by NATO and Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials deny any plans to escalate the war, but there is no question that President Volodymyr Zelensky has taken a harder line against Russia in recent months.

Mr. Zelensky has closed pro-Russian television channels and imposed sanctions against Mr. Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine. He has also declared more openly than before his desire to have Ukraine join NATO, a remote possibility that the Kremlin nevertheless regards as a dire threat to Russia’s security.

Interviews with frontline units across a 150-mile swath of eastern Ukraine in recent days underscored the fast-rising tensions in Europe’s only active armed conflict. Officials and volunteers acknowledge apprehension over Russia’s troop movements, and civilians feel numb and hopeless after seven years of war. At least 28 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting this year, the military says.

“We live in sadness,” said Anna Dikareva, a 48-year-old postal service worker in the frontline industrial town of Avdiivka, where people scarcely flinch when shells explode in the distance. “I don’t want war, but we won’t solve this in a peaceful way, either.”

For much of last year, a cease-fire held.

Mr. Zelensky, a television comedian elected in 2019 on a promise to end the war, negotiated with the Kremlin for step-by-step compromises to ease the hardships of frontline residents and look for ways out of a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people. But Russia’s insistence on policies that would essentially give it a say in eastern Ukraine’s future was unacceptable to Kyiv.

“The hope that Zelensky had to solve this issue, it didn’t happen,” said Mr. Tkachenko, the information minister and a longtime associate of the president.

Instead, the fighting has picked up again.

A Ukrainian soldier, nicknamed “the professor,” returning from a frontline position near Avdiivka on Saturday.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers at a military hospital in Severodonetsk, a city in the Luhansk region.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

The Ukrainians’ labyrinths of trenches and fortifications along the roughly 250-mile front is by now so well established that in one tunnel near Avdiivka, the soldiers put up multicolored Christmas lights to spruce up the darkness. The town lies just a few miles north of the city of Donetsk, the separatists’ main stronghold.

At their hillside battle position, overlooking a separatist position in a T-shaped growth of trees, the soldiers described the sound of separatist drones that they said carried land mines dropped about a mile behind the line. Since December and January, they said, sniper fire from the other side increased, and they could see the separatists digging new trenches.

The lettering above the skull on their shoulder patches read: “Ukraine or death.”

“The enemy has activated lately,” said one 58-year-old soldier, nicknamed “the professor,” who said he would not give his full name for security reasons.

In Avdiivka, a volunteer unit of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector keeps a pet wolf in a cage outside the commander’s office. The commander, Dmytro Kotsyubaylo — his nom de guerre is Da Vinci — jokes that the fighters feed it the bones of Russian-speaking children, a reference to Russian state media tropes about the evils of Ukrainian nationalists.

Residents in Mariupol and other areas said that they were so exhausted from the war that they did not even want to consider the possibility that the fighting would flare up again.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Students at a military school in Kreminna, in eastern Ukraine, on Friday.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Both sides have accused each other of increasing numbers of cease-fire violations, but Mr. Kotsyubaylo said that — to his regret — his fighters were allowed to fire only in response to attacks from the separatist side.

On the video screen above his desk, Mr. Kotsyubaylo showed high-definition drone footage depicting the quotidian violence taking place just 400 miles from the European Union’s borders. In one sequence, two of his unit’s mortar rounds explode around separatist trenches; a naked man emerges, sprinting. In another, an explosion is seen at what he said was a separatist sniper position; the clearing smoke reveals a body coated with yellow dust.

Asked what he expects to happen next, Mr. Kotsyubaylo responded: “full-scale war.”

Mr. Kotsyubaylo said he believed Russia’s troop movements north and south of separatist-held territory were a ruse meant to draw Ukrainian forces away from the front line. He said he expected Russia instead to launch an offensive using its separatist proxies in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” allowing Mr. Putin to continue to claim that the war is an internal Ukrainian affair.

“If Russia wanted to do it in secret, they would do it in secret,” Mr. Kotsyubaylo said of the massing troops. “They’re doing everything they can for us to see them, and to show us how cool Putin is.”

