Wednesday 1st of February 2023

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On Monday, Oct. 17, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization kicked off Operation STEADFAST NOON, its annual exercise of its ability to wage nuclear conflict. Given that NATO’s nuclear umbrella extends exclusively over Europe, the indisputable fact is that STEADFAST NOON is nothing more than NATO training to wage nuclear war against Russia.

Nuclear war against Russia.

The reader should let that sink in for a moment.

 

BY SCOTT RITTER

 

Don’t worry, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungscu reassured the rest of the world, the purpose of STEADFAST NOON is to ensure that NATO’s nuclear war-fighting capability “remains safe and effective.” It is a “routine” exercise, not linked to any current world events. Moreover, no “real” nuclear weapons will be used — just “fake” ones.

Nothing to worry about here.

Enter Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, stage right in the nuclear theater. In a statement to the press on Oct. 11, Stoltenberg declared that, “Russia’s victory in the war against Ukraine will be a defeat of NATO,” before ominously announcing, “This cannot be allowed.”

To that end, Stoltenberg stated, the STEADFAST NOON nuclear drills would continue as scheduled. These drills, Stoltenberg said, were an important deterrence mechanism in the face of Russian “veiled: nuclear threats.”

But they weren’t related to any current world events.

Enter Volodymyr Zelensky, stage left. Speaking to the Lowy Institute, a nonpartisan international policy think tank in Australia, the Ukrainian president called for the international community to undertake “preventative strikes, preventive action” against Russia to deter the potential use of nuclear weapons by Russia against Ukraine. 

While many observers interpreted Zelensky’s words to imply a request for NATO to carry out a preemptive nuclear strike against Russia, Zelensky’s aides were quick to try and correct the record, saying he was simply asking for more sanctions.

Enter Joe Biden, center stage. Speaking at a fund raiser on Oct. 6, the president of the United States said that, “For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going.”

Biden went on: “We’ve got a guy I know fairly well. 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 underperforming.”

Biden concluded: “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”

While it has been made abundantly clear by the White House that Biden’s comments were his personal view, and not based on any new intelligence regarding Russian nuclear posture, the fact that a sitting U.S. president was speaking about the possibility of a nuclear “Armageddon” should send chills down the spine of every sane individual in the world.

 

No Kremlin Talk of Tactical Nuclear Weapons

First and foremost, there has been zero talk about the employment of tactical nuclear weapons from the Kremlin.

Zero.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that Russia would use “all the means at its disposal” to protect Russia. He said this most recently on Sept. 21, when in a televised address announcing partial mobilization, he accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail,” citing “statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”

Putin was alluding to a statement that Liz Truss made prior to her election as British prime minister, when, in response to a question on whether she was ready to undertake the responsibility of ordering the use of the U.K.’s nuclear arsenal, she replied, “I think it’s an important duty of the prime minister and I’m ready to do that.”

“I want to remind you,” Putin said, 

“that our country also has various means of destruction and in some components more modern than those of the NATO countries. And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”

Putin’s statements were consistent with that of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who in an address to the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security delivered on Aug. 16, asserted that Russia would not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. According to Shoigu, Russian nuclear weapons are authorized for use under “exceptional circumstances” as described in published Russian doctrine, none of which apply to the Ukraine situation. Any talk of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia in Ukraine, Shoigu said, was “absurd.”

[Related: SCOTT RITTER: The Onus Is on Biden & Putin]

Apparently not to Biden, who despite his claim to know Putin “fairly well,” got it all wrong when talking about the potential for nuclear conflict.

The risk isn’t that Russia would start a pre-emptive nuclear war over Ukraine.

The risk is that America would.

 

Biden’s Pledge of ‘Sole Purpose Policy’

Biden came into office in February 2021 promising to enshrine in U.S. nuclear doctrine a “sole purpose policy,” under which “the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal should be to deter — and, if necessary, retaliate against — a nuclear attack.”

It is now the middle of October 2022, and America finds itself in a situation where the president himself fears for a potential nuclear “Armageddon.”

If ever there was a time for Biden to make good on his pledge, now is it.

But he remains silent.

The danger inherent in Biden’s silence is that Putin and other Russian officials who are concerned about Russian national security must rely upon existing published U.S. nuclear doctrine, which continues to enshrine a policy of nuclear pre-emption promulgated during the administration of President George W. Bush. Under this doctrine, nuclear weapons are but another tool in the military’s toolbox, to be used as and when needed, including occasions where the destruction of battlefield targets for the simple purpose of gaining an operational advantage is the objective.

One can argue that this sort of non-nuclear preemption has its own inherent deterrence value, a sort of “madman” kind of vibe that makes an opponent question whether the president could act in such an irrational manner.

