Preparing for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Scenario Earthquakes for Urban Areas Along the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States

The Sixth Seal: NY City DestroyedIf today a magnitude 6 earthquake were to occur centered on New York City, what would its effects be? Will the loss be 10 or 100 billion dollars? Will there be 10 or 10,000 fatalities? Will there be 1,000 or 100,000 homeless needing shelter? Can government function, provide assistance, and maintain order?

At this time, no satisfactory answers to these questions are available. A few years ago, rudimentary scenario studies were made for Boston and New York with limited scope and uncertain results. For most eastern cities, including Washington D.C., we know even less about the economic, societal and political impacts from significant earthquakes, whatever their rate of occurrence.

Why do we know so little about such vital public issues? Because the public has been lulled into believing that seriously damaging quakes are so unlikely in the east that in essence we do not need to consider them. We shall examine the validity of this widely held opinion.

Is the public’s earthquake awareness (or lack thereof) controlled by perceived low SeismicitySeismicHazard, or SeismicRisk? How do these three seismic features differ from, and relate to each other? In many portions of California, earthquake awareness is refreshed in a major way about once every decade (and in some places even more often) by virtually every person experiencing a damaging event. The occurrence of earthquakes of given magnitudes in time and space, not withstanding their effects, are the manifestations of seismicity. Ground shaking, faulting, landslides or soil liquefaction are the manifestations of seismic hazard. Damage to structures, and loss of life, limb, material assets, business and services are the manifestations of seismic risk. By sheer experience, California’s public understands fairly well these three interconnected manifestations of the earthquake phenomenon. This awareness is reflected in public policy, enforcement of seismic regulations, and preparedness in both the public and private sector. In the eastern U.S., the public and its decision makers generally do not understand them because of inexperience. Judging seismic risk by rates of seismicity alone (which are low in the east but high in the west) has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s tendency to belittle the seismic loss potential for eastern urban regions.

Let us compare two hypothetical locations, one in California and one in New York City. Assume the location in California does experience, on average, one M = 6 every 10 years, compared to New York once every 1,000 years. This implies a ratio of rates of seismicity of 100:1. Does that mean the ratio of expected losses (when annualized per year) is also 100:1? Most likely not. That ratio may be closer to 10:1, which seems to imply that taking our clues from seismicity alone may lead to an underestimation of the potential seismic risks in the east. Why should this be so?

To check the assertion, let us make a back-of-the-envelope estimate. The expected seismic risk for a given area is defined as the area-integrated product of: seismic hazard (expected shaking level), assets ($ and people), and the assets’ vulnerabilities (that is, their expected fractional loss given a certain hazard – say, shaking level). Thus, if we have a 100 times lower seismicity rate in New York compared to California, which at any given point from a given quake may yield a 2 times higher shaking level in New York compared to California because ground motions in the east are known to differ from those in the west; and if we have a 2 times higher asset density (a modest assumption for Manhattan!), and a 2 times higher vulnerability (again a modest assumption when considering the large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings and aged infrastructure in New York), then our California/New York ratio for annualized loss potential may be on the order of (100/(2x2x2)):1. That implies about a 12:1 risk ratio between the California and New York location, compared to a 100:1 ratio in seismicity rates.

From this example it appears that seismic awareness in the east may be more controlled by the rate of seismicity than by the less well understood risk potential. This misunderstanding is one of the reasons why earthquake awareness and preparedness in the densely populated east is so disproportionally low relative to its seismic loss potential. Rare but potentially catastrophic losses in the east compete in attention with more frequent moderate losses in the west. New York City is the paramount example of a low-probability, high-impact seismic risk, the sort of risk that is hard to insure against, or mobilize public action to reduce the risks.

There are basically two ways to respond. One is to do little and wait until one or more disastrous events occur. Then react to these – albeit disastrous – “windows of opportunity.” That is, pay after the unmitigated facts, rather than attempt to control their outcome. This is a high-stakes approach, considering the evolved state of the economy. The other approach is to invest in mitigation ahead of time, and use scientific knowledge and inference, education, technology transfer, and combine it with a mixture of regulatory and/or economic incentives to implement earthquake preparedness. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) has attempted the latter while much of the public tends to cling to the former of the two options. Realistic and reliable quantitative loss estimation techniques are essential to evaluate the relative merits of the two approaches.

