Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.
While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.
USGS Community Internet Intensity Map
While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.
According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.
Something like a new Cold War is getting hotter even if the United States seems in confused retreat. As evidence of aggression vs. acquiescence, listen to what Sen. Ted Cruz. R.-Texas, asked three top security officials at a congressional hearing without getting an answer.
He wanted to know why there had been no sanctions against China for massive hacking of tens of thousands of computers likely hurting the U.S. in endless ways.
An enemy of zipped lips himself, Cruz forthrightly told these officials that the lackadaisical reaction was “showing weakness to China and weakness to Russia.” America, he said, was thereby inviting more aggression and more cyberattacks,
Earlier in the hearing, questioners focused on Russia, and President Joe Biden has in fact exacted penalties for such moves as interference in our 2020 elections. Later, at a Geneva conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president issued warnings that the United States would retaliate if Putin did nothing to stop cyberattacks of ambiguously specified kinds coming from Russia. Since that redline statement, attacks have been coming hard and heavy with a soft and lightweight reaction as Russia says it cannot control criminal groups, which it can.
By way of leadership contrast, Putin recently explained to the world that Russia had developed the first-ever hypersonic missiles that can easily drop nuclear bombs anywhere on the planet within 30 minutes. They will be “unstoppable,” he said, and most will likely be aimed at the United States. Our own failure to modernize weapons is frightening. Officers have therefore rearranged a diminished military budget to better serve the weaponry cause. Don’t count on hypersonic success.
Singing a song similar to Putin’s, President XI Jinping of China recently said that no foreign force was ever going to “bully, oppress or enslave us” again.
China, which deserves a gold medal for bullying, oppression and enslavement, has lately emphasized that it is going to take back the thriving island of Taiwan still legally its own. Analysts say China would have major advantages if the United States intervened, not least because of weapon deficiencies.
Dictator Xi also has pronounced that China is on “an irreversible historic course” to become the world’s “biggest superpower.”
Leave China and Russia for a minute and visit Afghanistan, from which al-Qaida terrorists arose to assault New York City and Washington, D.C., on 9/11. The US military rushed across the ocean to wipe out al-Qaida, which shriveled up and is attempting a comeback. The U.S. also ended the Taliban’s hateful, hurtful, totalitarian government, but did not eliminate key players who hid out in Pakistan.
We hung around for 20 years, losing 2,312 military personnel, but were never very sure of what we were up to, according to a Washington Post series. We indulged in nation building that was mostly futile, although we did help construct a peaceful if fragile government before Biden said we were departing.
Not a few forecasters speculate that the Taliban will take over, coalesce with other demon nations, inflict misery on the innocent and recultivate 9/11-style tactics. Expert advice ranges from U.S. use of airpower to helping Afghanistan financially.
Finally, let’s visit famished Iran, which is spending billions on a nuclear-weapons future. In a nuclear deal bypassing the constitutionally required treaty process, President Barack Obama and friends ineptly agreed that Iran should keep the basic means of making nuclear weapons, keep testing missiles and keep funding terrorism. His successor ended the mess, restoring sanctions, and the successor’s successor wants to restart the mess, restoring most of the deal.
Iran wants to leave it to the United Nations about whether we would ever reinstitute sanctions again, and look at what is coming: a newly elected Iranian president named Ebrahim Raisi, who, in 1988, was part of a small government gang that hanged some 5,000 Iranian citizens who were not politically correct.
He will be tough, and, at the very least, we must listen to those understanding that gentleness in return does not preserve peace.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
Hypersonic weapons could well transform the strategic balance. The United States’ adversaries recognize this fact — Russia and China have both tested hypersonics and appear to have prioritized integrating them into their combat forces. The U.S. must do the same — or accept a strategic balance in our adversaries’ favor.
The Washington news cycle typically overlooks subtle yet consequential policy choices. Biden’s FY2022 defense budget request of $715 billion constitutes a functional decrease from the previous budget — its $11 billion “increase” does not keep pace with inflation. Although the Obama administration’s most robust technologists, former Undersecretary of Defense Robert Work foremost among them, are not serving in this administration, their imprint is clear. Biden cut $8 billion of procurement, and in turn boosted broader research and development by $5.5 billion.
Thus, its envisioned military will rely upon a small number of high technology platforms, a sort of “third offset” redux. Given this context, even the Biden administration’s apparently small funding choices will have a significant impact upon future American force structure, capabilities, and strategy — hence the Biden administration’s increased funding for hypersonic development must be considered more specifically.
