Near New York City, New York
1884 08 10 19:07 UTC
Magnitude 5.5The History Of New York Earthquakes: Before The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)
This severe earthquake affected an area roughly extending along the Atlantic Coast from southern Maine to central Virginia and westward to Cleveland, Ohio. Chimneys were knocked down and walls were cracked in several States, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Many towns from Hartford, Connecticut, to West Chester,Pennsylvania.
Property damage was severe at Amityville and Jamaica, New York, where several chimneys were “overturned” and large cracks formed in walls. Two chimneys were thrown down and bricks were shaken from other chimneys at Stratford (Fairfield County), Conn.; water in the Housatonic River was agitated violently. At Bloomfield, N.J., and Chester, Pa., several chimneys were downed and crockery was broken. Chimneys also were damaged at Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Allentown, Easton, and Philadelphia, Pa. Three shocks occurred, the second of which was most violent. This earthquake also was reported felt in Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Several slight aftershocks were reported on August 11.
Day: May 5, 2023
We are close to another nuclear crisis: Revelation 16
US ‘Dangerously Close’ To Another Nuclear Missile Crisis; After Russia, China Could Respond To Deployment Of Nuke Subs To S.Korea
May 4, 2023
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was on a state visit to the US from April 25 for six days. The top agenda of the visit was ‘how to contain, control, and neutralize the North Korean nuclear threat.’
Since the beginning of 2023, North Korea has carried out about a dozen missile tests. Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator, has been categorical in condemning military exercises being carried out jointly by South Korean and US military and has threatened to retaliate.
South Korea and the US have regularly carried out military exercises. However, American and South Korean relations went downhill during Trump’s presidency.
The Biden regime corrected that aberration and the relations between Seoul and Washington DC have improved considerably. The recent joint military exercise, touted as
largest ever to date is testimony to that.
While acknowledging South Korean concerns, the US president was categorical in stating during a joint press conference at the White House: “Our mutual defense treaty is iron clad and includes our commitment to extend a deterrence, including the nuclear threat, the nuclear deterrent.”
The latest agreement between Seoul and Washington DC would imply regular deployment of strategic assets, namely US nuclear-armed submarines (SSBNs). The last visit of US nuclear ballistic submarines to South Korean waters was in 1980.
The visit of the South Korean President to the US is undoubtedly a high point in Seoul and Washington relations, especially given the exponential growth in the North Korean arsenal.
The South Korean President had a one-on-one meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who has made many trips to South Korea in the recent past to meet his counterpart.
Austin told the South Korean President, “I want to underscore, Mr. President, what I said in January this year. The US commitment to the defense of the (Republic of Korea) is ironclad, and so is our extended deterrence commitment to your country, which includes the full range of US defense capabilities, including conventional, nuclear, and missile defense capabilities.”
South Korean President acknowledged and expressed confidence about the extended deterrence capability.
Proposed US Nuclear Submarine Deployment
To protect South Korea from the North Korean nuclear threat, the US has announced that it will deploy SSBN in South Korean waters. The event is yet to take place.
But if the US goes ahead with the deployment of nuclear-armed submarines in proximity to South Korea, it might result in direct confrontation not only between the US and North Korea but also between the US and China.
The World should be prepared to witness a replay of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in the East China Sea because of the similarity of events slated to occur soon.
The seeds of the impending crisis have been sown due to the US’ recent unwanted and undesirable initiatives.
A look at the globe will indicate that US nuclear submarines, equipped with nuclear-warhead Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles, will also be able to strike mainland China.
However, if the SSBN deployment indeed does take place, it might, and will, be different from the Cuban Missile Crisis due to the following reasons:
a. In 1962, only two nuclear powers, the US and the USSR, challenged each other with a nuclear strike.
b. China, then, was not a nuclear power. China exploded its first nuclear device on October 8, 1964.
c. In 2023, there are nearly a dozen nations in possession of nukes.
d. China is a formidable economic and nuclear power now.
e. In 1962, the USSR’s decision to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba forced the US to retaliate. Then, the USSR was the initiator. The US was the affected party.
f. In 2023, China will be the affected party, and the USA will be the initiator if the US does not back off from its decision to deploy SSBNs near South Korea.
g. In the event of an escalation, the US will have to face nukes from China and North Korea but also (maybe) from Russia.
The key issue, which might rather lead to a similar situation as the Cuban Missile Crisis, is the US announcement to deploy nuclear weapons capable submarines near South Korea.
Such a deployment aims to protect South Korea from any North Korean military or nuclear misadventure. However, a closer look at the probable region of deployment of nuclear submarines will indicate that the US will be able to threaten the underbelly of China exactly in the same manner as the Soviet missiles threatened the US underbelly. China will almost certainly react or retaliate in the way deemed fit.
Should that happen, will diplomacy succeed yet again and prevent a nuclear holocaust? Global grouping in 2023 is vastly different from what prevailed in 1962.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the last SSBN from the US visited South Korea in 1980 and was believed to have sailed close to Kanghwa Bay, West of Inchon. SSBNs will have the freedom to deploy unchallenged anywhere in the Sea of Japan, East of South Korea, and the Yellow Sea region, West of South Korea.
SSBNs are extremely difficult to track. China, Russia, or North Korea cannot track and confirm the presence of US Navy SSBNs. If deployed in the abovementioned areas, the SSBN will threaten North Korea, China, and Russia.
Beijing has already reacted by describing the planned deployment of SSBNs by the US as a bid to promote the latter’s selfish geopolitical interests.
The US expansion of the nuclear umbrella has been termed an irresponsible action and a threat to world peace. The Chinese spokesperson said, “The United States has put regional security at risk and intentionally used the (Korean) peninsula issue as an excuse to create tensions.
What the US does is full of Cold War thinking, provoking bloc confrontation, undermining the nuclear non-proliferation system, damaging the strategic interests of other countries, exacerbating tensions on the Korean peninsula, undermining regional peace and stability, and running counter to the goal of the de-nuclearisation of the peninsula.
Although the US has clarified that no nuclear asset of the US will be permanently stationed in South Korea, however SSBNs, nuclear-capable bombers, and aircraft carriers will visit South Korea regularly.
Incidentally, the US decision to deploy Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea in 2016 was vehemently opposed by China because China viewed it as a threat to its national security. China retaliated by imposing economic sanctions against South Korea.
The recently concluded AUKUS treaty has already raised hostility between China and the US. The decision to deploy SSBNs capable of carrying up to 20 MIRVed ballistic missiles in close proximity has invited extremely adverse reactions from China.
The Russian reaction has been similar. Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said, “The development is destabilizing in nature and will have serious negative consequences for regional security impacting global stability. The United States and NATO’s drive for decisive military superiority would bring nothing but escalating tensions and could provoke an arms race”.
What Was the Cuban Missile Crisis Of 1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis is often incorrectly quoted as a moral US victory over the USSR. The genesis of the most dangerous and volatile event after World War II was the deployment of nuclear-tipped missiles by the then USSR in Cuba, enabling it to hit the underbelly of the US. The World came close to witnessing the nuclear exchange between the two superpowers: the US and the USSR.
US President John F. Kennedy’s advisors had asked him to exercise the nuclear option, but Kennedy declined. But for deft diplomacy and dialogue between Kennedy and the USSR’s leader Nikita Khrushchev, a nuclear war was imminent.
The US and the USSR decided to adopt the route of peaceful negotiations. The USSR agreed to remove nuclear-tipped missiles from Cuba. In return, the US removed Jupiter missiles from Turkey.
The uneasy peace has continued since then, notwithstanding various treaties, namely, SALT, START I and II, and many more. That peace lasted till the Cold War ended with the disintegration of the USSR in 1991.