The current efforts in the eastern U.S., including New York City, to start the enforcement of seismic building codes for new constructions are important first steps in the right direction. Similarly, the emerging efforts to include seismic rehabilitation strategies in the generally needed overhaul of the cities’ aged infrastructures such as bridges, water, sewer, power and transportation is commendable and needs to be pursued with diligence and persistence. But at the current pace of new construction replacing older buildings and lifelines, it will take many decades or a century before a major fraction of the stock of built assets will become seismically more resilient than the current inventory is. For some time, this leaves society exposed to very high seismic risks. The only consolation is that seismicity on average is low, and, hence with some luck, the earthquakes will not outpace any ongoing efforts to make eastern cities more earthquake resilient gradually. Nevertheless, M = 5 to M = 6 earthquakes at distances of tens of km must be considered a credible risk at almost any time for cities like Boston, New York or Philadelphia. M = 7 events, while possible, are much less likely; and in many respects, even if building codes will have affected the resilience of a future improved building stock, M = 7 events would cause virtually unmanageable situations. Given these bleak prospects, it will be necessary to focus on crucial elements such as maintaining access to cities by strengthening critical bridges, improving the structural and nonstructural performance of hospitals, and having a nationally supported plan how to assist a devastated region in case of a truly severe earthquake. No realistic and coordinated planning of this sort exists at this time for most eastern cities.

The current efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) via the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to provide a standard methodology (RMS, 1994) and planning tools for making systematic, computerized loss estimates for annualized probabilistic calculations as well as for individual scenario events, is commendable. But these new tools provide only a shell with little regional data content. What is needed are the detailed data bases on inventory of buildings and lifelines with their locally specific seismic fragility properties.Similar data are needed for hospitals, shelters, firehouses, police stations and other emergency service providers. Moreover, the soil and rock conditions which control the shaking and soil liquefaction properties for any given event, need to be systematically compiled into Geographical Information System (GIS) data bases so they can be combined with the inventory of built assets for quantitative loss and impact estimates. Even under the best of conceivable funding conditions, it will take years before such data bases can be established so they will be sufficiently reliable and detailed to perform realistic and credible loss scenarios. Without such planning tools, society will remain in the dark as to what it may encounter from a future major eastern earthquake. Given these uncertainties, and despite them, both the public and private sector must develop at least some basic concepts for contingency plans. For instance, the New York City financial service industry, from banks to the stock and bond markets and beyond, ought to consider operational contingency planning, first in terms of strengthening their operational facilities, but also for temporary backup operations until operations in the designated facilities can return to some measure of normalcy. The Federal Reserve in its oversight function for this industry needs to take a hard look at this situation.

A society, whose economy depends increasingly so crucially on rapid exchange of vast quantities of information must become concerned with strengthening its communication facilities together with the facilities into which the information is channeled. In principle, the availability of satellite communication (especially if self-powered) with direct up and down links, provides here an opportunity that is potentially a great advantage over distributed buried networks. Distributed networks for transportation, power, gas, water, sewer and cabled communication will be expensive to harden (or restore after an event).

In all future instances of major capital spending on buildings and urban infrastructures, the incorporation of seismically resilient design principles at all stages of realization will be the most effective way to reduce society’s exposure to high seismic risks. To achieve this, all levels of government need to utilize legislative and regulatory options; insurance industries need to build economic incentives for seismic safety features into their insurance policy offerings; and the private sector, through trade and professional organizations’ planning efforts, needs to develop a healthy self-protective stand. Also, the insurance industry needs to invest more aggressively into broadly based research activities with the objective to quantify the seismic hazards, the exposed assets and their seismic fragilities much more accurately than currently possible. Only together these combined measures may first help to quantify and then reduce our currently untenably large seismic risk exposures in the virtually unprepared eastern cities. Given the low-probability/high-impact situation in this part of the country, seismic safety planning needs to be woven into both the regular capital spending and daily operational procedures. Without it we must be prepared to see little progress. Unless we succeed to build seismic safety considerations into everyday decision making as a normal procedure of doing business, society will lose the race against the unstoppable forces of nature. While we never can entirely win this race, we can succeed in converting unmitigated catastrophes into manageable disasters, or better, tolerable natural events.

Report to Congress on the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Report to Congress on Chinese Nuclear and Missile Proliferation

January 24, 2023 9:12 AM

The following is the Jan. 23, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Chinese Nuclear and Missile Proliferation.

From the report

The U.S. government has continued to express concerns about China’s record concerning the proliferation of nuclear- and missile-related technologies to other countries, with more recent focus on the threat of Chinese acquisition of U.S.-origin nuclear technology. (See CRS In Focus IF11050, New U.S. Policy Regarding Nuclear Exports to China, by Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth D. Nikitin.) Official U.S. government reports indicate that the Chinese government has apparently ended its direct involvement in the transfer of nuclear- and missile-related items, but Chinese-based companies and individuals continue to export goods relevant to those items, particularly to Iran and North Korea. U.S. officials have also raised concerns about entities operating in China that provide other forms of support for proliferation-sensitive activities, such as illicit finance and money laundering.


