The danger of nuclear weapons in the age of euclidean terrorism: the “giant elephant” elephant in the room?
The risk of nuclear weapons has come up for the first time in decades, as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces retreated in Ukraine, international allies expressed concern, and people fled partial deployment.
This is the time to call Putin’s bluff. He’s hanging on by his fingertips, and we must give him no chances to regain his hold. Russia’s forces are now so degraded that they are no match for NATO and we should now negotiate, with this in mind, from this position of strength.
From the moment these weapons were introduced, the world has lived with the perpetual threat of nuclear annihilation. Many people seem to forget that the giant elephant in the room is the danger from terrorism to Pandemics that has focused attention in recent years.
These warheads are fitted to Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) which can travel thousands of miles and are aimed at key sites and cities in the US, UK, France and Russia.
Tactical nuclear weapons meanwhile are much smaller warheads with a yield, or explosive power, of up to 100 kilotons of dynamite – rather than roughly 1,000 kilotons for strategic warheads.
Though blowing up these power stations would not create a nuclear explosion similar to a weapon detonation, it could spread radioactive debris and contaminate local water supplies.
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It is difficult to say, but I assume that Russia’s strategic weapons and ICBMs are in good condition and always ready. Russia has a strategic nuclear weapons which give it parity with the US and NATO, so I expect them to be looked after.
But this is likely not the case for the tactical weapons. The warheads and missiles are probably in reasonable condition but the vehicles they are mounted on are, I believe and have on good authority, in poor condition. Judging by the state of the rest of the Russian Army equipment on show in Ukraine, this is a fair assumption.
It’s likely that these weapons would need to travel hundreds of miles to get to a position in which they could attack Ukraine, because their range is just 500 kilometers. But from a mechanical perspective it’s unlikely, in my opinion, that they would get that far.
Also, it is likely these weapons rely on microprocessors and other high-tech components which are in very short supply in Russia – given international sanctions and the heavy use of precision guide missiles by Russia, which also use these parts.
This move is about attacking civilians rather than opposition forces. Some attacks on hospitals, schools and hazardous infrastructure are related to this. If these are attacked they can become weapons of mass destruction.
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Russian President Putin did not indicate how the fighting would end, or specify Russia’s ultimate goals, beyond protecting the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine from “genocide”.
Meteorological conditions at the moment indicate that all this contamination would also head west across Europe. NATO would be able to strike directly back at Russia if the attack were seen as an attack on NATO and triggered the NATO article 5, which allows it to hit back at Russia.
De Bretton-Gordon: The use of strategic nuclear weapons is extremely unlikely in my opinion. This is a war nobody can win, and at the moment it does not seem likely that this regional conflict in Europe would lead to a global nuclear war which could destroy the planet for many generations.
I’m pretty sure the checks and balances in the Kremlin are in place so we won’t get involved in nuclear war on a whim.
I hope the private discussions that the Biden and Putin administrations have apparently been having are related to NATO taking out tactical nukes and long range precision guided missiles. Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor to the White House, revealed this to the world over the weekend.
De Bretton-Gordon: I believe the Russians developed their unconventional warfare tactics in Syria. Russian forces entered Syria’s civil war in 2015, bolstering Assad’s regime. I do not believe Assad would still be in power had he not used chemical weapons.
The rebels were stopped from over running Damascus by a massive nerve agent attack. The four-year siege of the city ended with a series of chlorine attacks.
And it does not appear that Putin has any morals or scruples. Russia attacked hospitals and schools in Syria which it is repeating again in Ukraine. Putin appears to be willing to use any means to break civilians’ will to resist, and this is a goal of unconventional warfare.
Local commanders can use tactical nuclear weapons to stave off the loss of Russian territory as long as the Soviet doctrine is followed.
The chances of tactical use are high if the four districts are attacked, because of the attempted annexation. Though one still expects that local commanders would defer to Putin first before pressing their own equivalent of a red button.
