Archive for the ‘General issues’ Category
By Jan Oberg
On PressTV on November 28, 2016
By David Krieger
“Since the appearance of visible life on Earth, 380 million years had to elapse in order for a butterfly to learn how to fly, 180 million years to create a rose with no other commitment than to be beautiful, and four geological eras in order for us human beings to be able to sing better than birds, and to be able to die from love.
It is not honorable for the human talent, in the golden age of science, to have conceived the way for such an ancient and colossal process to return to the nothingness from which it came through the simple act of pushing a button.”
I recently came across this quotation by the great Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. The quotation is from a 1986 speech by Garcia Marquez entitled “The Cataclysm of Damocles.”
In the short quotation, he captures what needs to be said about nuclear weapons succinctly, poetically and beautifully. With a few deft literary brushstrokes, he shows that the journey of life from nothingness to now could be ended with no more than “the simple act of pushing a button.”
The button is a metaphor for setting in motion a nuclear war, which could Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Last night I had the opportunity to discuss nuclear weapons with an experienced, high-ranking security analyst who has been both a military, a scholar, an assistant secretary of defence, presidential adviser, a corporate man and now a think tank member, Lawrence J. Korb.
I would assume that the debate – facilitated by Iran’s PressTV in an excellent manner – is illustrative of the degree to which the world can be seen from different perspectives and how different we can perceive words such as law, legality, ethics, security, deterrence and peace.
I assume also that the debate illustrates the difference between a systems-embedded interpretation of the world and an independent or free perception, including what can and must be changed and what doesn’t have to change to make the world a better place.
By Gunnar Westberg
Formuleringen “”NATO:s nya, mer aggressiva kärnvapenpolicy” har två grunder, nämligen de nya vapnen och de nya formuleringarna av doktriner.
Jag föreslår att vi, när vi talar om NATO och kärnvapen, använder formuleringar liknande den första meningen. Vill man förklara sig ger andra meningen ett svar. Men det är under alla omständigheter bra om man har tillgång till nedanstående argument:
De gamla B61 var symboliska vapen. De skulle, enligt ofta upprepade försäkringar, inte användas. De var en pant på att USA inte skulle överge Europa vid ett sovjetiskt/ryskt anfall. USA har föreslagit att dessa vapen skulle tas bort, men öst-europeiska NATO-medlemmar och framför allt Frankrike (!) har starkt reagerat emot.
De nya vapnen är B 61-12. Denna bomb skiljer sig från tidigare versioner av B61 som var ”gravity bombs”, d v s föll fritt från bombplanet. B 61-12 är styrbart och har därför en träffsäkerhet inom 30 m radie. B 61-12 har en variable laddning på 0,3-340kt. Bomben förefaller vara kapabel att penetrera mer än 3 m vanlig jord innan den detonerar. Effekten på djupet blir därför flera gånger större än en bomb av motsvarande laddning skulle ge utan penetrerande förmåga.
B 61-12 blir alltså ett effektivt vapen mot vissa underjordiska mål. Bomberna har sannolikt en plats i nya, ännu inte offentliga doktriner om kärnvapen-användning, i motsats till avskräckning. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
July 26th 2016
The Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey- from which U.S. pilots launch bombing raids on ISIS forces in Syria – is home to about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs. That makes it NATO’s largest nuclear storage facility.
Each bomb has a yield of up to 170 kilotons, nearly a dozen times more powerful than the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima. The bombs are stored in underground vaults within aircraft shelters that in turn are protected by a security perimeter.
Last week Incirlik was in the headlines because it appears it was one of the command centres of the attempted coup, meant to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After the coup had been put down the commander of Incirlik was arrested and charged with complicity in the overthrow attempt.
Jonathan Marshall in Consortium News, who has been researching this year the inner workings of the base, reports, “The security of the bombs is premised on them being defended by loyal NATO forces. In the case of Incirlik that loyalty proved uncertain at best. Power to the base was cut after mutinous troops used a tanker plane from the base to refuel F-16s that menaced Ankara and Istanbul”.
He goes on in his latest report to observe, “One can easily imagine a clique of Islamist officers in a future coup seizing the nuclear bombs as a bargaining chip with Ankara and Washington or, worse yet, to support radical insurgents in the region.”
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, asks, “Does it seem like a good idea to station American nuclear weapons at an air base commanded by someone who may have just helped bomb his own country’s presidential palace?” Read the rest of this entry »
By David Krieger
July 7 , 2016
The International Court of Justice (“Court,” or “ICJ”), the world’s highest court, issued its Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons on July 8, 1996. Thus, this week marks the 20th anniversary of that momentous opinion.
The Court found in a split vote (7 to 7), with the casting vote of the Court’s president Mohammed Bedjaoui deciding the matter, that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal under international law. The Court could not determine whether it would be legal or illegal to threaten or use nuclear weapons “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”
Three of the judges voting to oppose general illegality, however, were concerned with the word “generally” and wanted the Court to go further and remove any ambiguity about the illegality of threat or use of nuclear weapons.
Judge C.G. Weeramantry, for example, argued in a brilliant dissenting opinion “that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever.”
Thus, in actuality, ten of the fourteen judges supported either general illegality or total illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.
The Court also found unanimously that Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Published on July 8, 2016, the day of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. It’s the 5th in the TFF Series “The New Cold War”
Russia and NATO have offensive capacities and MIMACs (Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex) but NATO’s is a much larger potential threat to Russia than the other way around
Why does an alliance with such an overwhelming superiority shout and scream and see ghosts on the horizon when, in reality, there are none?
Why does it seem to be intellectually unable to see things from the side of its opponent? Is the show of strength in reality a sign of weakness?
A threat consists of two main things: An intention to do something negative to you + a capability to actually carry it through – thus I + C.