China did not oppose new states’ acquisition of nuclear weapons during the 1960s and 1970s, the Department of State wrote in a declassified January 1998 report to Congress. According to a 1983 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), China had exported “nuclear materials since 1981” that were not subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Beijing did so “mainly to earn hard currency,” the estimate assesses, explaining that the

Chinese became aware in 1979 that they had insufficient resources for their initially grandiose modernization program and that they needed to generate more revenue through expanded foreign trade. Accordingly, the State Council directed its subordinate ministries in late 1979 to begin selling surpluses.

Consequently, according to the NIE, Beijing ended its “abstention from commercial trade in conventional arms and nuclear materials.” During the 1980s and 1990s, China transferred nuclear and missile technology to other countries’ weapons programs. China provided assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran. Beijing exported missiles to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. (For more information, see CRS Report RL33192, U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, by Mark Holt, Mary Beth D. Nikitin, and Paul K. Kerr.)

According to U.S. government reports and official statements, China significantly curtailed its nuclear- and missile-related transfers during the 1990s; Beijing also committed to improving its export controls. For example, the 1998 State Department report cited above noted China’s 1996 pledge to refrain from assisting unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and 1997 changes to Chinese nuclear export policy, as well as other Chinese nonproliferation efforts.

The United States has extensive nuclear cooperation with China, which is governed by a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, renewed in 2015. (See CRS Report RL33192, U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.)

The above-described changes in Chinese behavior took place after the two governments concluded their first nuclear cooperation agreement in 1985. Laws subsequently adopted by Congress required, as a condition for U.S. implementation of the agreement, the President to submit to Congress certain nonproliferation-related certifications, as well as a report about Beijing’s “nonproliferation policies and practices.” President William Clinton stated in a January 1998 letter to Congress that China had “made substantial strides in joining the international nonproliferation regime, and in putting in place a comprehensive system of nuclear-related, nationwide export controls,” since concluding the 1985 agreement.

Beijing acceded in 1992 to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) and has voluntary IAEA safeguards on its civil reactors. The treaty defines NWS as those that exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All other NPT states-parties are nonnuclear-weapon states. According to the treaty, a NWS is not to transfer nuclear weapons to “any recipient whatsoever” or to “in any way … assist, encourage, or induce any” nonnuclear-weapon state “to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.”

Putin Is Close To Using Nukes In Ukraine: Revelation 16

Putin The President Russia Power Politics

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin

Is Putin Close To Using Nukes In Ukraine? – OpEd

   Timothy Hopper  0 Comments

By Timothy Hopper

The destruction of the crucial Kerch Bridge on the Sea of Azov – a Russian red line – as well as recent attacks on the North Stream 1 and 2 pipelines at the bottom of the North Sea, show that Washington and Moscow are more willing than ever to exert pressure on one another and alter the nature of the battlefield.

What other destructive weapons would Russia and the US employ before resorting to nuclear weapons? It would be simple to predict how long it will be before nuclear weapons are used and how much nuclear damage will be done once other destructive weapons have lost their effectiveness.

The current battlefield conditions suggest that the time has come for Moscow and Washington to think and decide because how they continue the war in Ukraine will determine whether they lose or win the potential nuclear war. Although Biden regards Putin as a “rational actor,” he believes the risk of nuclear Armageddon is at its highest since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. As Russia approaches defeat, is it likely that insanity replaces Putin’s rationality and the risk of nuclear war increases?

After the Russian army failed to achieve its predetermined goal to completely invade Ukraine in a few weeks, Kremlin declared that it would use nuclear weapons “if Russia’s very existence was threatened”. Even the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, stated that Moscow will use any weapon required to defend areas that should join Russia. He claimed that Moscow has the right to protect its borders with any weapon in its arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons.

A few months ago, during a visit to the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence, US President Joe Biden emphasized that the US intelligence services are “better than” their Russian counterparts and that Putin is “sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else”. “He knows he’s in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous” he added. In a guest essay for The New York Times President Biden wrote: “any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences” for Russia.

Furthermore, during his mysterious trip to Washington, Ben Wallace, the UK Secretary of State for Defense, described his talks with his American counterpart and senior White House officials as “beyond belief,” indicating that extremely sensitive and critical issues such as the withdrawal of Russian military forces and Putin’s possible use of unconventional warfare were discussed.

When Putin and Biden, as the leaders of two nuclear powers, threaten to utilize nuclear weapons, it seems likely that they are preparing the world’s population for the potential of nuclear war. Seventy-seven years after the first-ever nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the likelihood of this lethal weapon being used again has skyrocketed. The military and intelligence agencies are also conducting computer simulations at nuclear facilities. These powers keep iterating that they have a variety of devastating methods for destroying each other, which is not a bluff.

