Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake: Revelation 6

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger BilhamQuakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

Biden Let’s Putin Set Up The Obama-Iran Deal

Biden is letting Putin run the Iran nuclear talks

By Michael Goodwin

By Michael Goodwin

March 12, 2022 | 10:29pm

Some stories make so little sense that all you can do is scratch your head. Others are so infuriating that you want to pull your hair out. Then there are those that are so outrageous your head feels as if it will explode. 

This story provokes all three ­reactions. 

It starts with a strange, little-known fact: Russia is acting as a go-between for the United States in nuclear talks with Iran.

When I first read that, I thought it couldn’t possibly be true. With Russia then massing troops on the Ukraine border, I assumed that even the Biden White House couldn’t be foolish enough to trust Vladimir Putin to do anything in good faith or certainly anything in America’s interest.

Unfortunately, the story was true, and even more alarming, Russia continues to direct the nuclear talks with America’s approval while its army simultaneously turns Ukraine’s cities into rubble, mercilessly killing civilians and creating the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

In response, the US and Europe have sanctioned Russia’s economy and Putin’s cronies. The West is also supplying weapons to Ukraine and helping to care for more than 2 million refugees.

But shouldn’t America also sever the relationship with Putin in the Iran talks? After all, since we don’t trust him in Ukraine and want to isolate him, why should we trust him on whether Iran gets nuclear weapons? 

It always defied any meaning of common sense for Biden to believe Putin cares about safeguarding America and our allies, including Israel, in negotiations with the mad mullahs. So now is the time to correct the error. Russian continues to act as a go-between for the US in the Iran nuclear talks despite Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

The new axis of evil

On the chance that Biden and his team somehow missed the voluminous evidence of Putin’s depraved nature, Russia’s alliance with Iran in Syria and elsewhere ought to have ended any consideration of him as an honest broker. 

Because of the Iran-Russia alliance, developments last week now look inevitable. First came reports saying the nuke talks were complete and the deal could be signed any day, which set off jubilant boasts from the anti-American side. 

A video carried by Real Clear Politics shows Russia’s chief negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, praising his Iranian “colleagues,” saying they “are fighting for [their] national interest like lions. They fight for every comma, every word, and as a rule, quite successfully.” 

He added: “I am absolutely sincere in this regard when I say that Iran got much more than it could expect. Our Chinese friends were also very efficient and useful as co-negotiators.” 

There you have it, the new axis of evil — Russia, China and Iran — working together on the nuke pact. Who, pray tell, was fighting for our side? 

And what exactly did Iran get? 

There was another twist, too, also involving the Russians. Days later the talks hit a wall because Putin added a demand that a final nuke deal exempt Russia’s trade with Iran from sanctions the US and Europe imposed over Ukraine. Russia’s chief negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov praised the Iranians for fighting like “lions” in the nuclear negotiations.Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images

It was a clever ploy, knowing how badly Biden wants the Iran deal and the oil supply it would put on the market. The initial White House response was that there is no linkage between the sanctions on Russia and the nuke talks, but that is unlikely to be the final word if the talks remain stalled. 

Regardless, the reality is that the two tracks that were supposedly parallel and unrelated — the Ukraine war and sanctions on one and the Iran talks on the other — have suddenly merged. The deadlock would count as good news if the entire Iran deal is scuttled as a result but the White House would still need to explain its outrageous arrangement with Putin. 

US hunger for a deal

In terms of the broad facts, we know what they knew and when they knew it. 

The use of Russia as a broker with Iran turns out to have been going on for many months and predates Putin’s massing of troops on the Ukraine border. 

But even after he started moving his military into position for the invasion, Biden still trusted Putin to deliver a verifiable deal that would keep Iran from getting nukes. 

For example, last Jan. 24, NATO announced it was bracing for a possible Russian invasion, saying “Allies are putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to NATO deployments in eastern Europe . . . as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine.” 

Denmark, Spain, France and others began mobilizing troops, ships and fighter jets. The Pentagon said 8,500 American troops were put on “high alert” for deployment abroad.

Yet that same week, Secretary of State Tony Blinken urged Russia to move the nuclear talks forward. NBC News quoted Blinken saying that “Russia shares our sense of urgency, the need to see if we can come back into mutual compliance in the weeks ahead, and we hope that Russia will use the influence that it has and relationship that it has with Iran to impress upon Iran that sense of urgency.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed for the Iran nuclear talks to go forward as Russia continued to amass troops at the Ukrainian border.Photo by MANUEL BALCE CENETA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Worse, that desperate hunger for a deal did not change even after Putin’s February invasion, which coincided with a speech where he said Ukraine was not even a country and ominously referred to other former Soviet lands that are now free, including some in NATO. 

