Russia Spreads Nukes Into Europe

REUTERS

“Crimea was turned into a military base … We even have information that there are now six nuclear warheads,” he said, LIGA.net reports.

Dzhemilev also noted that it is dangerous to deploy any military operations in the peninsula.

Experts stated earlier that the militarization of Crimea led to its high subsidization and decline in tourism.

UNIAN memo. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in March 2014 after its troops had occupied the peninsula. An illegal referendum was held for Crimeans to decide on accession to Russia. De-facto Crimean authorities reported that allegedly 96.77% of the Crimean population had voted for joining Russia.

On March 18, 2014, the so-called agreement on the accession of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Russia was signed in the Kremlin. The West did not recognize the annexation in response to which sanctions against Russia were introduced.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to designate February 20, 2014, as the official date when the temporary occupation of Crimea began.

Iran is Controlled by Esau (Genesis 28)


Iran’s presidential election next week presents a false choice to their restive people. There are two main candidates in the race, both of whom are rubber-stamped by the mullahs in Tehran. They are fighting over a very narrow sliver of turf. No matter who wins, count on Iran remaining viciously repressive, destabilizing to the region and ever-eager to attain nuclear weapons.

In a recent survey of Iranians in 15 provinces, by the International American Council on the Middle East and North Africa, 79 percent of those asked said they don’t believe the outcome of the election will make any difference in their lives. Faces change, but policies remain the same.

The vitality and diversity of the Iranian people’s politics is well-known. There are religious conservatives of course, but the streets teem with young people who hold secular, democratic views. There are savvy entrepreneurs, environmentalists and everything in between. Much of the body politic remains disaffected and disenfranchised by the unrealized economic gains that were promised after the end of nuclear sanctions with the rush of cash that filled Tehran’s coffers.

According to U.S. intelligence estimates and the analysis of Iranian opposition groups, the “nuclear accord dividend” has been siphoned off by the state’s instruments of violence and repression, including a huge budget increase to the brutal Iranian Revolutionary Guard, massive expenditures in ballistic missile development and ongoing interference in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the lot of the Iranian people remains dire as wages stagnate, needed investments in infrastructure are deferred and corruption runs rampant. These grievances have no real outlet and no real hope for redress. The greatest danger in a theocracy is that all state actions are sanctified by an authority for whom there is no higher appeal. Democracy is but a mirage under the theocracy.

Still, the Iranian people have no alternative but to boycott the elections and call for genuine regime change. There is a real Iranian opposition; they are jailed, hunted and murdered by the score, or otherwise pushed into exile. So, the mullahs have stacked the deck, offering their own alternative: current President Hassan Rouhani, who, of course, played a key role in suppressing a 1999 uprising of the people and bragged about lying to U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors.

His rival, the midlevel cleric Ebrahim Raisi is a close ally of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The other notable candidate, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who withdrew from the race in favor of Raisi, was a commander of the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps before becoming Tehran’s mayor.

The candidates are approved by the unelected watchdog body, the Guardian Council, as are all the candidates in the election. This includes a process that entails complete acceptance of the Supreme Leader’s ideology and policy “suggestions,” which explains why only six out of 1,636 candidates were allowed to run.

Given the sad reality that not much will change, no matter who is elected, what does the future look like?  Well, what is past is prologue. Rouhani, the “moderate” presided over a record number of state executions that far outpaced his predecessor, the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Raisi has been part of the judiciary of the regime since its establishment and has made a reputation for himself as a brutal personality. As a member of a “death commission” in 1988, he authorized the execution of 30,000 political prisoners — men, women and even children, mostly belonging to the main opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), as “enemies” of the state. There is little differentiation between the whip and the hand that holds it.

Today, the regime is more vulnerable than ever, from its internal divisions, its failure to wipe out all of my fellow dissidents in Iraq (who were successfully transferred to Europe) and the Trump administration’s vow to review its Iran policy. All of these developments point to an unprecedented opportunity for the opposition to play a significant role in wresting control from the Mullahs and reshaping the country’s future.

Regardless of when that would happen, millions of disgruntled Iranians may prove to be a force to be reckoned with for the regime in the near future and the true partners of the United States.