Trump’s FY2021 budget included $3.2 billion for hypersonics. Biden’s FY2022 request provides $3.8 billion, an 18 percent funding increase. Moreover, the administration resumed hypersonic testing after a brief pause before the U.S.-Russia summit in June. This past month, the Air Force successfully detonated the AGM-183a ARRW hypersonic missile’s warhead and conducted its second air-launched flight test of the weapon.
Hypersonic missiles travel far faster than today’s cruise missiles — around Mach 5, which is perhaps twice as fast as Russia’s Kalibr and some six times faster than the U.S. Tomahawk. This speed, plus their maneuverability, make them relatively invulnerable to today’s air defense systems.
A military that gains hypersonic missiles can strike with shorter warning times, hit targets without regard to air defenses, and coordinate strikes across much greater width and depth.
Our adversaries understand the advantage hypersonic weapons will provide if fielded in sufficient numbers before a rival obtains the capability. China and Russia have distinctly aggressive intentions. Their objectives require dominating their neighbors andensuring that the U.S. encounters significant obstacles in conducting a counterattack. By jeopardizing U.S. missile defenses, shortening warning times, and increasing the depth of exposed American and allied forces, China and Russia could tilt the strategic balance in their favor.
There is fear, however, that the general development of hypersonic weapons, deployed in balanced or imbalanced numbers, will cultivate “strategic instability” — that is, a military balance that trends towards aggression and conflict, rather than deterrence and defense.
Hypersonic deployment in large numbers, it is argued, will reinforce first-strike incentives. Both combatants will recognize that their missile defenses are ineffective. Thus, they will attempt to pre-empt each other, launching their hypersonic missiles at enemy capabilities virtually without warning. Moreover, the speed of hypersonic weapons encourages a “launch on warning” mentality. Because a defender lacks sufficient warning time to reposition or harden targets to limit damage, the temptation will exist to launch on warning of an attack, even if, given the vulnerability of modern combat systems to electronic and cyber compromise, a command system makes a severe targeting error.
This fear of strategic instability harkens back to Cold War nuclear arguments. Increasing armaments, it was theorized, would progressively intensify crises and make global thermonuclear war inevitable after a certain point.
Over time, this transformed into a conviction in nuclear stability. If both parties fielded sufficient offensive nuclear capabilities and were vulnerable to attack, then the logic of mutually assured destruction — essentially a transnational murder-suicide pact — would take hold, precluding crisis escalation into thermonuclear conflict. In turn, this faith in mutually assured destruction morphed into an antipathy against short-range nuclear weapons designed for use against military targets and, in the 1980s, a crusade against missile defense systems that would threaten the Soviet Union’s ability to make credible its side of the murder-suicide pact.
Distinguishing the arguments of academic and policy opponents of missile defenses from the logic behind the INF and ABM treaties is important. But the specific benefits of contingent policy choices cannot be confused for broader arguments supporting a comprehensive strategic perspective. The choice, in principle, to eschew certain weapons systems — or defense systems — was problematic throughout the Cold War.
Arguments against the development of hypersonic weapons have a similar tenor. Their opponents, who call for global regulation, arsenal mitigation, and ideally elimination, cite the concerns discussed above, and argue that hypersonics only will increase crisis instability. But any form of deterrence breaks down if one party functionally pledges to refrain from employing capabilities that increase its military effectiveness. Deterrence is founded upon warfighting capability — the ability to at minimum jeopardize an adversary’s combat objectives and at best deny them outright.
Hypersonics are a clear way to hold Chinese objectives at risk through counterstrikes against critical command nodes and military assets. China’s rulers understand that. The PLA has invested in missile defenses and hardening mechanisms in anticipation of a war against a more advanced adversary — in the 1980s the Soviet Union, from the 1990s the United States. Hypersonics would prove a useful counter to these defenses.
The Biden administration should be commended for increasing hypersonic funding, continuing testing, and engaging in a broad effort to modernize U.S. military capabilities for a confrontation with China. But its timetable remains too extended. Sino-American antagonism is not imaginary. The CCP is approaching the point at which it may choose force to achieve its international objectives, the “reunification” of Taiwan with the mainland foremost among them.
If the Biden administration is unwilling to fund a military capable of fighting close to China, it must prioritize capabilities, like hypersonics, that can be launched at a greater distance, and can do more damage to their selected targets. Thus, it must increase funding for hypersonic development and push the services to begin integrating hypersonics into their force structures. Technological modifications must be funded, for example, to place hypersonics on U.S. attack and guided-missile submarines. And the administration must compel the services to consider more thoroughly the consequences of hypersonic attacks and the need to “harden” American bases and naval groups, the most likely targets of Chinese or Russian hypersonic weapons.