Even now, despite the charge that Putin is committing war crimes and despite warnings of a World War III and nuclear Armageddon,Biden continues to let Putin negotiate terms with Iran on our behalf.

Biden got played again

The surface explanation of why is simple: Iran refuses to meet directly with American negotiators, so a go-between was needed. But why Russia?

The most likely reason is that Iran and Russia maneuvered the US into endorsing the Russian role. Count that as yet another foreign policy screwup by Biden, Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, a k a the Three Blind Mice. 

Still, the head-exploding question is why didn’t Biden stop the arrangement when Putin launched the Ukraine invasion? And why doesn’t he stop it now as the growing slaughter in Ukraine horrifies the world? President Biden letting Russia run the nuclear talks with Iran makes the US seem weak.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It’s possible he wants to preserve a relationship in case Putin wants an off-ramp from Ukraine. But Putin increasingly seems to have a different interpretation, namely that Biden is weak and easily deterred from confrontation. 

If so, we could end up with the worst outcome in both cases: no end to the bloodletting in Ukraine and a bad nuke deal with Iran. 

Meanwhile, Biden keeps in place his curbs on American energy production as he rummages through the dictators’ phonebook for sources of gas and oil to replace the Russian fuel he embargoed. 

Of course, our president, as Robert Gates famously said, has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” 

He’s also the same man about whom Barack Obama said: “Do not underestimate Joe’s ability to f–k things up.” 

Why should this time be different?

Why China should worry about the Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia needs to deter threats against its national interest in the Indo-Pacific. Photo: EPA-EFE

Why China should worry about new Australian nuclear sub base

Australian plans come months after signing Indo-Pacific security pact with US and Britain Worsening China ties a major catalyst for decision, says analyst in Shanghai, while another in Hong Kong sees boost to US power in the region

5:00am, 13 Mar, 2022

Australia’s decision to build a nuclear submarine base will pose a threat to China, an analyst has warned, while another said it is a sign for Beijing to rethink its approach to foreign relations.

This comes after Australia announced it would build a new nuclear-powered submarine baseoff its east coast, months after signing an Indo-Pacific security deal with the US and Britain that China slammed as “extremely irresponsible”.

The base will cost more than A$10 billion (US$7.3 billion), with “three preferred locations” identified, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as he announced the plan on Monday, highlighting the need to “deter threats against [Australia’s] national interest in the Indo-Pacific”.

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Australia decided last year to bolster its naval strength by building eight nuclear-powered submarines through Aukus, its security partnership with the United States and Britain signed in September. The submarines would be built in Adelaide, in South Australia, Morrison announced at the time.

A nuclear submarine is a high-speed strategic weapon that can operate for long periods without the need to surface frequently, thus improving the military’s deterrence capabilities.

Only six countries currently operate such submarines – Britain, the US, Russia, France, China and India. The US is believed to be at No 1 with about 68, followed by Russia with at least 29 and China with 12.

Canberra’s decisions on both Aukus and the new submarine base are reportedly related to the growing threat posed by China, which owns the world’s largest naval force and has ramped up activities in the sensitive South China Sea, where it has built several artificial islands and installed weapons on them.

The relationship between China and Australia has been fraught since early 2020, after Canberra was seen to echo US calls for an international investigation into the origin of the coronavirus. The move prompted a backlashfrom Beijing, which eventually slapped a number of trade blocks on items like wine and coal.

A US Navy Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine returns to base in Guam. Photo: AP

Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong said worsening relations with China were an important catalyst for Australia’s decision on the new submarine base.

Australia already has one submarine base on its west coast, where its ageing Collins-class fleet is based. The initial work on the new facility is expected to be finished by the end of next year.

“I think the continuing deterioration in [bilateral] ties in recent years is one of the most important reasons that prompted Australia to make the decision to build [nuclear] submarines,” Ni said, adding that this also explained why Australia had deepened its security relationships with other countries.

While Ni saw no need for China to take countermeasures, he said Australia’s latest decision should prompt a rethink on Beijing’s approach to foreign relations.

“It’s best that one day these bad ties can be improved, although now it looks unlikely,” Ni said.

However, Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping said the new submarine base would pose a threat to China.

“The Australian submarine force can be seen as an important supplement to the US power in the region under the Aukus partnership, so it will of course counter China’s influence,” Song warned.

