Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Mapping the unthinkable: inside the new nuclear war games

A final area of thought nuclear strategists are turning their attention to are what the American’s call “off-ramps” – concessions that can be offered which would allow Putin to back off while saving face.

We can strengthen Ukraine’s hand in negotiations by making the consequences of a deal more attractive for Russia,”

Mapping the unthinkable: Inside the new nuclear war games

Not since the Cold War have the stakes been so high, as experts rush to understand Putin’s nuclear strategy and plot counter moves telegraph,  
By Paul Nuki, GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY EDITOR, LONDON and Sarah Newey, GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, 28 February 2022 ”…………………….   Since the end of the Cold War, the number of nuclear weapons across the globe has dropped drastically, from a peak of around 70,300 in 1986, to roughly 12,700 in early-2022. But there are still more than enough. Russia and the US have by far the largest arsenals, with 5,600 and 6,200 weapons, respectively.

These weapons are much more powerful than those dropped on Japan. Just 50 modern bombs could kill 200 million people – or the combined populations of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, it is estimated.

…………..   Western intelligence agencies are watching closely to see exactly what Putin’s order means in practice, but most have interpreted it as a shift to a general state of nuclear readiness. The US could match the Russian move and raise its own response to Defcon 3 – “known to moviegoers as that moment when the US Air Force rolls out bombers, and nuclear silos and submarines are put on high alert”, as The New York Times puts it – but has so far chosen not to.

Experts suggested there were two reasons that the US and other nuclear armed Nato nations, including the UK and France, are not following suit.

“The United States won’t want to alert because then it would certainly be a nuclear crisis,” said Dr Mount. “The dominant strategy is to do what we can to impose costs in the areas where Putin is weak rather than agreeing to compete where Putin is stronger.”
There is also, in practical terms, little to be gained as Nato is, as a matter of course, always ready to strike back…………

Underpinning the nuclear standoff which has existed between Nato and Russia for decades is the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). It saw us through the Cold War but experts caution it may not be as reliable today. And even in the Cold War there were mistakes that brought nuclear armageddon close.

In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Russian commander operating in a sweltering submarine with broken air-conditioning almost launched a tactical nuclear torpedo. The Soviet B-59 sub was under fire from US forces, who were dropping non-lethal depth charges. The officer was unaware the action was designed to make him surface, and instead interpreted the situation as the beginning of a third world war.

But launching the torpedo required the approval of all three senior officers on board and one – Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov – refused. He was honoured with the “Future of Life” award in 2017, almost two decades after his death, for averting a nuclear conflict.A simple mistake or misunderstanding remains one of the principal risks today – a risk that is increased because, over the past 30 years, nuclear drills have been practised less frequently and the technology has aged.

Another risk – one that threatens the deterrence provided by MAD – is the proliferation of smaller “battlefield” nuclear weapons.

“Russian nuclear forces can be divided into strategic (which can reach the US) and nonstrategic (which can’t),” said

James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He added that it is not yet clear whether Putin’s order would result in both being “alerted” or readied for action.Given that Nato’s systems for strategic retaliation are already in place (our Trident submarines are already at sea) it would be intelligence which suggests Putin is preparing tactical nukes that would cause most immediate concern…………….Sahil Shah, a policy fellow at the European Leadership Network who advises senior US and European decision makers on reducing strategic and nuclear risks, said that not everything rests on Putin. There are checks and balances in place in Russia, just as there are in the West.

Russia has inherited a two-person rule throughout the chain of nuclear command and control from the Soviet days,” he told the Telegraph. Three people have “nuclear footballs”, or codes needed to authorise the launch of weapons: the President, Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff. It is thought that two of the three codes are needed to grant the military permission to deploy nuclear weapons.

“In effect, the Minister of Defence or possibly the Chief of the General Staff would need to validate the authorisation to use nuclear weapons for the Russian military to launch them,” Dr Shah said. “If that were to occur, the order would be passed to the Nuclear Strategic Forces Command and Control Centre, where two officers would need to simultaneously carry them out.”

A final area of thought nuclear strategists are turning their attention to are what the American’s call “off-ramps” – concessions that can be offered which would allow Putin to back off while saving face. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, President John Kennedy saved Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s blushes (to some extent) by agreeing to remove Nato missiles from Turkey in return for the Soviets dropping their attempts to arm Cuba.

“It’s difficult for the West to create a de-escalation pathway; much presumably depends on how Putin views the domestic consequences of his backing down – something over which the West has no control,” said  James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“But we can at least reduce the costs to his backing down by making it clear that the most punishing sanctions – central bank and Swift – will be lifted if the status quo ante is restored.

“I encourage others to think creatively now about other elements of a potential off-ramp for Russia. To be sure, it’s unsavoury to think about providing inducements to Putin for backing down while Ukrainians are being slaughtered.“However, Ukraine and Russia are now reportedly engaged in negotiations. We can strengthen Ukraine’s hand in negotiations by making the consequences of a deal more attractive for Russia,” he added. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/terror-and-security/mapping-unthinkable-inside-new-nuclear-war-games/

March 1, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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