Soona Samsami is the Representative in the United States for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is dedicated to the establishment of a democratic, secular republic in Iran.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Iran Continues To Build Its Nuclear Program (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Furiously Building Nuclear Program Because Obama Treaty Protects Them From Scrutiny

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Daniel Coats, America’s top spymaster, informed Congress this week in an intelligence briefing that Iran’s ballistic missile work continues unimpeded and could be used by the Islamic Republic to launch a nuclear weapon, according to unclassified testimony.

Iran continues to make critical technological strides in its efforts to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons over great distances, efforts that violate international prohibitions, according to the director of national intelligence, who informed Congress this week that the Islamic Republic “would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The disclosure comes just days after Iranian leaders announced the upcoming launch of two new domestically produced satellites. Iran has long used its space program as cover for illicit missile work, as the know-how needed to launch such equipment can be applied to long-range ballistic missile technology.

Daniel Coats, America’s top spymaster, informed Congress this week in an intelligence briefing that Iran’s ballistic missile work continues unimpeded and could be used by the Islamic Republic to launch a nuclear weapon, according to unclassified testimony.

Turns out Obama’s “historic deal” was actually a cover for Iran to build nuclear weapons faster:

Iran’s ballistic missile work, particularly its focus on ICBMs, runs counter to United Nations resolutions barring such activity, though it remains unclear if the Trump administration plans to pursue new sanctions on Iran.

Iran continues to perform key research and development on nuclear missile capabilities despite the landmark nuclear agreement with Western powers, according to the last U.S. intelligence assessments.

“Iran is pursuing capabilities to meet its nuclear energy and technology goals and to give it the capability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so” Coats wrote in his written testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.

U.S. officials are unsure if Iran will build nuclear weapons, but it is likely this intention would dictate Tehran’s future adherence to the nuclear deal, which the administration of former President Barack Obama framed in such a way as to leave out the issue of ballistic missiles.

The reality of Obama’s Iranian Nuclear Deal:

The United States assesses that Iran remains about a year away from a functional nuclear missile if it decides to build one in violation of the nuclear deal.

Iranian military leaders claim their missile work is unrelated to the nuclear agreement and permissible under it. The country’s refusal to abandon this work has caused concern on Capitol Hill, as well as among U.S. national security insiders who view the work as related to Iran’s aspirations for regional dominance.

The U.S. intelligence community maintains that Iran—which has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East—likely would use this technology to launch a nuclear weapon.

“We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them,” according to Coats. “Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East.”

“Tehran’s desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” Coats wrote, referring to Iran’s covert missile work. “Progress on Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies.”

Iran “continues to leverage cyber espionage, propaganda, and attacks to support its security priorities, influence events and foreign perceptions, and counter threats—including against U.S. allies in the region,” Coats testified.

This includes cyber attacks “directly against the United States,” such as in 2013, when an Iranian hacker penetrated the computer systems of a U.S. dam.

Iran also is pursuing a massive buildup of its military, which observers have described as unprecedented.

The U.S. intelligence community has confirmed that Iran is developing “a range of new military capabilities to monitor and target U.S. and allied military assets in the region, including armed UAVs [drones], ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines, unmanned explosive boats, submarines and advanced torpedoes, and anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles,” according to Coats.

Iran Continues To Develop Nuclear Weapons (Daniel 8:4)

The annual report released Thursday notes that if Iran “chooses to do so its pursuit of these goals will influence its level of adherence to the JCPOA. We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

The World Threat Assessment also notes that “Iran continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terrorism and, with its primary terrorism partner, Lebanese Hizbailah, will pose a continuing threat to US interests and partners worldwide.”

The report states that U.S. intelligence believes “Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them.” Ballistic missiles are the delivery vehicle for a nuclear warhead.

Iran has violated international sanctions on a multitude of occasions by carrying out ballistic missiles tests.

“Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East,” the World Threat Assessment’s report states. “Tehran’s desire to deter the United States might drive it to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”

The report also notes that Iran’s progress in its space program could expedite its path to an ICBM since space launch vehicles use similar technologies.

Last year’s report similarly stated that while the United States does not know whether the Iranian government will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons, but added that “Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA, however, has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year.”

It has been well over a year since the JCPOA was implemented. On July 14, the JCPOA will reach its two-year mark.

