While nowhere near to the extent of the West Coast, damaging earthquakes can and do affect much of the eastern half of the country.
For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.
In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.
The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.
These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.
This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.
Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.
When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.
There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.
Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.
The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.
While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.
Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.
The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.
The research team’s simulation showed that a 10-megaton warhead could destroy satellites if it detonates at an altitude of 80 kilometers, with the blast turning air molecules into a pear-shaped cloud of radioactive particles that can cause failures and damage to satellites, nuclear physicist Liu Li and his team wrote in a paper published in the Nuclear Techniques peer-reviewed journal.
Liu’s team noted that a space-based nuclear explosion would be ineffective as the lack of air would not generate a large radioactive cloud. Furthermore, the Earth’s atmosphere would capture most of the high-energy particles created by the blast and spread it around the globe as a radiation belt, threatening a wide range of spacecraft.
The question now is whether we are on the cusp of a new era of expanding nuclear arsenals, a more prominent role for them in geopolitics, and efforts by more countries to acquire them. Adding to the danger is the sense that the nuclear taboo against possessing or even using nuclear weapons is fading, owing to the passage of time and to the emergence of a new generation of so-called tactical nuclear weapons that imply less catastrophic results and therefore may seem more usable.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has made the arrival of this new era more likely in several ways. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine surrendered the nuclear weapons that remained on its territory in exchange for security assurances. Since then, Russia has invaded twice, an outcome that might persuade others that giving up nuclear weapons decreases a country’s security.
Then, in the wake of Russia’s second invasion earlier this year, the US ruled out direct military involvement on behalf of Ukraine owing to a concern that dispatching troops or establishing a no-fly zone could lead to a nuclear WWIII. China and others could see this as evidence that possessing a substantial nuclear arsenal can deter the US or at least impel it to act with greater restraint. Most recently, against the backdrop of significant battlefield setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons in or near Ukraine in an effort to intimidate Ukrainians, and force European governments and the US to rethink their support for the country.
Developments elsewhere have also contributed to a rethinking of the value of nuclear weapons. Regimes and leaders in Iraq and Libya were ousted after abandoning their nuclear-weapons programmes, which might lead others to consider the advantages of retaining or developing nuclear capabilities. North Korea, for its part, remains secure as it continues to expand its nuclear arsenal. The world has likewise learned to live with Israeli, Indian and Pakistani nuclear arsenals.
The danger is that more nuclear weapons in more hands increases the odds that one or more of these unimaginably destructive weapons will be used. Deterrence and responsible custodianship cannot be assumed. Possession of nuclear weapons also has the potential to provide something of a shield that could make non-nuclear aggression more common. Even the belief that a country was moving to develop nuclear weapons could trigger military action by worried neighbours, possibly leading to a larger conflict.
At the same time, and certainly before early 2026, when the New START Treaty limiting the two great nuclear powers’ arsenals expires, the US should signal to Russia its readiness to discuss the next phase of nuclear arms control. The number and types of weapons systems to be limited needs to be on the agenda, as does the inclusion of China.
The US, together with its partners in the region, should also take steps, diplomatic or military if need be, to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons or get so close that it could achieve nuclear breakout without enough warning for others to prevent it. Failing this, one or more of Iran’s neighbours may well decide they need nuclear weapons of their own. Such a scenario would take the Middle East, for three decades the world’s least stable region, in an even more dangerous direction.
Reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran reached with world powers (and from which the US withdrew in 2018) would help only temporarily, because the agreement features several so-called sunset clauses. That seems too high a price to pay, as it would allow Iran to get out from under significant sanctions, enabling the regime to pursue an even more aggressive foreign policy and provide it a lifeline just when domestic opposition to it is mounting.
Another set of concerns is found in Asia. Attempts to separate North Korea from its nuclear weapons are going nowhere. Full denuclearisation should remain a goal, but in the meantime the US, South Korea, and Japan need to consider some form of arms-control proposal that would limit North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and missile systems in exchange for a reduction of sanctions.
The US should also maintain its close alliance with both South Korea and Japan vis-à-vis not just North Korea, but also China. Failure to do so would most likely lead both countries to reconsider their renunciation of nuclear weapons.
