GETTY THE BIG APPLE: An aerial view of Lower Manhattan at dusk in New York City
USGS RISK: A seismic hazard map of New York produced by USGS “New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances” Dr Simon Day, natural disaster researcher This is because the bedrock underneath parts of NYC, including Long Island and Staten Island, cannot effectively absorb the seismic waves produced by earthquakes. “An important feature of the central and eastern United States is, because the crust there is old and cold, and contains few recent fractures that can absorb seismic waves, the rate of seismic reduction is low. Central regions of NYC, including Manhattan, are built upon solid granite bedrock; therefore the amplification of seismic waves that can shake buildings is low. But more peripheral areas, such as Staten Island and Long Island, are formed by weak sediments, meaning seismic hazard in these areas is “very likely to be higher”, Dr Day said. “Thus, like other cities in the eastern US, New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances than is the case for cities on plate boundaries such as Tokyo or San Francisco, where the crustal rocks are more fractured and absorb seismic waves more efficiently over long distances,” Dr Day said. In the event of a large earthquake, dozens of skyscrapers, including Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and 40 Wall Street, could be at risk of shaking. “The felt shaking in New York from the Virginia earthquake in 2011 is one example,” Dr Day said. On that occasion, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered 340 miles south of New York sent thousands of people running out of swaying office buildings.
USGS FISSURES: Fault lines in New York City have low rates of activity, Dr Day said NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was “lucky to avoid any major harm” as a result of the quake, whose epicenter was near Louisa, Virginia, about 40 miles from Richmond. “But an even more impressive one is the felt shaking from the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes in the central Mississippi valley, which was felt in many places across a region, including cities as far apart as Detroit, Washington DC and New Orleans, and in a few places even further afield including,” Dr Day added. “So, if one was to attempt to do a proper seismic hazard assessment for NYC, one would have to include potential earthquake sources over a wide region, including at least the Appalachian mountains to the southwest and the St Lawrence valley to the north and east.”
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces and armed Palestinians exchanged fire during an Israeli arrest raid in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early Tuesday, leaving two Palestinians dead, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
One of those killed in the Jenin camp was identified as a 22-year-old member of the militant Islamic Jihad group; he had been shot in the head. The other was an 18-year-old.
An police statement said Palestinians opened fire from multiple directions twice during the raid, and that Israeli forces returned fire. As the Israeli forces left Jenin, dozens of people threw firebombs and a home-made grenade, drawing more Israeli fire, police said.
The Jenin camp has been a stronghold of armed men from the pro-Iran Islamic Jihad and the larger militant Hamas group. Islamic Jihad’s top political leaders are based in Syria and Lebanon, with some prominent members in Gaza, where it is the second largest militant group after the ruling Hamas.
The killed 22-year-old Islamic Jihad member, Abdullah al-Hossari, had served 26 months in an Israeli prison before being released last August. Media reported that the other killed man, 18-year-old Shadi Najem, was unarmed.
The man arrested in the raid was identified as Amad Abu al-Hija, who had previously been imprisoned by Israel. His father had been the head of the Hamas military wing in Jenin until his own arrest two decades ago.
For example, Francis Fukuyama thought things were so good that it signified the end of history. In his mind, the conflict between liberty and freedom on the one hand and the forces of totalitarianism on the other was over. The forces of a “liberal international order” would become the consensus position internationally.
In 1979, Saddam Hussein seized power in Iraq and proceeded to invade Iran the following year, starting a decade-long “war of the cities.” Iran fell to a terrorist gang of Mullahs. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Nicaragua fell to the Cuba-lite Sandinistas. And El Salvador and Columbia were assumed to soon fall to hybrid Marxist terror-drug groups such as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), respectively.
In the 1970s, some eighteen nations fell into the Soviet orbit through wars of national liberation or terrorism, starting with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and ending with Mozambique, Angola, Grenada, and Ethiopia.
Hope for economic growth and prosperity in the United States disappeared, replaced in 1980 with stagflation, with 14 percent inflation, a prime 21 percent interest rate, and unemployment climbing toward double digits. Gas lines and soaring fuel prices shuttered the U.S. economy.
How, then, did the United States and the West recover so dramatically and turn things around in a decade? Why did the Soviet empire end in 1991 when a short decade earlier Moscow’s empire looked, as former UN ambassador Kenneth Galbraith explained, too strong to bring down.
Many analysts claim today that the collapse of the Soviet Union was inevitable or that the strategy of “containment,” described in 1946 by George Kennan in a famous telegram from Moscow to the U.S. State Department, had worked.