During the Cold War era, immediately following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US propounded various terms defining a nuclear exchange. Prominent among those were ‘Flexible Response,’ ‘Mutually Assured Destruction,’ and ‘Massive Retaliation.’
Similarly, while promising South Korea an assured nuclear umbrella to protect it from North Korean nukes, the US has coined a new term, ‘Extended Deterrence.’
Strategic Implications Of SSBN Deployment In South Korea
The USSR’s decision to deploy ground-based nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962 was accomplished near total secrecy. In contrast, the proposed decision of the US to deploy submarine-based nuclear missiles in South Korea is quite a different military option. It is a chalk-and-cheese comparison, although the weapon (nuclear missiles) remains the same.
The ground-based nuclear missile deployment was a stationary system, easily spotted and photographed by the USAF spy plane U-2. Indeed, the US did not learn of the USSR’s actions until deployment was nearly complete.
However, in the case of an SSBN deployment, the weapon platform is mobile at will and extremely difficult to track. Hence SSBN deployment, even though announced by the US, is a far more potent military option and poses a higher threat than the USSR missile deployment in Cuba.
It is quite likely that the US Navy SSBNs have been and are still prowling around in the South China Sea, Sea of Japan, or Yellow Sea. But that is done in secrecy. Washington’s declaration publicly announces deploying an SSBN in China’s backyard.
Will China accept it, or will China also deploy its nuclear submarine in the Pacific near the West coast of the US?
US Navy SSBNs
As of date, the US has 14 operational SSBNs. Eight SSBNs operate outside the naval establishment at Kitsap in Washington state on the Pacific Ocean. The remaining six SSBNs are based at Kings Bay, Georgia, on the Atlantic side.
When an SSBN moves out for operational duty, it is in direct contact with the White House. Only the Captain of the SSBN and the White House know where the SSBN is headed for.
On January 15, the US Navy SSBN Nevada, an Ohio class nuclear-powered submarine, which may have been carrying 20 Trident ballistic missiles, arrived at Guam. Was the US trying to send a message to China not to take any action in Taiwan Strait?
The US decision to deploy SSBNs in South Korea would almost certainly invite adverse reaction and possible retaliation from China, which Russia and North Korea will support.
Will it be in the form of a Chinese military assault on Taiwan? Will the US be ready for a nuclear exchange and risk devastation in mainland US merely to protect South Korea? Or will the US back off in 2023, like the USSR did by withdrawing nuclear missiles from Cuba in 1962? In 1962, diplomacy won. Will it succeed this time too?
If the US goes ahead with the intended deployment, it might benefit India by default because China would then be busy full-time with the US, South Korea, and Taiwan. Only India could convince the US to back off in the prevailing unstable global situation.
Will China seek India’s intervention to convince the US to back off? Or will India unilaterally act and convince the US to withdraw its decision? Notwithstanding these conjectures, India might still play an important role and convince China and the US to stop this brinkmanship.
- Gp Cpt TP Srivastava (Retd) is an ex-NDA who flew MiG-21 and 29. He is a qualified flying instructor. He commanded the MiG-21 squadron. He is a directing staff at DSSC Wellington and chief instructor at the College of Air Warfare. VIEWS PERSONAL
Save the Oil and the Wine: Revelation 6
Iran forces seize second oil tanker in six days
- May 3, 2023
A fast-attack craft of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy is seen during a joint exercise with the Chinese and Russian navies in the Gulf of Oman in March
Dubai – Iranian forces seized a Panama-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz early on Wednesday, the US Navy said, the second such incident in less than a week.
The tanker, Niovi, was sailing from Dubai towards Fujairah, another port in the United Arab Emirates, when it was stopped by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.
“A dozen IRGCN fast-attack craft swarmed the vessel in the middle of the strait,” said a statement from the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, referring to the Revolutionary Guard’s naval force.
“The IRGCN subsequently forced the oil tanker to reverse course and head toward Iranian territorial waters off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran,” it said.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported the seizure of the “violator” ship but did not specify the reason for the seizure.
The MarineTraffic tracking website last reported the tanker in the Gulf of Oman.
Six days ago, Iran’s navy seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, a nearby waterway also bordering the Arabian Peninsula and Iran.
The troubled but commercially vital Gulf waters, which carry at least a third of the world’s seaborne oil, have witnessed a spate of incidents since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
Iran has harassed or attacked 15 internationally flagged merchant vessels in the past two years, the US Navy said, calling its actions “contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability”.
“Iran’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters are unwarranted, irresponsible and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy,” it added.
The latest two incidents come after Tehran’s Western rivals toughened sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last week.
Iran later announced countermeasures, including financial sanctions and entry bans, targeting EU and UK individuals and entities for “imposing and exacerbating cruel sanctions”.
Tensions have escalated since 2018 when the US withdrew from the accord with major powers that froze Iran’s nuclear activities. Marathon efforts to relaunch the accord have stalled.
In July 2019, the Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the same waterway for allegedly ramming a fishing boat, and released it two months later.
In 2021, Iran released a South Korean oil tanker it had held for months amid a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul. Last May, Iran also seized two Greek oil tankers.
The Legacy of Zaporizhzhia: Revelation 8
Nuclear Power Plants Under Attack: The Legacy of Zaporizhzhia
ARMS CONTROL TODAY
By Scott Roecker
Almost six months after Russia began its military assault on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in March 2022, experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finally set off on their first visit to assess the situation at the site.
Ukraine’s beleaguered Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, under control of Russian forces for more than a year, is pictured in October from Prydniprovske in Dnipropetrovsk oblast. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)The trip had been painstakingly negotiated over the summer months, with approvals needed from Ukrainian and Russian government officials. Finally, with an agreement in place, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi and his team of 14 safety, security, and safeguards experts were on the way to the beleaguered plant. By September 1, they had made it to the final checkpoint, just a few hundred meters from their destination, but were blocked from entering the facility. With bombings in the vicinity, the team refused to back down and eventually was allowed to enter. It was an inauspicious start to one of the most important missions in recent IAEA history.
Russia’s attempt to take control of the Zaporizhzhia plant, located in the small city of Enerhodar, began on the night of March 3. Widely broadcast videos clearly show explosions all around the nuclear facility. The jarring footage immediately raised questions about what might happen if a missile were to hit a nuclear reactor, spent fuel pools, nearby dry spent-fuel storage areas, or backup generators that have been needed frequently because of the unreliable power grid. Nuclear power plant security quickly became a hot topic in the news media, even as the very concept of how best to protect nuclear plants was turned upside down.
Until that harrowing night, nuclear security experts and practitioners focused mainly on the threat to nuclear facilities posed by insiders or terrorist organizations, not state actors with invading armies. Given what the world has witnessed at Zaporizhzhia, a new approach is needed that focuses on increasing resiliency to keep plants operating safely while reducing the risk of catastrophic radiation release. That had not been a big priority in the past. Equally important is the need to strengthen international laws and norms to head off any similar attacks in the future.
In the lead-up to the war, few anticipated that Russia would go so far as to target Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, but it did not take long for Russia to make its intentions clear. On the first full day of fighting, Russian troops massed in neighboring Belarus poured over the Ukrainian border into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The site was overtaken quickly as Russian forces set up a defense around the four nuclear reactors located at the site, including infamous Unit No. 4, which exploded during a routine test on April 26, 1986, with devastating consequences.
In the hours and days after that catastrophic accident, contamination spread over a large swath of territory, including what is now called the “Red Forest,” where a particularly large amount of radioactive dust had fallen a few kilometers east of the reactor. Fast forward to 2022 when occupying Russian troops dug trenches in this same area to protect against a Ukrainian counterattack that never came. After 36 days of occupation, Russian war goals shifted, and the troops left abruptly but not before looting the facility. No one knows how the radiation exposure will impact these forces.