For a long time, many scholars and policymakers operated under the illusion that the nuclear problem was a relic of the Cold War. In fact, the world is moving closer to an era that could be defined even more sharply by nuclear weapons. Changing course is imperative, and time is running out.
Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “The World: A Brief Introduction” (Penguin Press, 2020). Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2022. www.project-syndicate.org
America and UK invaded Iraq on 20 March 2003. Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. Which was worse?
Let’s first examine the invasion of Iraq:
U.S. President George W. Bush seems to have been informed, in advance, about a New York Times article (which was the lead-story in the newspaper on Sunday, 8 September 2002), titled “U.S. SAYS HUSSEIN INTENSIFIES QUEST FOR A-BOMB PARTS”, in which the sources were anonymous “Administration officials.” The story concerned “aluminum tubes” that were “intended as casing for rotors in centrifuges, which are one means of producing highly enriched uranium … to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today.”
We just heard the Prime Minister talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need [in order for Congress to authorize an invasion of Iraq].
Related Coverage: Director General’s statement on Iraq to the IAEA Board of Governors on 9 September 2002 [this being a republication of their notice three days earlier, on 6 Sep.].
Vienna, 06 September, 2002 – With reference to an article published today in the New York Times [which, as usual, stenographically reported the Administration’s false allegations, which the IAEA was trying to correct in a way that would minimally offend the NYT and the U.S. President], the International Atomic Energy Agency would like to state that it has no new information on Iraq’s nuclear programme since December 1998 when its inspectors left Iraq [and verified that no WMD remained there at that time]. Only through a resumption of inspections in accordance with Security Council Resolution 687 and other relevant resolutions can the Agency draw any conclusion with regard to Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under the above resolutions relating to its nuclear activities.
Contact: Mark Gwozdecky, Tel: (+43 1) 2600-21270, e-mail: M.Gwozdecky@iaea.org.
It even linked to the following statement from the IAEA Director General amplifying it:
Since December 1998 when our inspectors left Iraq, we have no additional information that can be directly linked without inspection to Iraq’s nuclear activities. I should emphasize that it is only through resumption of inspections that the Agency can draw any conclusion or provide any assurance regarding Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under these resolutions.
So, this was proof of the falsehood of Bush’s and Blair’s reference, on September 7th, to the IAEA, in which Bush-Blair were saying that, upon the authority of the IAEA itself, there was “the new report … a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”
Because of the news-media’s ignoring the IAEA’s denial of the President’s statement, the author of the IAEA’s denial, Mark Gwozdecky, spoke again nearly three weeks later, by phone, with the only journalist who was interested, Joseph Curl of the Washington Times, who headlined on 27 September 2002, “Agency Disavows Report on Iraq Arms” — perhaps that should instead have been “President Lied About ‘Saddam’s WMD’” — and Curl quoted Gwozdecky: “There’s never been a report like that [which Bush alleged] issued from this agency. … When we left in December ’98 we had concluded that we had neutralized their nuclear-weapons program. We had confiscated their fissile material. We had destroyed all their key buildings and equipment.” Other news-media failed to pick up Curl’s article. And, even in that article, there was no clear statement that the President had, in fact, lied — cooked up an IAEA ‘report’ that never actually existed. Actually, the IAEA hadn’t even so much as been mentioned in that New York Times article.
Bush had simply lied, and Blair seconded it, and the ‘news’-media stenographically accepted it, and broadcasted their lies to the public, and continued to do so, despite the IAEA’s having denied, as early as September 6th, that they had issued any such “new report” at all. (The IAEA had, apparently, somehow known in advance that someone would soon be saying that the IAEA had issued a report alleging that Iraq was resuming its nuclear program.) Virtually all of the alleged news-media (and not only the NYT) entirely ignored the IAEA’s denial (though it was not merely one bullet, but rapidly fired on four separate occasions, into the wilderness of America’s ‘news’-media) that it had issued any such “report.” All of them were actually only propaganda-media: they hid the fact that George W. Bush was simply lying. Both the U.S. Government and its media were frauds.