“China is also more worried that Australian submarines will make the South China Sea situation even more complicated, as risks of a nuclear submarine collision and other accidents will increase.”

What Russia’s nuclear escalation means for Babylon the Great: Revelation 16

The USS Alabama, a nuclear-powered submarine, and its crew dock in downtown Seattle for Seafair festivities. The vessel’s home port is Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor, which has a fleet of eight Ohio-class nuclear attack submarines. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, file)

What Russia’s nuclear escalation means for Washington, with world’s third-largest atomic arsenal

March 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

The USS Alabama, a nuclear-powered submarine, and its crew dock in downtown Seattle for Seafair festivities. The vessel’s home port is Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor, which has a fleet of eight Ohio-class nuclear attack submarines. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, file) 

Seattle Times staff reporter

Beneath the commercial and recreational vessels and island-bound ferries that navigate Puget Sound on any given day, something else swims secretly armed with a payload sufficient to permanently reshape a continent.

Eight hulking Ohio-class nuclear attack submarines, each nearly as long as two football fields and armed with a spectrum of nuclear weapons, call Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor on the Kitsap Peninsula home. At any given moment, seven of them are armed with nuclear warheads and discreetly traversing the Pacific Ocean while one refuels at Bangor.

These warheads make Washington state host to the globe’s third-largest arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons — an estimated 1,120 — behind only Russia and the United States as a whole, whose stockpiles still number in the thousands, despite decades of reductions, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

One weapon in particular on those subs is at the apex of relevance in its short life: The W76-2, a reduced-payload nuclear warhead designed to counter Russia. It was rushed into production by the Trump administration and greenlighted by Congress in anticipation of a moment precisely like this one — a Russian invasion of a friendly nation, where President Vladimir Putin’s “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine could inch the world’s nuclear superpowers closer and closer to an exchange.

Bellevue’s U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, worries that the warhead’s reduced yield would make it more tempting for a president to use. Even if the rival nations refrain from trading nuclear strikes, Smith knows well that every twitch from a nuclear superpower creates a cascade of ripples to other nuclear-armed states, and could kick-start a new arms race.

“It’s an important moment for the entire country and the entire world, including Washington state,” said Smith in an interview last week after being briefed by the Pentagon on the situation in Ukraine. “It’s a more dangerous and potentially conflicted world, and we’re all going to have to reckon with it cautiously.”

It would take many steps of escalation for Ukraine to turn into a nuclear exchange involving Russia and the U.S., according to Hans Kristensen, who closely tracks nuclear forces worldwide at the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.

Among them: Putin using a nuclear weapon in the conflict zone, or the U.S. being drawn into active combat.

“At the outset, it would require a direct military clash of some magnitude between Russia and NATO,” Kristensen said. “I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that nuclear weapons would come into play in Ukraine. That’s crazy, even for Putin.”

Putin wasted no time escalating nuclear rhetoric after his military began its invasion of Ukraine just over two weeks ago, moving his arsenal to high alert on the fourth day.

As Russia’s attack met unexpectedly stiff resistance, U.S. intelligence officials noted that Russian military strategy favors escalating conflicts as a means of controlling them, particularly when conventional forces are overwhelmed.

To stave off any gains that advantage Ukraine, Putin has bracketed the conflict with political red lines that threaten to tip the nuclear balance: No NATO combatants, no no-fly zone and no aerial intervention from neighboring states.

The U.S. opted not to follow Russia’s lead and did not elevate the alert status of its nuclear weapons. The Pentagon also canceled a scheduled test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile days after Putin’s announcement.

That has fostered optimism among some nuclear scholars and key members of Congress that Russia and the United States will keep their nukes holstered.

“Let me reassure the public: I do not think we are on the brink of a nuclear conflict,” Smith said. “Putin is not suicidal.”

A new weapon

In January 2020, life on the Olympic Peninsula carried on normally. Spectators were treated to an underground tour of Port Angeles, patrons swarmed community art shows and seats at casinos were full. Patches of dry weather provided hikers forest refuge from the long Pacific Northwest winter.

But in the waters off the Kitsap Peninsula, an important shift between nuclear-armed nations was taking shape. That month, the U.S. armed its nuclear attack subs with the new W76-2 warhead, a fresh addition to the inventory that would change decision-making processes about the nuclear strategies of Washington, Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang, North Korea.

The new small-scale nuke was strapped on missiles in subs alongside its high-yield, city-busting cohorts, the W76-1 and W88. Subs based at Bangor troll the Pacific armed with a mix of 630 nuclear warheads, while 490 more sit in storage in the Strategic Weapons Facility located next to the submarine base.