Under the peace plan negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015, both sides’ heavy weaponry is required to be positioned well behind the front line.

Ukrainian tanks and other heavy weaponry at a railway depot on Monday.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Under the peace plan negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, in 2015, both sides’ heavy weaponry is required to be positioned well behind the front line.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Ukraine’s artillery is now stationed in places like a Soviet-era tractor yard in an out-of-the-way village reached by treacherous dirt roads an hour’s drive from Mariupol. Col. Andrii Shubin, the base commander, said he was ready to send his artillery guns and his American-provided weapon-locating radar trucks to the front as soon as the order came.

Ukrainian officials say that they are not repositioning troops in response to the Russian buildup, and that any current troop movements are normal rotations.

On Monday, dozens of tanks and armored vehicles could be seen on the move in the southwest of the government-controlled area of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Soldiers relaxed on cots at a village train station under graffiti that used an obscenity to refer to Mr. Putin.

Around the region, from Mariupol’s fashionable waterfront to the shrapnel-scarred streets of Avdiivka, many residents said that they were so exhausted from the war that they did not even want to consider the possibility that the fighting would flare up again.

Lena Pisarenko, a 45-year-old Russian teacher in Avdiivka, said she had never stopped keeping an emergency supply of water on hand in pots and bottles all over her apartment and her balcony. During the shelling at the height of the war, she created a ritual to keep her children calm: They would play board games and drink tea while three candles burn down three times. Then it was time for bed.

Another woman passing by, Olga Volvach, 41, said she was paying little mind to the recent escalation in shelling.

“Our balcony door isolates sound well,” she said.

The Mariupol waterfront, in southeastern Ukraine, on Sunday.Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Mariupol, Ukraine.

The Threatening Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Iran’s missiles, drone arsenal a growing ‘destabilizing threat’ – report

Its missile arsenal was designed to be an asymmetric kind of threat because Iran has a weak conventional army and weak air force.

Iran’s massive missile arsenal is growing and combined with its drones and cruise missiles makes for a destabilizing force multiplier, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Tuesday in a report.

“Iran’s ballistic-missile systems, supplemented by cruise missiles and UAVs, are intended not only for deterrence, but for battle, including by Iran’s regional partners,” it said. “In a new report, the IISS provides a detailed assessment of Iran’s missiles, and the manner and purposes for which it has been proliferating them.”

The IISS was founded in 1958 and is a world-leading authority on global security.

“Nuclear issues are the exclusive focus of the negotiations on the restoration of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal with world powers), which have taken place in Vienna,” the report said.

 However, while Western powers are focusing on the nuclear-enrichment issue now, there is also interest in “follow-on” talks about Iran’s missile program. It is not clear if Iran is interested, since it has bragged in the past about its growing collection of missiles, their precision and ranges, and it has said they are not up for negotiation.

Iran is a world leader in ballistic missiles, alongside Russia, China and North Korea, from whom it has received know-how and collaboration.

Iran’s missile arsenal was designed as an asymmetric threat because it has a relatively weak conventional army and weak air force.

Iran has exported shorter-range missiles to its proxies in the region. Iranian 107-mm. rockets have been sent to proxies in Iraq to be fired at US troops, and they have been seized in the past en route to Hezbollah.

Iran sent ballistic missiles to its proxies in Iraq in 2018 and 2019, according to reports. It has moved missiles and kamikaze drones and technology to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. They have used these to strike deep into Saudi Arabia at ranges of almost 1,000 km.

Iran used cruise missiles and drones to attack Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, in September 2019. It used its Fateh-110 missiles to strike Kurds in Koya in 2018. Last year, it used its Qiam ballistic missiles to attack US forces at Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq after the US killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani.

“To inform the public policy debate on the latter matters, the IISS has produced a fact-rich technical assessment of Iran’s current missile and uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities and its proliferation of these technologies to Iran’s regional partners,” the report said, adding that it has drawn exclusively from open sources to document some 20 types of missiles. “For now, all of Iran’s ballistic missiles apparently adhere to a self-imposed range limit of 2,000 km. Iran’s priority is to improve precision, notable in several missile systems.”

