Monday, October 22, 2018

Nuclear Brinkmanship and the March Toward Nuclear War

Updated September 2019

Washington's accusations of violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty by Russian its subsequent withdrawal from the treaty are just another step in the world's march towards what appears to be an inevitable nuclear war. 

If we look back at a relatively little covered press briefing from March 1, 2018 by U.S. Department of State's spokesperson, Heather Nauert, we can get a sense of Washington's nuclear agenda in this exchange:

QUESTION: So you responded to the broadcast of an animation --

MS NAUERT: Correct.

QUESTION: -- which is, after all, a cartoon, but not to the substance, which is Russian claims of having new weapons systems that could threaten the United States. So can you respond to that?


QUESTION: For example, is it not the case that at least one of these weapon systems has been under development or was under development many decades ago and then went away and --

MS NAUERT: Okay. Let me start with that.


MS NAUERT: That is certainly a concern of ours. President Putin has confirmed what the United States Government has known for a long time, that Russia has denied prior to this: that Russia has been developing destabilizing weapon systems for more than a decade, in direct violation of its treaty obligations.

President Trump understands the threats facing America and our allies in this century and is determined to protect our homeland and preserve peace through strength. U.S. defense capabilities are and will remain second to none. We have a new defense budget that’s over $700 billion. We believe that our military will be stronger than ever. The President’s nuclear posture review addressed some of this. It made it clear that we’re moving forward to modernize our nuclear arsenal and ensure that our capabilities remain unmatched.

QUESTION: And which treaties is it violating?

MS NAUERT: Some of these that are not in – that they are not in compliance would be the INF treaties. That’s an area of particular concern to us. Since 2014, they’ve not been in compliance with that. They’ve been developing intermediate-range ground launch cruise missiles in direct violation of the INF treaty.

QUESTION: What are you going to do about that?

MS NAUERT: That is not for me to say what the United States is going to do about that. We continue to have conversations across the various agencies and departments in the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: Is there an indication that those weapons that they showed today are actually operational?

MS NAUERT: That’s not something I’m able to answer. Some of those would be intelligence matters, some of those would come out of the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: But I mean – so – but these weapons – like, you said that confirmed what we’ve long been known that he’s developing, but do you believe that they’ve actually developed them or they’re still in the development process?

MS NAUERT: Some of this is new information that we are seeing today. Some of this is information that we’ve been tracking for some time. Some of this information the United States Government will not be able to publicly provide to you, and that’s part of it today." (my bolds)

Here is the animation in question which appears to be targeting Florida:

Here is Ms. Nauert's press conference in its entirety (the aforementioned exchange can be found at the 9 minute mark):

In the interest of balance, let's look at some recent comments made by Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the Valdai Discussion Club meeting held in Sochi, Russia on October 15 to 18, 2018 regarding nuclear war and Russia's nuclear capabilities:

"Look, we live in a world where security relies on nuclear capability. Russia is one of the largest nuclear powers. You may be aware, I have said it publicly, we are improving our attack systems as an answer to the United States building its missile defence system. Some of these systems have already been fielded, and some will be put into service in the coming months. I am talking about the Avangard system. Clearly, we have overtaken all our, so to speak, partners and competitors in this sphere, and this fact is acknowledged by the experts. No one has a high-precision hypersonic weapon. Some plan to begin testing it in one or two years, while we have this high-tech modern weapon in service. So, we feel confident in this sense….

I was asked whether we were ready and whether I was ready to use the weapons we have, including weapons of mass destruction, to protect ourselves, to protect our interests. And that’s what I answered.

I will remind you of what I have said. I have said that our nuclear weapons doctrine does not provide for a pre-emptive strike. I would like to ask all of you and those who will later analyse and in one way or another interpret my every word here, to keep in mind that there is no provision for a pre-emptive strike in our nuclear weapons doctrine. Our concept is based on a reciprocal counter strike. There is no need to explain what this is to those who understand, as for those who do not, I would like to say it again: this means that we are prepared and will use nuclear weapons only when we know for certain that some potential aggressor is attacking Russia, our territory. I am not revealing a secret if I say that we have created a system which is being upgraded all the time as needed – a missile early warning radar system. This system monitors the globe, warning about the launch of any strategic missile at sea and identifying the area from which it was launched. Second, the system tracks the trajectory of a missile flight. Third, it locates a nuclear warhead drop zone.