Putin delivered his remarks days ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor. The assembled audience included uniformed soldiers the Kremlin said had come from the frontlines of Moscow’s special military operation.
The West would likely see an attack on a power station as a nuclear weapon and would act accordingly, even though one assumes that Putin would be involved.
James Murdoch was introduced to Biden at a Democratic party event in New York and he warned that if things keep going the way they are, there will be a use of a nuclear weapon.
The President speaks candidly and invoke Armageddon, particularly at a fundraiser, but his aides from the National Security council to the State department to the Pentagon say they take threats seriously and don’t see movement on them.
Biden said he knew a guy named Putin. “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly under-performing.”
The warning was not based on any new intel, but it was frightening words for a nation to hear from the commander in chief. Whether one lives in red or blue America, the threat posed by nuclear weapons is something that transcends partisan lines.
Officials have cautioned as recently as Thursday that the US has not detected preparations for a nuclear strike. The US needs to prepare for the possibility that Russia will stop interfering as Moscow annexes more Ukrainian territory.
The Secretary of State said that Russia’s decision was deeply unfortunate and irresponsible. The last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the two countries was accused by the Us of violating by Russia.
A senior official defended Biden’s comments because of the gravity of the matter.
At the second of two fund-raisers that he attended on Thursday evening, Mr. Biden told a crowd that Armageddon had not been faced since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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At the University, Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs. He is the author and editor of 24 books, including, “The Presidency of Donald J. Trump: A First Historical Assessment.” Follow him on Twitter @julianzelizer. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
Mr. Biden referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis twice in his comments at a Democratic fund-raiser in New York, which is evidence of what he is thinking. In that famous case — the closest the world came to a full nuclear exchange, 60 years ago this month — President John F. Kennedy struck a secret bargain with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, to remove American missiles from Turkey.
Fears of nuclear war then accelerated. Reagan’s bellicose rhetoric and a number of quick successions of Soviet leaders kept Americans on edge in the 1980s. When ABC broadcast the movie, “The Day After,” in 1983, which depicted a fictional war that escalates to nuclear Armageddon, millions of viewers were terrified. Reagan wrote in his diary that it was effective and left him depressed. A 16-year-old told a reporter that after watching the film he wondered if they would all die.
Although Reagan spent his first term railing against any negotiations with the Soviets, he later bucked conservative opposition to sign the historic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement (INF) in 1987. The emergence of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev changed international dynamics and his embrace of reform and peace opened the door to the treaty, which led to the elimination of entire classes of missiles.
Soviet aggression didn’t make things easier. Carter admitted that his opinion of the Russians had changed the most in the last week since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets. Carter had already signed the SALT II treaty in June 1979 after seven years of negotiations, but he asked the Senate to postpone action on it after the Soviet invasion. (While the treaty was never ratified by Congress, the US voluntarily observed the arms limits for several years.)
A massive, international nuclear freeze movement that emerged during the 1980s reflected the zeitgeist and created renewed pressure on elected officials to engage in negotiations again.
Signed in 2010, New Start came into force in 2011, and was extended till 2026. The number of strategic nukes that the US and Russia can deploy is capped. The two countries have a lot of deployable warheads.
Donald Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear agreement with Iran because it had increased its nuclear arms program. The United States also decided not to stay in the treaty. One year later, Trump did the same with the Open Skies Treaty, which had enabled participants to conduct surveillance flights to foster transparency and reduce the risk of war.
It was another indication of the era of formal when President Putin said at the end of his speech that he would be suspending Russia’s participation in the New START treaty.
As the world now faces the real possibility of those weapons being deployed, let’s remember Gorbachev’s wise words — a sentiment that was shared by Reagan – and make this world safer.
A disaster that could’ve killed tens of millions of Americans and many Soviets was averted with the deal that came to light later.
Putin spoke at a news conference. He implied that a nuclear strike could prevent a retaliation strike, since he described the strike as applied to the control points.
