The American-NATO rush toward nuclear war with Russia

America’s addiction to nuclear weapons does not lend itself to deterrence-based stability. It only leads to war.

“That’s great, it starts with an earthquake…”

There’s nothing like a classic 1980’s rock song to get one’s blood up and running, and REM’s 1987 classic, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine), fits the bill just right on this hot and muggy summer day.

The only problem is, the song might as well be prophesy, because from where I sit, taking in the news about the rapidly escalating nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia, it very much looks like the end of the world as we know it.

And I don’t feel fine.

The news isn’t good. Last month, on May 6, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it would, on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, conduct exercises involving the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons. According to Russian officials, the exercises were a response to “provocative statements and threats from certain Western officials directed at the Russian Federation.”

The Russians were responding to statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron to The Economist on May 2, where he declared that “I’m not ruling anything out [when it comes to deploying French troops to Ukraine], because we are facing someone [Putin] who is not ruling anything out.” Macron added that “if Russia decided to go further [advancing in Ukraine], we will in any case all have to ask ourselves this question (whether to send of troops).”

While Macron described his remarks as a “strategic wake-up call for my counterparts,” it was clear not everyone was buying into what he was selling. “If a NATO member commits ground troops [to Ukraine],” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after Macron’s words became public, “it will be a direct NATO-Russia confrontation, and then it will be World War III.”

The Russians conducted their exercises in two phases, with the first taking place in late May. There, the tactical missile forces of the Southern Military District practiced “the task of obtaining special training ammunition for the Iskander tactical missile system, equipping them with launch vehicles and secretly moving to the designated position area to prepare for missile launches.”

The Iskander-M is the nuclear-capable version of the Iskander family of missiles and can carry a single nuclear warhead with a variable yield of between 5 and 50 kilotons. (By way of comparison, the American atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons.) The single-stage solid rocket missile flies at high hypersonic speeds, and possesses a maneuvering warhead, making it virtually impossible to shoot down. With a range of 500 kilometers, the Iskander-M, when fired from locations in Crimea, would be able to reach French bases located in Romania, which ostensibly would be used to surge forces into Ukraine.

The second phase of the exercises took place on June 10, when the Russian and Belorussian forces practiced the transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to Belorussian control as part of the new Russian nuclear sharing doctrine put in place by Vladimir Putin and his Belorussian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, earlier this year. The weapons involved included the Iskander-M missile and gravity bombs that would be delivered by modified Belorussian SU-25 aircraft. The weapons would put all of Poland and the Baltic States under the threat of nuclear attack.

Around the same time that Russia was carrying out its tactical nuclear drills, several NATO nations, including Germany, announced that they had given Ukraine the green light to use weapons it had provided to strike targets inside Russia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Prague on May 29, said Ukraine had the right to strike legitimate military targets inside Russia. “Ukraine has the right for self-defense,” Stoltenberg declared, adding that “we have the right to help Ukraine uphold the right for self-defense, and that does not make NATO allies a party to the conflict.”

Putin took time from his visit to Uzbekistan to reply, warning that NATO members in Europe were playing with fire by proposing to let Ukraine use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russia. Putin said Ukrainian strikes on Russia with long-range weapons would need Western satellite, intelligence and military assistance, thus making any Western help in this regard a direct participant in the conflict. “Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” Putin said. “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons? It’s hard to say,” Putin said, answering his own question. “Do they want a global conflict?”

On June 5, speaking to an audience of senior editors of international news agencies while attending the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin observed that, “For some reason, the West believes that Russia will never use it [nuclear weapons]. We have a nuclear doctrine,” Putin noted. “Look what it says. If someone’s actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible for us to use all means at our disposal. This should not be taken lightly, superficially.”

But the US and NATO were doing just that. In an interview to the British Telegraph newspaper given at NATO’s headquarters building in Brussels, Belgium, Stoltenberg said that NATO members were consulting about deploying more nuclear weapons, taking them out of storage and placing them on standby in the face of a growing threat from Russia and China. “I won’t go into operational details about how many nuclear warheads should be operational and which should be stored, but we need to consult on these issues,” Stoltenberg said.

The only nuclear weapons currently in the NATO system are some 150 US-controlled B61 gravity bombs stored at six NATO bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel Air Base in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi Air Base in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands and Incirlik in Turkey. NATO officials later clarified Stoltenberg’s remarks, saying there were no significant changes to the NATO nuclear posture, noting that Stoltenberg’s comments referred to the modernization of NATO’s nuclear deterrent, including the replacement of F-16 jets with F-35 stealth fighters, and the modernization of some of the B61 bombs currently deployed in Europe.

Stoltenberg’s comments to the Telegraph came 10 days after Pranay Vaddi, the senior director for arms control at the National Security Council, announced a “new era” for nuclear arms in which the US would deploy nuclear weapons “without numerical constraints.”

Stoltenberg’s statements, when viewed in the context of Vaddi’s declaration, points to a dangerous shift in focus within both NATO and the US away from the concept of nuclear weapons representing a force of deterrence, and instead increasingly being seen in the West as a usable weapon of war.

The concept of deterrence as the sole justification for the existence of nuclear weapons dates back to 1978, when the United Nations General Assembly held its first Special Session on Disarmament. One of the main ideas to emerge from this event was the notion of so-called negative security assurances, or NSAs, in which the declared nuclear-armed states committed to not using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that were in good standing with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and not otherwise aligned with a nuclear-armed state.

Source: Scott Ritter Extra