“I call it the Madman Theory,” former U.S. President Richard Nixon reportedly told his assistant, Bob Haldeman, during the Vietnam War. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I’ve reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

 

Madman Theory 

Former President Donald Trump breathed new life into Nixon’s “madman theory,” telling North Koreathat if it continued to threaten the United States “[t]hey will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” Trump went on to have three face-to-face meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un in a failed effort to bring about the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

It was under the Trump administration that the U.S. Navy deployed the W-76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead on its Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, giving the president a greater range of options when it came to the employment of nuclear weapons.

“This supplemental capability,” John Rood, the then-under secretary of defense for policy, declared, “strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon; supports our commitment to extended deterrence; and demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment because the United States can credibly and decisively respond to any threat scenario.”

One such threat scenario that was tested involved the theoretical employment of a W-76-2 low-yield warhead in a Baltic European scenario in which targets from the actual wartime contingency were used as a point of illustration. In short, the U.S. trained to preemptively use the W-76-2 to compel Russia to back down (deescalate) less they risk a nuclear escalation resulting in a general nuclear exchange — in short, Armageddon.

Which brings us to the present time. As this article is being written, U.S. nuclear-capable B-52 bombers are flying to Europe from their U.S. bases, where they will practice delivering nuclear weapons against a Russian target. Dozens more aircraft, flying from Volkel Air Force Base in the Netherlands (home to an arsenal of U.S. B-61 nuclear bombs), will practice employing NATO nuclear weapons against…Russia.

Russia has responded to the NATO nuclear drill by going forward with its own annual nuclear exercise, “Grom” (Thunder). These drills will involve the large-scale maneuver of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, including live missile launches. In a statement unmatched in its hypocrisy, a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “Russian nuclear rhetoric and its decision to proceed with this exercise while at war with Ukraine is irresponsible. Brandishing nuclear weapons to coerce the United States and its allies is irresponsible.”

Physician, heal thyself.

Oct. 22, 1962 — nearly 60 years ago to the day, President John F. Kennedy delivered a dramatic 18-minute television speech to the American people during which he revealed “unmistakable evidence” of the missile threat. Kennedy went on to announce that the United States would prevent ships carrying weapons from reaching Cuba and demanded that the Soviets withdraw their missiles.

At the same time, the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Foy Kohler, delivered a letter from Kennedy to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, saying

 


“the one thing that has most concerned me has been the possibility that your government would not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States in any given situation, since I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would, in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.”

 

 

Joe Biden would do well to reflect on that letter, and all that transpired after that, and understand that if you replace “United States” with “Russia,” one gets an accurate assessment of the current world view of Russia when it comes to NATO and nuclear weapons.

Now is not the time for drama, or theatrically inflammatory rhetoric. Now is the time for maturity, sanity…restraint. A sage leader would have recognized the possibility of misperception on the part of Russia when NATO, a mere week after being encouraged by the Ukrainian president to initiate a preemptive nuclear strike on Russia, carries out a major exercise where NATO practices dropping nuclear bombs on Russia. A sober leader would have postponed these drills and encouraged similar action from Russia regarding its nuclear exercises.

Instead, America gets an unscripted, off-the-cuff reference to a nuclear Armageddon from a narcissistic egomaniac who uses the horror of nuclear annihilation as a fund-raising mantra.

It would take but one miscalculation, a single misunderstanding to turn STEADFAST NOON into “High Noon,” and “Grom” (Thunder) into “Molnya” (Lightening).

We’ve seen this scenario before. In November 1983 NATO carried out a command post exercise, codenamed ABLE ARCHER ’83, designed to test “nuclear weapons release procedures.” The Soviets were so alarmed by this exercise, which they believed could be used to mask a preemptive nuclear strike by NATO against the Soviet Union, that they loaded nuclear warheads onto bombers, bringing NATO and the Soviet Union to the brink of a nuclear war.

Later, upon receiving intelligence reports about the Soviet fear of a U.S. preemptive nuclear strike, President Ronald Reagan commented that,

“We [the U.S.] had many contingency plans for responding to a nuclear attack. But everything would happen so fast that I wondered how much planning or reason could be applied in such a crisis…six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radar scope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that?”

This revelation led to a change in attitude on the part of a president who, until then, was known for labeling the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” and joking about launching nuclear missiles against the Soviet target.

A little more than four years after ABLE ARCHER ’83, Reagan sat down with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, a landmark agreement which, for the first time in arms-control history, eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons from the arsenals of both the U.S. and Soviet Union.

One can only hope that the current nuclear crisis will result in a similar arms control breakthrough in the not-so-distant future.

 

 

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. His most recent book is Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika, published by Clarity Press.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

 

 

READ MORE:

https://consortiumnews.com/2022/10/19/scott-ritter-nuclear-high-noon-in-europe/

 

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Bombs & guns: Biden’s ‘business as usual’ approach to US arms sales
A new report shows the White House is still ‘checking its values at the door’ when it comes to arms transfers abroad.