Over the course of the war, Russia also has targeted nuclear research centers in Kharkiv and most recently in Kyiv. These centers include research reactors and related laboratories that support efforts to use nuclear materials for peaceful purposes, such as medicine and science. Both of these facilities, as well as a third one in Crimea, previously had housed highly enriched uranium, which can be used to build nuclear weapons. This material was repatriated to Russia in 2012 as part of the effort to minimize weapons-useable nuclear material under the nuclear security summit process launched by U.S. President Barack Obama. It is unclear why Russia chose to target these facilities.
The Zaporizhzhia Difference
Russia’s actions have generated a great deal of discussion regarding the risks associated with nuclear facilities in a time of conflict, but in recent decades, there are numerous examples of nuclear installations that have been attacked or destroyed. The earliest example of this was when Israel bombed a French-made research reactor in Iraq on June 7, 1981.1 A similar action took place in the Syrian desert on September 5, 2007, when two jets launched from Israel with a mission to destroy a facility that likely included what was intended to be a nuclear reactor.2 In both examples, the reactors were under construction and had not started operations, meaning they did not have any nuclear material at the site and there were no IAEA safeguards in place.
Cyberattacks against nuclear facilities also are a growing concern, with countries using such tactics for a variety of objectives, from gathering data to causing physical damage to the facilities. In the case of the largest nuclear reactor in India, hackers associated with North Korea infiltrated its system to uncover information on how that particular reactor design operates.3
More famously, the Stuxnet computer virus was uploaded to computers operating centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment plant in the mid-2000s, causing the centrifuges to fail at a much higher rate than would be expected, much to the bafflement of the scientists at that facility. The Stuxnet attack, which was widely attributed to the United States and Israel, was even more implausible because the computers in question were not connected to the internet. It was an important reminder that so-called air-gapped digital systems that are disconnected from networks are still vulnerable to sophisticated attacks.
The situation unfolding in Ukraine, however, is quite different from the types of one-off attacks in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, none of which could have ended with a catastrophic radiation release. The Zaporizhzhia plant has been subjected to prolonged shelling near and, at times, directly at the facility, risking the possibility of a deadly release at any moment. The motives of the earlier attacks, whether aimed at stealing nuclear secrets or preventing weapons proliferation to new countries, were also different. At Zaporizhzhia, the attacks forced specialists from warring countries to work alongside each other to maintain operations throughout the conflict. To operate a reactor this way is less than ideal, to say the least.
Furthermore, the war in Ukraine is the first time military attacks have been launched on multiple nuclear facilities in a country that has a robust and mature nuclear power infrastructure. Although there are obvious strategic gains to be had by taking control of commercial power-producing facilities such as Zaporizhzhia, Russia also has taken aim at nuclear research facilities that hold little to no strategic importance. These brazen barrages increase the possibility of a significant nuclear incident that could change the course of nuclear power expansion around the world, similar to what was seen in the aftermath of previous nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and in 2011 at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. Those accidents dampened interest in nuclear power because countries were concerned about the safety of nuclear reactors.
Nuclear Security Implications
Today, the concept of nuclear security has been fundamentally upended. Before Zaporizhzhia, responsible states doing their best to protect their nuclear facilities would develop a threat assessment, known as a design basis threat, to identify the full range of realistic threat scenarios. These would include situations in which adversaries seeking to gain access to facilities might commit an act of sabotage or steal special nuclear material that could be used in a nuclear weapon. Based on the scenario, nuclear operators would create and evaluate the security systems against the threat. The possibility of a state actor, with an invading army, taking control of a nuclear facility would be considered a scenario beyond the threat assessment and not something against which the nuclear operator should prepare to defend.
Despite the limitations inherent in trying to protect a plant from being bombed or attacked by an army, nuclear operators still can take important steps to reduce the risk of radiological release in times of conflict or in other situations that might impede normal operations. Over the last several years, there has been an increase in crises impacting nuclear facilities, whether due to staffing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic or disruptions and threats related to climate change, including an increase in forest fires. There are lessons to be learned from all these events on how to reduce risk in times of crisis.
One lesson centers on the concept of resiliency.4 In the case of Zaporizhzhia, having adequate backup power options onsite and offsite has helped maintain essential cooling functions at the reactors and spent fuel ponds during times when the main power to the site was cut off. Without proper cooling, a reactor could melt down, as it did in the wake of the 2011 tsunami at Fukushima. The risk of radiation release is also a serious concern with the spent fuel ponds. Having sufficient options for backup power, as well as other key supplies, should be a mandatory requirement at all nuclear power plants worldwide.
Reducing the amount of spent fuel stored at nuclear facilities is another way to reduce risk. Once the fuel is removed from the reactor core, it must cool for a period of time before it can be shipped to an off-site location for long-term storage and disposition. Given the relatively limited options available for long-term storage, however, radioactive spent fuel too often is stored at reactor sites beyond the time required to cool it before transport to a more safe and secure location. Countries must prioritize the development of long-term repositories for nuclear materials to reduce the associated risks of radiation release. Until then, fuel should be transferred from pools to hardened, on-site facilities.
The IAEA Seven Pillars
In addition to and building from the two priorities outlined above, the IAEA has outlined what it calls seven “indispensable” pillars of nuclear safety and security for nuclear installations in response to the situation at Zaporizhzhia.5 The agency believes these pillars are essential for the safe operation of that facility and applicable to reactor operators facing other crises. They were issued the day after Zaporizhzhia came under attack and almost six months before the IAEA team of experts visited the site.
The pillars provide specific guidance on a range of topics, beginning with the foundational components for safe operation. These include the physical integrity of reactor facilities such as the reactor and spent fuel ponds and the safety and security systems. They expand from there to focus on the importance of the human element in the safe operation of a nuclear power plant, addressing the working conditions and the ability to maintain communications with regulators and relevant organizations.
The pillars clearly reflect concerns with the situation at the two nuclear sites when occupied by Russia. In the case of the employees at Chernobyl, one shift of nearly 300 employees was forced to remain at the site for more than three weeks.6 The conditions at Zaporizhzhia, where employees reportedly have been forced to operate under duress and intimidation, also do not meet this IAEA guidance.
The remaining pillars address resiliency and the importance of effective radiation monitoring systems and adequate emergency response measures. On the latter point, establishing a robust emergency response plan for nuclear facilities can prevent a bad incident from turning into something truly disastrous. The international community has stepped up here and sent supplies to Ukraine, which have been helpful in preventing a serious incident at nuclear power plants across the country.7
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), briefs journalists in Kyiv in January after his agency finalized the stationing of permanent IAEA missions at three Ukrainian nuclear power plants: Rivne, Chernobyl, and South Ukraine. (Photo by Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)To monitor the situation at nuclear sites in Ukraine with regard to these pillars, the IAEA has stationed a permanent presence at Zaporizhzhia since the initial site visit in September. This monitoring team initially included two experts focused on nuclear safety and security and has been expanded to four experts in recent months to cover additional topics, such as safeguards. This group provides much needed, unbiased information about what is taking place at the site. The experts also provide regular updates via the IAEA website. In early 2023, the IAEA deployed permanent missions to the other nuclear facilities in Ukraine: Khmelnytsky nuclear power plant, Rivne nuclear power plant, South Ukraine nuclear power plant, and Chernobyl. With these additional teams in place, the IAEA will have at least 11 nuclear safety and security experts in Ukraine at any given time.8
The international community should incorporate the concepts outlined in the seven pillars for nuclear facilities worldwide. As crises around nuclear sites have become a more frequent occurrence, the IAEA pillars are as applicable in those situations as they are in Ukraine today. Although the IAEA guidance is somewhat tailored for the situation in Ukraine, the pillars nevertheless provide a baseline on which countries could expand and strengthen a best practices regime for operating nuclear facilities in challenging conditions.