Last month, a report — which included alleged satellite imagery and intelligence said to be provided by informants working covertly inside the Iranian military — indicated the Iranian regime is secretly, and illegally, developing weapons at its “off-limits” Parchin nuclear site.

Also last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated, in a letter addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, that Iran has remained compliant with the 2015 nuclear deal. In that same letter, Tillerson noted, “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Facebook and Twitter.

Russia Prepares For Nuclear War in Arctic

The Russian Delta IV-class submarine Yekaterinburg, photographed in 2010. Photo credit: AP

Russia has deployed 215 more nuclear warheads than allowed by the New START treaty, setting itself up to violate a provision that goes into effect next year. Surely this will end well.

New START allows 1,500 deployed warheads, with that goal supposed to be reached in February 2018, and it’s designed to help both the U.S. and Russia know what each country has as far as its stockpiles. It also allows verification to ensure both nations are honoring their obligations, with on-site inspections and data exchanges are required. The regime is extremely intrusive and, arguably, has helped avoid another Cold War, if you consider how unstable relations would be if neither Washington nor Moscow knew what the other country had.

And right now, the two parties are supposed to be working to reduce their number of deployed warheads, not actively increasing them. But it looks like Russia is doing the latter

New satellite images reveal extensive construction of two Northern Fleet facilities for warheads and ballistic missiles on the Kola Peninsula in far northwest Russia, according to The Barents Observer, which analyzed satellite images via Google Earth along with open-source data on Russia’s nuclear weapons stockpiles. There are four storage areas for nuclear weapons on the peninsula, all of which are in close proximity to Norway. The nearest weapons storage area is Zaozersk, which is around 40 miles from the Norwegian town of Grense Jakobselv. All four are within an 118-mile radius away from Norway, a NATO member state.

To put this context for folks stateside, Norway is roughly 4,463 miles away from the United States.

One of the satellite images (below) shows Yegelnaya Bay, where the Gadzhiyevo naval base is located. Based there are six Delta IV-class ballistic missile submarines and the Yury Dolgoruky of the Borei-class. Three more Borei-class submarines, the most advanced in the Russian ballistic missile submarine fleet, are expected to arrive there soon.

Here are more details of the kinds of construction that are going on at the base, per The Barents Observer:

It is possible to date the image to late summer 2016 by counting the 81 reactor compartments stored in the nearby Saida Bay where also the “Itarus” transport barge can been seen. This barge was tranferred from Italy to the Kola Peninsula last spring.

At the jetty in the bay, a Delta-IV class submarine is visible dockside the crane for loading and unloading ballistic missiles. The missiles are driven to the jetty from the storage in the valley behind where both the original storage and the new under construction are visible. The nuclear warheads are, for the most, stored inside the mountain to the left.

Three new reinforced bunkers and five similar bunkers under construction are visible. In the end of the valley, the entrance to an underground storage can be seen. The entrance to another underground storage is visible also at the first nuclear weapon storage facility. A nuclear missile transit hangar is located on the road towards the loading jetty.

The Barents Observer analyzed other sites on the Kola Peninsula, but the developments mean one thing for U.S. national security: the Russians are well ahead of the U.S. in their Arctic strategy and are solidifying their supremacy with nuclear weapons. As we’ve noted before, Washington has long been asleep at the wheel when it comes to prioritizing the Arctic Circle from a geopolitical standpoint. The United States Coast Guard, for example, is the primary service that oversees all issues Arctic. Yet, President Donald Trump’s current budget proposal calls for a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard.

At the most basic level, Congress seems unwilling to invest in heavy icebreakers that provide critical access to the Arctic Circle. During a recent trip to Seattle, I had an opportunity to tour America’s only heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10); the engineers have done a great job maintaining it, but it should have been retired more than ten years ago. The Coast Guard has to use it due to lack of funding over the years to build new ones. Russia, on the other hand, has 40 icebreakers.

Indeed, Russia’s northern border lines the Arctic area, so it makes sense for it to command the region. But, it appears that the United States isn’t even trying to counter the Kremlin for some significant presence. The increase of nuclear weapons facilities in the Arctic region is just another major geopolitical step in Moscow securing the area as its own.