The day after that 7 September 2002 unquestioned lie by Bush, saying Iraq was only six months from having a nuclear weapon, and citing the IAEA as his source for that, the New York Times ran their article. It included such hair-raisers as “‘The jewel in the crown is nuclear,’ a senior administration official said. ‘The closer he gets to a nuclear capability, the more credible is his threat to use chemical or biological weapons. Nuclear weapons are his hole card.’” The fake ‘news’ — stenography from the lying Government and its chosen lying sources (in this case anonymous Administration-officials) — came in an incessant stream, from the U.S. Government and its ‘news’ media (such as happened also later, regarding Honduras 2009, Libya 2011, Yemen 2011-, Syria 2011-, Ukraine 2014, and Yemen 2015-). Do the American people never learn — ever — that their Presidents and ‘news’-media) now lie routinely?
Also on Sunday, September 8th, of 2002, the Bush Administration’s big guns were firing off against Iraq from the Sunday ‘news’ shows; and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice delivered her famous “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” statement, which was clearly building upon the lying Bush allegation of the day before, that the International Atomic Energy Agency had just come up with this ominous “Atomic” “new report.”
Then, President Bush himself, on 12 September 2002, addressed the U.N. General Assembly, seeking authorization to invade:
We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced — the just demands of peace and security will be met — or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.
Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable — the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.
Bush (and Blair) failed to win any authorization to invade, but did it anyway. They should be hung for it. They were atop a bi-national and entirely bipartisan (in each of the two countries) public-deception operation, like had occurred in Germany during Hitler’s time. (Hitler was a boon for the nation’s armaments-makers then, just as America’s Presidents now are for America’s armaments-firms.)
In October 2019, a popular mass movement erupted all over central Iraq, eventually turning into what became known as the Tashrin uprising. Under the slogan “We want a homeland” the impoverished Iraqi youth occupied squares in the centres of major Iraqi cities, expressing their strict refusal of the post-2003 institutionalized sectarian system. They demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation, new elections, and a change in the constitution that puts an end to the so-called Muhassasa Ta’ifia, or sectarian apportionment system.
Importantly, the protestors also defied the influential Shi’a cleric, militia leader, politician, and long-standing oppositional figure, Muqtada al-Sadr, who on the one hand claimed to support them, and on the other hand attacked them for the gender-mixing of women and men during the demonstrations and at the squares, requesting women to wear the scarf.
Although the uprising won the demand for “early” elections – held two years later, in October 2021, becoming the fifth round of elections since 2003 – the elections witnessed a new historically low voter turnout, reflecting the lack of trust in the electoral system. The Tashrin protesters’ refusal to participate in the elections showed their lack of legitimacy in a system that can only reproduce itself. Other parts of the Tashrin forces that had organized formally since the uprising, like the Imtidad political party, participated successfully due to a new electoral system that allowed voting for candidates directly (as opposed to voting for lists).
Crucially, a combination of low participation and a loyal base guaranteed a win for Muqtada al-Sadr and his allies. This created two broad political coalitions in parliament: Sadr’s bloc; made of his forces, a majority of elected Sunnis, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The other bloc is the Coalition of the Coordination Framework (CCF) which brought together the State of Law alliance of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Fatah Coalition, and others, and is considered to be supported by Iran.
Over the last few months, these elected parties and candidates have been stuck in a serious political deadlock, suspending the creation of a new government. Iraq’s post-2003 political system has been characterized by a “National unity government,” which is usually formed by the biggest parliamentary bloc and requires a “broad consensus” (tawafuq) of all parties voted into parliament. In order to form a government, a two-third majority vote is required. However, all subsequent votes only need a simple majority. This means that there is almost no protection for the opposition and their interests. The Coordination Framework, which is a minority in the parliament, opposes the Sadrist bloc and its potential overtake of the parliament, and hence no tawafuq has been reached.
Furthermore, Iraq’s political system is organized through the “Muhassasa Ta’ifiya” system which means that ministries and rents are distributed to each faction of the government according to the election turnout. Supporters of this system have argued that it would prevent violence by dividing state resources amongst the parties in government. Others argue against this system as it distributes the state’s money to political parties instead of the general public. Hence Iraqis themselves can only access state resources through becoming clients of the parties in power. After the October 2021 election, Sadr’s bloc proposed breaking with this system by forming a “majority government” that would exclude the election loser (the Coordination Framework) and would prevent them from accessing the state’s resources. However, Sadr’s bloc did not receive the necessary two-third vote.
