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A reasonable dead-hand wouldn’t conduct or even order a launch, it would just provide launch codes to submarine commanders, who could then apply human judgment to determine if a second-strike was needed.
I just checked the Netherlands and... It would take exactly one common (i.e. the yield most countries with nukes have in their current arsenal) nuke to kill everyone in the three most populous cities in the country (which includes Amsterdam, the official capital, and the Hague, the seat of government), everyone in between and... Also several tens of thousands of people a few miles from anywhere directly by the bomb (since it would break the Afsluitdijk and flood a large part of the country).
Hell... If the pressure is high enough, it would damage cities out to twice the nominal effective range, since it would force water back up the Rhine and Meusse and cause those to break their levies and flood the surrounding countryside as well.
A ground burst to a major water source is one way to mess up a lot of people's day, yeah.
Our modern culture tends to equate a nuclear exchange with total societal collapse, but honestly, I think that the reason for that is that it's way too nightmarish to imagine a world where the great nuclear powers take their hits, lose tens of millions of people, and then keep shooting.
Total human extinction is actually considered to be pretty unlikely even in a full-scale nuclear exchange. The main aggressors might be decimated, but I’d imagine even they would still continue to exist in some form.
The thing you have to keep in mind with humans in general is that we're one of the more versatile and adaptable species on Earth, which means that outright extinction is actually pretty unlikely. We have a diverse diet, can exist in damn near every terrestrial biome, we just aren't going anywhere.
It would definitely have a [[Understatement rather severe negative impact on the vast majority of nations]], and would be fair to call the worst catastrophe in human history. I would argue entire nations actually would survive, though many would fall, and the current world order would be shaken up. For example, I'd expect the US to survive in some form, but it would no longer be a superpower and its golden age would be over.
I'd also argue many of the nations that fall will do so, not as a direct consequence of the nuclear war, but out of a sort of geopolitical Anarchy Is Chaos. A lot of the economic and political structures maintaining our relative global piece would be gone. Also, the global hierarchy would be thrown into chaos which means there'd be great opportunities for any nation wanting to advance its relative position of power in the world. Basically, if WWIII will become known as the war that ended in a nuclear holocaust, then WWIV will be known as the war that was started right afterwards by that holocaust.
Humanity would take a very long time to fully recover from the event naturally, if it ever does. However, once a new world order was established, I'd expect there to be an actual, concentrated effort to repair the Earth, with most of the world at least tacitly on board. You'd have geoengineering projects, people attempting to clone and re-establish recently extinct species, that sort of thing.
New model agrees with old: Nuclear war between US and Russia would result in nuclear winter
Worth noting that the big sticking point on nuclear winter science is whether large, city-spanning fires that create sooty clouds develop. That paper does not really address that question, it only discusses what would happen if the worst case estimates for "large, city-spanning fires that create sooty clouds develop" are correct.
Meanwhile in the Trumposphere:
Russian radiological shenanigans:
What does he mean by a moratorium on nuclear material? Because the use of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators for probes heading out past about Mars are generally considered fairly uncontroversial and just about the only power supply that lasts long enough to actually power a probe long enough to get anywhere in the outer solar system (photovoltaic solar power generally being non-viable due to lack of insolation).
This is the text of the memorandum. It principally covers safety issues and the like and yes it also applies to radioisotope generators. These are not innocuous and have caused radiation problems in the past.
I am not seeing any moratorium anywhere...?
Edited by SeptimusHeap on Aug 22nd 2019 at 1:54:17 PM
My bad. Misread memorandum
Biden administration to seek five-year extension on key nuclear arms treaty in first foray with Russia.
At the same time, his administration is preparing to impose new costs on Russia pending a newly requested intelligence assessment of its recent activities. The officials said Biden is ruling out a “reset” in bilateral relations with Moscow as many U.S. presidents have done since the end of the Cold War.
“As we work with Russia, so, too, will we work to hold Russia accountable for their reckless and aggressive actions that we’ve seen in recent months and years,” said a senior U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive security matter.
The decision to seek a five-year treaty extension, which Russia supports but the Biden administration hadn’t settled on until now, reflects the rapidly approaching deadline for Washington to renew the New START pact Feb. 5, the officials said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia “welcomes the political will” for a New START extension from the Biden administration, but needs more time to study the details of Washington’s proposal, adding that the previous conditions put forward by former president Donald Trump’s team “absolutely did not suit us.”
“Russia definitely favors the preservation of New START and its extension so as to buy some more time for proper negotiations,” Peskov said.
President Donald Trump tried to conclude a shorter extension with Moscow in the final months of his presidency, but he failed to reach an agreement after his nuclear envoy spent months trying to persuade China to join the accord before dropping that demand.
Letting the treaty expire would allow Moscow and Washington to deploy an unlimited number of nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and missiles in what many experts fear could spark a nuclear arms race and further exacerbate U.S.-Russia relations.