The W76-2 warhead was born on paper in February 2018, on page 18 of former President Donald Trump’s 100-page unclassified Nuclear Posture Review. It also called for a new nuclear warhead for sea-launched cruise missiles on Navy ships. New presidents have been conducting these studies for a quarter century to adjust U.S. nuclear doctrine for changing times and to reflect their priorities.

The U.S. at the time had barely waded into its most ambitious update to the nuclear arsenal since the Cold War, a planned 30-year, $2 trillion refresh.

Although the modernization campaign began under the Obama administration, Trump’s review strayed dramatically from the four presidents who preceded him. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a defense-oriented Washington, D.C., think tank, noted at the time of the posture review’s release that it “appears to place increasing emphasis on nuclear weapons as an instrument of national power.”

Instead of minimizing nuclear weapons, it emphasized them, even as significant arms-control accords between the U.S. and Russia crumbled. In 2019, the U.S.’ count of nuclear warheads saw its first year-over-year growth since 1996, according to the U.S. State Department.

Trump’s most ambitious nuclear decision was creation of the W76-2 warhead, carried primarily on subs based at Bangor, which cover the Pacific Ocean, and Kings Bay, Georgia, whose Atlantic fleet covers the current conflict zone in Ukraine.

Despite objections in Congress, primarily from Democrats, and arms control experts, the warhead was rushed into production in just 14 months and for a total of $94.6 million, according to the Congressional Research Service. Both figures constitute marvels of efficiency from the production network of private contractors.

But at what cost to nuclear stability, critics ask? “There is no such thing as a ‘tactical’ nuclear weapon,” Smith said, referring to the alternate name for low-yield warheads. 

“In this era when we know exactly what nuclear weapons are, and we have nuclear weapons five, 10, 20 times more potent than we had in World War II, introducing the idea of tactical nuclear weapons is dangerous. It will not be manageable. Once a nuclear weapon is used, we cannot promise our response will be proportional.”

Proponents of the W76-2 point to the Cold War as evidence that the U.S. can show restraint with nuclear weapons, even when their capabilities are vast, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“Escalate to de-escalate”

This is precisely the moment the W76-2 warhead’s critics and proponents pondered as it was debated. The warhead was created to counter Russia, which relies heavily on tactical, or low-yield, nuclear weapons.

“The W76-2 was sold to Congress and the public on precisely these kinds of scenarios,” Kristensen said. “It was sold as a strategic, prompt response to an early first use of a tactical weapon. But it could be applied to any use.” Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review mentions Russia by name as the adversary driving the U.S. to add the new warhead.

The W76-2 packs a yield about one-third to one-half that of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and is not designed to be a city-destroyer, like some of its counterparts also in missiles silos, on planes and on the Bangor-based subs. Instead, its utility in the conflict in Ukraine is to respond if Russia uses a small nuke first.

It’s a realistic scenario based on what U.S. intelligence knows about Moscow’s nuclear doctrine, described as “escalate to de-escalate.”

Russia may also rely on threats of limited nuclear first use, or actual first use, to coerce us, our allies, and partners into terminating a conflict on terms favorable to Russia,” according to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Based on Putin’s doctrine, Pentagon leaders worry Russia could resort to using nuclear weapons, especially the low-yield variety, if its conventional forces fall behind in the fight.

“Potential adversaries, like Russia, believe that employment of low-yield nuclear weapons will give them an advantage over the United States and its allies and partners,” John Rood, Trump’s undersecretary of defense for policy, said in February 2020. The warhead provides the U.S. a quick-response option if Russia uses a nuclear weapon first, and reassures allies protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella that they’re well-protected by the U.S. arsenal.

A new arms race?

But there’s concern from critics of the W76-2, including Smith, that its utility in responding to a limited nuclear strike would quickly escalate into full-blown nuclear war, killing up to 100 million people across the globe almost immediately, according to some estimates, and setting the stage for widespread famine and displacement that could kill countless more.

Already, there are signs policymakers are pushing greater reliance on nuclear weapons. On Tuesday, Adm. Chas Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the military side of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about Russian and Chinese nuclear forces.

“We do not know the endpoints of where either of those other two are going, either in capability or capacity,” he said. But he took the opportunity to endorse a controversial update of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles that the Congressional Budget Office estimates would cost $82 billion.

