Australian news, and some related international items

On the brink of a new nuclear arms race.

Ed. note. An intelligent article (for THE AUSTRALIAN, that is) with insights into the current nuclear arms race, and into why Australia should not aim to get nuclear weapons.

Still, the rest of the article goes on to praise the American war machine, and to advise Australians to stick with it. That is the sucking up to America thinking that we have come to know and love, from Murdoch’s THE AUSTRALIAN

Worrying signs we’re on the brink of a new nuclear arms race, THE AUSTRALIAN By ALAN DUPONT   From Inquire rAugust 7, 2021

There are worrying signs the world is on the brink of a new nuclear arms race. A regional conflict between nuclear-armed states could escalate quickly into a destructive global crisis with catastrophic consequences.

Fear that a conflict between the US and China over Taiwan could go nuclear is shaping the government’s risk assessments, strengthening the case to upgrade our missile defences for critical defence installations and operationally deployed units of the Australian Defence Force………..

Although China’s arsenal is still dwarfed by those of the US and Russia, its nuclear breakout could double the number of its nuclear warheads. The expansion is part of a disturbing global trend that reverses the late Cold War momentum towards nuclear arms reductions. There are continuing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Tehran is inching its way towards becoming the 10th nuclear weapons state despite the Biden administration’s efforts to resurrect a nuclear deal abandoned by Donald Trump. And Russian military planners seem to believe it is possible to win a limited nuclear war in what has been dubbed an “escalate to de-escalate strategy”……….

The Cold War was fought in the shadow of nuclear Armageddon.

The 1962 Cuban missile crisis came perilously close to initiating an existential war that would have devastated the planet and killed more than 100 million Americans and Russians.

These estimates don’t include deaths from the long-term effects of radiation and the nuclear winter that would follow, blanketing the sun and causing massive crop losses and damage to the Earth’s ecosystem. A 1982 study calculated that if Europe, China and Japan were included, there would be 400 million to 500 million fatalities.

After the close call in Cuba, a new doctrine emerged. Mutual assured destruction recognised that since the US and Soviet Union each had a comparable number of warheads neither could win a nuclear war. Any attempt to strike pre-emptively would be tantamount to suicide since the country attacked would have enough missiles left to annihilate the other.

MAD was satirised brilliantly by Stanley Kubrick in the memorable black comedy starring Peter Sellers as the US President’s eccentrically unhinged scientific adviser, Dr Strangelove………

The main concern after the Cold War break-up of the Soviet Union was that “loose nukes” might fall into the hands of terrorists untroubled by moral constraints and undeterred by the superior military power of nation-states. While still a problem, a bigger concern is the emerging second cold war between the US and its authoritarian challengers, Russia and China, which is eroding the trust essential for verifiable arms control agreements.

Most forms of bilateral arms control between the US and Russia have collapsed since the arms control agreements signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in the late 1980s. Beijing has resisted pressure to join new arms control talks, fearful of being locked into the position of a second-rate nuclear power since it has only a fraction of the nuclear weapons possessed by the US and Russia.

Other important drivers of the new nuclear arms race are Beijing’s determination to become a fully fledged nuclear power, Washington’s decision to modernise its nuclear forces and the development of smaller, stealthier and low-yield nuclear weapons.

The outcome of this race is less predictable and even more dangerous than before because there are more players, fewer constraints and greater potential for the proliferation of destabilising nuclear weapons technologies. Today’s nukes can be carried by an expanding list of delivery systems – from suitcases and artillery guns to cruise missiles and super-fast hypersonic missiles…….

Technological advances – notably the miniaturisation of nuclear warheads and advances in guidance systems, sensors and satellites – have increased the speed, accuracy and manoeuvrability of the latest missile classes.

They also have reduced warning times dramatically, encouraging hair-trigger “launch on warning” responses that make nuclear war more probable……………….

Trump ruffled feathers in Beijing and Moscow by proposing to spend $US1 trillion across the next 30 years upgrading all three elements of America’s nuclear triad (land, air and sea). His 2018 Nuclear Force Posture Review declared new warheads were necessary to maintain the viability of the US nuclear deterrent and to provide more flexibility for a range of plausible contingencies. These new warheads – low-yield variants of the missiles on its nuclear submarines and sea-launched cruise missiles – were heavily criticised as destabilising by Moscow and Beijing, as well as non-government organisations advocating for reductions in nuclear arms.

Despite branding Trump’s warhead initiative as a “bad idea” on the campaign trail and assuring NGOs the current arsenal “is sufficient”, Joe Biden has left intact Trump’s key initiatives and asked congress for a similar level of funding. This has drawn the ire of critics including progressives in his own party, who accuse Biden of expanding nearly all Trump’s programs and have vowed to fight his budget request.

Beijing’s historic nuclear shift must be seen against the background of a fragmenting international order. Confronted with the mega-challenges of the mutating Covid-19 pandemic and a warming planet, the last thing the world needs is a new nuclear arms race and a China determined to close a perceived [ perceived? it’s real] nuclear gap with the US. But that’s where we are headed……………

…….under pressure to develop our own nuclear weapons. But going down this path would be folly. Apart from stirring domestic controversy, a decision to develop nuclear weapons would be prohibitively expensive, alarm our neighbours and fly in the face of our commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. A handful of Australian nukes could never replace the protection afforded by the US nuclear guarantee…………

August 7, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war

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