“New START is manifestly in the national security interest of the United States and makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial,” the senior U.S. official said.
As the Biden administration informs Moscow of its terms for an extension, the president will order Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to provide him a full intelligence assessment of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2020 election, use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, officials said.
Biden is also asking Haines for an assessment of the massive cyberattack on federal agencies and departments related to the SolarWinds software breach, which many analysts and government officials have blamed on Russia. The request for the intelligence assessments will go out this week, said the officials.
“We will use these assessments to inform our response to Russian aggression in the coming weeks,” another senior official said.
Biden’s plans for potential punitive actions toward Russia at the outset of the administration is unique among his recent predecessors, all of whom attempted to turn a new page with the Kremlin in the hopes of encouraging a more productive relationship.
“This will be the first post-Soviet U.S. administration that has not come into office vowing to forge a warmer relationship with Russia,” said Angela Stent, a senior intelligence official on Russia during the George W. Bush administration.
The skeptical posture follows four years of growing animus toward the Kremlin within the Democratic Party for its interference in the 2016 election against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump came into office seeking a rapprochement with Russia, but opposition from his party and congressional Democrats stymied that effort.
Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told lawmakers Tuesday that sanctions passed by Congress to target Moscow will be “extremely helpful in being able to impose . . . costs and consequences” on Russia.
Blinken said New START, which restricts the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and deployed strategic delivery systems to 700, gives the United States “tremendous access to data and inspections” and is “certainly in the national interest to extend.”
Not all of Biden’s aides have supported the idea of a five-year extension for the treaty.
Victoria Nuland, a longtime Russia hawk whom Biden will nominate to be the No. 3 official at the State Department, wrote in Foreign Affairs over the summer that the United States should seek only a one- or two-year renewal in the hopes of retaining leverage over the Kremlin.
“Washington should not grant Moscow what it wants most: a free rollover of New START without any negotiations to address Russia’s recent investments in short- and medium-range nuclear weapons systems and new conventional weapons,” she wrote.
In responses to Biden’s decision to seek a five-year extension, Trump’s former special envoy for nuclear negotiations, Marshall Billingslea, criticized the move, saying it “shows stunning lack of negotiating skill.”
“Took just 24 hours for Biden team to squander most significant leverage we have over Russia,” he tweeted.
But U.S. officials noted that Billingslea himself tried to secure a shorter extension with his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, but failed to make a deal, leaving a critical agreement dangerously close to expiration.
“We’re aware that the last administration engaged in negotiations on an extension of a New START for months but was unable to come with an agreement,” the first senior U.S. official said. “We also understand there have been various proposals exchanged during those negations, but we’ve not seen anything to suggest that at any point an agreement on the terms that have been reported was in place.”
Arms control advocates have also opposed holding out for a shorter extension.
“There is no evidence that Russia is desperate to extend the treaty or that a shorter-term extension would make Russia more likely to negotiate a follow-on agreement,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
“A straightforward five-year extension would provide the new president with an early win and positive momentum, help restore U.S. credibility on arms control issues, and create the potential for more ambitious steps to reduce the nuclear danger and move us closer to a world without nuclear weapons.”
U.S. officials said they hoped a quick renewal of New START could provide a foundation for new arms control arrangements, potentially including China.
“We believe it’s absolutely urgent for China to take on greater responsibility, transparency and restraint for its nuclear weapons arsenal,” the U.S. official said.
The Biden administration is not interested in holding an extension of New START hostage to China, however, the official said, especially given that Moscow’s arsenal “is at least 10 times the size of China’s.”
In October, Russia expressed a willingness to freeze its overall number of nuclear warheads during talks with Billingslea — a move Biden officials said was a “positive development” they hoped to build on, even though details on verification had not been hammered out.
On Sunday, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called for the immediate release of Navalny, the Russian opposition leader detained in Moscow. Navalny had just returned home after receiving medical treatment in Germany following a poisoning attack this summer. Russian authorities put out a warrant for his arrest, claiming he had violated the terms of a previous sentence related to embezzlement charges.
“Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter. “The Kremlin’s attacks on Mr. Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard.”
The Biden administration’s ability to work with Russia on arms control while confronting it on a range of other issues will be tested almost immediately.
For reference, the US State Department website has the figures on the number of weapons involved.
New START, Explained
But even with Biden at the helm on January 20, New START, America’s last remaining nuclear treaty with the Russian Federation, is set to expire February 5, 2021. That’s less than 16 days after Biden enters the White House.
There were many issues at the top of Americans' minds as they stood at the polls to cast their ballots. For Black Americans, Latinx people, and other people of color whose votes proved decisive in this year’s election, it was race, immigration, the economy, and other dinner table issues. And while many commentators did worry out loud about the fact that Trump had first strike authority, New START likely wasn’t at the top of most Americans’ list.