Immediately following Richard’s testimony, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., an outspoken supporter of the W76-2, tweeted: “The time has come to look at what additional nuclear capabilities we need before China and Russia leave us behind.”

With Trump’s proposed sea-launched cruise missile still up for debate in Congress, it remains to be seen whether Bangor might soon host another new nuclear weapon that upends existing nuclear strategy around the world.

A costly new arms race: Revelation 16

How to avoid nuclear catastrophe—and a costly new arms race

By Daryl G. Kimball | March 11, 2022

If Russian President Vladimir Putin’s premeditated, illegal attack on Ukrainian cities, towns, nuclear power stations, hospitals, and civilians wasn’t shocking enough, his recent nuclear saber-rattling is a crude reminder that the risk of nuclear war still looms. To respond effectively, those looking for a safer, saner world must rethink the nuclear deterrence policies and practices that have led the nuclear weapons countries to this point and push them toward new approaches and policies that move the world away from nuclear catastrophe.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, but leaders of major NATO countries are making aggressive statements about our country,” Putin said in a February 27 in a meeting with Russian defense officials. “So, I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of combat duty.”

According to a senior Russian official I have spoken with in recent days, Putin’s statement was probably designed to reinforce his earlier implied threats of nuclear use—threats clearly meant to ward off outside military interference in his attack on Ukraine. Nuclear threats and alerts were not uncommon during the Cold War, before the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and after. But Putin’s overt nuclear saber-rattling is unprecedented—and unacceptable—in the post-Cold War era. Since the Soviet Union dissolved, no US or Russian leader has raised the alert level of nuclear forces to try to coerce the other side’s behavior.

Such actions are dangerous for all sides. Nuclear threat rhetoric and orders to raise the operational readiness of Russian or US nuclear forces could be also misinterpreted in ways that lead to other side to make nuclear countermoves that lead to a dangerous escalation of tensions and fears of attack.

