Ready for Nuclear War Over Ukraine?
By Robert Parry, Consortium News
24 February 15
senior Ukrainian official is urging the West to risk a nuclear conflagration in support of a “full-scale war” with Russia that he says authorities in Kiev are now seeking, another sign of the extremism that pervades the year-old, U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.
In a recent interview with Canada’s CBC Radio, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said, “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.”
Prystaiko added, “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop [Russian President Vladimir Putin] somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe.” The deputy foreign minister announced that Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants the West to supply lethal weapons and training so the fight can be taken to Russia.
“What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little,” Prystaiko said.
Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable about Prystaiko’s “Dr. Strangelove” moment is that it produced almost no reaction in the West. You have a senior Ukrainian official saying that the world should risk nuclear war over a civil conflict in Ukraine between its west, which favors closer ties to Europe, and its east, which wants to maintain its historic relationship with Russia.
Why should such a pedestrian dispute justify the possibility of vaporizing millions of human beings and conceivably ending life on the planet? Yet, instead of working out a plan for a federalized structure in Ukraine or even allowing people in the east to vote on whether they want to remain under the control of the Kiev regime, the world is supposed to risk nuclear annihilation.
The following letter addresssed to the Australian Foreign Minister highlights the significance of the Austrian Pledge and the need to support the full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Please send a similar letter to your Senators. If this pledge were honored and the NPT honored there would be no need for Iranian “negotiations”. There would be no need to continue spending trillions of dollars on threatening human destruction and those resources could be directed at human needs and peaceful sane economic activity.
PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT
RE: VIENNA CONFERENCE ON HUMANITARIAN CONSEQUENCES OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: AUSTRIAN PLEDGE
The Human Survival Project (a joint project of People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND) and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies) and People for Nuclear Disarmament is writing to urge you to support the Austrian Pledge, made at the end of the December 8-9, 2014 Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons.
We…strongly endorse the Austrian Pledge, in particular its references to human survival and to the pressing need:
(1)to decrease short-term nuclear weapons risks by decreasing operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems,
(2)ensure early implementation of ArtVI NPT obligations
A number of recent events and developments make the implementation of ArtVI obligations to disarm, and the lowering of nuclear risks, pressingly urgent. These include (but are not confined to):
–The recent movement of the hands of the ‘doomsday clock’ from 5 minutes to ‘midnight’ to 3 minutes.
–Ongoing modernisation and upgrading of nuclear weapons systems in all of the nuclear weapons states in contradiction to NPT article VI disarmament obligations.
–The recent article in Der Spiegel in which it is suggested that the risk of nuclear weapons use between Russia and NATO may actually be HIGHER than during the Cold War.
If nothing else was clear from the proceedings of the Vienna conference two things surely emerged with crystal clarity:
(a)That the risk of nuclear weapons use, including a massive US/Russia exchange, is, in any given year, nonzero, and is probably much higher than we imagine it to be. Our survival thus far in the nuclear age might be regarded as statistically improbable.
(b) A massive use of nuclear weapons would certainly destroy what we call civilisation and would put human survival in question.
Nuclear disarmament is thus, clearly, a ‘Human Survival Imperative.’
As such, progress toward it must trump all other considerations including so – called ‘national security’ considerations: Indeed it must itself be regarded as itself the very highest ‘national security’ consideration.
Support for the Austrian pledge in this context is the only rational policy direction. Movement toward the goals set out in that pledge are a policy imperative of the very highest priority for all governments.
Arise, then, Women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
whether your baptism be that of water or of tears!
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage
for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience
We women of one country
will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs”
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says, “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
nor violence indicate possession!”
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war,
let women now leave all that may be left of home
for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God—
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
the amicable settlement of international questions
the great and general interest of peace—
Julia Ward Howe 1870
The weapons aimed at our enemies must first pass through our own hearts.
And Jesus said, “Who lives by the sword will die by the sword”
I say to you, “Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you so you can be children of God. For your heavenly Father sends his sun to shine on the just and the unjust and rain on the honest and dishonest. If you Love only those who love you what reward can you expect?”
Peace Train for February 6, 2015
By JUDITH MOHLING
Kate Bush sings, “Chips of plutonium are twinkling in every lung,” from
Rocky Flats, eight miles south of Boulder, was home to a plutonium pit
factory; 70,000 pits were manufactured for nuclear weapons. Each pit if
fractured into breathable particles contains enough plutonium to kill
every person in the world, according to Kristen Iverson in her book,
“Full Body Burden.”