In short, the elites repeatedly told us that the good news of the “end of history” in 1991 was all but inevitable, growing out of the USSR’s critical weakness. Long term, a new, better “reset” of the international was emerging toward Davos-inspired globalization.
U.S. security policy in 1981 did not accept the idea that the decline of the Soviet empire was inevitable, and the United States and the West would succeed simply by continuing “business as usual.” While many associate “peace through strength” with Reagan’s military security strategy, the new American administration dramatically changed the Nixon-Ford-Carter era of détente, peaceful coexistence, and the largely reactive-passive policy toward the USSR.
As outlined by Myron Norquist in an essay for the National Intelligencer, the Reagan administration adopted new policies including no further reliance on the failed policy of what was known as “containment.” From 1917 to 1983, no Soviet or communist-controlled territory was taken back by the forces of freedom until the United States liberated Grenada from its Cuban masters in 1983 in cooperation with seven Caribbean nations. So, for sixty-six years the USSR expanded, including during thirty-six years of supposed “containment.”
Immediately after his swearing-in, Reagan decontrolled the price of oil and eventually persuaded the Saudi government to increase oil production from 2 to 10 million barrels a day, resulting in a drop in oil prices from $30 to $12 a barrel.
To counter Soviet power, the United States modernized its military, especially its nuclear forces, while initiating production and deployment of the Pershing II and Ground-Launched Cruise Missile in Europe and Asia, and simultaneously called the Soviets’ bluff on their massive SS-20 deployments by proposing the abolition of all Soviet and U.S. medium-range missiles.
The Soviet’s proposed nuclear freeze was defeated, the United States modernized its land, sea, and air-based nuclear triad. A new missile defense research initiative started that promised to seriously undermine the oft-used Soviet coercive threat of nuclear-armed missiles.
Gorbachev found that between $36-51 billion in annual foreign exchange earnings disappeared or were vacuumed up by the surging cost of empire. In fact, Moscow was spending more per capita on Cubans and folks in Nicaragua than on improving Soviet citizens’ living standards. The government responses of perestroika and glasnost didn’t reform the Soviet system but only exposed its fissures and contradictions. The empire had to be jettisoned, precisely as Reagan had predicted.
So why is the world environment now looking more like 1979 than 1991? Why was the promise of 1991 not continued?
After the end of the Soviet Union, the United States and its allies made little effort to engage with Russian democratic political forces and ignored the possibility that totalitarian forces would again take power. U.S. defense spending on modernization also declined from 1991-2000 by a cumulative $1 trillion, with military modernization stopped across the board. U.S. Air Force general Garret Harencak warned of the dangers of the United States going on what he termed “procurement holiday” as the production of every modern American strategic nuclear platform was terminated (the Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile, the Ohio-class submarine, and the B-2 strategic bomber).
While the initial U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks was a success—the dramatic takedown of the Taliban and Al Qaeda was largely achieved by December 2001—the United States then got bogged down for two decades in nation-building and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and later Iraq.
Iran, recovering from its war with Iraq, used the over $100+ price of a barrel of oil to become the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world with the largest missile inventory in the Middle East; legions of proxy terrorist groups—the Houthis, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas—in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq; and an industrial-strengthnuclear weapons capability allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
China also grew more powerful economically as the United States granted Beijing most-favored-nation trade status in 2001, even as China subsequently stole hundreds of billions of dollars worth of intellectual property annually and nearly 4 million U.S. industrial jobs fled overseas. China began striking port development deals across the Western Hemisphere, including in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Nicaragua, as part of its campaign to secure economic and eventually military hegemony even while the U.S. Treasury invested (now curtailed) U.S. civilian and military retirement funds into Wall Street mutual and hedge funds containing stocks of Chinese military companies.
A promise of a Russian reset—a second détente—failed miserably as Russia took a bite out of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. The Russians also built up their nuclear arsenal far beyond the limits called for in the New START Treaty, while China, under no nuclear restraint whatever, now is building towards at least 1,000 deployed nuclear warheads by the end of the current decade. And now Russia is invading regions of eastern Ukraine under the fanciful idea of engaging in peacekeeping.
Today, the United States has the highest inflation rate in forty years; U.S. debt exceeds $30 trillion, a thirty-fold increase since 1980. U.S. oil production has fallen markedly below the 17 million barrels a day record of 2019, even as U.S. leaders plead with Moscow and Riyadh to produce more oil to reduce the price.