To ensure its supremacy, the US used unconventional tactical warfare in Japan, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Along the same line, if push comes to shove and Russia loses more grounds, particularly Donbas and Crimea, Putin will use nuclear weapons to save himself and Russia. If Putin decides to use nuclear weapons, the West must accept defeat or risk a full-scale nuclear war when faced with “the only option of countermeasure.”

In the case of a nuclear confrontation between the two military superpowers, the West will have to decide whether victory against Russia is worth losing Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin. According to Sky News, Russia is capable of destroying significant cities in the West, such as London and Washington. Once fired, Russia’s nukes take around 20 minutes to hit London. Approximately 4,477 nuclear weapons are in Russia’s arsenal, according to estimates from Western intelligence agencies, notably the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (March 2022), whereas 5,943 nuclear warheads are in the hands of the Western coalition supporting Ukraine (with the US having 5428, the UK 225, and France 290 warheads). Additionally, on the TNT scale, each nuclear bomb has an explosive force of 300 to 800 kilotons.

To prepare the minds of the citizens of Western countries, movies have been made that demonstrate how a nuclear weapon equivalent to 300 kilotons of TNT can demolish Washington, London, or Paris. By making threats like this, Russia hopes to influence analysts and decision-makers to concentrate on the threat rather than assisting Ukraine. 

The West seeks victory or conditions that will force Putin to sit at the negotiating table and compensate for the damage done to Ukraine. NATO began its two-week-long military exercises over the skies of northwest Europe on October 17 in response to Russian naval mines and its 58 advanced nuclear submarines to ensure nuclear deterrence policy against Russia. This exercise included sixty aircraft from 14 countries, as well as underwater drones.

Additionally, on October 19, General Michael Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM, paid a visit to the USS West Virginia, a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine operating in the Red Sea, as NATO conducted nuclear exercises. This visit, which took place at an undisclosed location at sea level, is a rare move that emphasizes the importance of nuclear deterrence policy in a time of tension with Russia and China.

Nonetheless, a new cold war has begun, one that is fundamentally different from the Soviet-era cold war. Political threats replaced military threats to maintain peace at the time, whereas in the new cold war, which is actually a hot war, military threats have replaced political threats and nuclear war is not improbable.

In restive Iran-Iraq border area, support for the Antichrist holds strong

ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP via Getty Images

In restive Iran-Iraq border area, support for firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds strong

Al-Monitor traveled to Iraq’s impoverished southeast, known for drug smuggling and militia violence, to explore the continued support there for the Sadr movement. 

A giant mural bearing portraits of Shiite Muslim leaders including Muqtada al-Sadr (bottom R) is seen as an Iraqi pedestrian walks past a street in the southern city of Amara in Maysan province on June 17, 2008. – ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP via Getty Images

Shelly Kittleson

January 20, 2023

AMARA — Thin young men dart through the massive crowd, handing out photos of an iconic figure in Iraqi history to the men leaving Friday prayers at the central mosque in Iraq’s southeastern Maysan province.

Fewer than a dozen women entirely covered in black sit on the ground outside during the prayers. The overwhelming majority here are men, as is the case at a major football (soccer) competition that was held further south in Basra and in the halls of the central government in Baghdad to the north.

Maysan remains one of Iraq’s poorest provinces. These worshippers’ continued lack of economic means is clear, as is their wariness of outsiders

Young men who clearly have more control of the area than the few policemen around nevertheless welcomed Al-Monitor’s female correspondent. Some of those who attended the prayers agreed to discuss the situation in the province.

The photos distributed here among the crowd were of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Muhammad-Sadiq al-Sadr, assassinated in 1999, who was the widely revered father of Iraq’s powerful firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Many of the older men streaming out of the mosque sport scars and suffer disabilities from their years of fighting in the ranks of Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi against the “US occupation” in the post-2003 period.

Sadr seen as a kingmaker

Muqtada is still seen as a kingmaker of sorts in Iraq but has kept a lower profile since some of the worst violence in many years in the country started on Aug. 29 last year in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where his supporters had been conducting a month-long protest.

In June, Sadr ordered all 73 parliamentarians from his bloc, the largest at that time in parliament, to resign after months of political bickering left the country without a government for what was seen as a dangerously long period.

Dozens were killed in fighting in the Green Zone in late August that ensued after Sadr announced he was leaving politics “for good.”

The night between Aug. 29 and Aug. 30 was marked by RPGs, missiles and mortars fired in Baghdad amid what sounded and looked like war in the most heavily fortified part of the city. The firefight stopped only after an Aug. 30 press conference in which Sadr demanded his followers leave the Green Zone within 60 minutes or he would “wash his hands of them.”

The candidate for prime minister strongly opposed by Sadr at that time, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, was sworn in weeks later. Sudani had previously held several government positions in this southeastern province.