The early morning air strikes, the first to be claimed by the Israeli air force since at least 2014, were preceded by dozens of artillery rounds as UN peacekeepers urged “maximum restraint”. Lebanese president Michel Aoun said the air strikes showed an escalation of Israel’s “aggressive intent”.
Israel has stopped short of holding Hizbollah, the powerful Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group based in Lebanon, responsible for this week’s rockets, or for the intermittent volleys that accompanied its recent conflict with Palestinian militants in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“I believe that Hizbollah is not behind the last event, I believe that Hizbollah is too busy with what it has to deal with in Lebanon,” said Nitzan Nuriel, a brigadier-general in the Israeli army reserves, referring to the economic situation in the country. “And those Palestinian terror organizations in (South Lebanon) are trying to show solidarity to the brothers in Gaza.”
Speaking to an Israeli news website, defence minister Benny Gantz said he believed a Palestinian faction, rather than Hizbollah, which Israel battled last in 2006, was responsible for the rockets. He did not name the faction.
“This was an attack meant to send a message . . . Clearly we could do much more, and we hope we won’t arrive at that,” he told Ynet news.
On the Israeli side, hundreds of acres of forest land were burnt, and at least one mountain ridge remained ablaze late into Wednesday night, according to the Israel fire and rescue services.
One Israeli official said the blazes, which come as Greece and Turkey fight large forest fires, mirror those started in the Israeli south by Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of acres of farm and brushland have been set ablaze by incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip since 2019, as Hamas put pressure on Israel to ease the blockade on the Mediterranean enclave.
The latest air strikes, which were carried out at about 1am, were seen as a warning that Israel would not tolerate Palestinian militants in Lebanon using the same tactics to pressure Israel, the official said.
Israel is involved in negotiations with Egypt, Qatar and the UN on allowed international aid into the Gaza Strip after an 11-day conflict with Hamas in May. Israel has tried to ensure that the entry of aid into the strip — which it has kept under a punishing air, land and sea blockade since about 2007 — will not benefit Hamas.
Qatari aid usually comes in the form of monthly $100 cash payments to civilian employees of Hamas. Israel instead wants to strengthen Hamas’ more moderate rival, the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli officials have indicated to the UN that the Qatari aid be more closely tied to the PA, rather than Hamas. That has held up the cash disbursal, and angered Hamas, which uses its economic and ideological ties to Qatar to prop up its own control of the Gaza Strip.
Muslim World League invited religious leaders for talks to bridge the gap between Islam’s two main sects
Iraqi Sunni and Shiite clerics denounced divisions along religious and ethnic lines and emphasised the country’s unity at a meeting intended to find common ground between Islam’s two main sects in the war-torn nation.
The meeting on Wednesday was organised by the Muslim World League in Islam’s holiest city, Makkah, and brought together a group of clerics from the two sects to help bridge the gap between them.
The League’s secretary general, Mohammed Al Issa, said the meeting was exceptional and was held in a “brotherly and understanding” atmosphere.
However, the meeting was not attended by any of Iraq’s senior and influential religious leaders with considerable sway over the country’s many political and paramilitary groups, or their representatives.
After the meeting, the clerics issued a statement on the need to activate what is known as the Charter of Makkah, which was signed in 2006 by Iraqi religious leaders and meant to end the bloodshed in the country.
The 10-point charter calls for an end to sectarian violence and attacks on places of worship, to safeguard the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, the release of innocent detainees and to allow displaced people to return to their homes.
The 2006 meeting was organised by the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, but the document did not affect the security situation in Iraq and retaliatory killings between Sunni and Shiite extremists groups persisted.
The latest statement stressed the need to preserve Iraq’s “unity, stability and prosperity to contribute to regional and world stability and prosperity”.
The participants agreed to denounce sectarianism and urged coexistence, moderation, mutual respect and tolerance.
They also called for “opening constructive dialogue channels” among the clerics to deal with various issues.
“The priority in our religious and media messages must focus on unity, preserve the country’s identity, make sure to build it, reject terrorism and violence in all forms,” the statement said.
Iraqis have faced sectarian violence since 2004 when Al Qaeda in Iraq declared Shiites as renegades, launching attacks against them and their places of worship, including the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine north of Baghdad in 2006.
That attack spurred Shiite militias to fight back, plunging the country into a bloody civil war.