Production was stopped after a raid by the FBI and EPA in 1989 for
suspected environmental crimes, and the outer area of the plant was
eventually declared “safe” in 2005 by the EPA, the DOE and the Colorado
Department of Public Health and Environment after a clean up process
that cost less and was quicker than predicted and felt by many observers
to have been inadequate.
According to Kristen Iversen, during production years there were 200
fires at Rocky Flats that released plutonium, two big ones.
Now, the Fish and Wildlife Service who were given responsibility for
4,465 acres of the site as a “Wildlife Refuge,” is planning a
“controlled burn” to manage the grasses on 701 acres of the site.
Isn’t is ironic that accidental production fires over the years carrying
hot particles of plutonium, contaminating the area, have now given way
to planned fires?
“Burning contaminated vegetation releases radioactive smoke that can be
inhaled, exposing lung and body tissue to damaging alpha radiation,”
according to Paula Elofson-Gardine in the “Earth Island Journal.”
There is a story in the documentary, “Dark Circle,” about a little girl.
At age eleven, Kris bumped her knee. Doctors found a malignancy. Her leg
was amputated, and she began undergoing chemotherapy. “It didn’t slow
her down much,” her father said. She swam. She got her swimming
But, Kris Haag died before the year ended. Her parents agonized over
where her cancer could have come from and then heard about a fire at the
Rocky Flats plant six miles from their home. “When she was just two
years old I built her a sandbox in the backyard,” her father told us. “I
later found out that was the year they had the big fire at Rocky Flats.”
“The plutonium that went out with that fire must’ve carried right into
her sandbox. It just tears me up to think about it now. We were right
Stop the Rocky Flats burn.
How to get out of the Nuclear Swamp
February 4, 2015
by Xanthe Hall
This week I read an email exchange that made me think. Actually, it worried me deeply. In one of the messages an old friend described the Nuclear Weapons Convention – an idea many of us fought for since the early nineties – as a “fairy tale”. A second mail called it a “distraction”.
The authors of these mails are not government representatives from nuclear weapon states or their allies, although you might be forgiven for thinking so. Both those descriptions have been used by states that want to brush aside the idea of a convention summarily, as if only for the very stupid or naïve. No, these were colleagues.
Since the strategy of pursuing a so-called Ban Treaty has been advocated by the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear weapons (ICAN), at least by its International Steering Group and staff, a fierce debate has been raging between two groups. These are principally the younger and the older generation, although that doesn’t quite fit, since there are older disarmament campaigners decidedly in favour of a Ban Treaty, including myself. Probably there are also younger campaigners who are sceptical of the concept of a Ban Treaty. The email exchange I describe above made it clear to me that this debate is being conducted in a manner that is neither conducive to change, nor is it respectful to the work others have done before that the Ban can build upon.
Of course, just banging on about a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention that was written nearly twenty years ago is not an effective strategy and very few of us would advocate it. About fifteen years ago I realised that the Model NWC had become synonymous with certain states that were not being taken seriously and many governments put it aside without even looking at it. Many of us understood at that time that we needed a new grouping that would cut across the board and unite those in middle power countries seriously pursuing disarmament. The New Agenda Coalition became the new driving force at that time. Reservations about the Model meant that it was necessary to separate the idea of a convention from the Model we, as a movement, had created – to let go of it. However, it was a useful document to show what such a convention might look like and many fruitful discussions with governments centred around the Model as a discussion paper.
As a mother, learning to let go of things you brought into the world is the hardest lesson to learn. But it is the most important. However, letting go of the Model does not mean that the idea of a convention should be rejected. That would be the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
The Nuclear Weapons Convention is simply another name for a treaty banning and eliminating nuclear weapons. It remains the goal for all of us: for ICAN, Mayors for Peace, Abolition 2000, PNND, Middle Powers Initiative and all the other International Disarmament Organisations that I work with and some more. What it will look like at the end of the day is still wide open. But that is not really what is under discussion here.
The real debate is about how to get to elimination. (That is another phrase that could have come from the mouth of a government, I think even Germany has said something like it, although they are advocating the step-by-step process). ICAN has put the idea on the table that we do not have to wait for the possessor states to be able to take action. In fact, this is really what we have been doing: banging at the wrong doors. Trying to persuade the smokers to introduce a smoking ban, when it is the non-smokers who are the real mass we need to mobilise.