The idea that nuclear weapons can be “used” provide cover for a major conventional military intervention against a nonnuclear weapon state is, unfortunately, not a new one nor uniquely Russian. Adm. Charles Richard, head of US Strategic Command, said in February 2021 that “[w]e must acknowledge the foundational nature of our nation’s strategic nuclear forces, as they create the ‘maneuver space’ for us to project conventional military power strategically.”In this case, Putin’s nuclear brinksmanship, while unnerving and dangerous, has not stopped NATO members from providing defensive weapons to Ukraine and deploying sweeping sanctions against Russia’s leadership, oligarchs, and financial and economic systems.Putin’s invasion also underscores a reality: Contrary to myth, nuclear weapons don’t prevent major wars. Rather, they can facilitate aggression by nuclear-armed states and make wars waged by nuclear-armed states far more dangerous—especially when nuclear-armed states become pitted against one another, dangerously increasing the risk of miscalculation and miscommunication.President Joe Biden has wisely not engaged in inflammatory nuclear rhetoric or raised the alert status of US nuclear forces. The Pentagon even postponed a scheduled Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test flight to avoid the possibility that Putin might use it as a pretext for further nuclear escalation.So long as NATO and Russian forces don’t begin fighting each other, the risk of nuclear escalation may be kept in check. But a close encounter between NATO and Russian warplanes (which would result if NATO imposed a “no fly zone” over Ukraine’s airspace) could become a flashpoint that leads to a direct and wider conflict.Unlike the more severe and acute risk of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 13 day-long Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine will likely lasts many weeks, if not months or more. In other words, the world will remain in a condition of heightened nuclear danger for some time. The situation demands restraint and a diplomatic solution. But once warfare in Ukraine has stopped, there must be a serious reckoning with the role nuclear weapons play in the military strategies of nuclear countries around the world, and renewed pressure for action toward their elimination.Needed: changes in military doctrine. Today, US and Russian military strategies reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first in extreme circumstances and even sometimes against nonnuclear threats. Russia’s formal nuclear doctrine describes two main scenarios that might trigger the use of nuclear weapons: in response to an attack with weapons of mass destruction, or in the face of a conventional war that threatens the “very existence of the state.”The viability of the Russian state is clearly not under imminent threat from either Ukraine or from NATO. But if the Kremlin thought an attack from the United States or NATO was under way, Putin might well consider going nuclear, perhaps beginning with the use of short-range, “tactical” nuclear weapons, to try to tip the balance in Russia’s military favor or to try to end the conflict.In Ukraine, US-military-linked labs could provide fodder for Russian disinformationBut the notion that a nuclear war can be “limited” is dangerous. In practice and in the fog of war, once nuclear weapons are used in a conflict involving nuclear-armed adversaries, there is no guarantee it would not quickly become an all-out nuclear conflagration.As the head of US Strategic Command General John Hyten said in 2018 after the annual Global Thunder wargame: “It ends bad. And the bad meaning it ends with global nuclear war.”To illustrate the dangers, in 2020 researchers at Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security published an analysis of what might happen if Russian or NATO leaders chose to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict in Europe. After an initial volley of “tactical” nuclear detonations, it could escalate and involve a massive exchange of thermonuclear weapons involving Russia’s arsenal of some 1,450 strategic warheads and the U.S. arsenal of 1,350 strategic warheads on its missiles and bombers.In that scenario, more than 91 million people were projected to die in just the first few hours of the conflict. In the days, weeks, and years that follow, millions more would die from exposure to radiation. Health, financial, and economic systems would collapse around the globe.We can ill afford to live with nuclear weapons policies that could lead to such catastrophic outcomes. New approaches are essential.New approaches to the nuclear threat. In 2017, more than 120 nonnuclear weapon states negotiated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Although that treaty has to date been dismissed by nuclear-armed countries because it challenges their nuclear deterrence doctrines, it bolsters the global taboo against nuclear weapons and builds-up the legal framework for their eventual elimination.Many American politicians, mainly Republicans but also some Democrats, however, want to double down on insanity by funding even more nuclear firepower. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has argued that “advanced weapons must be pursued if they are necessary to match potential belligerents” like Russia. These include new types of lower-yield nuclear weapons to provide a president with “more credible” nuclear use options and, if necessary, use in a future conflict in the Baltic region, or some other dispute with Russia, or perhaps China. But there are no winners in such a costly new arms race, and certainly no winners in a nuclear war.Instead of reverting to extremely risky and absurd Cold War-era nuclear behaviors, US leaders need to embrace new thinking that begins to move us out from under the shadow of nuclear catastrophe, beginning with the Biden administration’s nearly completed Nuclear Posture Review.To start, Biden should draw a strong distinction between Putin’s irresponsible nuclear threats and US behavior and clarify that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal deter the first use of nuclear weapons by others as he pledged to do in 2020. A “sole purpose” policy would rule out the use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike or in response to a non-nuclear attack on the United States or its allies, increase stability, reduce Russia’s perception of the threat from NATO, and decrease the overall risk of nuclear war.Even after the eventual end of Putin’s war on Ukraine, the risk of further NATO-Russia conflict will persist. The United States and Russia (with or without Putin), along with France, and the United Kingdom, will still possess deadly nuclear arsenals poised to retaliate within minutes in response to nuclear attack or a false warning. In the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, we can expect that many in the security establishments of the United States, Europe, and Russia will argue for new nuclear weapons capabilities to counter each other, and perhaps for the first time in decades, an increase in the number of US and Russian deployed nuclear weapons.The more prudent path is to freeze the qualitative arms race, further reduce the role nuclear weapons, and reverse the race through renewed US and Russian action on nuclear arms control and disarmament—and eventually to involve the other major nuclear-armed states, particularly China, in the nuclear arms control and disarmament enterprise.To reduce tensions in Europe, Russia and NATO member states will need avoid the temptation to introduce new offensive strike weapons, particularly nuclear weapons. For example, the offer from Russia’s client state, Belarus, to host Russian nuclear weapons, if pursued by Putin, would further undermine Russian and European security, and increase the risk of nuclear war. It would also be highly destabilizing if NATO and/or Russia reintroduce once-banned intermediate-range missiles, which can reach their targets in minutes and with little warning.Still more can and must be done reduce nuclear risks. With an enormous number of their nuclear forces deployed on invulnerable strategic submarines, neither Washington nor Moscow needs to keep their land-based missiles ready for launch within minutes of a warning of attack, as current plans require. Both countries could reduce the day-to-day high alert status of their land-based intercontinental missiles and they would still be capable of launching a devastating retaliatory nuclear attack.The need for continued arms control and disarmament negotiations. Although Putin’s regime must suffer international isolation now, Russia and the West have a strong interest (and an obligation under the 1968 Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons) to resume negotiations on verifiable agreements that significantly cut the still bloated strategic nuclear stockpiles on both sides.Despite reckless behavior on the part of Russia, as well as China’s effort to fortify its nuclear arsenal array, the size of the US nuclear arsenal still exceeds what is necessary to maintain an effective deterrent.President Obama announced in 2013 that the United States could safely reduce its deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third below the current New START levels. The analysis concluded the United States could independently reduce is deployed arsenal to this level and still hold adversary targets at risk so as to deter nuclear attack. But the Obama administration made a political decision to pursue such reductions bilaterally with Russia. The rationale for a smaller force still holds.An up-to-one-third reduction in deployed strategic forces would leave the United States (and Russia) with nuclear capability with which to trade as part of new arms control arrangements with Russia (or in the future China).Any increase in the number of US or Russian strategic nuclear weapons above New START levels, or any increase in nonstrategic weapons arsenals, would not enhance deterrence against one another. Rather it would lead to a dangerous action-reaction that increases tensions and the risk of miscalculation and catastrophe.US efforts to further limit Russian strategic nuclear weapons and bring China into the arms control process are unlikely to gain traction unless Washington agrees to seriously discuss constraints on its long-range missile defense capabilities. Fielding sufficient numbers of U.S. missile interceptors to mitigate the threat of a limited ballistic attack from North Korea or Iran and agreeing to binding limits on the quantity, location, and capability of missile defense systems should not be mutually exclusive.Whenever the US-Russian arms control dialogue resumes again, the two countries will also need to explore options to prevent a new intermediate-range missile race and to regulate and reduce existing stockpiles of shorter-range “battlefield” nuclear arsenals, including Russia’s stockpile of approximately 1,000 weapons that are kept at centralized storage sites and the 160 US nuclear gravity bombs stationed at five NATO bases in Europe. Before Russia’s war on Ukraine, both sides indicated they want to prevent the redeployment of intermediate-range, ground-launched missiles that could threaten Europe and Russia.The last remaining nuclear arms control agreement regulating the world’s two largest arsenals, New START, expires early in 2026. In the absence of commonsense nuclear arms control guardrails, the risk of costly, unconstrained global nuclear arms race will grow.Putin’s recent nuclear threats highlight the existential dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate those dangers to verifiably eliminate all nuclear weapons. Even if that goal is a long way off, moving steadily in that direction, while preserving the taboo against nuclear weapons use, is essential to our survival.

