New York Quake Overdue (The Sixth Seal) (Rev 6:12)

New York City Is Overdue For Large Earthquake: Seismologist

Won-Young Kim, who runs the seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said the city is well overdue for a big earthquake.

The last big quake to hit New York City was a 5.3-magnitude tremor in 1884 that happened at sea in between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook. While no one was killed, buildings were damaged.

Kim said the city is likely to experience a big earthquake every 100 years or so.

“It can happen anytime soon,” Kim said. “We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and chimneys.

Seismologist John Armbruster said a magnitude 5 quake that happened now would be more devastating than the one that happened in 1884.

The Iran Horn Continues to Grow (Daniel 8)

FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria July 10, 2019.

Iran goes further in breaching nuclear deal, IAEA report shows

Friday, August 30, 2019 11:01 a.m. EDT

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has gone further in breaching its nuclear deal with world powers, increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a greater purity than allowed, the U.N. atomic agency report said on Friday.

The quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is policing the 2015 deal, confirms Iran is progressively backing out of the deal in retaliation for Washington’s withdrawal form the accord and renewal of sanctions that have hit Iranian oil sales.

Iran has said it will breach the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities one by one, ratcheting up pressure on parties who still hope to save it.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to hold talks with Iran on a broader deal but Tehran says first it must get relief from U.S. sanctions.

In July, the IAEA said Iran exceeded both a 202.8-kg limit on its enriched uranium stock and its 3.67% cap on the fissile purity to which it is allowed to refine uranium. In a verbal update on July 10, the IAEA said Iran was enriching uranium to 4.5% purity and had stockpiled 213.5 kg of enriched uranium.

Friday’s quarterly report to member states obtained by Reuters said Iran has accumulated 241.6 kg of enriched uranium and is enriching at around the same level as before, up to 4.5%.

Iran’s enriched uranium stock is still a fraction of the tonnes it possessed before the deal. Its enrichment level is also well short of the 20% it reached before the deal and the roughly 90% that is considered weapons-grade.

Its breaches have therefore not yet made much difference to the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it sought one. The deal – which set nuclear restrictions in exchange for sanctions relief – extended that time to roughly a year from a few months.


Iran has threatened to take further steps by Sept. 6, such as enriching to 20% or restarting mothballed centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium.

The report also hinted at less than ideal cooperation from Iran, saying: “Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran … require full and timely cooperation by Iran. The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran.”

A senior diplomat added, however, that Iran had not changed its level of cooperation and IAEA inspectors were able to visit all the locations in the country they needed to.

The message was an encouragement to do more to help answer outstanding questions rather than provide access, he added, without elaborating. Diplomats have often said Iran has dragged its feet while stopping short of crossing the IAEA’s red lines.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Heavens)

Russia Tests New Nuclear Missile

The Kalibr missile in action (Provider: Reuters)

Russia tests new cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads

Jasper Hamill

Friday 30 Aug 2019 11:17 am

Russia has revealed the devastating destructive power of a new cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The Black Sea Fleet’s Vyshny Volochek, a guided missile corvette ship, carried out a test of the new ‘high precision’ Kalibr missile.

A sabre-rattling video of the test shows a Kalibr missile blasting into the air and then blowing a target resembling a ship to smithereens.

The footage suggests Kalibr is designed to be used during conflicts with other navies.

However, if it was armed with nuclear warheads it could easily wipe out a few cities from a great distance.

Kalibr has a range of about 1,200 miles.

In a statement, the Russia defence ministry said: ‘In accordance with planned naval drills of the Black Sea Fleet, the Vyshny Volochek guided missile corvette has for the first time fired high precision Kalibr missiles at a target in the Black Sea.

‘Unmanned aerial vehicles registered successfully striking the target – a large shield imitating an ‘enemy’ ship at a distance of around 40 nautical miles.’

The Russian Defence Ministry recently published a video of its new 6-tonne drone taking to the skies for its maiden flight.