When Ron McCoy proposed the idea of an international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons to IPPNW all those years ago, this is what he said: We need a campaign like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. At the time, many were immediately sceptical – nuclear weapons are different from landmines, they said. Nuclear weapons are instruments of power, political weapons. But the point of the landmine campaign was to make the humanitarian dimension a priority, so that any security or political advantages were superseded by the catastrophic humanitarian effects. This is what we meant by changing the debate. By stigmatising the possession of an unacceptable weapon you disempower those who wield them. Politics can change, the effects of the weapon do not. This is the idea behind humanitarian disarmament and is the strategy that is underlying the process that began as the humanitarian initiative and is now transforming into the humanitarian imperative.
What we term the “Ban Treaty” is a synonym for beginning a process to eliminate nuclear weapons by creating a critical mass of like-minded states ready to go forward with a ban. It is important that these states have already renounced nuclear weapons and do not believe them to be of any political value. In declaring nuclear weapons to be banned, they strengthen their commitment to the NPT which states that it is illegal for any countries to develop or acquire nuclear weapons and those who possess them should get rid of them (albeit without setting a time-frame).
So what is stopping this group of states forming? In my view, it is the same problem that we are facing in civil society. The majority of states are supportive of a convention, meaning that they expect a commitment from the nuclear possessor states to negotiate before embarking upon a process. Cuba declared in Vienna that they would try to force this process to begin by introducing a resolution to the UN General Assembly this year, to establish an open-ended working group with a negotiating mandate to begin work on a convention. While this is music to some ears, the very fact that it is Cuba that is the proponent could mean that – if the working group is established – it will be boycotted by the nuclear possessor states (perhaps with the exception of India and Pakistan).
Should, however, states come together with the purpose of negotiating a convention and then find themselves unable to negotiate with the nuclear possessor states – what then? This is the moment where they can agree to go forward with a ban. It may, indeed, not be a “shortcut” to elimination, as the allied states are so fond of saying. It may take just as long to get to a full convention as before, who knows? There is no empirical evidence to show that one path is shorter than the other. But a ban is in itself a major legal step that will have the effect of stigmatising nuclear weapons, in the same way that chemical weapons, although banned and not yet eliminated, are. Remember the outcry over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the resulting drive for elimination.
The analogy with smoking is one of my favourites, having given up smoking more than ten years ago. I remember how my sister locked me out of the house while I was having a secret smoke on her veranda. I felt like a pariah, ringing the bell to come back in. And the look on her face was one of disgust at what I had been doing (probably also because of the smell). Once there is a ban in place, even though cigarettes are still with us, the non-smokers have the law on their side to live in a smoke-free atmosphere. Yes, it makes the relationship with our smoking friends more difficult – but each time someone gives up, we can have a helluva celebration to welcome them into the international community.
The purpose of this blog is to advocate that we – as non-governmental actors – should not mirror the divided world of nuclear disarmament diplomacy, but we need to hack our way through the jungle and find a path that we can offer states as an alternative to the plodding step-by-step process that has led them into a deep swamp that they cannot get out of. Changing the debate was the stick that can help lift them out of the mud. It is important that they keep their eye on the goal which is the elimination of nuclear weapons and unite to close the legal gap, as the Austrian Pledge puts it. A ban would be a powerful instrument that would give enormous strength to nuclear weapon-free states to lead the way. Nuclear possessor states must then choose to stay behind and sink in the nuclear swamp or follow their lead to a nuclear weapon-free world.
All change has to begin within ourselves. We cannot always wait for others to change the world.
Peace Train January 16, 2015
By JUDITH MOHLING
The tiny island nation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands is rising against some of the most powerful bullies of the world to shine a light on one way the bullies maintain their power: nuclear arsenals.
Those without a lot of wealth or a lot of power are getting absolutely killed in America today,” according to Michael Snyder from “The American Dream,” and the same is true world wide. Big corporations, major financial institutions, the ultra-wealthy and those connected to the top levels of governments—the privileged—are in a “mad scramble to survive at the expense of the poor,” according to Chris Hedges in an essay, “A Message from the Dispossessed,” as he sees the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. Meanwhile, ordinary people are being abused, regulated, taxed and mistreated like never before.
Nuclear weapons are the currency of power, according to Anne Harrington de Santana. To maintain this status quo, the nuclear nations spend 100 billion dollars yearly upgrading nuclear arsenals, according to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and they aren’t stopping.
Enter onto this world stage a tiny nation with another form of the message to say “no!” to the economically lopsided world we all inhabit, the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Marshall Islanders have been abused for 60 years by US nuclear testing, accompanying deadly nuclear radiation and resulting suffering and deaths. Sixty-seven nuclear bombs were detonated there from 1946 to 1958, according to “Nuclear Zero.” This David and Goliath little nation has filed land mark cases in the International Court of Justice and US Federal District Court against the nuclear giants, claiming that the nine nuclear-armed nations with their 17,000 nuclear bombs have failed to comply with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law, to pursue negotiations for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.