Death squads from the two communities singled out people from rival sects in Baghdad from 2006 to 2008, kidnapping, killing and dumping bodies in the streets. Many neighbourhoods in the capital became off limits to people depending on their sect membership.
The civil war ended only after Shiite militia leader Moqtada Al Sadr announced a ceasefire, along with a Sunni revolt against Al Qaeda during a series of US-Iraqi offensives that helped to stop the fighting.
In June, a radical Shiite group called for the shrine of a revered Sunni cleric in Baghdad to be demolished, prompting fears of renewed sectarian tensions in Iraq.
In response, the government stationed security forces around the Abu Hanifa Al Numan shrine and mosque.
In late June, the press reported that some researchers using commercial satellite imagery uncovered more than 100 new Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile silos being constructed in its northwestern desert.
And then in July, the news reported another shocking discovery by researchers again using commercial satellite imagery. This time, they found another 100 or so Chinese ICBM silos in a different new silo field a few hundredmiles away.
In total, that’s more than 200-plus new Chinese ICBM silos.
It’s clear that when U.S. government officials have talked ambiguously about the People’s Republic of China doubling, tripling—or even quadrupling—its nuclear force in the next decade, that’s probably what they were referring to.
None of this is good news, but the bad news doesn’t end there.
China, once fielding only a modest nuclear force of land-based missiles, is evolving from being a nuclear “monad” into a nuclear “triad,” consisting of strategic land, sea, and air nuclear forces like those of the United States and Russia.
While Beijing is certainly no paragon of transparency, especially on security issues, it’s not completely unexpected.
China has been engaged in an unprecedented military buildup of its conventional forces for some time, and it has recently begun to pay significant attention to building out its strategicnuclear forces, too.
Indeed, in 2015, China established the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which is responsible for China’s land-based conventional and nuclear missiles, as a separate service within the Chinese military—and on par with the army, navy, and air force.
It’s a big deal.
Moreover, as further evidence of the importance of the Rocket Force to China, according to the Pentagon, “In 2019, the [People’s Republic of China] launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined.”
Plus, depending on how Beijing deploys those new silos—filling them all with missiles or filling some and leaving others as decoys to confuse an attacker, China could significantly increase the size of its land-based nuclear force.
The worry is that these new ICBMs may be armed with multiple, independently targetable, reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. That would mean that there could be five or more warheads, rather than one, on each ICBM.
This massive expansion should call into question the long-standing assessments that China will continue to have an estimated low-200 nuclear weapons in its stockpile.
Instead, these recent revelations suggest that Beijing could be in the throes of trying to reach nuclear near-parity—or even parity—with Washington in the coming years. (The U.S. has about 1,550 operational nuclear weapons.)
In addition, the People’s Liberation Army-Navy has also deployed severalnuclear ballistic missile submarines, creating for the first time a mobile, stealthy at-sea strategic strike force for China’s leadership.
Those ballistic missile submarines will carry 12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads capable of reaching parts of the continental United States, depending on its firing location.
China is also modernizing its strategic bomber forces and arming them with nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missiles. Some analysts speculate that a nuclear-capable cruise missile for those bombers may also become available.
Lastly, a press report July 30 also exposed some construction work at a site used by China in the past for nuclear testing, possibly signaling another uptick in Beijing’s strategic activity levels.
It’s clear Beijing is emphasizing, diversifying, and expanding its nuclear forces.
A full-on nuclear triad of land, air, and sea legs will provide China’s nuclear deterrent with greater credibility, survivability, and flexibility than it had previously as a land-based silo and road-mobile force.
Those new capabilities will give Beijing greater freedom of action internationally to influence and coerce not only Washington, but also its Asian allies and partners. It will also limit the response options to China’s ongoing bad behavior and belligerence.
Beijing’s strategic force build-out will also insert more uncertainty—and risk—into an already challenging international security environment, now fraught with great- and major-power competition and rivalry.
As a result, the United States must carefully consider these developments, as well as craft responses to the growing Chinese nuclear threat, ensuring that U.S. national interests are protected and American nuclear deterrence remains indomitable.
By Rebekah Koffler, opinion contributorAugust 04, 2021 – 11:30 AM EDT
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Doomsday aircraft — the two modernized Ilyushin 96-400M’s that Russia is developing as part of а special project codenamed “Zveno-3C” (Component-3C) — are not museum mockup displays or some props for a Dr. Strangelovian thriller. The specially outfitted planes will serve as Putin’s flying command and control center, from which the Russian spymaster can direct his forces into combat in the event of a nuclear war. The recent development is yet another step in Putin’s preparation for a “shooting” conflict with the United States, which Moscow believes is unavoidable.