International Laws and Norms
Following Russia’s invasion, it is clear that the international legal and normative foundation also should be strengthened to head off potential future attacks on nuclear facilities. Existing international laws and norms regarding the protection of nuclear installations in times of conflict are outdated and incomplete. The 1949 Geneva Conventions state that “nuclear electrical generating stations…shall not be made the object of attack” unless they are providing electrical power in “regular, significant and direct support of military operations.” One lesson from Ukraine is that the legal framework for protecting nuclear facilities needs bolstering, as do international norms pertaining to such behavior.
There have been several initiatives over the years to do so. India and Pakistan signed a bilateral agreement in 1989 to recommit every year to forgo targeting nuclear installations in each other’s country and to provide an annual list of facilities that qualify for that agreement. The Pelindaba Treaty that created an African nuclear-weapon-free zone includes an explicit “prohibition of armed attack on nuclear installations.” These bilateral and regional approaches could be the starting point for a discussion on language for a stronger international norm.
The United States could lead on strengthening this norm by pledging not to attack other countries’ civilian nuclear facilities and encouraging other countries to do the same. Another possibility could be to establish a consensus that an attack on a civil nuclear facility is in no one’s interest and does not achieve any legitimate military goal.
There is an excellent opportunity for such an announcement at the upcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit in Hiroshima in May. Each member country (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) has operating nuclear power reactors and a vested interest in the continued safe operation of nuclear reactors worldwide. As is now well established, the negative consequences of nuclear accidents are felt around the world. The G7 nations can take the first step toward reinforcing these improved norms and then encourage other countries to join this pledge.
Absent these norms, the IAEA has been working tirelessly to establish a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Zaporizhzhia. What seems like a commonsense policy—in the words of the IAEA, “Don’t shoot at the facility, don’t shoot from the facility”—must be reinforced with verifiable legal mechanisms. Although many of the relevant governments and international organizations are focused on preventing the unthinkable from taking place at Zaporizhzhia, there is more work to be done now to stave off any other future conflict that could threaten nuclear reactors.
Nuclear Energy Implications
The jury is still out on what Russia’s actions in Ukraine will mean for nuclear energy in the future. Nuclear newcomers, as well as countries with more advanced nuclear energy capabilities, are taking note of Russia’s actions. The images of a military force using a nuclear reactor as a base of operations to launch attacks on nearby cities create another difficult complication for countries considering nuclear power.
A multi-layered confinement structure at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant seals off the debris of the plant’s fourth reactor that resulted from the disastrous 1986 nuclear accident. (Photo by Hennadii Minchenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)As like-minded states seek to roll back climate change and reach zero carbon emissions in the next few decades, nuclear power could play an important role in the overall mix of energy sources to achieve that goal. If a significant nuclear incident occurs at Zaporizhzhia or elsewhere in Ukraine or during the next conflict, it could have a major chilling effect on global interest in expanding nuclear energy. That was the reaction in the wake of other serious nuclear incidents, including Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island, which all led to unintended release of radioactive particles. As a result, the world turned away from nuclear power for a time in favor of other, less climate-friendly sources. Given the enormous challenges of climate change, another such disaster could have significant long-term impacts that go well beyond the specific environmental impacts from the nuclear incident itself.
Ironically, Russia had positioned itself as a global leader in nuclear energy in the last several decades and is providing nuclear reactors to several countries, including Egypt, Iran, and Turkey. The scenes of Russian forces firing weapons at Zaporizhzhia certainly will give some nations pause about continuing cooperation with Russia on nuclear power. Indeed, last May, Finland terminated its contract with Rosatom, Russia’s semiprivate, semiofficial agency responsible for nuclear reactor designs and manufacturing, for the purchase of one nuclear power reactor.
Fortunately for Finland and other countries considering nuclear power, there are options from which to choose. Given the events in Ukraine, it is more important than ever to implement a nuclear energy program that is safe, secure, and consistent with the nonproliferation norms that have been established over the last few decades. New types of small modular reactors that are currently in the design phase in Canada, France, Japan, and the United States should give countries more options and flexibility when considering nuclear power if they are deployed responsibly.
There is much work to be done to strengthen security around nuclear power plants in times of crisis. Although Russia’s actions in Ukraine pose the most immediate challenge, the world cannot wait until a resolution of that war to begin tackling this broader issue. For now, one can only hope that a nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine is avoided and that Enerhodar (“energy’s gift” in Ukrainian) remains the vision for nuclear energy in the future.
1. Joyce Battle and William Burr, “Israeli Attack on Iraq’s Osirak 1981: Setback or Impetus for Nuclear Weapons?” National Security Archive, June 7, 2021, https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iraq-nuclear-vault/2021-06-07/osirak-israels-strike-iraqs-nuclear-reactor-40-years-later.
2. “Israel Admits Striking Suspected Syrian Nuclear Reactor in 2007,” BBC, March 21, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43481803.
3. Prabhjote Gill, “Here’s Why North Korean Hackers Attacked India’s Nuclear Power Plant,” Business Insider India, November 13, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/news/heres-why-north-korean-hackers-attacked-indias-nuclear-power-plant/articleshow/72035492.
4. Geoffrey Chapman et al., “Nuclear Security in Times of Crisis,” Centre for Science and Security Studies, King’s College London, 2021, https://www.kcl.ac.uk/csss/assets/nuclear-security-in-times-of-crisis-handbook.pdf.
5. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “IAEA Director General Grossi’s Initiative to Travel to Ukraine,” March 23, 2022, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-director-general-grossis-initiative-to-travel-to-ukraine.
6. Reis Thebault, “After 600 Hours in Russian-Controlled Chernobyl Power Plant, Workers Get to Go Home,” The Washington Post, March 21, 2022.
7. “IAEA Delivers Radiation Monitoring Equipment to Ukraine,” Nuclear Engineering International, July 20, 2022, https://www.neimagazine.com/news/newsiaea-delivers-radiation-monitoring-equipment-to-ukraine-9861624.
8. IAEA, “Update 143 – IAEA Director General Statement on Situation in Ukraine,” January 26, 2023, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/update-143-iaea-director-general-statement-on-situation-in-ukraine.
Scott Roecker is the vice president for nuclear materials security at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
Russian Horn’s Nuclear Roulette: Daniel 7
Russian Nuclear Roulette
The Ukrainian war seems to be headed for a protracted duel that will devastate the country and put Europe to the testJosé Pardo de Santayana/IEEE
AP/RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE – Rocket launched from a missile system as part of a test of ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwest Russia.
This document is a copy of the original published by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies at the following link.
Nuclear weapons played a central role in the security strategy of both blocs during the Cold War. The war in Ukraine, which pits the two nuclear superpowers of the moment against each other, has brought this all back in full force.
With China, North Korea and Iran likewise threatening the non-proliferation system, there is a risk of a global nuclear arms race.
The Ukrainian war seems to be headed for a protracted duel that will devastate the country and put Europe to the test. Some analysts argue, either from the viewpoint that Russia will never use nuclear resources or because the inherent risk must be assumed, that an unmitigated defeat must be inflicted on Moscow.
Others consider that Russian nuclear blackmail is not a bluff, and that in any case the risk is unacceptable, fearing that the Kremlin will go to the last extreme rather than accept a humiliating defeat.
It is not easy to maintain the right balance between firmness and prudence, considering that President Putin has proven to be a dangerous enemy and seems determined not to accept unmitigated failure.