Multiple fighters answering to Sadr have been assassinated in suspicious circumstances over the past year in Maysan, which has gained a reputation in recent years for drug smuggling along its lengthy border with Iran as well as deadly tribal and militia disputes.

Tensions and conflict between Sadr’s supporters and those more closely linked to Iran have been frequent for years. The situation escalated sharply amid massive 2019 protests across central and southern Iraq that brought down the government at that time.

Many of the initial protesters in 2019 — and those killed — were from Baghdad’s impoverished northeastern district known as Sadr City, named after Muqtada’s father and another wellspring of support for his son. Many people from Maysan have migrated to this area in recent decades in search of work.

Residents pointed out to Al-Monitor heavily damaged and burned-out carcasses of headquarters of armed factions linked to the Sadr’s rivals in the political alliance known as the Coordination Framework, including one of Asaib Al al-Haq, in different areas of Maysan’s provincial capital, Amara.

The provincial headquarters of the Iran-linked armed factions were attacked after the 2019 protests began and have remained shut in the city since. However, many of their supporters remain in the city with some rumored to own multiple businesses in more affluent parts of the city.

The elder Sadr, whose face still adorns many billboards throughout Iraq over 20 years after his assassination, was known for defying President Saddam Hussein and using Friday prayers during the 1990s as a tool for networking and gathering strength to oppose the government. There are some indications that the younger Sadr, having announced his withdrawal repeatedly from politics but still one of the most powerful figures in Iraq, may seek to do the same, including here.

Despite relatively scant media attention, apart from occasional news of drug busts, the impoverished province of Maysan plays an outsized influence on what happens in the capital as well.

The current governor of the province, Ali Dawai Lazem, is closely linked to Sadr. He was mooted as a possible Sadr-backed candidate for the role of prime minister following the 2018 elections and has been in control of this southeastern province for over a decade. He took over the position from Sudani, who was then governor of Maysan in 2010.

When Sudani was sworn in as prime minister of Iraq in October of last year, his strongest backers were the Iran-linked Coordination Framework.

He had previously held a number of positions in Maysan, including mayor of Amara starting in 2004 and governor of Maysan between 2009 and 2010.

Sadrist alliances received the largest number of votes in Iraq’s last two elections, in May 2018 and in October 2021. Both times, however, the prime minister eventually sworn in was not the choice of the Sadrist movement.

Concerns have risen in recent months about the cross-border movement of funds, weapons and drugs in Maysan, with some alleging that Sadr’s rivals — Iran-linked armed factions and political parties linked to them — play a part in these lucrative trades.

One of the black-turbaned supporters of Sadr who had been present during the Friday prayers but who asked that his name not be published railed against what he implied was involvement in the drug trade by some of those taking part in the government. He urged better border control, saying that jailing drug users is “useless” if the aim was to stop the movement into the country of drugs and weapons.

Sadr as a nationalist figure

Another man at the mosque claimed those in the Sadrist movement are “all willing to sacrifice themselves” for Sadr and the greater good, as symbolized by white “shrouds” often worn across the shoulders of those attending communal prayers as well as by Sadrist parliamentarians prior to resigning from parliament last year.

One of the most frequent criticisms of the Sadrist movement is that its followers resemble a cult, though the fact that his supporters mostly tend to follow his orders unquestioningly has at times been seen as serving a useful purpose, such as when he was able to halt the fighting in August of last year.

Al-Monitor also spoke to a former unit commander of Jaish al-Mahdi who said that he had been fighting under Sadr since 2004: initially against the “US occupation forces” and later in the ranks of Saraya al-Salam against the Islamic State.

He claimed that the main difference between fighters answering to Sadr and those of armed groups close to political parties within the Coordination Framework is that “other groups work on behalf of foreign countries,” while the Sadr movement instead works for “Iraqi sovereignty.”

“Those factions receive funding and those giving them the money want something in return,” he said, alluding to Iran as the country providing framework-linked factions with funding without directly mentioning it.

Sadr has long held a more nationalist stance than factions linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He has repeatedly over the years spoken out against Iraqi armed groups crossing into Syria and fighting on behalf of the Iran-led, cross-border “resistance” movement alongside the Syrian government and against armed opposition factions there.

On who holds the most power in Maysan, the former Jaish al-Mahdi unit commander pointed to neither the young men watching over the streets nor those with the most weapons as proof but instead at votes. 

“It’s clear, isn’t it? Look at the last elections,” he said. “The Sadrist movement. Of course.” 

Risk of Escalation to Doomsday ‘Is Real’: Revelation 8

Doomsday Clock 2020
The Doomsday Clock was first set to 100 seconds to midnight in 2020, the closest it has ever been. This year’s clock will be displayed on Tuesday. EVA HAMBACH/Getty

Doomsday Clock Co-Chair: Risk of Escalation to Nuclear War ‘Is Real’

By Pandora Dewan On 1/23/23 at 8:50 AM EST

How long do we have before humanity destroys itself? We will soon find out, as scientists from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are set to unveil the 2023 Doomsday Clock on Tuesday.

The Doomsday Clock is a visual representation of how close mankind is to self-annihilation, where midnight represents the eruption of a total global catastrophe. The clock is updated every year by members of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board to reflect whether the events of the past 12 months have pushed humanity closer or further away from destruction.

Since 2020, the Doomsday Clock has sat at 100 seconds to midnight—the closest it has ever been. But there is speculation that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin‘s persistent threats of nuclear war over the past year, may have pushed us even closer to midnight.

What to Expect From This Year’s Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock was last set on January 20, 2022, shortly before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “This year, the war in Ukraine was front and center in our deliberations,” Sharon Squassoni, co-chair of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, told Newsweek.

“The risk of escalation from a conventional war to use of nuclear weapons is real. No one knows if Putin sees military or strategic advantages in actual use of nuclear weapons, as opposed to threatening to use them for coercive purposes,” Squassoni said.

Tuesday’s announcement will be the first update since the invasion. “The war in Ukraine and Putin’s repeated reference or allusions to nuclear weapons have brought home for many that we are just one poor decision, accident, misjudgment or reckless leader away from disaster,” said Tara Drozdenko, director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is not involved in the setting of the clock.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an active war on NATO‘s border increase the risk of a nuclear disaster,” Drozdenko said.

While Putin’s repeated nuclear threats have certainly grabbed the most headlines, other countries have continued to build and update their nuclear arsenals. “The United States is currently on track to spend over $1 trillion over 30 years replacing every weapon in the nuclear arsenal,” Drozdenko said. “U.S. spending on nuclear weapons is actually contributing to a renewed nuclear arms race…. Meanwhile, arms control efforts have stalled.”

In November 2022, the U.S. and Russia were to meet to discuss details of resuming nuclear weapons inspections, as laid out in the New START treaty, which had been paused because of pandemic travel restrictions. However, on the eve of the event, the Russian government postponed the meeting until further notice.

“Each year, we consider how well we are able to control the technology we have deployed and mitigate its consequences, both relative to the previous year and roughly in historical context,” Squassoni said.

She continued: “Nuclear weapons have the power to quickly extinguish human life. Climate change has a much longer fuse for us. We also assess developments in the areas of biosecurity and a range of disruptive technologies that may factor into existential risk.”

President Putin speaking during State Council meeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a State Council Meeting in December 2022. Putin has made nuclear threats in connection with the war in Ukraine.Contributor/Getty

The New START nuclear arms treaty is the last remaining arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia and is set to expire in 2026. “As long as countries continue to rely on nuclear weapons as the basis for their security policies, we remain at risk,” Drozdenko said.

Squassoni said that, against this backdrop, this year had been different for the members of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board. “We met more frequently and began discussions of the implications of the war in Ukraine very early after it began. Those implications are far-ranging, from specific impacts on energy investments that affect climate change and U.S.-Russian inspections under the New START Treaty to more general effects on how countries collaborate on multilateral issues.

“A key concern is whether the so-called nuclear order will survive—the system of treaties and assurances, imperfect as they are, that keeps states from developing nuclear weapons and ultimately promises the elimination of all nuclear weapons.”

How Can We Turn Back the Clock?

Nuclear warfare is not the only hand-setting factor for the Doomsday Clock that the Bulletin considers. Squassoni said there had been some positive progress in the last year.

“We noted small gains in the climate area—for example, agreeing at the Sharm el-Sheikh negotiations [in Egypt] to set up a fund to aid poor and vulnerable countries suffering from climate impacts and increased investment in renewables—and small successes in the battle against disinformation, cyberattacks and space resilience,” she said.

In contrast to climate change and underground cyberthreats, nuclear warfare is a factor that can be more easily controlled.

“To reduce nuclear risk, the United States and Russia need to resume talking to one another under the auspices of New START and with an eye to negotiating a follow-on to that treaty,” Drozdenko said. “Competition between the United States and China is [also] increasing feelings of insecurity in Northeast Asia and precipitating a new nuclear arms race. We need policies and dialogue that aims to slow down and end that brewing arms race.”

Drozdenko detailed steps that the United States can take to reduce these tensions:

  1. End the president’s sole, unchecked authority to start a nuclear war and call on other countries to follow suit.
  2. Issue a policy that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. This will reduce the risk of a nuclear war due to miscalculation or misunderstanding
  3. Cancel unnecessary and unwanted new nuclear weapons and reduce spending on nuclear weapons.

Sean Meyer, co-founder and adviser for the Back from the Brink Coalition, a grassroots campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, said that individuals can make a difference.

“Across the globe and here in the United States, people and communities are speaking out and demanding that the United States, Russia and all of the nuclear weapons states take action to prevent nuclear war and achieve a world free of nuclear weapons,” Meyer said.

Drozdenko said, “We can let our elected officials know we are worried and that we want to see concrete action to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons. We can hold our government accountable to create policies that keep us safe by reducing the risk of nuclear war, and we can make clear that we don’t want to see our tax dollars wasted on more nuclear weapons.

“As long as countries continue to rely on nuclear weapons as the basis for their security policies, we remain at risk,” she said.

The 2023 Doomsday Clock will be displayed on Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. You can watch the announcement live on the Bulletin’s website or its Facebook page.

Do you have a tip on a science story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about the Doomsday Clock? Let us know via

Correction, 1/24/23, 4:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated to attribute a quote to Sharon Squassoni, rather than Tara Drozdenko.

South Korea’s Nuclear Weapon Development: Daniel 7

Robert Einhorn on South Korea’s Nuclear Weapon Development
An M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System from A Battery, 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Republic of Korea/United States Combined Division, fires an MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile into the East Sea, July 5, 2017.Credit: Sgt. Sinthia Rosario / 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Robert Einhorn on South Korea’s Nuclear Weapon Development

“If North Korea’s nuclear threat continues to grow, the answer is not for the United States to support a South Korean nuclear weapons program.”

Since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May 2022, South Korea has aimed to tackle North Korea’s nuclear programs by strengthening its military alliance with the United States. Denouncing his predecessor’s dovish overtures centered on dialogue on North Korea, Yoon vowed to enhance the country’s defense capabilities to ensure overwhelming superiority in a war scenario.

With the North’s resumption of testing various ballistic missile programs – including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) – South Korea and the U.S. have reinvigorated their joint military drills to effectively respond to the North’s nuclear and missile threats.

Under Seoul’s strong demand to scale up the military drills, Washington has also pledged to utilize the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including nuclear assets, under the U.S. extended deterrence to defend Seoul from any nuclear attacks. However, the U.S. extended deterrence appears to have failed to stem South Koreans’ desire to acquire their own nuclear weapons.

According to a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released in February 2022, 71 percent of the respondents supported the country obtaining nuclear weapons, regardless of their faith in the South Korea-U.S. alliance. When asked to choose between developing South Korea’s own nuclear weapons and redeploying U.S. nuclear weapons on South Korean soil, 67 percent supported the country’s own nuclear development, while only 4 percent supported the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons.

In other words, after three decades of implementing alternatively dovish and hawkish overtures towards North Korea, most South Koreans now believe possessing nuclear weapons is the most effective means to deter the North’s missile launches.

Proponents of the idea say it’s the only way to guarantee Seoul’s safety amid North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal; critics counter that it would gut the international non-proliferation regime and deal severe damage to South Korea’s international reputation.

The United States has already made clear that it does not support South Korea’s nuclear development due to its continued emphasis on the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) of the Korean Peninsula. Washington also is not considering redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula at this stage.

However, Yoon has not excluded the possibility of his country developing its own nuclear weapons, saying that this option can be considered as the North’s nuclear threat grows.

In this context, the possibility of South Korea going nuclear must be taken seriously – and the potential consequences carefully weighed.

For an in-depth look, The Diplomat’s Mitch Shin conducted an exclusive interview with Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow in the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and the Strobe Talbot Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

Einhorn previously served as a special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control in the U.S. Department of State, a position created by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009. Along with his initiatives focused on nonproliferation, he served as U.S. delegation head in negotiations with South Korea on a successor civil nuclear agreement.

What is the United States’ formal position on the idea of South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons? 

The United States has long opposed South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. That remains the U.S. position, although U.S. officials may be reluctant to state that position forcefully and publicly for fear of appearing to pressure a close ally on a matter affecting its vital interests.

The Biden administration recognizes the acute threat to South Korea’s security posed by the rapid growth of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities. But it believes the U.S.-South Korean alliance already provides a strong deterrent against North Korean aggression – a deterrent consisting of the allies’ combined conventional military capabilities (including South Korea’s powerful conventional forces) and the U.S. commitment to come to the defense of its ally using the full range of its capabilities, including nuclear weapons.

Washington believes that a decision by South Korea to acquire its own nuclear weapons could significantly increase tensions in Northeast Asia, lead other countries to acquire nuclear weapons, and weaken the U.S.-South Korea alliance, which would undermine deterrence against the North.

Is extended deterrence the best policy Washington can implement to defend South Korea from nuclear attacks? 

The Biden administration believes the best approach to addressing the North Korean threat is to rely on a combination of the allies’ formidable conventional military capabilities and the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent, which includes U.S. submarine-launched and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles as well as dual-capable fighter aircraft and strategic bombers that could be forward deployed in the region when needed.

If North Korea’s nuclear threat continues to grow, the answer is not for the United States to support a South Korean nuclear weapons program. It is to continue strengthening the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent.

To what extent can Washington bolster extended deterrence in response to allies’ concerns? 

President Biden and South Korean President Yoon have pledged to identify ways of reinforcing extended deterrence. The United States has agreed to increase the frequency and intensity of its rotational deployments to the region of U.S. strategic assets, to conduct high-profile demonstrations of U.S. commitment and resolve such as the participation of U.S. strategic bombers in joint air exercises, and to reactivate a high-level bilateral consultative group to address extended deterrence.

The South Koreans appreciate these steps but would like to see more, in terms of the forward presence of U.S. strategic assets and especially the role South Korea can play in formulating and implementing extended deterrence policies and in influencing crisis decision-making related to the possible use of nuclear weapons. The South Koreans will not get everything they want, but the U.S. government should be more flexible in giving its close ally a greater voice in matters affecting their vital interests.

How would a decision by South Korea to pursue its own nuclear weapons impact the ROK-U.S. alliance? And how would such a decision impact other U.S. alliances in the region, particularly with Japan?

South Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would not necessarily mean the end of the U.S.-Republic of Korea mutual defense treaty. But the nature of the alliance would fundamentally change. The U.S. nuclear umbrella – the commitment to defend South Korea with nuclear weapons if necessary – would either be gone or significantly qualified. The United States presumably could still station military personnel in South Korea, but U.S. support for those deployments could erode. Why, Americans might ask, should the United States bear the costs and risks of keeping troops in the South when Seoul claims to be able to defend itself and no longer has faith in U.S. commitments?

A South Korean decision to acquire nuclear weapons could affect other U.S. alliances in the region. Many experts assume, for example, that if South Korea became a nuclear-armed state, Japan would follow suit, which would fundamentally affect the nature of the U.S.-Japan alliance.Authors

Mitch Shin
Contributing Author

Mitch Shin

Mitch Shin is an assistant editor at The Diplomat and nonresident Korea Foundation fellow at Pacific Forum.

Iraq’s soccer team celebrates with the Antichrist after Gulf Cup victory

HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via Getty Images

Iraq’s soccer team celebrates with militia leaders after Gulf Cup victory

The team held up a photo of militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020.

HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via Getty Images

January 23, 2023

The Iraqi men’s football (soccer) team met with Iraqi militia, religious and political leaders Saturday and Sunday in celebration of their victory in the Gulf Cup. 

What happened: Iraq defeated Oman 3-2 in the Gulf Cup final Thursday in a thrilling match that went into overtime. The tournament was held in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. 

This was the first time Iraq had hosted the Gulf Cup since 1979, after which multiple wars and the Islamic State conflict eroded security in the country.

The victory prompted celebrations throughout Iraq. On Sunday, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units hosted the Iraqi team for a victory ceremony. The team presented PMU leader Falih al-Fayyadh with the Gulf Cup trophy at the ceremony, according to a PMU press release. 

Team captain Jalal Hassan held up a giant picture of the late PMU leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at the event. 

The PMU are largely Shiite Islamist militias that formed in 2014 to fight IS. Many are backed by Iran, though others are comprised of a variety of political, religious and ethnic groups. Muhandis was killed in the 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad that also killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. 

On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani hosted the team for an official ceremony in Baghdad, according to a press release from Sudani’s office.

The Iraqi team also met Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf Saturday and presented him with the Gulf Cup trophy, according to photos from Agence France-Presse.

Why it matters: The team’s meetings with the PMU and Sadr demonstrate the strong continuing influence of both in the country. Sadr’s bloc received the highest number of votes in the 2021 election, but the rival Coordination Framework, which includes PMU and other pro-Iran politicians, ultimately chose Sudani to be prime minister. Sudani took office last October following months of political deadlock and violent clashes in BaghdadAugust. 

The display of Muhandis’ picture at the PMU event is noteworthy. His death remains a major sore point between the United States and Iraq. The Iraqi government issued an arrest warrant for former US President Donald Trump in 2021 over the drone strike that killed Muhandis and Soleimani. 

Know more: The use of term “Arabian” Gulf Cup to promote the tournament caused anger in neighboring Iran. The Iranian government summoned the Iraqi ambassador in relation to the term’s usage. Iranians refer to the region as the Persian Gulf, but some Arabs prefer to call it the Arab Gulf. 

Sadr notably used the term “Arabian Gulf” in his tweet congratulating the team.