Boasting that the Altius-U drone can stay up in the air ‘for up to 24 hours’, Russia says the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will undertake a wide variety of reconnaissance missions.

For the maiden flight, the drone flew for a total of 30 minutes at an altitude of 800 metres and landed safely afterwards.

The Defense Ministry posted the video of the reconnaissance drone’s debut flight in its YouTube page. The video shows the drone speeding up along the runway of a military aerodrome and making its flight.

The video also shows the drone performing manoeuvres in the air with the non-retracted landing gear and making a landing.

‘The system is capable of accomplishing a whole range of reconnaissance assignments, employing optical, radio-technical and radar equipment and staying in the air for over 24 hours. The drone weighs about 6 tonnes,’ the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier this month, news emerged that the Russian government is working on a new stealth bomber as well.

The plane is called the PAK DA and will be tested in the coming years before being rolled out as soon as 2025, the Russian news agency TASS announced.

Thousands of Palestinians Protest Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Palestinians protest along the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip, August 23, 2019. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Thousands of Palestinians protest at border, five wounded seriously, Gaza authorities say – Palestinians –

23.08.2019 | 19:18

Palestinians report 122 wounded in protests, including five from live fire, after tense week that saw three instances of rocket fire from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli strikes

Jack Khoury

Yaniv Kubovich

23.08.2019 | 19:18

One hundred and twenty-two Palestinians were wounded, including 50 by live fire, on Friday during protests at the Gaza-Israel border, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Twenty-six of the wounded were said to have been hospitalized, including five in serious condition.

Palestinian reports said that thousands of demonstrators gathered along the border fence.

This week’s protests come after after a week of tensions that saw three incidents of rocket fire from the Strip and retaliatory airstrikes carried out by the Israeli military.

The army was preparing for the possibility of escalations along the border but said it was likely that Hamas would be working to control the protests. The army has been instructed to exercise restraint in the use of live fire.

A senior member of the March of Return organizing committee said on Friday they have deployed inspectors in areas of friction to prevent people from approaching the fence.

The military’s Arabic-language spokesman warned Hamas in a Facebook post on Thursday that attacks on Israel by Islamic Jihad were endangering efforts to improve civilian life in the enclave. In his post, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee urged Gaza’s rulers to keep violence in check.

Meanwhile, the army said Thursday overnight a Palestinian who was launching grenades at Israeli soldiers in northern Gaza near Israel’s border was shot by the force. His condition remains unclear.

One hundred and twenty-two Palestinians were wounded, including 50 by live fire, on Friday during protests at the Gaza-Israel border, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Twenty-six of the wounded were said to have been hospitalized, including five in serious condition.

Palestinian reports said that thousands of demonstrators gathered along the border fence.

This week’s protests come after after a week of tensions that saw three incidents of rocket fire from the Strip and retaliatory airstrikes carried out by the Israeli military.

The army was preparing for the possibility of escalations along the border but said it was likely that Hamas would be working to control the protests. The army has been instructed to exercise restraint in the use of live fire.

A senior member of the March of Return organizing committee said on Friday they have deployed inspectors in areas of friction to prevent people from approaching the fence.

The military’s Arabic-language spokesman warned Hamas in a Facebook post on Thursday that attacks on Israel by Islamic Jihad were endangering efforts to improve civilian life in the enclave. In his post, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee urged Gaza’s rulers to keep violence in check.

Meanwhile, the army said Thursday overnight a Palestinian who was launching grenades at Israeli soldiers in northern Gaza near Israel’s border was shot by the force. His condition remains unclear.

Pakistan Tests Her Nukes (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan tested a ballistic missile amid ongoing tensions with India

(CNN) — Pakistan announced Thursday that it had successfully tested a surface-to-surface missile with the capacity of carrying various types of warheads over distances up to 290 kilometers (180 miles).

The official Twitter account of the Pakistan Armed Forces shared a video of the training launch of the Ghaznavi missile, adding: “President & PM conveyed appreciation to team & congrats to the nation.”