Nuclear weapons played a central role in the security strategy of both blocs during the Cold War. The threat was all but forgotten after the fall of the Berlin Wall, leaving behind what seemed to have been nothing more than a prolonged nightmare. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine, which pits the two nuclear superpowers of the moment against each other in what can increasingly be defined as a proxy war between Washington and Moscow1, has brought this all back in full force.
In late March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country intended to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, once again threatening the terrifying prospect of the use of these weapons in the ongoing war. There is a broad consensus that this armed conflict is the most dangerous nuclear confrontation since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
And the problem doesn’t end here. North Korea is more threatening than ever, Iran is very close to having an atomic weapon, and China could join the US and Russia as the third nuclear superpower in the next decade, triggering a global nuclear arms race.
To date, the availability of enough Russian nuclear warheads to destroy major cities in Europe and the US is what is deterring Western powers, led by Washington, from defeating Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine by imposing a punishment on the Kremlin commensurate with its audacity. The nuclear dimension is thereby modulating the allies’ gradual response in their support for Kiev, precisely to avoid a situation in which the Eurasian power might be tempted to make an irreversible decision.
When President Joe Biden was asked why his country had not taken a firmer stance against Russia shortly after the war began, he replied, “Because that would mean World War III”.
Thanks to its enormous nuclear arsenal (more than 1,500 warheads deployed on missiles, submarines and bombers capable of reaching US territory), theRussian Federation is currently – and for a short time – the only country in the world that can be defined as an existential threat to the US2.
Whether or not Russia will be able to use such a weapon in the context of the war in Ukraine is a matter of debate, and it also conditions the strategic response. This paper aims to introduce this debate and the arguments that underpin it, and examine its significance for European and global security.
If, during the Cold War, the US balanced its comparative disadvantage in Europe with the USSR in terms of conventional weapons through nuclear weapons, since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc in 1991 and, more specifically, since the Primakov doctrine of 1996, Russia has been applying the same formula, but in the opposite direction. Faced with enormous American superiority in terms of conventional weapons, Russia is turning to its nuclear arsenal to remain a relevant power3.
Since the Soviet collapse and as mutual trust has faded, the Kremlin has revised its strategic worldview on an ongoing basis, placing increasing importance on the nuclear dimension. Although Russia’s military doctrines in 2000, 2010 and 2015 contemplated the use of nuclear weapons, it was not until 2020 that the country first published a specific nuclear policy under the name Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence4.
This document specifies that Russia “regards nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence” and that Russia’s nuclear deterrence policy “is defensive in nature”, emphasising that Russia maintains forces that could “inflict unacceptable damage on a potential adversary… under any circumstances”5.
To this effect, Russian nuclear doctrine considers the use of nuclear weapons in the following cases:
- when it has received reliable information about a ballistic missile launch attacking the territory of the Russian Federation and/or its allies (launch on warning);
- in response to the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction by an adversary against the Russian Federation and/or its allies;
- in case of an enemy attack on critical governmental locations or military sites of the Russian Federation, which endangers the response of the nuclear forces, and
- against aggression aimed at the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons where the existence of the state is endangered.
The preventive use of nuclear weapons during conventional conflicts is thereby ruled out, but not that Moscow can threaten to escalate to nuclear use as a means of deterring a conflict that threatens the existence of the state6.
Russia has the nuclear triad – land, naval and air capabilities – inherited from the USSR, the components of which it is largely modernising. The process, still ongoing, began in 1998, receiving a major boost from 2008 onwards following the announcement of NATO enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia at the Bucharest summit and the subsequent Russian military intervention in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In December 2020, Putin reported that around 86% of Russia’s strategic nuclear force was composed of modern weapons, a figure he hoped to increase to 88% by 20217.
The 310 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with launch sites throughout the Russian Federation (figure 1) can deliver up to 1,189 warheads, of which only about 800 are deployed and available for use. Russia is replacing Soviet-era ICBM with new models, highlighting the importance of hypersonic glide vehicles, as announced by President Putin on 1 March 2018, whose combination of manoeuvrability and high speed poses significant challenges to conventional missile defence8.
The naval submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) force, key to retaining the capability to respond to enemy nuclear attack, is deployed with the Northern and Pacific fleets. By early 2020, it had a total of nine strategic submarines of three different types, with missiles on board capable of carrying 144 ballistic missiles and up to 656 nuclear warheads9. Older submarines are currently being replaced by Borei-class submarines equipped with Bulava missiles, of which the seventh out of a planned total of ten by 2027, Emperor Alexander III10, has just been delivered to the Russian navy.
Russia has an estimated 60 to 70 bombers capable of delivering up to 12 to 16 nuclear cruise missiles, deployed at two bases in the Russian Southeast and Far East.
The Russian Armed Forces also have a variety of so-called tactical systems that can deliver some 2,000 warheads at medium and short ranges.
The Russian nuclear threat and the Ukrainian war
The US has sufficient conventional military capability to destroy Russian military capabilities, both those deployed in Ukraine and those it maintains on its own territory. If it does not do so, it is out of fear of a nuclear response from Russia. To reinforce its deterrent effect, since the start of the war in Ukraine, President Putin has repeatedly threatened their use. Indeed, it is Russia’s relative weakness that makes the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in particular not only more likely but also strategically relevant.
Michael Kofman and Ana Loukianove Fink state that, according to their military thinking and put into practice in major exercises, “the Russian military does not believe that the limited use of nuclear weapons will necessarily lead to uncontrolled escalation, and that the calibrated use of conventional and nuclear capabilities is not only possible, but can have decisive deterrent effects”11. This gives special relevance to tactical nuclear weapons without which, given the overwhelming US conventional superiority and the sheer irrationality of using strategic nuclear weapons, Russia would have to forgo strategic engagement with the US.
Russia’s National Security Strategy of July 2021 considers indisputable Russia’s great power status “as a country capable of conducting an independent foreign and domestic policy and of effectively resisting attempts to exert external pressure”. Tactical nuclear weapons are the main backbone of this aspiration, widely shared by Russian elites, which is at the heart of President Putin’s foreign and security policy.
For the moment, what is clear is that the strategic-operational context of the Ukrainian war is being modulated by Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Washington measures its military support for Kiev incrementally, so that Ukrainian troops contain and even push back Russian troops but do not have the capability to strike deep into Russian territory, nor to inflict a defeat on Russian forces deployed in eastern Ukraine of a magnitude that would cause the Kremlin to face the dilemma of a possible tactical nuclear response.
The outcome is a protracted armed conflict that is degenerating into a war of attrition that threatens to devastate Ukraine and damage Europe, with the danger of serious fractures in the coalition. In a war of this kind, Russia maintains a significant advantage over Ukraine by virtue of its larger population and ability to mobilise its army.
Faced with what appears, at least for the moment, to be a stalemate, a strategic debate is taking place with two opposing positions, the arguments of which are well reflected in two articles in Foreign Affairs.
Sam Greene and Alina Polyakova advocate that “the message to Putin and his generals must be clear: there is no compromise solution available, no line of defence except Russia’s own border, and no limit to Western resolve”12.
In contrast Nina Tannenwald states that
“it is impossible to say definitively whether increased Western support for Ukraine will provoke a Russian nuclear response. Nobody really knows. The nuclear risks in this war are considerable, as NATO is becoming increasingly involved in Ukraine’s defence, while Russia appears less and less restrained. Deterrence could fail in multiple ways, either through intentional acts or miscalculations […]. Biden’s duty is to ensure that the war does not escalate into a nuclear conflict with Russia. No one wants Russian nuclear blackmail to succeed, for both moral and strategic reasons. But responsible Western leaders need to seriously weigh the likelihood of a calamitous event”13.
