Nuclear Escalation Not Needed

Iran has recently switched to using the euro instead of the dollar and major military contracting stocks such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are up in the past few days. The stocks are up because the stock market measures the value of future expected corporate profits, and there’s an expectation that these corporations will receive more weapons contracts with another war. Also, there’s a history of military confrontations involving the U.S. (see Libya) with detachments from U.S. financial interests.

Iran — like North Korea — has threatened to build nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a U.S. invasion. Now Saudi Arabia, backed by the U.S. in the devastation it’s causing Yemen, says it will build one if Iran will. But if the U.S. wouldn’t be a militaristic threat to Iran, Iran has no reason to have a nuclear weapon. And more nuclear weapons simply equates to more risks of widespread annihilation.

North Korea to Abandon Its Nuclear Weapons if the U.S. Promises Not to Invade

Nuclear weapons are the deterrent for North Korea against threats of invasion. Promising not to invade in light of that is such an obviously good and easy decision, but who wants to bet that that doesn’t happen soon?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agrees to formally end the Korean War and promises not to invade his country. This announcement comes after a historic meeting Friday between Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on the Korean Peninsula and around the world, the two leaders held hands and pledged to work for peace and replace the 1953 armistice with a formal peace treaty. They also joked with each other, with Kim Jong-un promising he wouldn’t wake up Moon Jae-in anymore with early-morning missile launches. On Sunday, North Korea’s state media said Kim had vowed to immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, and would dismantle one of its nuclear test sites.

U.S. to Spend Billions on Nuclear Bombs That are a Security Liability

Nuclear weapons — the ongoing existential threat to humanity.

The US is to spend billions of dollars upgrading 150 nuclear bombs positioned in Europe, although the weapons may be useless as a deterrent and a potentially catastrophic security liability, according to a new report by arms experts.

A third of the B61 bombs in Europe under joint US and Nato control are thought to be kept at Incirlik base in Turkey, 70 miles from the Syrian border, which has been the subject of serious concerns.

The threat to the base posed by Islamic State militants was considered serious enough in March 2016 to evacuate the families of military officers.

During a coup attempt four months later, Turkish authorities locked down the base and cut its electricity. The Turkish commanding officer at Incirlik was arrested for his alleged role in the plot.

A report on the future of the B61 bombs by arms control advocacy group the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) , made available to the Guardian, said the 2016 events show “just how quickly assumptions about the safety and security of US nuclear weapons stored abroad can change”.

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However, the NTI report argues they are also serious liabilities, because of the threat of terrorism or accident, and because they could become targets in the early stages of any conflict with Russia.

“Forward-deployed US nuclear weapons in Europe increase the risk of accidents, blunders, or catastrophic terrorism and invite pre-emption. Given these added risks, it is past time to revisit whether these forward-based weapons are essential for military deterrence and political reassurance,” the Obama administration energy secretary Ernest Moniz and the former Democratic senator Sam Nunn, both NTI co-chairmen, argue in the preface to the report.

Recent Nuclear Posture Review Increases Risk of Widespread Nuclear Annihilation

Nuclear weapons are more dangerous in this era than at quite arguably any other point in human history, but many people still remain unaware of this. There’s a lot that can and should be done to prevent nuclear disaster, including passing the Nuclear Sanity Act in the U.S., which would legally forbid a U.S. president from launching nuclear weapons without the approval of at least a few other cabinet officials.

When the Pentagon on Friday released its new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) (pdf), as Common Dreams reported, peace and disarmament groups in the U.S. and around the world expressed immediate alarm at the document and its implications.

“Who in their right mind thinks we should expand the list of scenarios in which we might launch nuclear weapons?” asked Peace Action in a statement. “Who let Dr. Strangelove write the Nuclear Posture Review?”

In a column for CNN—titled “Give Trump more nuclear weapons and more ways to use them? Not a good idea“—Tom Collina, policy director of the anti-nuclear Ploughshares Fund, noted a recent poll showing that 60 percent of Americans do not trust Trump with nuclear weapons and argued:

The public is right to distrust Trump with nuclear weapons, and we all need to speak up and oppose these new, dangerous policies. People don’t tend to think of nuclear war as a policy choice, but it is, just like health care or immigration.