Right now, some 60 percent of Russia’s 700 sea-based strategic nuclear warheads are on the Kola Peninsula, according to The Barents Observer; the remaining 40 percent are with the Pacific Fleet at Kamchatka. Russia isn’t technically violating the New START treaty, however: as long as it reduces the number of deployed warheads to the agreed-upon limit before February 2018, it should be fine, Kristian Åtland, a senior researcher with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, told the publication.

The main issue is whether or not New START is a major policy item for President Trump. It doesn’t appear to be. During his first official phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump didn’t even know what the treaty was. He has also blasted the treaty as a one-sided deal, which is simply not true, as not only does it limit warhead deployment and increase transparency for the Russians, but it does exactly the same for the Americans.

So far, the current administration has not signaled that it is ready to make a move on New START or the Arctic Circle. Russia, on the other hand, has certainly made theirs. Several of them, in fact.

Why Nuclear Missile Shields Are A Misnomer

U.S. Missile Defense Program Costly, Unreliable, And Exempt From Oversight, Report Finds

Follow Elliott Negin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ElliottNegin

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Congress is currently considering expanding the U.S. national missile defense system, despite the fact that — nearly 15 years after the Bush administration began deploying it — it has not been demonstrated to work under real-world conditions and is not on a path to do so.

What’s the problem? According to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), it’s that old adage, “haste makes waste.” Lack of accountability, UCS found, doesn’t help, either.

In its rush to get the system up and running, the George W. Bush administration exempted the program from standard Pentagon oversight protocols. That ill-advised decision has not only run up a $40-billion price tag for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, it also has produced a system that is incapable of defending the United States from a limited nuclear attack.

“The missile defense system is one of the most expensive and complex military systems in history, yet it is the only major defense program not subject to standard ‘fly before you buy’ performance standards,” said UCS Senior Scientist Laura Grego, the report’s lead author. “Fifteen years of this misguided, hands-off approach has resulted in a costly system that won’t protect the homeland.”

A Record of Failure

The goal of the GMD system is to defend all 50 states from an attack by a limited number of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The presumed culprit? Iran or North Korea.

Testing began at a methodical pace at the tail end of the Clinton administration, but in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there was a greater sense of urgency to deploy a system. Using North Korea’s embryonic ballistic missile program as a pretext, the Bush administration withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, which prohibited each side from fielding a missile defense system to protect its entire territory. That opened the door for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to exempt the Missile Defense Agency from customary procurement rules and testing standards to field a system within two years.

The results have been abysmal. Since the system was initially fielded in 2004, the Missile Defense Agency has conducted nine tests pitting an interceptor against a target. The system failed to destroy its target in six of them, even though operators knew ahead of time when and where the target missile would be launched, its expected trajectory, and what it would look like to sensors. Despite that record of failure — which has worsened over time — the Missile Defense Agency currently fields 26 interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California, and plans to install 14 more at Fort Greely.

That less-than-reassuring 33 percent success rate, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only would U.S. missile defense operators not know the coordinates of an incoming missile in the event of a real attack, but any country capable of launching a long-range missile also would be able to outfit it with decoys and other countermeasures that could fool the GMD system’s sensors and interceptors. Analysts at UCS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pointed out that inconvenient fact in a joint report they published back in 2000.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration insists on continuing this charade. It has not reinstituted normal oversight and accountability standards, and continues to claim the GMD system could destroy future, hypothetical long-range missiles from Iran or North Korea. Earlier this year, for example, Brian P. McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the “U.S. homeland is currently protected” against such attacks.

Likewise, as the UCS report points out, a number of Pentagon officials have made “unsubstantiated claims about the system’s effectiveness,” but at least one insider — Pentagon chief weapons tester J. Michael Gilmore — has acknowledged the program’s serious limitations. His 2015 report on the GMD system concluded that that the tests have been “insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists.”

In plain English, there’s no proof the system would work against a real attack.

Making a Bad Situation Worse

Instead of demanding better performance, some members of Congress want to broaden the dysfunctional program’s scope. Among other things, they want to build a third missile defense installation, which the Pentagon has not requested. They also want to develop a space-based defense system, despite the fact that a 2012 National Academy of Sciences study concluded that one with only a limited capability would still cost at least $300 billion.