In the first case, the argument goes like this:
“Putin can and will turn anything short of a complete military collapse into a victory for the domestic groups that keep him in power […]. the West must be clear that anything short of the full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will represent a catastrophic defeat for the US and its European allies […]. Revisionist powers such as China, Iran and Russia would soon start looking for holes in NATO’s nuclear umbrella […]. The Ukrainians themselves can potentially decide that they want to stop fighting […]. If that happens, Western governments should be prepared to support Kiev in negotiating an agreement that would guarantee the country’s security and put it on the road to NATO and EU membership […]. However, Western leaders and public opinion should be under no illusions about what would happen if a choice like this were imposed on Ukraine simply because Western public opinion has grown tired of a war they themselves are not even fighting […]. In a very short time, this would mean more war, not less war […]. One year into the war, two things are clear: First, the supply of increasingly powerful weapons has not led to unbridled Russian escalation; and second, relative Western restraint has not stopped Putin from shelling Ukrainian civilian targets”14.
In the opposite direction, Tannenwald states that
“Russian leaders have repeatedly warned of escalation if the West continues to arm Ukraine, but the argument goes that the Kremlin will not actually resort to nuclear weapons or break the taboo on their use. As a result, many observers, mostly outside the government, are dismissive of the risk of nuclear escalation […]. Critics of the West’s prudence label it “self-deterrence”, but it is in fact simply deterrence […]. During the Cold War, the West did not respond militarily when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Western leaders stayed away because of the unacceptable risk of nuclear escalation”15.
Tannenwald quotes Marsha Gessen to counter those who see Russia’s decision not to use nuclear weapons yet as proof that it never will, or that Putin is a rational actor and will not risk the calamity and pariah status that would follow any Russian use of such a weapon: “In the Russian president’s twisted worldview, the use of nuclear weapons could be justified as a rational course of action”16.
Given the very serious consequences of their use, the possibility of Russia resorting to atomic weapons is currently not an issue in the operational sphere, not because of sending one type of weapon or another to Ukraine, but because they will only be used as a last resort, depending on a possible Russian military debacle, the impact on the Kremlin’s own power system and the deep internal crisis this may trigger. Graham Allison argues that if Putin and his regime face what they perceive to be a humiliating defeat, it is highly likely that they could use nuclear weapons17. Michael Ignatief put it simply and clearly in an article in ABC: “If Ukraine wins, Russia loses, and if Russia loses, or fears it is about to lose, Putin may use his nuclear weapons. If he does, we are in an even darker world than the one we live in now”18.
A scenario that is potentially closer timewise and reasonably feasible in which the Kremlin might consider using atomic weapons (Figure 2) is a Ukrainian offensive reaching the Sea of Azov (1). This would result in the irretrievable loss of Crimea, which would be indefensible if it loses its land link with Russian Federation territory, given the extreme vulnerability of the Kerch Strait bridge (2). Putin’s decision in September 2022 to incorporate the four – largely occupied – Ukrainian provinces into the territory of the Russian Federation (Figure 3) would enable the use of atomic weapons to be justified in line with his nuclear doctrine.
At the moment, there are no answers to so many strategic dilemmas.
In order to be credible, deterrence in general and nuclear deterrence in particular need to be backed by a strong will to act. Likewise, one cannot respond to nuclear blackmail with major concessions because that would lead to strategic paralysis and systematically falling victim to subsequent threats, ceding the initiative and giving the challenging power even more dangerous power.
The degree to which threats of weapons of mass destruction use are ignored or considered mere bluffs weakens their strategic effect, but as successive red lines are crossed, the threshold of their use also moves dangerously close. It is not easy to have a clear idea of where the red lines are in Ukraine; one would have to penetrate the mind and psychological consistency of the Russian leadership, which has so far shown itself to be willing to go further than expected. It is therefore a duel of wills in a game of Blackjack where raising of the stakes having caused the unwanted response is discovered too late. Consequently, the response to intimidation of this type must be both firm and cautious.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that it is a coalition. The different states involved in the war vary in their willingness to take risks, depending on how the war might affect each of them and their capacity to respond. Berlin and London, for example, have different perspectives, with Germany having more at stake and being on the road to regaining European defence centrality, without a nuclear weapon.
If war escalates, either horizontally and vertically, it will impact unevenly on allies in the energy, economic, military and global geopolitical contexts. It could also be the case that some states push to cross certain red lines and the consequences end up being paid by others. An ill-measured response, whether too much or too little, could consequently weaken or even break the cohesion of the European and Western alliance.
Some believe, and rightly so, that highlighting the dangers arising from the nuclear dimension of the war in Ukraine is inappropriate because it might create doubts among less committed allies. This may certainly be so, but to ignore this reality is to adopt the attitude of a lamb meekly accepting its sacrifice when we are actually talking about an existential danger!
Non-proliferation is a problem from every angle
After the Cold War, the US focused on maintaining its existing nuclear arsenal and modernising platforms to provide a deterrent capability against Russia, and on developing missile defences focused on dealing with North Korea and a possible Iranian threat, not on countering Russia or China19.
Today it is clear that neither international condemnation nor sanctions have succeeded in preventing North Korea, whose ballistic missile tests reached their very peak in 2022, from becoming the ninth nuclear power on the planet, from having a second-strike capability and from intensifying its destabilising posture. Iran too, which already has 84% enriched uranium, is getting closer and closer to being able to build an atomic bomb despite the sanctions. With the realm of nuclear proliferation sufficiently diminished, and following years of Washington and Moscow’s deconstruction of the last remnants of the Cold War system of disarmament agreements, Vladimir Putin has raised the alarm even further with the announcement that Russia is “temporarily suspending” its adherence to the New Start or Start III agreement20.
What is happening in China, which until recently kept a relatively small nuclear force, is even more worrying. Washington was largely unaware of the prospects for a rapid expansion of China’s nuclear forces, and has recently acknowledged that Beijing has probably surpassed it in the number of nuclear-capable ICBM ground-based launchers.
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“China’s missile force already exceeds the ability of US missile defences to intercept ICBMs aimed at the US mainland. In addition, according to unclassified estimates, China has the capability to simultaneously strike counter-value (US cities) and counter-force (US first-strike nuclear capability)”21.
China’s stockpile of nuclear warheads is expected to triple to 1,000 by 2030. Along with the construction of silos, it has developed a new ICBM capable of being armed with up to ten nuclear warheads with hypersonic launchers, which will allow the Chinese military to further expand its land-based arsenal to 3,000 warheads. Beijing has also been modernising its submarine-launched ballistic missile force and its long-range bomber fleet with a view to having a robust triad. This will put the Asian giant on a par with the current nuclear superpowers, Russia and the US. It seems unlikely that Beijing will stop this process, given President Xi Jinping’s refusal to engage in arms control talks22.
“It is difficult to overstate the importance of this Chinese effort. By developing such a nuclear arsenal, China is upsetting the bipolar nuclear system […]. By approaching parity with the two existing great nuclear powers, China heralds a paradigm shift to something far less stable with a greater risk of a nuclear arms race and greater incentives for states to resort to nuclear weapons in a crisis. […]. In a tripolar system, it is simply impossible for each state to maintain nuclear parity with the combined arsenals of its two rivals”23.
“The effectiveness of the US nuclear umbrella, or extended deterrence, could be called into question. This extended deterrence means safeguarding allied nations from the threat of nuclear retaliation. NATO and treaty allies such as South Korea and Japan are therefore included in the nuclear deterrent. Having a robust first-strike capability against the US raises questions such as would Washington risk nuclear war and the loss of cities like Washington and New York to defend Estonia… or Taiwan?”24.