Antichrist holds talks to end Iraq’s political crisis

Muqtada al-Sadr, major figures hold talks to end Iraq's political crisis

Muqtada al-Sadr, major figures hold talks to end Iraq’s political crisis

Iraqi politicians have been unable to form new government since last October’s contested parliamentary elections


Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held talks with top Iraqi officials on ways to form a government and end a crippling political crisis in the country.

He held phone calls with Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the State of Law Coalition, and Khamis al-Khanjar, leader of the al-Azm Front, al-Sadr’s office said in a statement on Thursday evening.

Discussions focused on resolving the crisis of government formation and other “important issues related to the current situation in Iraq,” the statement said.

Owing to differences between various political forces, Iraq has been unable to form a new government since last October’s contested parliamentary elections.

A spokesman for the State of Law Coalition confirmed that al-Maliki, a former Iraqi prime minister, received a phone call from al-Sadr to discuss ways to “end the current crisis.”

Talks between al-Sadr and al-Maliki signal a remarkable development in efforts to finalize a government, since the influential Shia cleric, who leads the biggest parliamentary bloc, has in the past refused to support any government that includes al-Maliki.

Al-Sadr, head of the Sairoon Alliance, accuses al-Maliki of massive corruption during his tenure as prime minister from 2006 to 2014, and blames him for the emergence of the Daesh/ISIS terror group.

* Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar in Ankara

Russia stops the Obama Iran deal

Iran nuclear talks are halted after new Russian demands related to Ukraine

Negotiators called the break a “pause” not a rupture, but there are fears that Russia might have succeeded in sabotaging the effort to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

8:24 a.m. EST

Negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal were called off indefinitely Tuesday after a last-minute demand by Russia upended what diplomats had hoped was the final stretch of the talks.

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced the decision to “pause” the talks in a tweet, citing “external factors” for the break. Negotiators for the seven countries involved have spent most of the past year huddled in Vienna trying to find ways to revive the 2015 nuclear deal after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement in 2018.

Diplomats said Borrell was referring to Russia’s demand, first raised last Saturday, for U.S. sanctions relief to be applied to its future commercial dealings with Iran as a condition for participating in a revived deal.

A final text for a new agreement is “essentially ready and on the table,” Borrell said, adding that he and his team would remain in contact with all the participants to overcome the remaining obstacles and finalize an agreement.

But the open-ended pause could also potentially signal a break from which there is no return, putting to rest any hope that restoring the deal will be possible.

“It’s certainly serious. If you lose momentum at this late stage the dynamics shift in ways that it could become impossible to resume the talks,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

A small number of outstanding differences still to be settled between Iran and the United States may also have contributed to the deadlock, diplomats said. They include how far the United States will go in removing terrorism designations from organizations such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, guarantees regarding the lifting of U.S. sanctions and the details of a prisoner exchange, which could bring freedom for U.S. and other Western detainees held in Iranian jails.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price cited the complex nature of the final stages of a negotiation for the pause, adding that there are “external factors that are also interceding” in the effort to revive the Joint Coordinated Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the deal is known.

He said the United States is not prepared to offer Russia any concessions on sanctions for the sake of reviving the Iran deal, stressing that the new sanctions on Russia are “wholly and entirely unrelated to the JCPOA.”

Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow’s envoy to the talks, told reporters that the break could not solely be blamed on Russia. “There are others that need to settle their issues among themselves,” he said.

Iran was restrained in its comments after the pause was announced Friday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter that he hoped the break would create “momentum” toward resolving the remaining issues. “The successful conclusion of talks will be the main focus of all,” he said.

Meanwhile, however, the clock is ticking on the patience of Western allies to hold out for an agreement while Iran continues to accelerate its nuclear program. Iran has now advanced its enrichment and stockpiles of uranium to the extent that it could now only be weeks away from the threshold required to build a nuclear weapon, and U.S. officials have warned that they will not allow the negotiations to drag on indefinitely.

U.S. officials have in the past raised the possibility of implementing a “Plan B” in the event the talks fail, without specifying what the plan would entail. The options raise from imposing even tougher sanctions to military action, potentially compounding the global instability triggered by the Ukraine war by adding a second war in the Middle East.

“We’re not in that hellscape yet. We are just stuck in purgatory,” said Batmanghelidj.

The talks in Vienna had been focused on laying out a timetable to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 deal. Under a new agreement, the United States would be expected to lift the harsh new sanctions imposed after Trump withdrew, and Iran would be required to dial back advances subsequently made in its nuclear program.

A deal was so close that a podium for the final ceremonies had been erected in the Palais Coburg hotel where the talks were held. In recent weeks Iran had increasingly signaled its willingness to finalize the arrangement, diplomats say.

But the outbreak of the Ukraine I war has shifted the geopolitical backdrop to the negotiations, and it is now possible that the fate of the Iran deal will effectively become hostage to the course of the war, diplomats say.

The deal would herald a return to world markets of Iranian oil, potentially tempering the price hikes caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the U.S. sanctions on Russian oil. Russia has no interest in seeing the oil price come down and may also feel it can use the Iran deal as leverage in future negotiations over Ukraine, analysts say.

“Vladimir Putin understands that reviving the Iran nuclear deal means much more to Joe Biden than him. Putin does not feel threatened by Iran’s nuclear advancement and Tehran’s isolation has served Russian interest,” said Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Iran had initially expressed irritation at Russia’s unexpected demand and continued to signal that a deal was near. But starting Wednesday, Iranian messaging switched, with officials turning their blame toward the United States.

A speech by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday suggested Iran was souring on going ahead with a new deal. He said it would be a “big error” to bow to pressure from the United States and other powers, adding that it would be unwise to give up Iran’s “advancement” in nuclear science. “Who can we turn to in a few years if we give it up now?” he said.

Comments by former vice president Mike Pence in an interview earlier this week with an Israeli newspaper that a future Republican administration would again withdraw from any revived deal also did not help, said a senior Western diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive subjects. 

Informal consultations are expected to continue, negotiators say, to include exploring ways to finalize the deal without Russia — something that would be complicated but not impossible. Russia is assigned a key role in the deal’s implementation as the country responsible for shipping out and storing Iran’s excess stocks of enriched uranium, for which another destination would have to be found.

But Tehran has also made it clear that Iran feels it can’t risk a public rift with Russia by turning its back on Russia’s concerns and aligning with the United States, according to a person familiar with the details of the talks, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive subjects.

The talks, involving diplomats from Britain, France, Germany and China as well as Iran, the United States and Russia, have been intensive since the beginning of the year, and it will also be good for the negotiators to take a break, diplomats said. The Iranian and U.S. delegations gathered in separate hotels, with diplomats from the other nations shuttling between them because Iran refuses to engage in direct talks with the United States.

Enrique Mora, the European Union envoy charged with coordinating the talks, said that the negotiators need to take a pause to “maintain a good spirit.”