Some even want to resurrect the idea of a building a missile shield that would defend the nation from a massive attack. The 1999 National Missile Defense Act called for deploying an “effective” system that would protect the United States from a “limited” nuclear attack. It was purposely defined that way to avoid provoking Russia or China into expanding their nuclear forces as a counterweight. The current fiscal 2017 draft defense authorization bill in the Senate includes an amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would delete the word “limited” from the legislation. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) went even further in the House version of the 2017 authorization bill, tacking on an amendment that would strip both “limited” and “effective” from the 1999 law.

“Given the missile defense system’s sorry track record, it would be reckless to expand it,” said Grego, “not to mention the fact that it would only serve to exacerbate tensions with China and Russia. What Congress needs to do now is demand accountability, not promote a technologically and economically unrealistic pipe dream. And that means putting the missile defense system back under rigorous oversight. We still have serious doubts it would ever work in a real-world situation, but until there’s some accountability, we will never know.”

Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The New Cold War

If you are looking for a reason the United States urgently needs to update its nuclear posture review, which is generally done every eight years, look no further than this sentence from the last review in 2010.”While policy differences continue to arise between the two countries and Russia continues to modernize its still-formidable nuclear forces, Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries, and prospects for military confrontation have declined dramatically.”That was then; this is now.

“A resurgent Russia has turned from partner to antagonist as it seeks to re-emerge as a global power,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander, told Congress in March.

Russia has not only morphed from “frenemy” to full-blown enemy since its 2014 covert invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea, but it has also updated its nuclear doctrine to intimidate NATO nations along its periphery, as well as former Soviet states, including Ukraine and Georgia.

It’s a strategy known as “escalate to de-escalate,” the idea that a limited nuclear strike with a tactical or “battlefield” nuke could shock the U.S. into freezing a conflict in place.

“It’s one of the most challenging military questions you have,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of America’s nuclear forces, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

Hyten said “escalate to de-escalate” is really a strategy of “escalate to win,” which views the use of nuclear weapons as a normal extension of a conventional conflict.

“It’s important that we look at them seriously, understand what those pieces are,” Hyten testified April 4. “When we say ‘escalate to win,’ what does that really mean? And in order for us to win, we have two choices. One, to prevent that escalation. Or two, to respond in such a way after that escalation that would want to stop any aggression.”

While Russia remains America’s only peer in the area of nuclear weapons capabilities, China has been embarked on an ambitious military modernization campaign that includes both “qualitative and quantitative” upgrading of its nuclear arsenal, according to the last nuclear posture review.

And then there’s North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un has a stated goal of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles with the capability of delivering a nuclear warhead to a city on the U.S. mainland.

Hyten said that while the U.S. has de-emphasized the role of nuclear weapons for the past two decades, its adversaries have done the exact opposite.

“Russia, in 2006, started a huge, aggressive program to modernize and build new nuclear capabilities. They continue that to this day. New ballistic missiles, new weapons, new cruise missiles, significant air-launch cruise missile capabilities, now the ground launch cruise missile capabilities,” Hyten warned Congress. “China has done the same thing. Hypersonic glide vehicles on both sides that bring new threats to bear.”

It is, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, a grave new world.

“As service chiefs, you know, what we do is we look at [trying to balance] capability, capacity and readiness,” Goldfein testified before the House Armed Services Committee in April. “We make strategic trades based on our assumptions of the global security environment. What’s different now? The world’s different now.”

It’s against this backdrop that President Trump directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to begin a sweeping review of all aspects of U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, everything from how many warheads the U.S. needs, to how many delivery systems, to what threats the U.S. may need to counter in the coming decade.

National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, signed by Trump one week after his inauguration, directs Mattis to conduct the review “to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.”

Last month, Mattis assigned the task to the deputy secretary of defense and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and set a deadline of the end of 2017.

But even before the formal directive, the work had already begun, Hyten said. And it’s not just one review but multiple studies, including a review of the ballistic missile defenses and the appropriate response to Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with its recent deployment of a land-based cruise missile. “I suspect there will be serious consideration of recommending pulling out of INF treaty and not extending New START,” said James Carafano, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

But Hyten said it appears Moscow is adhering to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty agreement, which calls for both sides to be limited 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems by February 2018.

“From a strategic weapons perspective, I support the limits that are in the New START,” Hyten testified, adding that withdrawing from the treaty would not be part of the review.