 

BY 

 

The conventional wisdom among many Washington policymakers is that arms sales are a critical tool of U.S. foreign policy — cementing alliances, projecting power and influence without putting boots on the ground, and fostering regional stability.

But as my new paper for the Quincy Institute explains, the risks of arms sales in fueling conflicts, enabling human rights abuses, and drawing the United States into conflicts that don’t promote its national interests are too often discounted in favor of their alleged benefits. As a result, the United States has long been the world’s largest arms-supplying nation, cornering 39 percent of the market in recent years and providing weapons to over 100 recipient nations.  

Long-term U.S. interests would be much better served by a more restrained approach to arms transfers. Early on, it seemed that the Biden administration recognized this fact and was going to do something about it. As a candidate, Joe Biden said that if he was elected, the United States would “no longer check its values at the door” when it came to selling weapons abroad.  

And he took the occasion of his first foreign policy speech to announce that his administration would end support for offensive operations in Yemen, including relevant arms sales. Following up on that pledge, he briefly suspended sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to conduct a review of the wisdom of U.S. sales to those regimes, which have been the key players in a devastating intervention in Yemen that has resulted in the deaths of nearly 400,000 people through direct and indirect means, including thousands of civilians killed in Saudi airstrikes carried out with U.S.-supplied equipment and logistical support.  

But aside from suspending one bomb deal with Saudi Arabia, the administration cleared both nations for further U.S. sales. This return to business as usual has also encompassed sales to repressive regimes like Egypt, Nigeria, and the Philippines with severely negative human and security consequences and little if any corresponding benefit to the United States.

This is not to suggest that all U.S. arms sales are inherently bad. It makes sense to supply weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself against the Russian invasion, which the United States has done at near-record levels over the course of just eight months. But even this arms supply raises important issues, including the need to be careful about providing weapons that could be used to strike targets deep inside Russia, and the absence to date of a parallel diplomatic strategy to try to end the war. Pouring in weapons without a larger strategy could be a recipe for ensuring a long, grinding conflict, or a spur to escalation into a U.S.-Russian confrontation that could have unforeseen consequences, including a possible resort to nuclear weapons by Moscow. 

It’s important to note that not all U.S. arms sales are determined by a careful consideration of their potential strategic impact or humanitarian consequences. Arms exporting firms like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon profit handsomely from overseas sales, and use their considerable lobbying clout to press for sales to as many countries as possible.  

The most obvious example of corporate lobbying to promote questionable arms deals has been Raytheon’s concerted campaign to persuade the executive branch and Congress to sign off on a controversial sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration sided with the company when it vetoed a congressional effort to block a tranche of weapons that were proposed in 2019. Similar efforts to persuade Biden to do the same are no doubt still underway, but such lobbying activity often takes place behind closed doors, outside the view of the public and the press.

There is still time for the Biden administration to change course on its approach to arms sales. Its internal debate should come to a head when the administration releases its official arms sales policy directive some time later this year. The mood in Congress is already shifting, most notably as illustrated in calls by key members from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to freeze sales to Saudi Arabia over its collaboration with Russia on reducing global oil output. 

It’s long past time for a change in U.S. arms sales policy toward placing greater emphasis on assessing the risks of specific sales rather than their alleged benefits, ensuring greater transparency over how U.S. weapons are actually being used, and enhancing Congress’s power to block questionable exports.  

Hopefully, these issues will be thoroughly debated in the run-up to the release of the Biden administration’s official arms sales policy. A change in policy is long overdue, both to promote long-term U.S. interests and to reduce the harm to civilians and countries in conflict that comes with unrestrained weapons exports.

 

READ MORE:

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/10/20/bombs-guns-drones-bidens-business-as-usual-approach-to-us-weapons-sales/

 

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BY Oleg Pavlov

 

In the last few months the USA and its European allies (or de facto satellites), and US-controlled media, have been persistently and even obsessively speculating about Russia’s alleged plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict.

One of the most recent of these provocations was a story published in Britain’s Daily Mail, which claimed that Russian has already chose the target for a nuclear strike. The article cites a recent conversation between the Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron. The French President was made nervous by statements made by Vladimir Putin, which he saw as a threat aimed at Ukraine.

Although in actual fact the Russian President’s words mean quite the opposite: as he has said on more than one occasion, and not only to Emmanuel Macron, the USA is the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons, and that in doing so it set a precedent.  Russia has also stressed a number of times that there are no political or military reasons why it should use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The circumstances in which Russian could use nuclear weapons are comprehensively listed in a document issued on June 20, 2020, the Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence. That document clearly states that Russia considers nuclear weapons “exclusively as a means of deterrence, their use being an extreme and compelled measure”. It also states that in the event of a military conflict, Russia’s policy provides for the termination of military actions on conditions that are acceptable for the Russian Federation.