The report also looks at Iran’s “missile doctrine.” This is important to understand Iran’s long-term plans to threaten the region with its array of missiles.

Iran now focuses on “improved precision to be able to deny potential foes their military objectives,” the report said. “Iran’s missile proliferation efforts have profoundly destabilizing consequences for the region because they serve as powerful force multipliers for unaccountable non-state actors, the IISS report concludes.”

The IISS warns that Iran has supplied these systems to others.

This “demonstrate[s] a greater willingness to take risks, as well as a more offensive outlook for Iran’s missile program in general,” it said.

The report looks at Iran’s drones in conjunction with the missile threat.

“Iran is expanding its capacity to strike across the region through the continuing development and introduction of armed UAVs and cruise missiles,” the report said. “For example, in September 2019, the 700-km.-range 351/Quds-1 missile was used to strike the Saudi Aramco Khurais oilfield facility; the attack was claimed by Yemeni Houthi rebels but likely planned and executed by Iran.

“Iran uses four complementary strategies to provide its non-state actor allies with UAVs, artillery rockets and ballistic missiles: direct transfers, upgrades to existing missiles and rockets, the transfer of production capabilities, and provision via third parties.”

IISS claims that “the advances made over the past decade on the Shahab-3, Ghadr-1 and Safir programs suggest that Iran has developed and applied a rigorous engineering-management process to organize its efforts and created the industrial infrastructure to support liquid-fuel missile production.”

This should be a wake-up call for the region and countries that are negotiating with Iran, because the missile and UAV threat will only grow in the coming years.

China is about to eat America’s spoils in the Middle East

China is about to eat America’s lunch in the Middle East

By Rachel Marsden 8 hrs ago 0

PARIS — China signed a 25-year, $400 billion cooperation agreement with Iran late last month that could result in Chinese bases in the Middle East and increase Beijing’s global economic hegemony. All because the Washington establishment couldn’t bring itself to stop drinking its own anti-Iran Kool-Aid.

There are few special-interest causes in Washington as persistent as the anti-Iran lobby. Journalists are regularly bombarded with rhetorically loaded press releases, statements and op-eds from think tanks and former establishment fixtures about the so-called dangers of even engaging with the Iranian “regime” — which would simply be labeled a “government” if these insiders weren’t so hell-bent on marginalizing Tehran because perhaps one day it could have nukes. Meanwhile, these same anti-Iran critics — better known as neoconservatives, whose identity is rooted in 1960s leftist interventionism, which has now infected both sides of the political aisle — don’t seem to mind that Iran is surrounded by foes that are already well-equipped in that regard. Israel has nuclear weapons, and it’s widely assumed that Saudi Arabia does, too. Ty processed l ml Look, if the Iranians ever did manage to develop a nuclear weapon, it’s not like Iran could ever use it without being turned into a parking lot by the U.S. and Israel. Why does everyone in Washington assume that Iran is that suicidal?

Why doesn’t China care about Iran’s nuclear potential as much as the U.S. does? Some might answer that China isn’t a target of Iran’s ire, while America is. But why is the U.S. so much more fearful of Iran when it’s on the opposite side of the planet, whereas China, which is almost next door, not only shrugs it off but considers Iran a potential military partner? Iran could have become a strategic partner of the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Most of the terrorists responsible for those attacks were from Saudi Arabia, which is Iran’s sworn enemy. Instead, the U.S. buddied up to the nation from which most of the terrorists hailed, invaded Afghanistan and overstayed its welcome so long that Iran started to think that it was turning into a foreign occupation. China doesn’t have the same complicated history of Middle East military adventurism, which the U.S. has long used as a lever to pry open the door to the ultimate goal of expanding its economic footprint. Not only will China benefit from doing business with a resource-rich nation with an educated population whose literacy rate has exploded in recent years, but it will create a new foothold for China — not just economically but militarily. Have U.S. leaders considered the full implications of this? China and Russia, whose space agencies are linked to their militaries, announced plans last month to build a joint base on the moon. What makes anyone think they won’t cooperate with Iran to counter the many U.S. bases in the Middle East? Normalizing relations with Iran in light of the existential threat of Chinese economic dominance was one of the few praise-worthy accomplishments of former President Barack Obama’s administration. Then, Donald Trump canceled Obama’s Iran policy when Trump bought into the neocon propaganda himself. It’s inexcusable that establishment Washington is still giving in to the warped mindset of neocons, to the detriment of much more critical American interests.