The Trump administration’s policies are increasing the risk of nuclear war. Sure, you could build a bomb shelter and hide, but that does not lower the risk of war, and it is highly unlikely to save you. Instead, we need to prevent nuclear war in the first place by changing government policy.

Statement from Peace Action:

In response to the release of the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review scheduled for today, Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs at Peace Action, released the following statement:

“Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review runs diametrically counter to the longstanding international and bipartisan consensus that nuclear-armed nations should work to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

“Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to make nuclear weapons ‘more usable’? Who in their right mind thinks we should expand the list of scenarios in which we might launch nuclear weapons? Who let Dr. Strangelove write the Nuclear Posture Review?

“On top of increasing the likelihood of nuclear weapons use, the expansion of our nuclear arsenal called for in the Nuclear Posture Review would cost the American taxpayers an estimated $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation over the next three decades. With the Doomsday Clock now at 2 minutes to midnight, we’re essentially being asked to pay for our own increasingly likely destruction.”

Another news report statement, as the issue of nuclear weapons is tremendously important enough to warrant posting it:

The Trump administration has unveiled its new nuclear weapons strategy, which involves spending at least $1.2 trillion to upgrade the United States’ nuclear arsenal, including developing a new nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile. The Nuclear Posture Review calls for developing low-yield warheads, which critics say blur the lines between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, meaning they are more likely to be used. It also reportedly seeks to expand the number of scenarios under which the United States might consider the use of nuclear weapons, including in response to a major cyberattack. Trump’s nuclear policy has alarmed arms control experts around the globe and been openly criticized by Iran, Russia and China.

Thinktank: Risk of Cyberattack on Nuclear Weapons Systems Relatively High

Quite concerning, and all the more reason that the NSA and GCHQ should primarily be focused on defending the population instead of engaging in harmful mass surveillance.

US, British and other nuclear weapons systems are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to a new study by the international relations thinktank Chatham House.

The threat has received scant attention so far from those involved in nuclear military planning and the procurement of weapons, the report said.

It blames this partly on failure to keep up with fast-moving advances, lack of skilled staff and the slowness of institutional change.

“Nuclear weapons systems were developed before the advancement of computer technology and little consideration was given to potential cyber vulnerabilities. As a result, current nuclear strategy often overlooks the widespread use of digital technology in nuclear systems,” the authors of the study said.

Nuclear weapons systems are at threat from hostile states, criminal groups and terrorist organisations exploiting cyber vulnerabities.

“The likelihood of attempted cyber-attacks on nuclear weapons systems is relatively high and increasing from advanced persistent threats from states and non-state groups,” the report said.

It cited examples such as a report the US could have infiltrated the supply chain of North Korea’s missile system that contributed to a test failure in April last year. The silos of US nuclear-tipped Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles “are believed to be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks”.

The study also recorded illicit trafficking in Moldova and Georgia of radioactive and nuclear materials; a group in Belgium affiliated to Islamic State monitoring the movements of a nuclear scientist; and German-owned Patriot missiles reported to have been hacked in 2015.

The report, Cybersecurity of Nuclear Weapons Systems: Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences, was written by Beyza Unal, a research fellow at London-based Chatham House who previously worked on strategic analysis at Nato, and Patricia Lewis, research director of the international security department at Chatham House.

“There are a number of vulnerabilities and pathways through which a malicious actor may infiltrate a nuclear weapons system without a state’s knowledge,” the report said. “Human error, systems failures, design vulnerabilities and susceptibilities within the supply chain all represent common security issues in nuclear weapons systems.”

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“Many aspects of nuclear weapons development and systems management are privatised in the US and in the UK, potentially introducing a number of private-sector supply chain vulnerabilities.”

It added: “Presently, this is a relatively ungoverned space and these vulnerabilities could serve to undermine the overall integrity of national nuclear weapons systems. For example, the backdoors in software that companies often maintain to fix bugs and patch systems are targets for cyber-attacks once they are discovered and become known.”