Also off the table is consideration of eliminating any of the three legs of the nuclear triad, the Cold War strategy under which the U.S. maintains the capability to deliver nuclear weapons from submarines, bombers and land-based ICBMs.

The 30-year triad modernization plan calls for a new Columbia class of ballistic missile submarines, new B-21 Raider long-range stealth bombers, and new replacement ICBMs known as the ground-based deterrent, along with new bombs and cruise missiles. It is projected to cost $1 trillion.

But Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the review should not just be about counting warheads and systems but about the role nuclear deterrence can play in maintaining peace and stability.

“I feel the best focus now may be on counterforce and how much of it we really need to do,” O’Hanlon said. “I don’t think we need to aim for the capacity to substantially disarm the Russians in a first strike, yet much of our planning still does so, explicitly or implicitly.”

But with Russia thinking differently about the role of nuclear arms in the 21st century, the U.S. may have to adjust its calculus too, argued Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain at last month’s hearing on the U.S. Strategic Command.

“Whatever well-intentioned hopes we may have had after the end of the Cold War,” McCain said, “the United States can no longer seek to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy or narrow the range of contingencies under which we would have to consider their use.”

Too Late To Stop Babylon the Great (Daniel 8)

Two to Tango With Nuclear Weapons

Peter D. Zimmerman Contributor

Two to Tango With Nuclear Weapons

(Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images)

Somewhere in the American southwest, not so very far from civilization, there is a fenced and guarded compound within another fenced and guarded compound in the distant reaches of a large military base. I won’t hint at its location, but it does show up on web searches if you know what to look for. Beneath the fence is a vault where nuclear weapons wait on transport dollies tended by highly trained technicians, each with Department of Energy “Q” security clearances, the ones that give the holder access to the deepest secrets of nuclear weapons. The techs have demonstrated that they are loyal, trustworthy and reliable Air Force members.

On any given day two of them may select a bomb and wheel it out of its cage to a large work room. Another pair of technicians attaches a harness to the city buster and uses a crane to lift the weapon by its tail until it hangs free. After carefully making certain that the weapon cannot possibly explode, they approach it as casually as a Maytag repairman working on a broken washer. They deftly replace components beyond their use-by dates, batteries and the like, and verify the bomb meets factory specs. The weapon is then buttoned up, lowered and two airmen return it to its storage location.

Two, always two, people. No unaccompanied person ever approaches a nuclear weapon. It’s a basic precaution against theft, misuse or sabotage and is not unique to the nuclear weapons world, nor to the United States.

Under the prairies of Montana or the Dakotas underground bunkers are buried adjacent to a bomb-proof silo containing a Minuteman intercontinental missile. Two Air Force officers occupy two somewhat shabby chairs mounted so that an atomic blast won’t eject their occupants. In front of each officer is a lock. Each launch officer carries a key. The locks are spaced so that one person cannot possibly turn both keys within the few seconds the computer will allow. But if both keys turn simultaneously, a blast door swings out of the ground, and the Minuteman missile leaves its silo on a one way trip. It takes two people at every step, from decoding the message that rattles in on the teletype machine, to checking its contents for the authentication message, to making final adjustments.

Somewhere under the ocean a missile submarine receives a message. The captain and his executive officer separately decode and authenticate it.

It always requires two people, two separate actions, to launch, steal, sabotage or tinker with an atomic warhead. This is the inviolable two person rule intended to prevent misuse of a nuclear weapon. It has been that way since the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was loaded into the Enola Gay to force an end to World War II.

But the system deliberately breaks down at the single point where failure would be catastrophic. Only one person need act in order to launch all American nuclear weapons. The president. There is no two-person rule for ordering a strike. Nobody except the president needs to agree; nobody in the chain from president to launch officer has authority to question the order. If the president orders a launch, the system executes it. The service members involved may have their doubts, but years of military training have conditioned them that even this order must be obeyed.

Since 1941 American strategic thinking has been held hostage to the memory of Pearl Harbor. The Roosevelt Administration and the Japanese government were in negotiations to settle their disputes peacefully, but even while his emissaries were talking in Washington the Japanese emperor’s aircraft carriers were turning into the wind to launch the bombers that would sink many warships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The U.S. Navy was left practically disarmed in just half an hour or so.