Whenever NATO S-G Stoltenberg – a person who has gone through a serious personality change – speaks, he says nice things like: NATO does not seek confrontation and none of its moves are directed at Russia. NATO countries just have to protect themselves against Russia which they see as a threat.
Typically the talk is about an actor, a country, a leader – not about issues or trends that challenge the Alliance and certainly not that its own war adventures have weakened it in moral and legitimacy terms.
On their own side, NATO leaders buy none of – similar – Russian peace rhetorics. If you ask them why, they would say: Because as long as the Russians have offensive capabilities, there is also a risk that good/defensive official motives may – within weeks – be turned into an offensive, aggressive stance and we will be attacked. Can’t trust them!
But NATO itself excels in offensive projects, plans and capabilities – such as forward positioning, bases, long-range bomber and fighter planes, Ballistic Missile Defense and nuclear weapons – nuclear weapons are by definition never defensive because of their unlimited destructive capacity and because they can, by definition, not be used on one’s own territory.
To put it crudely: If you have no aggressive intentions directed at anyone – then scrap your offensive capabilities including long-range, particularly destructive and nuclear weapons and preserve only what can be used for defense – i.e. if you are attacked.
Why should you scrap the offensive elements? Because, no matter what you say about your intentions, the other side will see you as potential aggressive because you offensive weapons can reach them: If you don’t plan to come to our territory, then why do you have systems that can reach our territory and create unspeakable destruction on our people and culture??
Upholding offensive arsenals is a clear indicator of the possibility that officially stated defensive intentions can change to the opposite – how should NATO otherwise feel threatened by today’s Russia?
The eternal but non-credible threat needed by MIMAC
There are good-hearted people who believe that countries have competent experts who along a series of indicators measure and judge which security challenge are waiting in the future – and a series analyses of the threat towards their country on this or that time horizon.
The probability of each threat is also evaluated – to help politicians with limited budgets to allocate money to guard against some ‘realistic’ but not all possible/thinkable threats.
The – again very good-hearted – people believe that politicians and the industry then decide about the appropriate national defence, the necessary minimum of what we call a (military) defence policy and other measures to meet the challenges.
Unfortunately, as has been known since the last 50 years – except to politicians and the media – this description of security politics has nothing to do with reality.
Here is how it works, instead. Read the rest of this entry »
By Gunnar Westberg
During the years since the end of the Cold War, Peter Handberg – a writer and translator – has travelled many times in the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He has visited many sites where nuclear weapons were kept at the time, ready to destroy the world.
Handberg has also spoken to military officers who once watched over these instruments of Armageddon. He has written an important book on the subject, Undergångens skuggor (Shadows of Doom). The book is not translated but a documentary film is planned.
He has just led a group of people from Sweden to some of these bases, abandoned since 1987. We were about ten physicians from the Swedish section of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and ten others – historians, people with an interest in the Baltic states, etc..
I learnt three important facts, from the book and be visiting these sites:
1. The size of the Soviet nuclear complex in these small Baltic states was enormous; there were at least 35 bases.
2. The officers who watched over the missiles were, especially in 1983, convinced that an American attack would come and they expected to launch their missiles.
3. There were at some of these bases, in the sixties but also much later, short distance missiles with a range of not more than 600 km, enough to reach Southern Finland and Eastern Sweden only. They carried a large number of bombs, mostly of 100 kt effect, or about six Hiroshima bombs.
The reason “neutral” Sweden was targeted was that a US attack with bomb planes carrying nuclear weapons was expected to come also over Sweden, possibly using Swedish airfields.
Maybe that was correct: Sweden would have been used as a platform for an American nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Such a scenario is described by Thomas Reed, once head of US Air Force, in his book At the Abyss.
Reed was a US defence analyst who in the eighties participated in the selection of enemy targets in the strategic plane called SIOP.
I can not avoid comparing this piece of history to the situation today: Sweden’s government is moving ever closer to NATO and has – through the Host Country Agreement – prepared for NATO bases in the country and thereby – potentially at least – for an attack to be carried out by NATO from Swedish territory.
We Swedes are making ourselves a target.
By Jonathan Power
June 7th. 2016.
The second article in the TFF Series on The New Cold War
George Orwell, the author of “Animal Farm” and “1984”, was the first person to use the phrase “Cold War” in a 1945 newspaper article, written just after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He argued that “the surface of the earth is being parceled off into three great empires, each self-contained and cut off from contact with the outer world, and each ruled, under one disguise or another, by a self-elected oligarchy. He counted the US and Western Europe as one, the Soviet Union as the second and China as the third. He concluded that, “the atomic bomb is likeliest to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a peace that is no peace”.
I think he got it nearly right – or so it seems as a new Cold War erupts between the West and Russia and China spars with the US over the South China Sea and its islands.
Of course it’s more complicated than that. China and Russia have a fair relationship. China and the US are perhaps doing nothing much more than annoying each other and the bonds of commerce and student exchanges bind both the elites and the populaces close together.
To me a new Cold War is nonsense on stilts. Even more than the original one.
George Kennan, the US former ambassador to Moscow and the author of how to contain the Soviet Union, always insisted that Stalin had no intention of rolling his tanks into Western Europe. As Robert Legvold summarizes Kennan’s views in his interesting new book, “Cold War”, “The threat the Soviet Union posed was political, a threat accentuated by these countries’ vulnerability to Soviet subversion because of their economic frailty and political instability – a threat requiring a political and economic response, not a military one”.
In 1948 Kennan wrote, as he observed the creation of Nato, “Why did they [Western leaders] wish to divert attention from a thoroughly justified and promising program of economic recovery by emphasizing a danger which did not actually exist but which might be brought into existence by too much discussion of the military balance and by the ostentatious stimulation of military rivalry?” Read the rest of this entry »