In a weekly media briefing Thursday, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “We were aware of the test. As per the established CBM, we were informed about the test by Pakistan.” He was referring to the confidence building measures agreed between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistan’s last surface-to-surface missile test occurred in May, during vote counting in India’s national election.

The latest show of force comes amid ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir, over which they have repeatedly clashed since partition in 1947. In February, the countries’ militaries became locked in a standoff after India blamed Pakistan for a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed over 40 Indian troops.

Crossroads with Israel, Iran, and Iraq

Alleged Israeli Strikes Bring US to Crossroads in Iraq

A recent series of suspected Israeli strikes inside Iraq could end the American nation-building project that began with the 2002 invasion — or show the limits of the Trump administration’s campaign to constrain Iran.

In the last month, attacks on Iran-linked weapons depots and militia convoys in Iraq — as well on targets across Syria and Lebanon — have suggested that Israel has launched a new front in its shadow war with Iran. The strikes mark the first known attacks by Israel on Iraq since 1981, though its forces have carried out hundreds of such attacks in Syria and Lebanon over the last seven years. In Baghdad, where a burgeoning nationalist faction in domestic politics has for months been pushing for the removal of U.S. troops, some groups have blamed Washington. Although it doesn’t appear that the United States provided any support to the striking forces, Israel is a close U.S. ally, and at least appears to be helping the Trump administration “push back” on Iran.

Pentagon leaders see the U.S. relationship with Iraq as a strategic berm in the troubled region, raising the question of what short-term tactical gains from a strike would be worth damaging that relationship. The Defense Department has fiercely denied carrying out the attacks. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he was concerned about “anything that may impact our mission, our relationship, or our forces” in Iraq.

But across the river, where the White House has made constraining Iran its top regional goal, the tone has been very different. Administration officials, speaking anonymously, have pinned the blame on Iran. On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence touted a “great conversation” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The United State fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself from imminent threats,” Pence tweeted. “Under President @realDonaldTrump, America will always stand with Israel!”

“Could there be backlash? Yes,” said Michael Knights, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute who specializes in the military and security affairs of Iraq and travels often to Baghdad. “It could seriously damage the U.S. coalition position inside Iraq. But the question is whether the U.S. really cares that much about being removed from Iraq.”

Why Now?

Israel has long sought to disrupt the spread of Iranian weapons to proxies who could strike Israel. Tel Aviv says  Tehran is trying to establish a land-based supply line through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. (Israel fought a brief war with the Iran-linked militia-and-political party in 2006.) In particular, Israel worries about long-range missiles and anti-aircraft defenses.

Israel has repeatedly demonstrated that it can find and destroy Iranian targets in Lebanon and western Syria. But the strikes in Iraq are a significant escalation, analysts say — one that likely reflects both domestic politics in Israel, maturing military capabilities, and perhaps tacit support from Washington.

“What’s very significant is that Israel has demonstrated that it has fine grain insight into the movement and operations of the Iranian proxies in Iraq, and that it has the reach to actually strike those targets successfully,” Knights said. “Clearly over the last couple years, it has been developing the technology to reach into Western and Northeastern Iraq, right up to Iranian border, and strike with great precision.”

The nature of targets themselves is also an open question that could explain the new campaign, says Behnam Ben Taleblu, an analyst at the hawkish Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Reports that Iran had parked weapons in Iraq’s western Anbar province in 2018 “likely impacted Israel’s tolerance for risk.”

As Iran began to transfer weapons to Iran-backed militias in western Iraq, I believe the Israeli calculus began to change,” Taleblu said. “They may have realized that no matter how successful strikes in Syria are, they would only be mowing the lawn if they did not stem the source of these transfers.”

Some analysts believe that Netanyahu approved the strikes to buttress his tough-on-Iran campaign platform and help win re-election on Sept. 17. Last January, he began publicly acknowledging strikes on Iranian weapons in Syria; more recently he has hinted that Israel is responsible for the Iraq attacks.

What About Washington?