In consequence, in June of 2022, the Sadrist bloc announced its withdrawal from parliament and the governing forming process hereby ceding most of their seats to their rivals who continued with the government formation process. By this move, Sadr retreated to challenge the political system from outside using street politics and trying to achieve his political goals from outside the formal system.
This interview was conducted for LeftEast in early August of 2022 as the political deadlock spilt into serious confrontations in Iraq, causing much unrest and even threats of renewed civil war. The interview, split into two parts, offers a leftist perspective on the latest events unfolding in Iraq.
Ansar: Muqtada al-Sadr depicts himself rebelling against the same system he controls a large part of. Can you explain the ways in which he is able to articulate such contradictory positions?
Salam: Muqtada al-Sadr’s political rhetoric has historical roots. He represents part of the opposition to the old regime, and hence he inherited a certain audience and discourse.
Jamal Al-Sayigh: Muqtada’s uncle – who also was an Ayatollah – and his father were both part of the opposition against the regime of Saddam Hussain. Their killing at the hands of the old regime left amongst the Iraqi people a certain popularity to this name, especially in the 90s. So at the beginning of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Muqtada Al-Sadr formed an armed resistance movement, Jesh Al Mahdi (the Mahdi army), and opposed the American invasion – this gained him huge popularity amongst some Iraqis as well. His attempt at resistance ended in a catastrophe. He started two uprisings which were suppressed by the Iraqi central government troops and the US occupation forces.
Sadr and his supporters (Jesh al Mahdi) were blocked in a small area in Najaf. At that time, he was not properly prepared for a military battle and the political system was about to take form. He was rescued from the military stalemate by the Marja’iya that is represented by Sistani and his deputies who were active in writing the constitution in coordination with Paul Bremer in the Iraqi Governing Council between 2003-2004. By this they basically reduced the opposition to the new political system they were part of. This secured Sadr’s political role today.
Ansar: How did he become an important part of the political system?
Salam: He, at first, opposed the US occupation and rejected the constitution and the first elections in Iraq after 2003. His Mahdi army controlled parts of the south until then-prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki fought against them in the military operation known as “Saulat Al-Fursan” (Charge of Knights). Sadr then decided to participate in the political process rather than confront the police and army, therefore, his Mahdi army remained a strong force. He even managed to get hold of weapons directly provided by the system. Then he took the decision to participate in the political process and formed a bloc which he called “Ahrar parliamentary bloc” (The Free bloc).
Ansar: How can we connect this history to the moment we’re in today?
Salam: He got hold of ministries and posts and many privileges from the system through his move into politics. It’s clear Muqtada can’t be a revolutionary and doesn’t want to change the system because he is an essential part of it. What we are witnessing, instead, is his attempt to widen his control over the political system while painting himself as an outsider.
To clarify, the political system in Iraq is built on an alliance or rather a “sharing” of the wealth and power of the state between two wings. The first wing is called the Coalition of the Coordination Framework (CFF) – which is an alliance of several political parties and armed groups. This coalition gained renewed power through their fight against Daesh (ISIS) and their forming of the armed group called Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular mobilization forces), which is loyal to Iran. The second wing is the Sadr current [which includes him, his armed supporters, a majority of elected Sunni representatives, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party].
The Tashrin uprising of 2019, which erupted due to worsening social and economic conditions, deepened the already existing crises within the two wings of the system.
Muqtada likes to appear as a revolutionary or change-maker or, in his own words: a “reformist”. But he is also in a stalemate in the sense that every time he gets closer to power, he loses his popularity. Every time he needs the support of his base, he needs to leave some space between him and formal political power. So, to analyse Sadr, we need to understand what his task and role in this system is. Muqtada’s role is that when any protests go to the streets to demand a change in the system, he tries to highjack it and get parts of the people to buy back into the same system they protested.
Ansar: Meaning that, by hijacking these movements, he tries to prevent them from turning into popular social movements that could really form a challenge to the system?