The United States vowed that never again would a potential enemy be able to launch a surprise attack to which this country could not respond instantly and in kind.

This made sense during the height of the Cold War when the United States, terrified by the prospect of a nuclear Pearl Harbor, sought to ensure that a counter strike could not be thwarted by a clumsy decision-making process that would require more time than the country expected to have. A missile from a submarine hiding off our East Coast could destroy Washington less than 12 minutes after its launch.

A satellite or a radar would spot the missile. The president would be told that one or more nuclear missiles was heading our way. A field-grade officer toting the portable nuclear launch control system, the “football,” would show the president his options, and the president would pull out his credit card-like authenticator, the “biscuit,” select his response from a menu, give the order, and use the biscuit to prove his identity. Everything else is automatic, and there is no legal way to countermand or stop its execution.

At least twice the Soviet Union and the United States have come very close to launching nuclear weapons based on the warnings provided by radar and satellite systems. A Soviet officer did not pass a notification of a rocket launch to the Kremlin at a time he knew that tensions between the powers were minimal. A good thing; it was not a nuclear missile but a small scientific rocket launched from a Norwegian island and carrying an innocent payload. The Soviets had been notified in advance of the launch, but somehow the message was lost.

Bad weather has sometimes fooled American defenses into thinking that a flight of geese was actually a nuclear missile, and only good judgment stopped the alert in its tracks. But human intervention is only legal going up the chain to the president. It’s ruled out if the president sends down a message ordering a launch, even if he or she is mistaken.

Nor is there any way at all to stop a drunk president, an angered and offended president, an insane one, or merely a bored and curious one from simply ordering the opening of the football and the launch of one or more nuclear weapons. This is true for all presidents. My argument is not intended to single out the current president as less reliable than his predecessors; it is equally applicable to every person with a finger on the button, past or future as well as present.

If it were still plausible that nuclear catastrophe could come as a bolt from the blue, a massive launch by another country when the world is generally at peace and no flash points active, maybe the hair trigger still in place would make sense.

However, it is clear that the Pentagon no longer believes in a nuclear Pearl Harbor.

During the Cold War the U.S. had several ways to ensure that an order to launch would get through, and that if there were no one left alive in Washington to give the order, a flag or general officer could still launch missiles and fight a war. “The Looking Glass” aircraft, a heavily modified Boeing 707, slowly orbited high above the central United States. In the event of nuclear war, and if the president was out of contact for a (top secret) period, the airborne commander would open his sealed orders and take charge of a nuclear response previously selected by the president. The Glass was airborne 24/7, 365 days a year, without a break from February 3, 1961 until July 24, 1990 when the last continuous airborne command mission landed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The planes remain, the mission to assume command in case of nuclear catastrophe still formally exists, but the aircraft normally sit on the ground.

The Navy had a similar plan. The TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) aircraft could order the launch of submarine-based missiles. TACAMO and Looking Glass missions have been combined; neither mission is on constant airborne alert.

Today, the United States does not even contemplate a nuclear Pearl Harbor; if it did, Looking Glass and TACAMO would still be flying. The truth lies in operations, not declarations.

The leaders of North Korea might launch their missiles, but for the foreseeable future they can’t reach our command centers. And in any event, for many years to come they will have too few weapons to decapitate our government. Still other potential nuclear proliferators, Iran perhaps, might conceivably threaten a nuclear attack. But again they will not be capable of immobilizing our deterrent forces. Both Russia and China could strike at our forces, but both would almost certainly give political warning that our relations had deteriorated to where a war was plausible.

Nobody in authority believes that the president will have to order a nuclear strike in a matter of minutes. Time for consultation will certainly exist. There is no reason to take the risk that an unstable president could order up nuclear holocaust acting alone or that the commander in chief could misread warnings and stumble into war. It is time to change the law and procedures to provide a legal path to stop a rogue launch.

The goal is to ensure that no single person, acting on his or her sole authority, should be able to launch nuclear weapons. An essential part of the solution is that there is at least one person with the power to veto a launch who is not within the president’s inner circle and not subject to his pressure and even charisma.