It remains an open question how much support for the strikes Washington has given Israel, if any. The Pentagon has robustly denied any involvement. Officials have noted that they lack authority over Iraqi skies, and emphasized that U.S. troops are in Iraq at the invitation of the government solely to fight ISIS.

But Trump stirred controversy in Baghdad in February when he said that he wanted to use troops stationed in Iraq to “watch Iran.”

While it is not clear that the Trump administration has done anything to encourage the Israelis, it’s equally unclear that it has sought to discourage them, either. Despite rhetoric about “pushing back” on Iran, the Trump administration has so far relied on choking sanctions and maritime patrols to box in Tehran. Most of the kinetic activity has been carried out by U.S. allies in the region like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford said Wednesday that additional forces sent to the region in recent months to deter Iran “hasn’t had a material effect on the actual capacity of the Iranian forces or their proxies.”

“The Americans have the incentive to look the other way,” Taleblu said, since the strikes “accomplish a goal the U.S. wants to accomplish: rolling back Iran’s regional influence and eroding its freedom of maneuver.”

To some analysts, the uncertainty reflects an apparent divide within the Trump administration on how to handle what it has termed Iranian “malign activities” in Iraq. According to Knights, there is a growing awareness amongst Iraqi lawmakers that a U.S. presence in the country is not a foregone conclusion under the Trump administration, especially at the expense of the administration’s hardline Iran policy.

“This administration is of two minds,” Knights said. Although the Pentagon still sees Iraq as an important security partner in the region, there is part of the administration that thinks, “Iraq already lost to Iran so why are we wasting our time?” he said.

A Fraught Relationship

The Trump administration has pressed Baghdad to crack down on Iran-aligned militias that helped fight ISIS.

But those groups are deeply intertwined in the Iraqi political system. Many of them are associated with political parties represented in parliament and some of have been incorporated into the Iraqi military as so-called “Popular Mobilization Forces.” Hinting at the complexity of unraveling the militias from Iraq’s political system is the fact that the PMF groups are on the military’s payroll, which receives security assistance from the United States. Privately, Pentagon leaders often acknowledge that straining all Iranian influence from Iraq, with which it shares a border, is unlikely.

There is a simmering movement in Iraq to kick the Americans out of the country, lead by the nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (Sadr’s faction is also opposed to Iranian influence in the country.) But Baghdad is also worried about a nascent resurgence of ISIS — a resurgence that it would likely need U.S. support to suppress — and so, at least for now, the sovereignty movement has stopped short of forcing a U.S. departure.

How long the United States will be able to look the other way while Israel continues to strike Iraq depends on how the Iraqis respond, both Taleblu and Knights said. So far, Sadr has encouraged his followers to remain focused on disarming the militias that aren’t under state control. But public opinion could shift if the strikes continue.

“The X-factor is the Iraqi response,” said Taleblu. “As Israel expands targeting into Iraq, it likely means the U.S. will have thread a needle based on how the Iraqi government wants to respond.”

Knights said he expects the crisis to “fizzle out.”

“Eventually, the U.S. is probably going to have a word with the Israelis and the Israelis will feel a bit more pressure to wind it down,” he said, suggesting they are hitting as many targets as they can now. “That’s how all of their wars have been fought: get their licks in quickly before the international community shuts down the fighting.”

The alternative, Taleblu said — that the U.S. is asked to leave Iraq — would be “devastating.”

Israel Fires Missile Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israeli Air Force Fires Missile Into Northern Gaza

29 Aug

1:56 AM

Israeli army war jets fired, on Wednesday evening, several missiles into a site run by the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in northern Gaza, causing damage.

Media sources in Gaza said the missiles caused property damage but did not lead to casualties.

The targeted Palestinian site is located in an area, north of Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

On its part, the Israeli army said it was retaliating to a shell, which was reportedly fired from Gaza, and landed in an open area, causing no damage or injuries.

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

New York Times


JULY 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escalating to the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh (left) and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (right).Credit: Hindustan Times/Getty, Aamir Qureshi/Getty

India–Pakistan nuclear escalation: where could it lead?