Jamal Al-Sayigh: Exactly. Sadr turned into a formally recognized political leader whereas before he was considered only a leader of some terrorist groups. Especially since 2011, we see that Muqtada al Sadr has been trying to restore any fissure that is happening within this political system. At any protest movement, Muqtada al-Sadr will be present, either to disperse it by violence or to hijack it. We’ve seen this before:
Most recently in the Tashrin revolution of 2019, when his gangs – then called Blue Helmets (Quba´at Ziraq) – used knives and other tools to attack the protestors but under the pretence of protecting the protestors. This way they entered Tahrir Square in Baghdad and took over parts of the square by force and even killed activists of the student movement. They claimed that the protest movement is infiltrated by so called mundassin (Infiltrators) who would drink wine and cause gender mingling or even dancing of women at the protest squares, and this would provoke the government’s violent reaction. So, these mundassin would need to be “educated,” and this is how he justified the actions of the Blue Helmets and even argued that they are part of the Tashrin-movement.
Another tactic of his is hijacking demonstrations and bringing a huge audience to the streets while changing the slogans and demands from a radical protest movement to an issue-specific movement (Haraka Matlabiya). He would come up with a list of demands towards the system, and then claim that they were realised in his negotiations with the responsible people, but in reality nothing happens. Then he tells people to return to their houses.
What is happening right now, meaning the occupation of the parliament and power display – depicting himself as a revolutionary – is not really surprising. Today Muqtada Al-Sadr again aims towards making a compromise with these political forces which he is allegedly revolting against. While using a reformist discourse, he creates an entire ceremony for the protest: first the big united prayer (on the 15th of July), then to enter the green zone, to withdraw, then to enter it again. Then a sit-in in the parliament, followed by a prayer on the “celebration square” in the Green Zone. I guess afterwards Muqtada Al-Sadr probably comes to a compromise with them, and then the people have to go home in order to prevent the movement to cause a collapse in the political system. He is part of the tools to accommodate the system when crises are happening to which the system proved to be unable to provide real answers to. This is our definition of the Sadrist current as part of the Iraqi political system.
Ansar: The media describes the current situation as a struggle between two Shia sides. But in your words, how can we describe what happened in the past few weeks? The reporting now concentrates on the occupation of the parliament by Sadrist loyalists, but your answers already show that you expected this. Can you speak a little bit more about how this escalation was possible? For weeks we witnessed Sadr display different forms of power. Who are the people following his call to occupy the parliament? Now the wording the Sadr current is using is “Thawrat al-Islah” (The Revolution of Reform), they talk about the “liberation of the parliament”, the turning of the “Council of representatives to the council of the people” etc. Can you please elaborate on this, because it is important to go beyond the common analysis of a Shia-Shia power struggle. This framing actually obscures the ideologies of these different actors.
Salam: What we can say is that the ruling political class didn’t enter these clashes by full choice. The social, economic and political crises went through several stages and the protests have continued even when the intifada declined. Sadr, as part of the system, understands if he doesn’t support the political and economic change that his audience supports, he will lose a lot… he has already lost a lot of his supporters due to the revolution of 2019. In 2019 the support – to be fair – for Sadr was not low, he managed to control their perception of the situation. But his popularity was harmed by the uprising, and he understands fully that things cannot continue as they did in the past.
So he resorted to two things: political and the economic promises in order to contain his supporters. From a political point, he went for the discourse of a national majority government after the October 2021 elections. He tried to make his constituency understand that the political sectarian and clientelist quota system (Muhassasa Ta´ifiya) and the corruption have led to the deteriorating situation at hand. Therefore, he told people that he will now change everything by making a “national majority” government.
On the economic side, he recently supported the “Law of food security and development” and other laws before withdrawing from forming a government. This new law gave him access to appoint people – meaning he provided his followers with state resources by providing them with state jobs.
The question now is why the Coordination Framework didn’t support the forming of a national majority government. The reason is that this would have meant less privileges for them, less ministries to control, less loopholes to get state money. They also rely on a system that distributes them “their” shares. But Sadr also had no real interest in finding a compromise with the Coordination Framework, because he would have lost many of his followers then too. So he couldn’t pursue this project and resorted to the tactic of withdrawal from forming the government in June 2022.