The Russian campaign plan apparently assumed a Blitzkrieg advance against negligible opposition, swiftly eliminating the Ukrainian political and military leadership. Mindless wishful thinking is the only reason why Putin could have imagined that an army of only 190,000 soldiers, many of them non-combatant cooks, drivers and the like, would be able to seize and occupy a country three times the size of Britain.
One Russian foreign policy expert, Andrei Kortunov of the Russian International Affairs Council, says that the Kremlin’s original plan was to get the whole operation wrapped up in two weeks. He adds that members of the Russian foreign ministry were “very surprised, shocked, even dismayed” by the decision, which they probably saw as the start of an unwinnable war.
The war is no longer solely about the future of Ukraine, but about the future of Putin, who is unlikely to survive a complete Russian fiasco. He not only gave the order to invade and occupy Ukraine but evidently expected a walk-over.
Everything he achieved or hoped to achieve in his 22 years in the Kremlin is unravelling at extraordinary speed. He said he wanted to prevent the spread of Nato eastwards, but he has ensured that Ukraine will in future be welded politically and militarily into Nato and the EU as they supply weapons and money. He had sought to take advantage of Western disunity in their relationship with Moscow, but now he has compelled Germany and France to take the same tough line towards Russia as the US and Britain.
The same is true on the home front. When Putin took over the Russian leadership in 1999, he was seen as a guarantee of stability who would put an end to the chaos of the Boris Yeltsin era. But on Monday, the Russian rouble dropped 25 per cent in value and the Central Bank raised interest rates to 20 per cent. Economic sanctions will hobble the economy for decades to come, and it may even have to pay reparations. As regards long-term impact, it is only this month that Iraq made the final compensation payment to Kuwait for the invasion 30 years ago, bringing total payment to $52.4bn (£40bn). How much might Russia have to pay for war damage in Ukraine?
The list of calamities that have already hit Russia, or may do so soon, leave Putin with only one policy option – which is to try to win a military victory in Ukraine so his invasion will not be seen as a complete disaster. There seems little chance of a ceasefire being negotiated at a meeting on the Ukraine-Belarus border today since Putin has been demanding a total capitulation by the Ukraine government and the surrender of its army.
Can Putin’s generals turn the military situation around at this stage? They have lost the advantage of surprise and Ukrainian military morale is high. President Volodymyr Zelenskyis proving a vocal and inspirational leader. On the other hand, only 60 per cent of the Russian forces surrounding Ukraine have been deployed and they have not used their heavy artillery or bombers to any significant extent.
They may be deployed in the next phase of the war, which could well be the siege of cities – notably the capital Kyiv with a population of 2.8 million and the second largest city, Kharkiv, in north-east Ukraine, with a population of 1.4 million. Perhaps the Russians could capture them using tanks and infantry alone, though this has not happened so far.
I reported on the siege of Mosul in northern Iraq over nine months in 2016/17, which inflicted horrific casualties on the civilian population and destroyed most of the Old City. This was because the advancing Iraqi army could only eliminate Islamic State fighters by calling in US air strikes or obliterating whole neighbourhoods with shells and rockets. The level of destruction in Raqqa, the Isis de facto capital in Syria, was even worse and for the same reason. Determined infantry dug into a city cannot easily be defeated without using massive fire power that inflicts heavy loss of civilian life.
The grim outcome of siege warfare in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily be re-enacted in Ukraine, but sieges like that of Beirut by Israel in 1982 and Grozny by Russia in 1999 likewise produced heavy destruction and many civilian casualties.
But the Ukrainians will be fighting for their cities before the eyes of a sympathetic world with the death or wounding of every civilian killed by a Russian shell recorded on a phone camera.
Putin has committed himself to an unwinnable war, but it is not clear if he knows this. At the start of the war he showed extreme overconfidence by asking the Ukrainian army to lay down its arms and for the overthrow of a “neo-Nazi” Ukrainian government. This showed almost total detachment from reality on the ground. Focus on Putin’s mental state diverts attention from the ominous fact that his going to war in Ukraine was always a mad venture – and he may use equally poor judgement when it comes to nuclear weapons.
Biden was attending a White House celebration of Black History Month when he was asked by CBS News reporter Nancy Cordes about the threat, given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement the day before that he had placed his country’s nuclear forces on a state of “special combat readiness.”
“President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable, and we have to continue to condemn his actions in the strongest possible way,” she said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Our voices have been unified with the Europeans and with the world that he needs to cease his aggressive actions toward Ukraine.”