India says its ‘no first use’ nuclear policy could change. Nature examines what that means for the country’s fraught relationship with Pakistan.

29 August 2019


Priyanka Pulla

Nuclear tensions are escalating between south Asia’s two superpowers — India and Pakistan — following the Indian defence minister’s announcement earlier this month that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’.

Some experts watching the situation have told Nature that the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

“It’s very explosive right now and I am really concerned it could get worse,” says Atta-ur-Rahman, professor of chemistry at the University of Karachi in Pakistan and a science adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan. Khan has talked up the risks of nuclear war between the two countries on several occasions since being elected a year ago.

Vipin Narang, who studies nuclear proliferation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, says the statement from defence minister Rajnath Singh creates ambiguity in India’s no-first-use policy, and “essentially renders it meaningless”.

Satinder Kumar Sikka, a condensed matter physicist who was part of India’s 1998 nuclear-weapons testing team, argues that India should be able to use nuclear weapons if there is an increased risk that Pakistan would do so first. “If we are threatened by Pakistan, we have every right to retaliate,” he says.

Others caution against reading too much into the present war of words, emphasizing that a conventional war or a nuclear armed conflict will not be triggered just because of strong language from both sides.

Nature examines the background for the latest escalation, what it means and what could happen next.

What is no first use and who else has adopted it?

Of the world’s eight declared nuclear-weapons states, only China and India have an unambiguous no first use nuclear weapons policy. This is a commitment only to use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack and never in retaliation for one using conventional weapons. Such a policy also includes comprehensive protocols in which activating nuclear weapons would only ever be a last resort.

India tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974 and the government committed to no first use in 2003, five years after conducting a second set of nuclear-weapons tests on 11 and 13 May 1998. The intention in declaring no first use was partly to help defuse tensions with its neighbour, which had responded to India’s second test with its own nuclear tests the same month.

Over the past two decades, Pakistan has amassed 150–160 nuclear missiles, to India’s 130–140, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Both countries, moreover, have advanced nuclear weapons, as well as ballistics research and development programmes.

Why doesn’t Pakistan have a no first use policy?

According to Feroz Hassan Khan, who teaches security studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, if Pakistan were to adopt the same policy, that would negate its reason for developing nuclear weapons in the first place.

Khan, who was a member of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons planning staff in the early 2000s, says that the country began developing nuclear weapons in the 1970s because it had fewer armed forces than India and knew it would lose a conventional war unless it developed more powerful military technology. At the time, Pakistan’s then prime minister said his people would “eat grass, leaves or go hungry” if that is what it took to get nuclear weapons.

India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads before: why is the current situation such a big deal?

When India’s defence minister Singh said on 16 August that the country’s long-held no first use nuclear weapons doctrine could change, “depending on circumstances”, this was not the first time a senior politician had floated the idea.

But the minister’s statement came at a time when the two countries’ governments are barely on speaking terms. A week earlier, India announced that Kashmir — a disputed northern region claimed by both India and Pakistan and currently divided into two areas administered by each country, respectively — would no longer need a separate constitution from the rest of India. Indian-administered Kashmir would, moreover, be partitioned into two territories. A curfew and communications blackout followed in Indian-administered Kashmir, which is very slowly being lifted.

Pakistan’s government has been trying to persuade the international community through the United Nations to censure India’s government. India’s opposition parties also oppose what is happening in Kashmir. But India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says that its changes will help Kashmiri society and its economy to develop, and that neither country needs outside help to resolve their differences.

Relations have been on a knife-edge since February, when a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, claimed responsibility for the deaths of 40 paramilitary police officers in Indian-administered Kashmir. India responded with air strikes that hit targets inside Pakistan. For a few days in February it did seem as if war would break out. Pakistan and India have previously fought wars with each over the region.

What might happen next?

Analysts say that a nuclear conflict — although closer — is still remote. But they also agree that rhetoric from both sides combined with the possibility of even a small change to India’s no first use principle is not safe.