Only when we know for certain – and this takes a few seconds to understand – that Russia is being attacked we will deliver a counter strike. This would be a reciprocal counter strike. Why do I say ‘counter’? Because we will counter missiles flying towards us by sending a missile in the direction of an aggressor. Of course, this amounts to a global catastrophe but I would like to repeat that we cannot be the initiators of such a catastrophe because we have no provision for a pre-emptive strike. Yes, it looks like we are sitting on our hands and waiting until someone uses nuclear weapons against us. Well, yes, this is what it is. But then any aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable and they will be annihilated. And we as the victims of an aggression, we as martyrs would go to paradise while they will simply perish because they won’t even have time to repent their sins." (my bolds)

Here is the entire question and answer session with President Putin:

While Mr. Putin is strongly vilified in the West, you must ask yourself one question; "When was the last time that you saw a Western leader sit for nearly two and a half hours answering questions?"

Let's close this posting with a brief look at our "nuclear world".  Here is a graphic showing the current distribution of nuclear weapons from the Arms Control Association:

Here is a graphic showing the world's current inventory of nuclear weapons:

Here is a table showing details of the U.S. nuclear capability:

Here is a table showing details of the Russian nuclear capability:

Despite the reduction in nuclear capabilities over the decades since the Cold War, both sides still have sufficient nuclear weapons to reduce the world to a Stone Age state.

The current American nuclear strategy would allow President Trump the unilateral option to launch up to 800 nuclear warheads in under ten minutes in a first-use strike against any other nation in the world.  House Resolution 4415 which was introduced in the House on November 15, 2017 by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9)  clearly states that it is U.S. policy not to use nuclear weapons first as shown here:

Unfortunately, since it was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs nearly a year ago, H.R. 4415 has made no progress.  After all, it flies right in the face of the wishes of the Congressional-supporting American defense industry which loves a profit-creating war.

Let's close with this screen capture from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists dated January 25, 2018:

As you can see, according to the Doomsday Clock, it has been 65 years since the world has been this close to a nuclear exchange in the eyes of experts in the field:

Given this quote from Donald Trump: can't help but be concerned that one wrong move by either Russia and the United States could create an end of the world scenario in this period of nuclear brinksmanship.

"In a nuclear war, all men are cremated equal."  Dexter Gordon


  1. It appears the Russians are "most interested" in self defense. One of the things we often forget is that many Americans don't really know very much about Russia or the Russian people and most of what they have been told has been filtered through a national security apparatus so entrenched in a cold war mindset they appear paranoid. It is clear the warmongering faction residing within Washington has declared Russia a major threat and sparked massive media coverage to convince us it is true.

    The myth of Russia's strength has been amplified by journalists seeking to routinely curry favor with government sources and others by falsely hyping the official point of view. The fact is Russia's economy is rather small and while over the years they produce and export a lot of weapons their military is not well funded. More on Russia today in the article below.

  2. "The fact is Russia's economy is rather small and while over the years they produce and export a lot of weapons their military is not well funded."

    Hitler taught the same. And Napoleon for that matter.

  3. This is a more general question: what does it mean "well funded"? It may mean "getting a lot of funds" or "getting enough". "Enough" has to take into account the selection of national goals, the means to achieve them and the cost basis.

    Concerning the costs, USD denominated economy of Russia halved when the oil prices collapsed, but in constant domestic prices the dent was small, and weapons are produced by Russian workers with inputs from Russia and some allied countries. Additionally, Russia has pretty tough approach to budget and arm producers have to think a lot how to keep the costs low, and generals have to think a lot how to tell meaningless specks from essential elements of performance.

    Finally, great powers "project power" from time to time, but the methods and costs differ a lot. By extrapolating how much it would costs USA to "stabilize Syria" and how much RF can afford, Obama projected that Russia will sink in Syrian quagmire. While RF did not go for spectacular (and expensive) "awe and shock", the results after several years surpass any American/Nato achievements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya etc.

    1. I do not wish to remain anonymous.

  4. While it is still unknown if Russians like "chocolate pudding" is is, or should be, well known that the leaders of the USA love it. In fact it is the principle constituent of the Washington swamp!
    It is also a mandatory part of every American's diet and the addition of aluminum to the recipe
    is beginning to cause quite serious problems in the younger members of the population.
    It is to be hoped that the international competition to gain superiority in developing ever more powerful ventilation fans will be halted. They can never improve on Natures cyclones or hurricanes.