Potential artificial intelligence (AI) applications, while creating new opportunities for cybersecurity, add another layer of complexity for nuclear weapons that could be exploited.

The authors criticise military failures to – so far – take the issue seriously. “Military procurement programmes tend not to pay adequate consideration to emerging cyber risks – particularly to the supply chain – regardless of the government regulations for protecting data against cyber attacks. This could be due to constantly lagging behind the fast-moving nature of cyber attacks, a lack of skilled personnel and the slow institutional and organisational implementation of changes.”

Reports: Pentagon Preparing for Potential War with North Korea & Developing New Nuclear Weapons

Accurate analysis requires calm. That being said, nuclear war must be noted as an existential threat to human survival, and there are various respected Cold War era analysts who say that these times presents a higher risk of nuclear war than the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock — measuring the likelihood of nuclear war and human annihilation — is at the closest to midnight that it’s ever been since 1953 for a reason.

The New York Times reports the Pentagon is quietly preparing for a potential war with North Korea, with the U.S. military launching a series of war games and exercises from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the skies above Nevada, to a planned deployment of even more special operations troops to the Korean Peninsula during the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month. The planning for a potential nuclear war comes as President Trump has repeatedly threatened to launch a nuclear strike against North Korea.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Pentagon is also planning to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons. The report is based on a new Defense Department nuclear strategy review, which says the proposed new nuclear weapons would be to counter Russia and China. Last week, The Guardian reported the Trump administration is planning to loosen the restrictions on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a nuclear warhead for U.S. Trident missiles. This all comes as Trump has proposed building up the United States’ nuclear arsenal and has reportedly asked, about nuclear weapons, “If we had them, why can’t we use them?”

Here’s the link to the referenced New York Times article. This is a reference to a previous report showing that the Trump regime is planning to loosen constraints on nuclear weapons. On what can be done to stop nuclear war, initial recommendations are to raise awareness of the threat, support organized efforts to reform the nuclear launch approval process, and significantly reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Trump Regime to Loosen Nuclear Weapons Constraints, Further Increasing the Likelihood of Nuclear War

Nuclear weapons are an existential threat to human survival, and so any policy that increases the risk of nuclear catastrophe must be denounced strongly. The human species is quite fortunate that there have thus far been no nuclear attacks outside of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both of which were more than horrible enough.

The Obama-Trump nuclear weapons program has significantly increased “killing power,” as revealed by an important study in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and that’s all the more worrying with Trump’s mental deterioration in the White House.

The Trump administration plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for US Trident missiles, according to a former official who has seen the most recent draft of a policy review.

Jon Wolfsthal, who was special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and nonproliferation, said the new nuclear posture review prepared by the Pentagon, envisages a modified version of the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles with only part of its normal warhead, with the intention of deterring Russia from using tactical warheads in a conflict in Eastern Europe.

The new nuclear policy is significantly more hawkish that the posture adopted by the Obama administration, which sought to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US defence.

Arms control advocates have voiced alarm at the new proposal to make smaller, more “usable” nuclear weapons, arguing it makes a nuclear war more likely, especially in view of what they see as Donald Trump’s volatility and readiness to brandish the US arsenal in showdowns with the nation’s adversaries.

The NPR also expands the circumstances in which the US might use its nuclear arsenal, to include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties, or was aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites.

The nuclear posture review (NPR), the first in eight years, is expected to be published after Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech at the end of January.

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Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, said that the development of new weapons in the US nuclear arsenal was “dangerous, Cold War thinking”.

“The United States already possesses a diverse array of nuclear capabilities, and there is no evidence that more usable weapons will strengthen deterrence of adversaries or compel them to make different choices about their arsenals,” Kimball wrote on the Arms Control Today website.

He also cautioned against moves to broaden the circumstances in which nuclear weapons would be used.

“The use of even a small number of these weapons would be catastrophic,” Kimball said. “Threatening nuclear attack to counter new kinds of ‘asymmetric’ threats is unnecessary, would increase the risk of nuclear weapons use, and would make it easier for other countries to justify excessive roles for nuclear weapons in their policies.”