The nuclear nations are the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China, who have signed on to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have not signed on but are nuclear nations “bound to the obligations by customary international law,” according to the Nuclear Zero law suits.
Hearings in the case are expected in the coming year.
May the ‘little guy,’ the Republic of the Marshall Islands, show the way. The world will be infinitely safer and will become increasingly equitable.
Here’s How Many ‘Super Nukes’ American Scientists Thought It Would Take To Destroy The World In 194518 Dec
Here’s How Many ‘Super Nukes’ American Scientists Thought It Would Take To Destroy The World In 1945
Dec. 16, 2014, 5:49 PM
Shortly after the end of World War II, the scientists who developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan tried to envision the kind of nuclear event that could lead to the destruction of not just cities, but the entire world.
A recently declassified document shared by nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein gives the verdict that scientists at the Los Alamos laboratory and test site reached in 1945. They found that “it would require only in the neighborhood of 10 to 100 Supers of this type” to put the human race in peril.
They reached this conclusion at a very early point in the development of nuclear weapons, before highly destructive multi-stage or thermonuclear devices had been built. But the scientists had an idea of the technology’s grim potential. “The ‘Super’ they had in mind was what we would now call a hydrogen bomb,” Wellerstein wrote in an email to Business Insider.
At the time, the scientists speculated they could make a bomb with as much deuterium — a nuclear variant of hydrogen — as they liked to give the weapon an explosive yield between 10 and 100 megatons (or millions of tons’ worth of TNT).
For perspective, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a yield of around 15 kilotons, or 0.015% of a megaton. These theorized bombs were several orders of magnitude more powerful than those that wrought destruction on Japan earlier that year.
The apocalypse brought on by these 10-100 super bombs wouldn’t be all fire and brimstone. The scientists posited that “the most world-wide destruction could come from radioactive poisons” unleashed on the Earth’s atmosphere by the bombs’ weaponized uranium. Radiation exposure leads to skyrocketing rates of cancer, birth defects, and genetic anomalies.
The Los Alamos scientists understood the threat that airborne radiation would pose in the event of nuclear war. “Atmospheric poisoning is basically making it so that the background level of radioactivity would be greatly increased, to the point that it would interfere with human life (e.g. cancers and birth defects) and reproduction (e.g. genetic anomalies),” says Wellerstein. “So they are imagining a scenario in which radioactive byproducts have gotten into the atmosphere and are spreading everywhere.”
Wellerstein says that this fear of widespread nuclear fallout was hardly irrational and that concerns over the atmospheric effects of nuclear detonations were “one of the reasons that we stopped testing nuclear weapons aboveground in 1963, as part of the Limited Test Ban Treaty.”
Taking both of the estimated scales to the extreme — 100 superbombs yielding 100 megatons of fission each — would result in a total yield of 10,000 megatons. As Wellerstein notes, that’s the same amount of fission that Project SUNSHINE determined was enough to “raise the background radioactivity to highly dangerous levels” in a 1953 study.
That degree of nuclear power — though not necessarily accompanied by the radioactive component critical to meeting the fears documents here — rested in the hands of both the US and Russia during the Cold War.
In recent decades the total yield of US and Russian nuclear weapons has fallen, such that “the threat of over-irradiating the planet is probably not a real one, even with a full nuclear exchange,” Wellerstein wrote. “A bigger concern is the amount of carbon that would be thrown up in even a limited nuclear exchange (say, between India and Pakistan), which could have detrimental global effects on the climate.”
Back in 1945 the Pentagon had speculated that it would take a few hundred atomic bombs to subdue Russia.
That thought experiment had a strategic bent. But the 1945 estimate seems to have advised caution in the new, uncertain nuclear age.
The scientific push to learn more about the destructive weapons that were so hastily researched and used in the 1940s resulted in important insights as to the consequence of their use. Nuclear weapons aren’t just horrific on the intended, local scale. They can carry consequences on the planet’s ability to foster human life, whether that’s by contributing to the greenhouse effect or irradiating it beyond habitability.
These warnings aside, US did end up detonating a “super bomb” in above-ground tests. The US detonated a 15 megaton device in the infamous Castle Bravo test in 1954. And the Soviet Union’s Tsar Bomba, detonated in 1961, had as much as a 58 megaton yield.