U.S.-Russia relations have been on a collision course since the collapse of the Soviet Union driven by two diametrically opposed worldviews — democracy v. authoritarianism — and the dispute over the future of the former Soviet states, such as Ukraine. Having officially declared the United States an “unfriendly state” and Russia’s preeminent security threat, Moscow is prepared to fight a nuclear war over its perceived sphere of influence, on which Russia has relied for centuries as its strategic security perimeter.
Putin’s government has been modernizing its nuclear weapons and forces because it is not confident in its conventional, precision-guided weaponry’s ability to win a high-stakes conflict with the United States. In 2020, Putin updated Russia’s nuclear doctrineto ensure that Russian forces have the upper hand over the U.S. military in a Doomsday scenario.
Putin’s warfighting doctrine is even more dangerous than the one that the Soviets relied on during the Cold War. Although during the dark years of communism, Moscow was preparing for Washington’s decapitation and total annihilation in a mass nuclear strike, the USSR’s vast atomic arsenal ultimately became a psychological weapon that was never used in combat. In contrast, today Russia’s doctrine is more grounded in “reality”— Russian reality, that is. The nuclear option for Putin is not a theoretical doctrine. It is a battlefield-ready capability, to be deployed in a “limited use” scenario. Putin’s purpose for the atomic weapons is, counter-intuitively, to de-escalate a rapidly evolving conflict with a technologically superior United States. The Kremlin envisions fighting a limited nuclear war with Washington, over contested areas such as Ukraine and Crimea, the latter of which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
Non-strategic nuclear weapons, in which Russia holds advantage over the United States, are also viewed by Moscow as a reliable way to establish what’s called “escalation dominance.” Putin realizes that, once started, a kinetic conflict between the U.S. and Russia, the world’s two atomic superpowers, would be hard to contain. Putin’s war planners, therefore, conceptualized the employment of Doomsday weapons to compel Washington to concede by demonstrating a superior position, so that U.S. forces perceive any further escalation as a losing bet. Simply put, Russia believes it can out-escalate a conflict, continuously upping the ante of hostilities.
An example of the effect of Russia’s escalation-dominant posture on U.S. leadership’s decision-making is the failure to prevent or forcefully respond to Moscow’s cyberwarfare. Washington has yet to respond to Russia’s cyber intrusions into the U.S. government and military systems, including critical infrastructure, the disabling of our food and energy reserves with ransomware, and the Kremlin’s covert-influence operations to sabotage the last three U.S. elections. U.S. leaders’ concern has been that Putin would launch a destructive cyberattack on the United States — which is much more dependent than Russia on technology for daily existence — crippling the U.S. economy and daily activities.
Putin’s decision to upgrade his nuclear command and control (NC2) center in the sky stems from the concern that he and his designees with nuclear release authority — the defense minister and chief of the general staff — may need to be evacuated in the event that the ground and space segments of the NC2 are destroyed by the adversary’s strike. Even in such a scenario, Putin still wants to be able to wage devastation on America, having full control of all the three legs of Russia’s nuclear triad — bombers, submarines and road-mobile, as well as silo-based, missiles. To operationalize its wartime nuclear doctrine, in early 2017 Russia deployed, in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a land-based cruise missile designated the SSC-X-8. Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Paul Selva warned that this missile “presents a risk to most of our [U.S.] facilities in Europe” and is “part of a wider deployment by Russia of sea-, air- and ground-launched nuclear-capable missiles.”
Putin systematically invests in the modernization of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and the training of its nuclear personnel, the Strategic Rocket Forces. Although live nuclear testing is not permitted under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Russia has been found by the U.S. intelligence community to violate the accord. According to the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, Russia was “likely violating the treaty by secretly carrying out nuclear tests with very low explosive power … creating nuclear yield.”
Russia periodically deploys strategic bombers on overflight missions close to U.S. borders to practice and test U.S. responses to its breaching of the U.S. air-defense identification zone (ADIZ). Moscow also has conducted mock nuclear attacks on the U.S. homeland. The Russians regularly practice nuclear launches in simulation exercises, with Putin “pressing the button.”
Russia is the only country that possesses the capability to devastate the U.S. homeland by destroying numerous targets through nuclear strikes that can be delivered from land, sea and air. There is no question that Russia is preparing for a nuclear conflict with the United States and NATO. The only question is whether this conflict can be deterred or fought.