Putin acknowledged that the conflict is going to take a while, and that there is an increasing threat of nuclear war.
MOSCOW – Speaking to a joint session of the Russian parliament and Kremlin officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the war in Ukraine as an existential struggle against the West, while announcing he was suspending Russia’s participation in the last remaining arms control treaty with the U.S.
The treaty does not cover the tactical nuclear weapons the world fears most in conflicts such as the one in Ukraine, as well as the “battlefield nukes”, which Mr. Putin has said he will use against Ukrainian forces. The United States and Russia both have a few hundred.
This does not change the status quo very much. Nuclear inspections were suspended when inspectors on both sides couldn’t get into Russia or the US. Russian officials had reasons to deny inspection over the past year because travel restrictions had been lifted. Mr. Putin accused the United States of not meeting its inspection requirements.
Even before Mr. Putin dismissed the implementation of the treaty’s required inspections as “nonsense,” it was already in deep trouble. The State Department said last month that the Russians were not complying with their treaty obligations.
The secretary of state said that Mr. Putin could negotiate a new treaty that was in the security interests of Russia.
We will be watching closely to see what Russia does, and we will make sure we are posturing appropriately for the security of our country and our allies. The rest of the world expects us to act in a responsible manner, and I think it is important that we continue to do so.
A session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty was slated to meet in Egypt in late November but was abruptly called off. The US has blamed Russia for this postponement, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.
The Director of the Nuclear Information Project questioned if Russia will stop giving data to the US after Putin said the treaty was on life support.
“Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends,” Medvedev wrote in a Telegram post. “This should be obvious to anyone. Even to a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence.”
Mr. Putin’s announcement, he added, was “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.” He said the United States would not change its compliance with the treaty, no matter what Russia did.
If that attitude holds, whoever is in the Oval Office when the New Start Treaty ends will face a world that will look similar to the one of a half century ago, when armies were running around the world at full speed.
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He said he wasn’t about to allow inspectors to survey those facilities, because they could pass their findings on to the Ukrainians to launch further attacks. “This is a theater of the absurd,” he said. We know that the West plays a role in the attempts of the Kyiv regime to hit the bases.
The reasons are numerous. First, there is virtually no communication between the two countries. The “strategic stability talks” that Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin agreed upon in June 2021, at their only face-to-face meeting as presidents, were suspended after the invasion of Ukraine.
Putin asked those present to stand for a moment of silence, acknowledging that Russia had significant losses in the war. The Russian leader also promised a range of social support packages for families of the fallen.
There wasn’t any discussion of Russia’s significant setbacks on the battlefield or its failure to oust the elected government of Ukraine from the country in the early days of the war.
The U.S. and NATO want to see Russia’s strategic defeat. And then, as if nothing happened, they say they’re prepared to visit our military bases, including our newest,” said the Russian leader.
Biden’s address follows his surprise visit to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv Monday — a move seen in Moscow as both provocative and proof that, in Ukraine, Russia is fundamentally fighting a proxy war with the United States.
Putin has presented a number of grievances against the West in the past, including the claim that its values endanger the children of Russia. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarch Kirill, was seated front-row center in the hall.
The leader of Russia said that Russia was defending itself just as the Soviet Union did during World War II.
The speech in effect made good on a promise the Kremlin repeatedly delayed and canceled last year’s address amid bad news from the battlefield inUkraine.
Today’s address also kickstarts a series of connected and choreographed events: Russian lawmakers gather for an extraordinary session of both chambers of parliament Wednesday, when Putin will also address a mass rally at Moscow’s largest stadium.
It was precisely a year ago that the Russian leader called for the formal recognition of two pro-Russian separatist republics in eastern Ukraine — pronouncing international diplomatic efforts to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity and find a diplomatic solution to a simmering conflict in the Donbas “futile.”
The picture of Putin holding court across a hallway to talk to his closest advisors has become famous in Russia as a result of the televised session on the independence issue.