The West has sought to relate the above passages to the war in Ukraine, taking no account either of the very limited circumstances in which Russia could use nuclear weapons or of the undertaking made by Russia and the other nuclear powers in the UN Security Council in a special statement issued on January 3, 2022. In that statement, issued before the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the five members of the UN Security Council stressed that they “consider the avoidance of war between Nuclear-Weapon States and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities”. The statement goes on to stress that “nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war”.  In the document the signatories expressly declare that none of their nuclear weapons are targeted at each other or at any other State.

That could hardly be expressed any more clearly. The Russian government has also issued statements affirming this principle, as has the Chinese government, not least during the visit by the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to China, so why, one may ask, is the West persistently and stubbornly promoting nuclear scare stories.

The answer to that question may not be quite as simple as it might appear at first sight. Firstly, no-one in the West has forgotten the speech made by the Ukrainian President, Volodymir Zelensky, in the 58th Munich Security Conference, in which he directly stated that if the guarantors of the Budapest Memorandum did not agree to consultations and Ukraine was not offered any security guarantees, then Ukraine would have every right “to believe that the Budapest Memorandum is not working and all package decisions of 1994 have been put under question”. In other words, on February 20 this year, before the beginning of Russia’s special military operation, Ukraine raised the issue of relinquishing its nuclear-free status. It is therefore understandable that Russia was concerned that Ukraine might engage in secret operations to restore its nuclear potential in some way, possibly by making a so-called dirty nuclear bomb which could be used in a false flag operation as a pretext for accusing Russia of breaching its commitment in the UN Security Council statement issued on January 3.

Secondly, while they vary in content, the continuous scare stories about Russia’s alleged plans to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine serve as a cover enabling politicians and the media to probe Moscow’s intentions in relation to the conflict in Ukraine. Russia is continually being forced to deny baseless and far-fetched accusations on its alleged plans to use weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that Moscow is always having to justify itself gives other countries the mistaken impression that it is hiding something and has something up its sleeve. Ironically, it is widely known that after the end of the Second World War the Western powers, especially Britain, drew up detailed potential plans to attack the USSR using nuclear weapons (the now declassified Dropshot and Unthinkable plans).

And now, the unfounded rumors about Russia’s plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine are being used as a smokescreen to enable the further modernization of the USA’s nuclear arsenal in Europe and to threaten Russia. Moreover, the media furor is being used to distract attention from the USA’s plans to base nuclear weapons in Russia’s neighbors, including Poland and the NATO membership candidates Finland and Sweden.

Thirdly, well aware that nuclear weapons are a form of deterrent, the USA and its satellited are (or were until recently) genuinely concerned that their aggressive stance against Moscow, including in relation to the Ukrainian conflict (such as by supplying Ukraine with heavy weaponry, including long-range rocket systems, Western-made tanks and fighter aircraft) might be seen by the Russian government as threatening Russia’s security and justifying the use of nuclear weapons. In the last few months, the Russian government has offered many assurances that there is no question of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and as a result the West has concluded that the risk of Russian using weapons of mass destruction in any event is low, as is clear from the decision to base the US 101st Airborne Division in Romania, from where it could potentially be sent to Ukraine.

In response to the alleged risks of Russia using nuclear weapons, the US is working with Ukraine to deploy a force of submarines equipped with nuclear rockets, as well as aircraft carriers, both in the Mediterranean sea and in the waters off the British coast (at present well away from Russia, but still within the striking range of US nuclear rockets). This demonstration of US military force has clearly gone to the heads of Kiev’s politicians, who, emboldened by America’s unlimited military support, are puffing themselves up like male grouse in mating season and repeating their quite unrealistic call for the “total liberation” of Ukraine and its return to its 1991 borders. Volodymir Zelensky and his government have grouped around the slogan of “no negotiations with Moscow” and by cementing this position in law, they have forced themselves into a dead end.

Naturally, Volodymir Zelensky and his team need all the weapons and support from the West that they can get, and they are getting extremely wealthy in the process. He needs to draw out the conflict as long as possible, and is playing games with human lives and human suffering. But these speculations and the stories about Russia’s alleged plans to use nuclear weapons are the last think the people of Russia or Ukraine -especially the people of Ukraine, who are risking a winter without light or heating because of the unrealistic policies of their president and his Western allies.

Moscow’s message remains the same as in the past – we do not need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and we are open to negotiation. Is it necessary to add anything to that?

 

Oleg Pavlov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

 

READ MORE:

https://journal-neo.org/2022/11/09/the-ukrainian-conflict-and-the-nuclear-threat/

 

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