There are many new laws and procedures that could achieve that goal; some are simple in concept – the secretary of defense could be authorized to become a “circuit breaker” to thwart a misguided launch order. Others may be too complex to implement in real life, for example requiring consultation with the Congressional leaders. And still others may be too complicated to enact in law or regulations. Some have suggested that the Cabinet be polled; and still other scholars advocate a three-man rule. It is a political question for our elected officials to decide with public input.

But the president and the Congress must work together now, ignoring partisanship, to prevent an accidental, or even an intentional nuclear holocaust. It is time to extend the two person rule to the top of the pyramid, so that not even the president can start a nuclear war alone.

Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, was chief scientific adviser of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Bureau of Arms Control at the State Department. He also served as chief scientist of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is professor emeritus of science and security in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London and lives in Northern Virginia.

Russia Threatens to Wipe UK Off the Face of the Earth

The United Kingdom would be “wiped off the face of the earth” if the country elects to pre-emptively use nuclear weapons against Russia, a senior Russian politician said Monday, highlighting the unmistakeable tension between Russia and western governments.

Responding to a British defense minister’s suggestion that proactively using nuclear weapons against Russia could be an option, Russia’s Frants Klintsevich said the U.K. would be “literally wiped off the face of the Earth by a counter-strike.”

Klintsevich heads the defense and security committee in Moscow’s upper house of parliament.

Klintsevich was responding to comments made by British Defense Minister Michael Fallon, who told a radio show that the U.K. could consider the strike amid recent heightened tensions between Russia and western governments.

Fallon said: “In the most extreme circumstances, we’ve made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike.”

“The whole point about the deterrent,” he added, “is that you have got to leave uncertainty in the mind of anybody who might be thinking of using weapons against this country.”

Fallon said that the U.K.’s military would use its Trident nuclear program only in extenuating circumstances, although those scenarios were not specified.

“In the best case this statement can be seen as a form of psychological warfare, which in this context is particularly disgusting,” Klintsevich said in response, according to Newsweek.

Western military alliance NATO and Russia have recently accused one another of military provocations as they continue to participate in parallel arms escalations.

Russians Try To Intimidate Americans

Between Tuesday and Friday, Russia nightly flew warplanes, including a pair of nuclear-capable Tu-95 Bear bombers, into the U.S. air defense identification zone (ADIZ). On Wednesday night, Russia flew two IL-38 anti-submarine planes into the U.S. ADIZ. On the other three nights, Russia flew the bombers. In response, U.S. and Canadian fighters intercepted the bombers on two of those nights. Russia is likely trying to intimidate President Trump and the American people on a number of issues.

In this U.S. Navy handout, a F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter intercepts one of two Russian Tu-95 Bear long rang bomber aircraft as it approached the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz February 9, 2008 south of Japan. Credit: U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Earlier this month, Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on Russia’s ally, Syria, for its alleged use of chemical weapons. Trump is also threatening Russia’s ally North Korea for its nuclear weapons development. On the back-burner is the Trump Administration’s criticism of Russia’s ally China, including China’s aggressive actions on the South China Sea, East China Sea, Himalayas, Taiwan, and in support of North Korean missile development.

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, including an aircraft carrier, two destroyers and a guided missile cruiser, is currently past Indonesia and moving toward the Korean Peninsula. Some experts think Trump could launch an attack on the North’s nuclear and missile development sites if North Korea fails to make dramatic moves toward denuclearization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (L) during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 20, 2015. Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on October 20 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his first foreign trip since the conflict erupted in 2011. Credit: ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

The White House and Russia’s embassy in Washington sought to downplay the Russian flights. Nevertheless, they act as rare veiled nuclear threats, a form of nuclear brinkmanship last utilized by Russia against the U.S. in 2015.

Any nuclear threat must be taken seriously. The Russian flights are, above all, indicators of Russian intentions. That Russia would threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons is a tragedy. That Russia would do so to prop up authoritarian leaders as morally bankrupt as Assad or Kim Jong Un is telling. The flights prove a lack of coordination between President Putin of Russia, and President Trump. Any hope that President Trump might have been warming to Russia to better deter China is now dashed.

Unfortunately, the nuclear-capable flights confirm that Putin cannot be trusted. As long as Russia is an autocratic country, it should never be seen as a reliable ally, even against Islamic State or China . And, Russia should be told unequivocally that America will never be intimidated. Hopefully the U.S. and allied fighter jets sent up against the Russian bombers conveyed that message.