At the same time, Thomas-Greenfield noted that Russia was “under no threat” from the U.S. military.
“This is really a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression — and the global community and the American people should look at it through that prism,” Psaki said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
U.S. officials said Monday that despite Putin’s move, there was no need to change the country’s nuclear alert level.
Those assurances aside, the U.S. and its NATO allies find themselves in a tricky situation — supplying money and weapons to Ukraine’s outnumbered military forces while stopping short of offering to intervene directly. While some Republican lawmakers have urged Biden to consider implementing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, the administration has ruled that out. “It would essentially mean the U.S. military would be shooting down planes, Russian planes,” Psaki said in a Monday interview on MSNBC. “That is definitely escalatory. … That is not something the president wants to do.”
The U.S. and Russia possess the two largest nuclear arsenals on Earth, with more than enough missiles and bombs to wipe out humankind.
Speaking at the United Nations on Monday, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya referenced Putin’s nuclear decision with an allusion to Adolf Hitler.
“If [Putin] wants to kill himself, he doesn’t need to use a nuclear arsenal. He has to do what the guy in Berlin did in a bunker in May 1945,” Kyslytsya said, in reference to the Nazi dictator’s suicide at the end of World War II.
Putin has ordered the defence minister and the chief of the military to put nuclear deterrent forces in a ‘special regime of combat duty’.
Published On 27 Feb 202227 Feb 2022
President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert in a dramatic escalation of tensions with the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Putin said on Sunday that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” while imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia and himself.
At a meeting with his top officials, the president ordered the defence minister and the chief of the military’s general staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty”.
The order raises the threat that the tensions could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
“It’s certainly an escalation,” Al Jazeera’s Moscow correspondent Dorsa Jabbari said. “The last nuclear exercises took place on February 19, when Putin staged very large drills across Russia to test the country’s nuclear programme and [its] readiness.”
The Kremlin said it had successfully test-launched hypersonic and cruise missiles at sea and land-based targets. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Putin, also oversaw the military exercises.
“This is seemingly another move by President Vladimir Putin to show that he is still very much a man of strength,” Jabbari said.
The United States responded to Putin’s announcement, accusing the Russian leader of fabricating threats to justify “further aggression”.
“This is a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on ABC.
The American ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, condemned Putin’s move strongly.
“It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview on CBS.
Miro Popkhadze, an analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Al Jazeera Putin’s announcement was meant to be perceived as a threat by Europe.
“His objective is to divide the European Union” and weaken the bloc’s support for Ukraine, Popkhadze said. “It is unlikely [this will work].”
Amid the worrying development, the office of Ukraine’s president said a delegation would meet Russian officials near the Belarus border.
Moscow has faced international condemnation since it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. Russian troops have faced determined resistance while attempting to enter Ukraine’s big cities, as Ukrainians volunteered en masse to help defend the country, taking guns distributed by authorities and preparing firebombs to fight Russian forces.
Putin has claimed the West failed to take seriously Russia’s security concerns about NATO, the Western military alliance that Ukraine aspires to join.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday announced that the alliance was deploying thousands of combat-ready troops to Ukraine’s neighbours, as well as continuing to send weapons to Ukraine including air defences after Russia’s attack.
An engineer examines the engine of an SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile in Dnipro, Ukraine, on July 26, 1996.
Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/AP
UKRAINE WAS ONCE home to thousands of nuclear weapons. The weapons were stationed there by the Soviet Union and inherited by Ukraine when, at the end of the Cold War, it became independent. It was the third-largest nuclear arsenal on Earth. During an optimistic moment in the early 1990s, Ukraine’s leadership made what today seems like a fateful decision: to disarm the country and abandon those terrifying weapons, in exchange for signed guarantees from the international community ensuring its future security.
The decision to disarm was portrayed at the time as a means of ensuring Ukraine’s security through agreements with the international community — which was exerting pressure over the issue — rather than through the more economically and politically costly path of maintaining its own nuclear program. Today, with Ukraine being swarmed by heavily armed invading Russian troops bristling with weaponry and little prospect of defense from its erstwhile friends abroad, that decision is looking like a bad one.
Nations that sacrifice their nuclear deterrents in exchange for promises of goodwill are often signing their own death warrants.
The tragedy now unfolding in Ukraine is underlining a broader principle clearly seen around the world: Nations that sacrifice their nuclear deterrents in exchange for promises of international goodwill are often signing their own death warrants. In a world bristling with weapons with the potential to end human civilization, nonproliferation itself is a morally worthwhile and even necessary goal. But the experience of countries that actually have disarmed is likely to lead more of them to conclude otherwise in future.