For example, if India firms up the change in its no first use policy, Pakistan might take this as a signal that India could pre-emptively strike at Pakistani nuclear installations, says Narang. And that might, in turn, prompt Pakistan to use up all its nuclear weapons first. “And so, you get this destabilising dynamic where as soon as the crisis becomes nuclearized, there is an incentive for both sides to go first,” Narang says..

How likely are these scenarios?

Ramamurti Rajaraman, emeritus professor of physics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, calls the escalating rhetoric a “war of words” — that will not on its own lead to military action.

However, the increasing tensions combined with references to nuclear conflict from both sides mean that the two countries are now likely to have changed the status of their nuclear weapons readiness from “peacetime” to “crisis”, says Khan.

In practice, this means moving the three main physical components of a weapon — the warhead, missile-delivery system and fissile material core — either assembled or closer to where they need to be, ready for launch. In peacetime, each component is kept at a different location, for safety and security.

According to Khan, such a state of readiness for a strike heightens the risk of a nuclear accident, but is not in itself a sign that war will happen.

But if there is another attack inside India — as happened in February — India’s armed forces might again respond with force. That would precipitate a reaction from Pakistan’s military, prompting a retaliation from India. Unless one side voluntarily holds back, the prospect of such military escalation concerns analysts because it could eventually lead to strikes against nuclear targets.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02578-5

The Cost of the Nuclear Race

The New Nuclear Arms Race Is Here. And Russia’s Already Paying the Price.

Meet 4 new nuclear weapons systems the Kremlin is testing — right now.

By Greg Walters

Aug 29 2019, 2:09pm

At the funeral for 14 Russian sailors, Captain Sergei Pavlov hailed the “blameless heroes” for dousing the fire that broke out on their nuclear spy submarine, called the Losharik, during a secret mission last month.

“At the cost of their lives,” Pavlov said, “they prevented a catastrophe on a planetary scale.”

But as Russia tests and deploys an array of exotic new nuclear weapons, fears are mounting that the next nuclear mishap may not be so easily contained.

This summer alone, Russia has suffered some two-dozen casualties in accidents related to exotic nuclear hardware, including the mysterious explosion linked to the Skyfall missile program that killed seven and sent local radiation levels spiking in a nearby city.

The deadly incidents are stoking fears of a return to Cold War-style runaway nuclear arms development, accompanied by dangerous accidents and Soviet-style cover-ups.

You can blame the renewed U.S.-Russian arms race, which nuclear experts warn is driving Russia to recklessly experiment with “absurd” new ideas.

“We need to acknowledge that the Russians are engaged in wacky programs,” said Aaron Stein, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “It’s indicative of an arms complex that has been cut loose to pursue exotic, silly projects. And it’s dangerous.”

Things that go boom

The U.S. and Russia have bitterly accused each other of violating arms control obligations for decades (Putin still likes to complain about George W. Bush’s decision to ditch an anti-missile defense treaty in 2002). But even in this context, the recriminations and missile-waving have ratcheted up in recent years.

President Trump shares some of the blame. Since taking office, he’s proposed billions more in spending on nuclear programs, and began manufacturing low-yield, tactical warheads that could be deployed in a more limited way on a battlefield, a factor making them more likely to be used.

He stoked further outrage in Russia and much of the international community by officially withdrawing the U.S. from the INF Treaty, which US officials and independent experts say Russia had been violating for years.

The Cold War-era INF Treaty banned land-based short and medium-range missiles, and its demise means that both sides will likely begin developing new nuclear missiles designed to be launched much closer to their targets that was previously allowed.

Putin, for his part, has kicked things up a notch by personally unveiling several new nuclear weapons. In a massively-hyped rollout last spring, Putin boasted they’d be “invincible” to U.S. missile defense systems, and showcased a video of warheads raining down on Florida to thunderous applause from a roomful of Moscow’s ruling elite.

But while shiny new nukes may earn him love at home, ultimately Putin’s solving a problem Russia doesn’t actually have: Russia has so many missiles it could easily swamp American defenses.

“The current Russian strategic arsenal faces no strategic challenge, and won’t in the foreseeable future,” said Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review.