Sooner or later, the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal will not go unanswered in India. The question is, what will Pakistan do then? What’s more, will we see a nuclear South Korea or Japan, or new nuclear powers in the Middle East? “The 21st century could become the century of unbridled proliferation, with more than 15 nuclear weapon states”25.
By highlighting the decisive strategic impact of nuclear weapons, the Ukrainian war “is sending a message to the rest of the world: If you have nuclear weapons, never give them up. If you don’t have them, spare no effort to obtain them […]. President Putin’s repeated nuclear threats have undermined non-first use assurances and the traditional role of nuclear weapons as a last resort in case of national survival”26.
“There is also a growing danger that nuclear weapons could be used on the basis of misjudgements, false attack warnings or other miscalculations. With the help of rapidly changing technology, US adversaries, including non-state actors, could use cyber-attacks to disrupt nuclear weapons command and control and early warning systems – systems that can start the clock on a possible nuclear response, leaving governments only minutes to decide whether or not to proceed”27.
The strategic horizon is full of storm clouds
All the winds seem to be blowing in the opposite direction to global peace and stability, and the international system has increasingly fewer effective mechanisms to manage arms control, cooperative security and non-proliferation. In view of these alarming developments, finding new approaches to prevent the use of nuclear weapons has never been more urgent. The avenues available to reduce the atomic threat, strategies built up since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, continue to narrow28.
The prudence shown during that crisis holds lessons for today:
“When so many commentators in Russia and in the West are calling for a resolute victory for one side or the other in Ukraine, some Americans and Europeans assume that the use of nuclear weapons in the current crisis is completely ruled out and that the West can therefore safely corner the Kremlin, winning a comprehensive victory for Ukraine. But many people in Russia, especially around Putin and among his propagandists, defiantly say that ‘there would be no world without Russia’, meaning that Moscow should prefer nuclear Armageddon to defeat. If such voices had prevailed in 1962, we would all be dead by now”29.
Habermas reflects on the war process, concluding that
“what is important is the preventive nature of the talks, while preventing a long war from claiming even more lives, causing more destruction and ending up being faced with a desperate choice: to intervene actively in the conflict or to leave Ukraine to its fate to avoid trigger the first world war between nuclear-armed powers”30.
“As long as there is war in Ukraine, there is a real risk of nuclear escalation in the region. The most effective and lasting solution to reduce this risk would be a negotiated ceasefire”, something today still far from being able to be put into practice. Beyond Ukraine, the growing reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence by the states that possess them threatens the future of humanity. “A new global security paradigm is urgently needed”31.
The war in Ukraine has restored nuclear weapons to the strategic prominence they lost after the Cold War ended, both at European and global levels.
China, North Korea and Iran threaten the non-proliferation system, so there could soon be 15 nuclear states.
This powerful military capability is currently shaping the US and its allies’ response to Russia’s invasion of its Slavic neighbour.
Washington is calibrating military support for Kiev so that Russian forces are being pushed back but without risking their serious defeat, which could bring the Kremlin closer to the abyss of using atomic weapons.
This strategic design leads to a dead end and will tend to prolong the war, with huge penalties for Ukraine itself and serious risks for Europe.
The West is torn between two response strategies:
- Arguing that President Putin will never use nuclear power or that the risk must be assumed, some propose expelling Russian troops from the entire territory of Ukraine and imposing a Carthaginian defeat on Moscow.
- Others believe that Russian nuclear blackmail is not a bluff and that the risk is unaffordable, fearing that the Kremlin will go to the ultimate extreme rather than accept a humiliating defeat.
Not all allies view this serious dilemma from the same perspective, nor do they have the same willingness to take risks that can take on an existential nature.
It is not easy to maintain the right balance between firmness and prudence. What we do know is that the Russian leader is a dangerous enemy, he has already gone too far, and he does not seem willing to give in.
José Pardo de Santayana*
DEM Artillery Colonel IEEE Research Coordinator
1 LAMO DE ESPINOSA, E. «Tiempos de inflexión histórica. La invasión histórica y el declive del poder occidental». Panorama Estratégico IEEE 2023, p. 65. Marzo de 2023. Disponible en: La asociación estratégica chino-rusa sigue gozando de buena salud (ieee.es)
Nota: todos los enlaces están disponible a fecha de 11/4/2023.
2 KRISTENSEN, H. y KORDA, M. «Russian nuclear forces, 2019», Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
3 FRIAS SÁNCHEZ, C. «Perspectivas de la proliferación nuclear en Estados Unidos, Rusia y China», Cuaderno de Estrategia IEEE 205: La no proliferación y el control de armamentos nucleares en la encrucijada. Septiembre de 2020, p. 46. Disponible en: La no proliferación y el control de armamentos nucleares en la encrucijada (ieee.es)
4 CASTRO TORRES, J. I. «Un nuevo paso hacia una pesadilla nuclear en Europa», Documento de Análisis IEEE 27/2022. Disponible en: https://www.ieee.es/Galerias/fichero/docs_analisis/2022/DIEEEA27_2022_JOSCAS_Nuclear.pdf
5 Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: Doctrine, Forces and Modernization. Congressional Research Service. Abril de 2022. Disponible en: *R45861 (congress.gov)
7 KRISTENSEN, H. y KORDA, M., «Russian nuclear forces, 2020», Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
8 Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: Doctrine, Forces and Modernization. Congressional Research Service. Abril de 2022.
9 Strategic fleet – Russian strategic nuclear forces (russianforces.org)
10 FAULCONBRIDGE, Guy. «Putin to boost Russia’s nuclear forces after suspending arms treaty», Reuters. Febrero de 2023. Disponible en: Putin to boost Russia’s nuclear forces after suspending arms treaty – The Globe and Mail
11 KOFMA, M. y FINK, A. L. «Escalation Management and Nuclear Employment in Russian Military Strategy», War on the Rocks. 19 de septiembre de 2022. Disponible en: Escalation Management and Nuclear Employment in Russian Military Strategy – War on the Rocks
12 GREENE, S. y POLYAKOVA, A. «Russia Wants a Long War: The West Needs to Send Ukraine More Arms, More Quickly», Foreign Affairs. 16 de marzo de 2023.
13 TANNENWALD, N. «The Bomb in the Background: What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Nuclear Weapons», Foreign Affairs. 24 de febrero de 2023.
14 GREENE, S. y POLYAKOVA, A. Op. cit.
15 TANNENWALD, N. A. Op. cit.
17 ALLISON, G. Conferencia online en CDA Institute. Disponible en: Putin Can’t Survive a Humiliating Loss in Ukraine
– Graham Allison – YouTube
18 IGNATIEF, M. «¿Poner fin a la Guerra?», Tercera de ABC. 23 de febrero de 2023.
19 CARAFANO, J. «The future of the U.S.-China nuclear arms race», GIS. 21 de marzo de 2023. Disponible en: The Chinese-United States nuclear arms race takes off (gisreportsonline.com)
20 «Nuevas fuentes de inquietud», Informe Semanal de Política Exterior, n.º 1313. 27 de febrero de 2023.
21 CARAFANO, J. Op. cit.
22 KREPINEVICH, A. «The New Nuclear Age: How China’s Growing Arsenal Threatens Deterrence», Foreign Affairs. Mayo/junio de 2022.
24 CARAFANO, J. Op. cit.
25 ADAM, R. «Beyond Russia’s war against Ukraine», GIS. 13 de febrero de 2023. Disponible en: When stalemate ends, aftermath will be ugly in Russia-Ukraine war (gisreportsonline.com)
27 MONIZ, E. y NUMM, S. «Confronting the New Nuclear Peril», Foreign Affairs. 5 de abril de 2023.
29 RADCHENKO, S. y ZUBOK, V. «Blundering on the Brink: The Secret History and Unlearned Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis», Foreign Affairs. 3 de abril de 2023.