US nuclear arms posture sends misleading signals to trap the other nuclear horns: Daniel

US nuclear arms posture sends misleading signals to trap adversaries

By Wei Dongxu

A screengrab of US Strategic Command’s Twitter post

US Strategic Command issued a posture statement preview on Tuesday, saying “The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.” This is not only a warning signal meant for US policymakers, but also a tactic to try to trap its “adversaries,” such as China and Russia, into a nuclear arms race.

This posture statement preview is mainly aimed at Russia because it has updated its nuclear weapons with brand new nuclear strike approaches. For instance, the Petrel, a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile, is claimed to have virtually unlimited range. And Poseidon, a massive nuclear torpedo, can reportedly carry a nuclear warhead with a yield of up to 100 megatons to most parts of the world while remaining extremely deep beneath the surface.

As the US does not possess weapons with such capabilities, it is anxious.

The preview sends two messages. The US hopes to promote its defense capabilities to counter Russia’s new weapons as well as boosting its own innovation in nuclear weapon development. Meanwhile, it shows that the US attaches great significance to its own nuclear power, and it will keep investing in and upgrading its nuclear arsenal. This is a warning toward the outside would.

As a matter of fact, the possibility of an outbreak of direct nuclear conflict between the US and Russia is very low, as both countries have a considerable number of powerful nuclear weapons. If there is a nuclear clash, it will be catastrophic for both countries. Therefore, the US will definitely not make a nuclear threat against a major nuclear power. It might only aim at small- and medium-sized regional military powers. The US will probably use tactical nuclear weapons rather than weapons of mass destruction.

However, the Pentagon, including US Strategic Command, is exaggerating the possibility of a nuclear war with its rivals. They are hyping that such a nuclear war is just around the corner to get more funds to build up the US’ nuclear arsenal and develop new weapons.

Nevertheless, ties between the US and Russia do confront challenges, and the biggest stems from the breakdown in military communication. Washington has withdrawn from agreements such as the Treaty on Open Skies and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That being said, there is basically no military communication mechanism between Washington and Moscow. As the hostility and suspicion toward each other spirals up, some senior officials from the Pentagon consider Russia to be increasingly dangerous. In their opinion, some of Moscow’s innovations regarding nuclear weapons are directed against Washington, and the weapons may even be used against the US at any time.

So this preview is made based on mistrust and suspicion toward Russia. Such sentiment could lead to a nuclear arms race.

Besides, the US Strategic Command has also been hyping up the possibility of a nuclear war with China. In February, head of the command Charles Richard warned that “there is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons.” As China develops its conventional military power and Moscow restores its, Washington’s conventional forces are losing their overwhelming advantage compared with the other two.

Out of fear that the US could be defeated in a future large-scale conventional war, the country is turning to focus more on nuclear options. This reflects the US’ lack of confidence in its conventional military forces.

The US does want to provoke a nuclear arms race. The cost of a full-scale nuclear upgrade is astronomical. If more advanced nuclear weapons are produced,  maintenance and security costs are also high. The US has enough budget, plus it enjoys its dollar hegemony and can print money at any time when needed, so it hopes to provoke the race and draw China and Russia in. Such a race will consume a large proportion of their military spending, and might even undermine their economic strength.

However, China and Russia are not buying it. Taking China as an example, its nuclear weapons are designed for defense. It is not interested in competing with the US in terms of quantity or performance of the nuclear weapons. This US strategy once wore down the Soviet Union during the Cold War. China will not be fooled by the same trick.

The author is a Beijing-based military analyst. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn