Earthquake activity in the New York City area


Although the eastern United States is not as

seismically active

as regions near plate boundaries, large and damaging earthquakes do occur there. Furthermore, when these rare eastern U.S. earthquakes occur, the areas affected by them are much larger than for western U.S. earthquakes of the same magnitude.

Thus, earthquakes represent at least a moderate hazard to East Coast cities, including New York City and adjacent areas of very high population density.

Seismicity in the vicinity of New York City. Data are from the U.S. Geological Survey (Top, USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (Bottom, NEIC). In the top figure, closed red circles indicate 1924-2006 epicenters and open black circles indicate locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Green lines indicate the trace of the Ramapo fault.

As can be seen in the maps of earthquake activity in this region(shown in the figure),

seismicity is scattered throughout most of the New York City area, with some hint of a concentration of earthquakes in the area surrounding Manhattan Island.

The largest known earthquake in this region occurred in 1884 and had a magnitude of approximately 5.For this earthquake, observations of fallen bricks and cracked plaster were reported from eastern Pennsylvania to central Connecticut, and the maximum intensity reported was at two sites in western Long Island (Jamaica, New York and Amityville, New York).

Two other earthquakes of approximately magnitude 5 occurred in this region in 1737 and 1783. The figure on the right shows maps of the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and greater that occurred in this region from 1924 to 2010, along with locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.


The NYC area is part of the geologically complex structure of the Northern

Appalachian Mountains. This complex structure was formed during the past half billion years when the Earth’s crust underlying the Northern Appalachians was the site of two major geological episodes, each of which has left its imprint on the NYC area bedrock.

Between about 450 million years ago and about 250 million years ago, the Northern Appalachian region was affected by a continental collision, in which the ancient African continent collided with the ancient North American continent to form the supercontinent Pangaea.

Beginning about 200 million years ago, the present-day Atlantic ocean began to form as plate tectonic forces began to


apart the continent of Pangaea. The last major episode of geological activity to affect the


in the New York area occurred about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, when continental rifting that led to the opening of the present-day Atlantic ocean formed the Hartford and


Mesozoic rift basins.

Earthquake rates in the northeastern United States are about 50 to 200 times lower than in California, but

the earthquakes that do occur in the northeastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of the same magnitude in the western U.S.This means the area of damage from an earthquake in the northeastern U.S. could be larger than the area of damage caused by an earthquake of the same magnitude in the western U.S. The cooler rocks in the northeastern U.S. contribute to the seismic energy propagating as much as ten times further than in the warmer rocks of California.

A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt as far as 100 km (60 mi) from its

epicenter, but it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake, although uncommon, can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from its epicenter, and can cause damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi) from its epicenter. Earthquakes stronger than about magnitude 5.0 generate ground motions that are strong enough to be damaging in the epicentral area.

At well-studied plate boundaries like the

San Andreas fault

system in California, scientists can often make observations that allow them to identify the specific fault on which an earthquake took place. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case.

The NYC area is far from the boundaries of the North American plate, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea, and along the west coast of North America. The seismicity of the northeastern U.S. is generally considered to be due to ancient zones of weakness that are being reactivated in the present-day stress field. In this model, pre-existing faults that were formed during ancient geological episodes persist in the intraplate crust, and the earthquakes occur when the present-day stress is released along these zones of weakness.

The stress that causes the earthquakes is generally considered to be derived from present-day rifting at the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Earthquakes and geologically mapped faults in the Northeastern U.S.

The northeastern U.S. has many known faults, but virtually all of the known faults have not been active for perhaps 90 million years or more. Also, the locations of the known faults are not well determined at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few (if any) earthquakes in the region can be unambiguously linked to known faults.

Given the current geological and seismological data, it is difficult to determine if a known fault in this region is still active today and could produce a modern earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazard in the northeastern U.S. is probably the locations of the past earthquakes themselves.

The Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region,but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in

New York,

New Jersey, and

Pennsylvania. It is a system of


between the northern

Appalachian Mountains

and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.

There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.

A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone,

which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.

Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by

Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

Russia’s 2020 policy allows for ‘defensive’ use of nuclear weapons: Revelation 16

Ukraine: Russia’s 2020 policy allows for ‘defensive’ use of nuclear weapons – Professor Christoph Bluth

Even before the Russian military machine entered Ukrainian territory on February 24, the potential threat of escalation to a nuclear conflict had been raised.

In the days before the invasion, Russiaconducted a large-scale exercise involving simulated long-range conventional and nuclear strikes in response to a nuclear attack. Then, as his troops poured across the border into Ukraine, Vladimir Putin issued a chilling threat to Nato and the west, saying they would face “consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if they interfered.

Just days later, on February 27, the Russian president declared that he had ordered his country’s nuclear forces into a state of “special combat readiness”.

But Russia’s threat to escalate to the use of nuclear weapons lacks credibility. While the use of nuclear weapons could wreak terrible destruction in Ukraine, it would not necessarily win the war for Russia. On the other hand, the risk that it could provoke a nuclear response from the west is high.

New policy

In recent years, Russia has reviewed its policy on the use of its nuclear arsenal. In June 2020, the the Office of the President of the Russian Federation published an executive order: Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence. The order has generated considerable debate about whether it is an indication that Russia might be more ready to use nuclear weapons than before.A Russian Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile is paraded through Moscow’s Red Square (Picture: Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP via Getty Images)

The order noted that Russia considered nuclear weapons “exclusively as a means of deterrence”. Russia’s strategy, it said, “…is defensive by nature, it is aimed at maintaining the nuclear forces’ potential at the level sufficient for nuclear deterrence, and guarantees protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, and deterrence of a potential adversary from aggression against the Russian Federation and/or its allies.”

But the document does suggest that Russia might escalate to the use of nuclear weaponry if it faces losing a conventional conflict: “in the event of a military conflict, this policy provides for the prevention of an escalation of military actions and their termination on conditions that are acceptable for the Russian Federation and/or its allies”. This has been widely described by US analysts as a policy of “escalate to deescalate”, although this characterisation has been denied by Russian military experts.

It is hard to see how this would apply in the case of the current conflict, because Ukraine is defending itself against Russian aggression and not – at the moment, in any case – threatening Russia’s “national sovereignty” or “territorial integrity”. Russia is entirely in control of escalation and can end the war at any time. Not only that, but it is hard to see how even a smaller, tactical nuclear weapon could be used in the context of Ukraine as there are not big enough concentrations of Ukrainian troops to make it effective.

The contingencies that could result in the use of Russian nuclear weapons discussed in the document on the Basic Principles of 2020 referred to above include the launch of ballistic missiles “attacking the territory of the Russian Federation and/or its allies” or other uses of weapons of mass destruction against Russia and its allies.

They also include “attack by adversary against critical governmental or military sites of the Russian Federation, disruption of which would undermine nuclear forces’ response actions” as well as “aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy”.

Mixed signals

Any nuclear strikes against targets inside Ukraine would also cause major operational problems because Russian forces are on the ground in pretty much every part of Ukraine. A nuclear strike anywhere in Ukraine before Russian forces have substantially retreated would not only kill a large number of civilians, but destroy large numbers of Russian troops and equipment, too. Moreover, it would create insuperable challenges for integrating the country into the Russian Federation after the conflict – if that was the intention.

The recent statements in the 2020 document on Russia’s nuclear doctrine again confirmed that the main purpose of Russian nuclear forces is deterrence and not fighting an offensive war. But as the progress of the Russian army in Ukraine has stalled and Russia is sending signals that it might pull back from western Ukraine and focus on Luhansk, Donbas and Crimea, there have been renewed assertions by senior Russian figures of Russia’s right to use nuclear weapons.

The former president, Dmitriy Medvedev – one of Putin’s key advisors – said on March 26that there was a “determination to defend the independence, sovereignty of our country, not to give anyone a reason to doubt even the slightest that we are ready to give a worthy response to any infringement on our country, on its independence”.

This was clearly directed at the west and apparently aimed at deterring Nato intervention. It appears that the more desperate Russia is to discourage western involvement, the more strident the tone has become regarding the possible use of nuclear weapons. In this respect, Russia’s use of its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent has so far been successful.

But the Russian leaders also know that there are three nuclear powers in Nato and a nuclear conflict risks the complete destruction of Russia. There has been considerable speculation that Putin might become so desperate that he would be capable of anything to salvage his situation including “pressing the button”. But there is no plausible scenario in which the use of nuclear weapons would save the day for Putin.

is professor of international relations and security at the University of Bradford. This article is republished from The Conversationunder a Creative Commons license.

New Iran Nuclear Deal Could Allow Iranian Nukes Into US: Daniel 8

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps / Getty Images

New Iran Nuclear Deal Could Allow Iranian Terrorists Into US

The Biden administration’s new nuclear accord with Iran is likely to include a loophole that will “allow Iranian nationals linked to terrorism to enter and stay in the United States,” according to a new Republican-authored policy analysiscirculating on Capitol Hill and reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

With negotiations over a revamped nuclear deal inching closer to completion, the Biden administration is considering a concession that will remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the U.S.-designated terrorist list.

The removal of this designation remains one of the final sticking points in diplomatic talks surrounding a new accord. Delisting the IRGC will “open the gates for Iranian terrorists to enter the United States” and make it harder for law enforcement agencies to target IRGC affiliates operating in the United States, according to a new assessment of policy implications authored by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), Congress’s largest Republican caucus and a principal opponent of a new accord.

“Removing the IRGC from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list is a non-nuclear related concession to Iran which would reward terrorist blackmail, allow Iranian nationals linked to terrorism to enter and stay in the United States, weaken law enforcement’s ability to go after those providing support or resources to the IRGC, and make it harder to hold those outside U.S. soil criminally accountable for helping the IRGC,” according to the policy analysis, which was distributed on Friday to 160 congressional offices and obtained exclusively by the Free Beacon.

The Biden administration’s bid to remove sanctions on the IRGC is fueling opposition to the deal from Democratic and Republican foreign policy leaders, who worry this concession will embolden Iran’s global terrorism and spy operations. Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House on Thursday and first reported by the Free Beacon seeks to force the Biden administration into disclosing how sanctions relief for Iran will boost the IRGC’s capabilities.

The Trump administration designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization to cripple Tehran’s paramilitary fighting force, which is responsible for killing more than 600 Americans and orchestrating scores of regional terror attacks on U.S. forces, as the Free Beacon first reported last week.

Sanctions on the IRGC could be nixed even as the corps actively tries to assassinate several Trump administration officials, including former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former U.S.-Iran envoy Brian Hook, and former U.S. central commander Kenneth McKenzie, who retired from the position this week.

Opposition to removing the IRGC from the U.S. terror list is likely to galvanize congressional critics of the deal and make it more difficult for the Biden administration to obtain congressional approval. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week emerged from a classified briefing on the new deal with mounting doubts about the accord’s effectiveness, according to lawmakers and senior congressional sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter. This includes resistance to lifting the IRGC’s terror designation as well as other carveouts included in the deal that will allow Russia to build up Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and use the country as a hub to evade U.S. sanctions. Russia has served as the Biden administration’s chief interlocutor in nuclear talks, even as it has been isolated internationally for going to war in Ukraine.

“IRGC terrorists would be able to cross our border, get billions of dollars, and [get] closer than ever to a nuclear capability,” Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the RSC chairman, told the Free Beacon. “Americans would get nothing. A lot of the Biden administration’s foreign missteps can be explained by incompetence. Their proposed Iran deal is intentional and malicious.”

When former president Donald Trump designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization, the designation prevented all Iranian officials tied to the organization from entering America. The IRGC controls large swaths of Iran’s economy, and many members of Tehran’s hardline government are veterans of the organization.

Lifting that designation undermines the enforcement of complementary sanctions that help law enforcement and others keep IRGC affiliates off American soil, according to the RSC document.

“Removing the designation will make it easier for those connected to this brutal terrorist organization to enter American communities,” the document states. “The removal of the IRGC from the FTO list maintained by the State Department would have a major impact on the ability of law enforcement to disrupt terrorist networks and hold supporters of the IRGC accountable.”

Antichrist steps back for 40 days to let rivals form government

A file picture shows Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr holding a news conference in Najaf, Iraq, November 18, 2021 (Reuters)

In suprise move, Iraqi cleric steps back for 40 days to let rivals form government


Influential Iraqi Shia cleric said Thursday that he was stepping back for the next 40 days and giving his Iran-backed rivals the chance to form the country’s next government.

The surprising move by Moqtada al-Sadr comes against the backdrop of a persisting political deadlock in Iraq, five months after general elections.

Sadr’s offer came in a tweet, in which he also called on his followers not to interfere “neither positively not negatively” as his rivals form the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Iran-backed Shia parties, try to cobble together a cabinet.

This translates into a nod to Sadr’s rivals to pursue the cleric’s Kurdish and Sunni allies in possible negotiations. There was no immediate response from the Coordination Framework to Sadr’s offer.

Iraqi political parties are at an impasse and Sadr, the winner of the election has been unable to form a coalition government. He has assailed his rivals, saying they “obstructed and are still obstructing” the process.

The parties are at odds over the choice of candidate for president, an obstacle that may also extend to the premiership. It is also not clear which party constitutes the largest bloc in parliament because of unclear and shifting loyalties of some lawmakers and parties.

The 40-day window offered by Sadr would start on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, expected to begin this weekend, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar one, meaning the timeframe offered by Sadr would stretch beyond Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The development is “a clear challenge and dare” directed at his rivals while also being a “test of partners,” tweeted Farhad Alaaldin, chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, a policy research institute.

It was not immediately clear how sincere was Sadr’s offer. The cleric, with a strong grassroots base, won the largest number of seats in the election but not enough to declare a parliamentary majority.

Iran-aligned parties, including that belonging to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have become his chief rivals. Last Saturday parliament failed for the second time to reach the two-thirds quorum necessary to elect a president. It was largely boycotted by lawmakers associated with the Coordination Framework.

Sadr’s move is a gamble: A failure by the Coordination Framework would give his party, Sairoon, significant leverage, but its success would relegate Sadr’s party to the role of the opposition.

Hamas threatens to elevate violence after Palestinian killed outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Palestinian mourners attend the funeral of Sanad Abu Atiyeh and Yazan al-Saadi in the town of Jenin on March 31, 2022 after they were killed during an Israeli raid in the West Bank.
JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFPPalestinian mourners attend the funeral of Sanad Abu Atiyeh and Yazan al-Saadi in the town of Jenin on March 31, 2022 after they were killed during an Israeli raid in the West Bank.

i24NEWSMarch 31, 2022, 11:31 AMlatest revision March 31, 2022, 02:43 PM

Hamas threatens to meet ‘escalation with escalation’

Terror group Hamas threatened to ramp up violence against Israel on Thursday after the Israeli military initiated an operation in the West Bank that left several Palestinians dead. 

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, two Palestinians were killed and 15 wounded during clashes with Israeli troops during an operation in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank.

This comes following a wave of terror attacks that left 11 Israelis dead.

“The continuous crimes of the occupation portend a total explosion, which will be still more powerful and more painful and miserable [than those that preceded] and which our people will join in every part of our occupied land,” the Gaza-based group said in a statement, according to The Times of Israel

Hamas threatened to meet “escalation with escalation,” warning of a “comprehensive explosion.” 

The group said it welcomed “the blessed month of Ramadan, the month of struggle and martyrdom and victories” by “embracing the hands of our revolutionary heroes.”

Following a meeting of Israel’s top ministers, a widescale operation was launched in the West Bank, dubbed “Breakwater,” where 31 suspected terrorists were arrested. 

The army said that one of those detained, a Palestinian from Hebron, was arrested over suspected ties to the Islamic State.

Russia Threatens to Nuke Europe: Daniel

Russian aircraft that violated Swedish airspace reportedly carried nukes

on 31st March 2022

Image : Forsvarsmakten


Swedish media report that two Russian aircraft that violated Sweden’s airspace in early March 2022 were carrying nuclear weapons. 

On March 2, 2022, four Russian combat aircraft, including two Su-27 Flanker fighters and two Su-24 Fencer tactical bombers briefly violated the airspace over the Swedish island of Gotland. 

The incident took place while the Finnish and Swedish forces were engaged in a joint exercise in the Baltic Sea. The Russian flight group took off from the nearby enclave of Kaliningrad. 

They were met by a patrol of two JAS-39 Gripen fighters of the Swedish Air Force to intercept and visually identify them.  

Following the incursion, personnel of the Russian embassy in Sweden were summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

Citing anonymous sources, the Swedish channel TV4 Nyheterna reported on March 30, 2022, that the two Su-24 bombers were in fact armed with nuclear weapons at the time of the interception. 

When asked to confirm this information, the Chief of the Swedish Air Force Carl-Johan Edström refused to comment. 

“Exactly how the Russian planes were armed, there is nothing we comment on at the moment,” Edström told local channel SVT. “What I want to point out is that if we had seen an increased threat to Sweden, we would have communicated about this.” 

The Sukhoi Su-24 is a variable-sweep wing two-seater and twin-engine supersonic bomber developed in the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. It is capable of carrying up to two TN-1000 or TN-1200 gravity tactical nuclear bombs.



Western exceptionalism has paved the road for Russian tyranny today.

Words: Olamide Samuel

Pictures: Mathias P.R. RedingDate: March 31st, 2022

It appears that Russian aggression in Ukraine has taken extensive notes from the western playbook. Russia’s indiscriminate attacks that have jeopardized the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, its willingness to consider “sharing” its nuclear weapons with Belarus, and its ability to caricature the UN Security Council with false justifications, all point to one underlying fact: International law has been persistently weakened by exemptions.

Exemptions have facilitated imperialist excursions of the US and its western allies, justifying the utilitarian narrative of preserving international peace and security while doing the exact opposite. These very exemptions now appear to be lucrative loopholes that further enable Russian hooliganism in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the global nuclear order has also suffered from these exemptions. 


Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian nuclear power plants at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia raised global concerns about the sheer callousness of Russia putting the entirety of Europe at risk of radioactive fallout, all because of President Vladimir Putin’s sickening and deluded ambitions to see through his “special military operation.” The Financial Times declared that this was “the first time in history that an active atomic facility has been targeted.” The US Embassy in Ukraine declared: “It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further.” These reactions were warranted, given the scale and gravity of the dangers posed by attacks on nuclear facilities.


Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian nuclear facilities were not unprecedented — and this is because Ukraine is not the first instance where a state sponsored kinetic attack on nuclear power plants and nuclear research facilities has been conducted. Although few, a number of states have carried out attacks on completed and operational nuclear power plants and research facilities, including the US, Iraq, Israel, and now Russia. In 1980, Iran bombed an Iraqi nuclear research facility. In 1981, Israel attacked the Osirak reactor in Iraq, and then attacked what many believe to have been a nuclear reactor in Syria, in 2007. From 1984 to 1988, Iraq launched seven attacks on Iran’s Bushehr reactors. In 1991, the US attacked nuclear research reactors in Iraq.

Yet, upon realizing the grave dangers posed by attacks on nuclear facilities, and with over 40 years to develop more specific restrictions on such attacks, we find ourselves in a situation where little has been done to criminalize further attacks on nuclear power plants. We find experts not entirely certain about where the US stands in relation to the professed “war crime” of attacking nuclear infrastructure. We find experts only now asking the question: Why are there not any explicit laws that protect nuclear facilities from military attacks? 

The answer lies in the international community hiding behind the exemption of “counterproliferation” to enable (or otherwise ignore) the imperialist ambitions of the US and its allies in far-away places. One must also grapple with the fact that when the perpetrators of these attacks are “distant” countries in the Middle East, the repercussions of such attacks on civilian populations are incapable of arousing sympathetic imperatives to consider the protection of “blue-eyed, blonde-haired” civilians from the potential radioactive exposures that might accompany such attacks.

There was some expressed outrage at the targeting of civilian nuclear infrastructure in the past. For example, in 1981 the US supported UN Security Council resolution 487 condemning Israel for its attack on an Iraqi reactor (the US carried out subsequent attacks on the nuclear installation 10 years later and that was not followed by a UNSC resolution). Perhaps Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian nuclear facilities might finally serve as the catalyst for more stringent international criminalization of this issue that goes beyond loosely worded resolutions and provisions, such as Article 56 of Protocol I to the Geneva conventions.


We have recently become more comfortable with discussing how Russia’s reliance on conventional superiority and a nuclear arsenal enables it to violate the territorial sovereignty and self-determination of Ukrainians with impunity. In this regard, we have seen Russia abuse its privileged role in the UNSC to veto a resolution denouncing its invasion of Ukraine, thereby making the UNSC incapable of denouncing the violation of a peoples’ sovereignty and self-determination.

Though followed by near-universal condemnation of its decision to use its veto power, Russia’s vote struck a sensitive nerve with the US delegation, with the US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield telling the Russian delegation: “You can veto this resolution but you cannot veto our voices…you cannot veto the truth. You cannot veto our principles. You cannot veto the Ukrainian people. You cannot veto the UN charter.”

Yet, Russia’s use of its veto power should not be something the US should be surprised by, especially since its own actions in the UNSC have set a precedent for such abuse of power. The US has used its veto power at least 53 times, such as to stifle UNSC condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and together with France, threatened to veto any UNSC resolution using the word “genocide” during Rwanda’s civil war in 1994.

Another exemption of importance within the UNSC context, has been Russia’s willingness to caricature the council with false justifications for its invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, Russia began a campaign in the UNSC to level retrospective and baseless claims, accusing the US and Ukraine of developing bioweapons. To be clear, Russia’s current claims are ridiculous. On the basis of “evidence” presented by the Russian government, it is difficult for anyone to arrive at the same conclusion as the Russians. Instead, this Russian charade indicates a clear detachment from reality, and one would assume that at the very least, the government might hold the UNSC in sufficient esteem to spare the council the embarrassment of having to entertain such ludicrousness. But Russia’s desperation to find justification for its aggression should not be so easily dismissed. After all, this desperation also has historical precedents which we must recognize; in 2003, the US also abused its political standing in the UNSC to level baseless accusations as pretext for its invasion of Iraq.


Nuclear sharing is another problematic “exemption.” The recent constitutional developments in Belarus, following its “referendum” to give up its non-nuclear status are also raising concerns about Russia’s ability to deploy its nuclear weapons in Belarus, which is a non-nuclear armed state. Such a deployment would amount to Russia and Belarus engaging in an illegal nuclear sharing arrangement.

According to Article I of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): 

“Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly…” 

And Article II reads: 

Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly…

On the basis of these texts, both Russia and Belarus would be in contravention of their NPT treaty obligations if such a deployment of Russian nuclear weapons were to occur. Unfortunately, however, Russia might seek to rely on precedents made by the US that will have dire consequences for the stability of the nuclear nonproliferation order. Nuclear sharing is an area of significant contestation amongst state parties to the NPT. Despite the clarity of the NPT’s provisions, there is no consensus regarding the legality of such a practice under Articles I and II because of exemptions sought by the US and NATO. 

The US and NATO both have continued to reject any interpretations of the NPT that suggests that there is a conflict between the practice of nuclear sharing and the obligations contained in NPT Articles I and II. This is because the US and five non-nuclear members of NATO have concluded bilateral programs of cooperation, which allows the deployment of US nuclear weapons in their territories. These countries — Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy and Turkey — host roughly over 100 tactical nuclear bombs in their territories, combined. Thus the US and NATO have pushed for interpretations of the NPT that in effect, grants an exemption to the illegality of nuclear sharing when it concerns them.

This exemption has been met with occasional resistance throughout the duration of the treaty. For example, during the 1997 NPT Preparatory Conference (PrepCom) meeting, Russia, Belarus and China broached the subject of nuclear sharing, reiterating South Africa’s calls for NWS to recall all nuclear weapons deployed outside their borders. However, after much wrangling by states to obtain a clear US interpretation regarding the legality of nuclear sharing given the provisions of the NPT, the US essentially circumscribed the applicability of the treaty, by arguing that the transfer and control of nuclear weapons does not occur until wartime, when they consider the NPT to no longer apply. This has led to the entrenchment of the US understanding that the applicability of the NPT ceases in the event of a “general war.” 

What constitutes a “general war” is also subject to some controversy, if we consider Russia’s nuclear status. In 1968 Dean Rusk gave an explanation of an example of a conflict that would not relieve signatories of their NPT compliance. He stated that: “At the other extreme [i.e. not a ‘general war’] would be a limited, local conflict, not involving a nuclear weapon-state. In this case the treaty would remain in force.” One can easily see how this explanation of the US stance might be unsettling, given that Russia, as a nuclear weapons state, a depositary state of the NPT, and given its initiation of a war that can hardly be described as a “local conflict,” could potentially justify the suspension of its obligations under the NPT. This cannot be entirely ruled out, because we should now understand that as long as an interpretation of international law that enables greater freedom of action for Russia exists, there is the possibility that they will seek to adopt such an interpretation for their own purposes.


The bottom line is, Russian aggression in Ukraine has, in part, benefitted from the persistent weakening of international law, facilitated by exemptions made to serve western imperialism and its various excursions. Whether or not Russia actually needs historical precedent to justify its current carnage is a question only the Kremlin can answer. What I can say for certain, though, is that the international community in enabling US and western imperialism in the past, is responsible for the weaknesses which now enable Russian tyranny in the present. 

It is clear that the inconsistent thresholds of applicability and accountability are embedded in international law, and hegemons and rogues take advantage of them. The reality is that exemptions allow all actors to ignore the law, when it suits their interests. Therefore, systematically eliminating these encoded exceptions and inconsistencies is in our collective best interest, as we would be foolish to expect that we can swiftly rectify these inconsistencies if and only when they impact those “who look like us.”

Olamide Samuel is a research associate in Nuclear Politics at the University of Leicester.