30 HABERMAS, J. «Negociaciones de paz ya», El País, Ideas n.º 406. 19 de febrero de 2023.
31 MONIZ, E. y NUMM, S. Op. cit.
Biden’s half-cognizant nuclear deterrence plan
Biden’s half-hearted nuclear deterrence plan
BY JOHN BOLTON, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR – 05/02/23 10:30 AM ET
Last week’s summit between President Biden and President Yoon Suk-yeol of the Republic of Korea (“ROK”) had a full agenda, but there is little doubt that Yoon’s top priority was the omnipresent, growing North Korean nuclear threat.
Unfortunately, the celebration of the ROK-U.S. alliance’s 70th anniversary produced a joint statement, the Washington Declaration, that fell far short of what was necessary.
The Declaration’s modest measures will not slow Pyongyang’s efforts to reunite the Peninsula under its control, so tensions in Northeast Asia will almost certainly continue rising.
Reflecting a growing fear that America’s nuclear “extended deterrence” is no longer reliable, either against the North or, importantly, China, South Korean public opinion has increasingly supported an independent nuclear program.
Biden’s response to Beijing’s and Pyongyang’s growing nuclear and ballistic-missile threats, embodied in the Declaration, will do little to alleviate these ROK concerns.
The most palpable new U.S. commitment to opposing North Korean belligerence is that our nuclear ballistic-missile submarines will, for the first time in 40 years, resume docking, occasionally, in South Korea. Anonymous U.S. officials also predicted there would be a “regular cadence” of visits by aircraft carriers, bombers and more.
Did the White House really believe Pyongyang’s leadership thought America’s nuclear arsenal was imaginary? Perhaps. It’s a strange leadership, with strange ideas, so parading the cold steel from time to time might have an effect, if not on China’s Xi Jinping, perhaps on North Korea’s Kim Jung Un.
Far more likely, however, is that neither Kim nor Xi doubt Washington has massive nuclear assets. Instead, ironically but tellingly, they, like South Korea’s citizens, think very little of today’s U.S. leadership, Republican or Democratic.
China and both Koreas perceive a lack of American resolve and willpower to act decisively when ROK and U.S. national interests are threatened. If so, the Washington Declaration’s rhetoric about the U.S. commitment to extended deterrence and strengthening bilateral military ties will be seen as words, and words alone. We are kidding ourselves to believe that having “boomers” pitch up in South Korean waters sporadically will have any deterrent effect.
By contrast, redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, effectively indefinitely, is several orders of magnitude more serious. First, these weapons would remain under sole American control, and immediately available to assist in defending deployed U.S. forces, and their Republic of Korea cohorts. “We go together” (or “katchi kapshida” in Korean) becomes much more than the combined forces’ long-standing slogan when backed by battlefield nuclear capabilities. That is far more palpable than submarine port calls.
Second, tactical nuclear deployments would give heft to the Washington Declaration’s creation of the Nuclear Coordination Group (“NCG”), charged with strengthening extended deterrence, discussing nuclear planning and managing North Korea’s proliferation threat. The new NCG would be far more than just another bureaucratic prop if it had real-world questions like optimizing the deterrent and defensive value of tangible nuclear assets. Lacking concrete responsibilities, how will the new NCG differ from the existing Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group, and others, which the Declaration says will be “strengthened”?
Third, while the issue of an independent ROK nuclear capability is politically and militarily separate from returning American tactical nuclear weapons to the Peninsula, renewed deployment would nonetheless buy valuable time for Seoul and Washington to evaluate fully the implications of South Korea becoming a nuclear-weapons state. The presence of American nuclear assets on the Peninsula neither precludes nor renders inevitable a separate ROK program, which has the further advantage of keeping Beijing and Pyongyang guessing.
Moreover, the implicit message weakening the Washington Declaration is that America’s antiproliferation efforts to stop Pyongyang from becoming a nuclear power have failed. Consider the proliferation aspect of the NCG’s mandate: it is to “manage” the North Korean threat. Not “defeat” that threat, not “eliminate” or “end” that threat, but merely “manage” it.
This is the language of bureaucrats, not statesmen, and it sounds suspiciously like giving up on working to prevent North Korea from becoming able to deliver nuclear payloads.
It is therefore appropriate to emphasize that those who opposed taking decisive steps against nuclear proliferators like North Korea and Iran long argued that we had ample time for negotiations. Accordingly, they said, efforts at regime change or pre-emptive military action were over-wrought, premature and unnecessary. Now that Pyongyang has detonated six nuclear devices, and Iran continues to progress toward its first, these same people say the rogue states are already nuclear powers, and we must hereafter rely on arms control and deterrence.
In other words, first it was too soon to take decisive action, and now it is too late. One might almost conclude that for all the posturing over the years that North Korean (or Iranian) nuclear weapons were “unacceptable,” that’s not really what many U.S. politicians and policymakers actually believed. They were prepared to accept American failure, but they knew it was impolitic to say it out loud in public. We are all now at greater risk because of this hypocrisy.
In the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East, where the menace of nuclear proliferation is all too real, others have refused to give up. In his first year in office, for example, Yoon has made improving ROK-Japan relations, badly damaged by his predecessor, a top priority. Better Tokyo-Seoul cooperation is critical to enhanced three-way efforts with Washington, and Yoon’s diplomacy with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is paying dividends. Kishida will visit South Korea, the first such visit in five years, just before the Hiroshima G-7 meeting, to which Yoon is invited.Think nationally, act locally: How to use data to close equity gapsSouth China Sea drills conceal a secret war to control the internet
It’s obviously easier for Kishida to sell U.S. deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the South than an independent ROK nuclear force, which would instantly raise in Tokyo the complex question of a comparable Japanese capability.
Biden’s half-hearted efforts to enhance U.S. national security should be a significant political vulnerability in the 2024 presidential campaign. It remains to be seen whether Republicans have the wit to make it an issue.
John Bolton was national security adviser to President Trump from 2018 to 2019, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and held senior State Department posts in 2001-2005 and 1985-1989. His most recent book is “The Room Where It Happened” (2020). He is the founder of John Bolton Super PAC, a political action committee supporting candidates who believe in a strong U.S. foreign policy.TAGS BIDEN FOREIGN POLICY CHINA JOE BIDEN NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR PROGRAM OF IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM OF NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR THREAT NUCLEAR WEAPONS PYONGYANG SOUTH KOREA UNITED STATES US-SOUTH KOREA RELATIONS YOON SUK-YEOL YOON SUK-YEOL
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Hamas targets Israeli civilians outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11
Hamas targets Israeli civilians with rockets, Israel launches counter-offensive
By The Shillong Times On May 3, 2023
Shillong, May 3: In the early hours of Wednesday, Israel launched airstrikes against the Hamas government in Gaza after the country’s armed forces claimed that “dozens of rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians,” the reports stated.
Armed factions in Gaza launched rocket attacks on Israel after a Palestinian prisoner who was on a hunger strike died there. This caused the situation to worsen.
According to reports, there were numerous airstrikes on various locations in the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli military acknowledged that they had “Hamas training camps” as their goal.
Official Twitter handle of Israel Defense Forces stated, “Dozens of rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians, leaving them running to bomb shelters. This has been the reality for many in Israel today.”
Israeli officials said the attacks were in response to strikes ‘throughout the day’ from Gaza.
Reports stated that people suffered injuries and that there had been around 35 missile launches in southern Israel.