The betrayal of Ukrainians in particular cannot be understated. In 1994, the Ukrainian government signed a memorandum that brought its country into the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while formally relinquishing its status as a nuclear state. The text of that agreement stated that in exchange for the step, the “Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s territorial integrity has not been much respected since. After the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea by Russia — which brought no serious international response — Ukrainian leaders had already begun to think twice about the virtues of the agreement they had signed just two decades earlier. Today they sound positively bitter about it.
“We gave away the capability for nothing,” Andriy Zahorodniuk, a former defense minister of Ukraine, said this month about his nation’s former nuclear weapons. “Now, every time somebody offers us to sign a strip of paper, the response is, ‘Thank you very much. We already had one of those some time ago.’”
UKRAINIANS ARE NOT the only ones who have come to regret signing away their nuclear weapons. In 2003, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi made a surprise announcement that his nation would abandon its nuclear program and chemical weapons in exchange for normalization with the West.
“Libya stands as one of the few countries to have voluntarily abandoned its WMD programs,” wrote Judith Miller a few years later in an article about the decision headlined “Gadhafi’s Leap of Faith.” Miller, then just out of the New York Times, added that the White House had opted “to make Libya a true model for the region” by helping encourage other states with nuclear programs to follow Gaddafi’s example.
Libya kept moving forward. It signed on to an additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency allowing for extensive international monitoring of nuclear reserves. In return, sanctions against the country were lifted and relations between Washington and Tripoli, severed during the Cold War, were reestablished. Gaddafi and his family spent a few years building ties with Western elites, and all seemed to be going well for the Libyan dictator.
Then came the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Gaddafi found that the same world leaders who had ostensibly become his economic partners and diplomatic allies were suddenly providing decisive military aid to his opposition — even cheering on his own death.
Promises, betrayals, aggression: It’s a pattern that extends even to countries that have merely considered foreclosing their avenues to a nuclear deterrent.
Missile silos abandoned by the Gaddafi regime are left in the desert at a military base in Lona, Libya, on Sept. 29, 2011.
Photo: John Cantlie/Getty Images
Take Iran: In 2015, the Islamic Republic signed a comprehensive nuclear deal with the U.S. that limited its possible breakout capacity toward building a nuclear weapon and provided extensive monitoring of its civilian nuclear program. Not long afterward, the agreement was violated by the Trump administration, despite the country’s own continued compliance. Since 2016, when Trump left the deal, Iran has been hit with crushing international sanctions that have devastated its economy and been subjected to a campaign of assassination targeting its senior military leadership.
To date, no nuclear-armed state has ever faced a full-scale invasion by a foreign power, regardless of its own actions.
The nuclear deal was characterized at the time as the first step toward a broader set of talks over regional disputes between Iranian and U.S. leaders, who had been alienated since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Instead, the deal marked another bitter chapter in the long-troubled relationship between the two countries.
To date, no nuclear-armed state has ever faced a full-scale invasion by a foreign power, regardless of its own actions. North Korea has managed to keep its hermetic political system intact for decades despite tensions with the international community. North Korean officials have even cited the example of Libya in discussing their own weapons. In 2011, as bombs rained down on Gaddafi’s government, a North Korean foreign ministry official said, “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson.” That official went on to refer to giving up weapons in signed agreements as “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”
Perhaps the starkest contrast to the treatment of Ukraine, Libya, and Iran, however, is Pakistan, which developed nuclear weapons decades ago in defiance of the United States. Despite being criticized at the time for contributing to nuclear proliferation and facing periodic sanctions, Pakistan has managed to insulate itself from attack or even serious ostracism by the U.S. despite several flagrant provocations in the decades since. Today Pakistan even remains a security partner of the U.S., having received billions of dollars of military aid over the past several decades.
Given the mortal hazards that nuclear weapons pose to life on Earth, nonproliferation remains a worthwhile collective goal. Humanity will not benefit from a renewal of the nuclear arms race, and the ideals behind a U.S.-backed rules-based liberal order are morally attractive. A world in which they were truly applied would probably be a fairer and more peaceful one than what has existed in the past, yet we must also recognize that the liberal order can and will fail. That lesson is especially true for small nations outmatched by great powers.
Given the tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine today — where, despite its past assurances, the international community has remained a passive observer — leaders of small countries must be forgiven for thinking twice before sacrificing their deterrent, regardless of what the leaders of great powers already armed with nuclear weaponry may say.