These Nuclear Breakthroughs Are Endangering the World, by Conn Hallinan

The US is upgrading its nuclear arsenal, perhaps enough to tempt American policymakers to launch a war against Russia and China. That would, undoubtedly, go perfectly according to plan. From Conn Hallinan at antiwar.com:

How a growing technology gap between the U.S. and its nuclear-armed rivals could lead to the unraveling of arms control agreements – and even nuclear war

At a time of growing tensions between nuclear powers – Russia and NATO in Europe, and the US, North Korea, and China in Asia – Washington has quietly upgraded its nuclear weapons arsenal to create, according to three leading American scientists, “exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, Matthew McKinzie of the National Resources Defense Council, and physicist and ballistic missile expert Theodore Postol conclude that “Under the veil of an otherwise-legitimate warhead life-extension program,” the US military has vastly expanded the “killing power” of its warheads such that it can “now destroy all of Russia’s ICBM silos.”

The upgrade – part of the Obama administration’s $1 trillion modernization of America’s nuclear forces – allows Washington to destroy Russia’s land-based nuclear weapons, while still retaining 80 percent of US warheads in reserve. If Russia chose to retaliate, it would be reduced to ash.

A Failure of Imagination

Any discussion of nuclear war encounters several major problems.

First, it’s difficult to imagine or to grasp what it would mean in real life. We’ve only had one conflict involving nuclear weapons – the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – and the memory of those events has faded over the years. In any case, the two bombs that flattened those Japanese cities bear little resemblance to the killing power of modern nuclear weapons.

The Hiroshima bomb exploded with a force of 15 kilotons, or kt. The Nagasaki bomb was slightly more powerful, at about 18 kt. Between them, they killed over 215,000 people. In contrast, the most common nuclear weapon in the US arsenal today, the W76, has an explosive power of 100 kt. The next most common, the W88, packs a 475-kt punch.

Another problem is that most of the public thinks nuclear war is impossible because both sides would be destroyed. This is the idea behind the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, aptly named “MAD.”

To continue reading: These Nuclear Breakthroughs Are Endangering the World

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