His race for nuclear supremacy, however, appears to be driving Russian weapons developers into weirder and riskier technologies

“It’s as if the nuclear and arms complexes have been unleashed to pursue their fantasies and daydreams, as if it’s the late ‘70s or early ‘80s again,” said Pollack

Some are downright “absurd,” given Russia’s overwhelming missile power, said Stein.

Putin’s new weapons programs include:

Skyfall: A cruise missile intended to achieve infinite range via an onboard nuclear-powered engine. A similar idea was abandoned by U.S. war planners in the 1960s as too dangerous, in part because the engine spewed radioactive exhaust in its wake.

Poseidon: A long-range nuclear torpedo designed to unleash a radioactive 500-meter tall tsunami against a coastal city. Western experts say the weapon appears best suited for targeting a seaside civilian population, rather than military targets.

Dagger: A plane-launched hypersonic glide missile designed to evade missile defense with advanced speed and maneuverability.

Avangard: A hypersonic winged glider weapon that’s fired high into the atmosphere before reemerging and traveling in unpredictable patterns to get around defense systems.

Disasters and cover-ups

The hush-hush atmosphere surrounding these military programs is raising anxiety that any mistakes won’t be properly accounted for — and that locals won’t get vital information they need to stay safe after a nuclear accident.

Such fears appeared to be borne out after the mysterious Aug. 8 explosion that killed seven people and sent local radiation readings spiking 16 times above average in a nearby city of almost 200,000 people.

Independent researchers, and President Trump in a tweet, linked the blast to a failed test of the Skyfall missile program. Afterwards, Russia stopped sharing data with international observers tracking nearby radionuclide monitoring stations — either for fear of causing panic, or of giving hints about the nature of their work.

Russia’s fearsome FSB spy agency reportedly forced doctors treating the wounded to sign non-disclosure agreements, and didn’t warn them patients might be radioactive. On Monday, Russia said air tests had found four kinds of radioactive particles that had been released after the explosion.

And that wasn’t an isolated incident. In July, an international team of researchers traced the origins of a huge, mysterious radioactive cloud that blanketed Europe in 2017 back to — you guessed it — Russia.

The team said the cloud posed no threat to Europe, but warned the area around the release might have faced much more serious fallout. If it did, nobody from Russia admitted it.

Naturally, after all that, Russian officials chose last week to launch a controversial floating nuclear power plant, dubbed the Akademik Lomonosov, into some of the most forbidding waters on the planet, near the Northeastern Russian coast near Alaska.

Environmentalists warn the ship is a “nuclear Titanic,” and a disaster waiting to happen.

No treaties

Of course, it takes two to make a nuclear arms race, and western experts say the U.S. shares the blame for spurring on Russia’s recent recklessness, after backing away from arms control treaties and engaging in provocative testing of its own.

“I think both sides are to blame,” said Sarah Bidgood, director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. “But each side wants to point the finger at the other guy.”

Just last week, the U.S. test-launched a medium-range cruise missile in California for the first time since backing out of a Cold War-era treaty banning those weapons.

In response, Putin accused the U.S. of “escalating military tensions,” and ordered his defense ministry to “prepare a reciprocal response.”

Somehow, things could still get worse. Moscow has accused Trump of failing to answer calls to open up negotiations on extending the New START treaty, which reduced the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers and is set to expire in 2021.

Failure to extend New START will be “quite fatal,” warned Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Monday.

And without further precautions in Russia, or a new push toward transparency, these new programs are likely to carry on in the dark, where they’ll likely cause more fatal mishaps, experts said.

“We’ll undoubtedly see more accidents,” said David Szakonyi, who studies Russian affairs at George Washington University in Washington D.C. “If you don’t put new safety mechanisms in place, this is just going to keep happening and happening. I don’t see this getting better before it gets worse.”

Cover: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to President of National Research Center “Kurchatov Institute” Mikhail Kovalchuk, as he visits Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, the home of the Soviet nuclear weapons program and later Soviet and Russian non-military nuclear technologies in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)