The Coordination Framework after Sadr’s withdrawal actually seized its chance and went to form a government and even made suggestions for a prime minister. But the problem is that the Sadrists have the need to keep their access to the resources of the system, if they are outside of the system they would lose many of their privileges. Sadr accounted for all of it. So, he went for the escalation plan, first through the mass prayer on the 15th of July as mentioned, and then the intrusion in the parliament by the end of July. And as we said, in the end, this struggle is not for a change of the constitution or anything in the parliament nor about revolution nor reform. He rather wants to be a bigger hegemon. So, the crisis is really within the system.
 People supporting or having participated are called Tashrinis or in Arabic Tashriniyiin.
 External political support for these alliances has changed over the years. For example, the US has an interest in strengthening Sadr but he is a natural or a historical ally.
 High ranking title for Shia clergy, comment by A.J.
 Religious reference and highest religious authority amongst Shia Muslims, comment by A.J.
 Political body put in power by the occupation forces in Iraq after 2003. From July 2003 until June 2004 it was supposed to represent the provisional government of Iraq. It was subject to the United States-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administration of Paul Bremer. A.J.
 This political party affiliated with Muqtada Sadr has strongly opposed the then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. They constantly managed to increase their seats, already in the 2018 and 2021 elections, they were the strongest political force in terms of representation in parliament.
Ansar Jasim is a political scientist. She is interested in civil society movements and transnational solidarity from a theoretical and practical perspective with special focus on Syria and Iraq.
Oct 23 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that only Russia was capable of using nuclear weapons in Europe.
Zelenskiy criticised Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s suggestion in calls to Western counterparts that Ukraine might be preparing to use a “dirty bomb” in the current conflict — a conventional weapon laced with nuclear materials.
The narrative is changing in China as its nuclear programme is increasingly tied to national rejuvenation, and in South Korea where there is overwhelming support for a nuclear defence against the NorthThe value of nuclear restraint needs to be promoted and supported to avoid greater insecurity
No magnifying glass is needed to appreciate the dismal state of nuclear politics in Northeast Asia. Yet this was not inevitable. In the 1980s and 1990s, the region was on a restrained nuclear path. Back then, China actively practised the nuclear minimalism it preached, joining deals such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. US president George H.W. Bush even opted to remove US nuclear weapons from allied Asian soil, including South Korea.
Unfortunately, three decades on, there is a revival of interest in nuclear weapons within Northeast Asia. This revival is clearly visible in China, where a build-up of strategic forces is under way.
Beyond new technology, a less-well-documented discovery is that the domestic narrative around the atomic bomb is changing. Once of little public interest, the scientific story of China’s nuclear weapons programme is now enthusiastically commemorated by the Communist Party.
Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-17 ballistic missiles are seen at a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, in Beijing on October 1, 2019. Trucks carrying weapons, including a nuclear-armed missile designed to evade US defences, were part of the parade which showcased China’s global ambitions. Photo: AP
President Xi Jinping has had a hand in shaping public consciousness, for instance by celebrating “strategic scientists”, like the late Qian Xuesen who was pivotal to China’s missile programme. While previous leaders such as Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin have sometimes linked China’s nuclear arsenal to a national sense of greatness, Xi goes further.
In December 2015, for example, China’s nuclear forces were elevated in status – the Second Artillery Corps was renamed the PLA Rocket Force and upgraded from an independent branch to a full military service – and their significance for China’s great power status reaffirmed. Soap operas and Chinese media now frequently glorify China’s nuclear achievements, from those by strategic scientists to rapid jumps such as the development of atomic (1964) and hydrogen (1967) capabilities under Mao Zedong.
In essence, nuclear commemoration bolsters a wider political narrative around China’s national rejuvenation and greatness that has become a hallmark of Xi’s leadership.
South Korea is also witnessing a nuclear revival of sorts. On the one hand, the active pursuit of an indigenous conventional “strategic strike system” – which includes submarine-launched ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles, as well as missile defence systems – is intended to counter the growing security threat posed by North Korea.