But it should be. Nuclear arms treaties are essential to a safer, more stable world.
Moscow and Washington are at a crossroads when it comes to non-proliferation and arms reduction that arguably is as critical as the late 1980s when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in 1991. Many credit Gorbachev—who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his hand in escorting the USSR and U.S. out of the Cold War—and Reagan’s summits and negotiations over the years for staving off a third World War. While U.S.-Russia relations aren’t at Cold War levels, non-proliferation is at a very critical moment between the two nations that possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. As Biden prepares to occupy the White House, he will not have the amenable Gorbachev with whom to negotiate the next major reduction in deployed warheads and, hopefully, cuts in nuclear stockpiles. Vladimir Putin has been busy trying to reestablish Russia as a military power, and bolstering its nuclear arsenal is certainly central to that aim.
New START is an arms treaty that limits the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550, a decrease of two-thirds from the first treaty signed by George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in July of 1991. (Click here to learn what a warhead is) It doesn’t, however, limit the number of inactive, stockpiled warheads on either side.
Warheads are deployed on submarines carrying submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and heavy bombers. The basic idea is that, in the unfortunate event that either Moscow or Washington decides on a nuclear strike, both sides will know that no more than 1,550 warheads will be used against them. Not that it really takes that many to do the job, but you get the idea.
A key component of New START is the remote and satellite monitoring, as well as the required 18 site visits per year to verify the warhead limits.
Lynn Rusten, Vice President of the Global Nuclear Policy program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, worked on START I and said that the inspection process is very intrusive and that New START is even more strict than its first iteration. For example, she said that the original START I was an attribution system. So, for example, if there was a ballistic missile, it would be attributed with six warheads. All you were really verifying was the number of missiles, and then you'd mathematically calculate the number of warheads.
Under New START, it's actual warheads. If the Americans sent a team to a Russian ICBM base, they would get to know where all the missiles are and how many warheads are on each one. The American inspector can say, ‘I want (to see) missile silo number 10.’ The Russians would drive the team out to that missile, take off the nose cone, and the inspectors actually get to count the number of warheads. They're covered with a soft cover, so you don't see the warheads, but you see the bumps. They get to count how many warheads are literally on that missile.
It's an incredible amount of insight into Russia's nuclear systems and their operational practices, said Rusten. The same with the submarines. They pull the submarine into port, the inspectors randomly select which of the tubes they're going to pull a missile up from, and then they count the warheads on it.
“You can't see that from overhead satellites,” Rusten, who has been part of U.S. verification teams, said. “It's not replaceable if we don't have boots on the ground. That's what people lose sight of. It gives our military planners a lot of confidence about what Russia has and what we need to plan against. If we didn't have this information, over time, we would become less and less certain about what their nuclear forces look like, where they were, what they were doing."
It takes a long time, and negotiations are pretty complicated, according to Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Director, International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non‑Proliferation.
Usually, the United States and Russia meet in person. The delegations would comprise representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the U.S. State Department and defense representatives from both sides. Very often, those negotiations would take place in Geneva and could last for months. Initially, they would have meetings to just get things started. But once the negotiation is really in progress, they could spend months meeting and drafting texts. There might be fairly large delegations and a lot of support from back home nailing down details.
All of this is done behind closed doors, with the public knowing little about the back-and-forth between negotiators.
What has been unusual about the approach of the outgoing Trump Administration is they announce ambitious goals and talk about the U.S. conditions and demands publicly (including on social media)—which traditionally never happens—and, then, there's no actual negotiation. With the current White House, Mukhatzhanova said, it's not clear how much work is actually being put into the technical preparations. When Russia called for a five-year extension—which they shortened to one year because of the stalled talks—the Americans appeared to drag their feet and seemed unwilling to commit to working out the differences in their respective approaches.
(Biden has said he would accept Russia’s extension conditions)
Part of what held up talks was the Trump administration’s curious demand that China be added to the treaty. Mukhatzhanova told me it doesn’t make sense, especially since Moscow and Washington are in the middle of negotiating conditions between themselves.
“Furthermore, China’s arsenal looks very different from the U.S. and Russian arsenals,” she said. “It's much smaller. In fact, they don't even have warheads deployed in the same sense as the U.S. and Russian warheads. They keep their warheads decoupled from missiles, which has implications for how you count and what is being limited. The only possible positive outcome of including China would be China having to declare its arsenal, declare the numbers of missiles it has which it has never done before. China was very clear they were not going to join the treaty (unless the U.S. reduces its arsenal to the size of China’s). If you want China joining arms control talks in general as a precondition for the extension of New START, that's very strange because New START is a bilateral treaty.”
(Click here to learn more about China’s nuclear arsenal)
Again, how long these treaties take to negotiate depends on who the world leaders are, what terms both sides want, and how reasonable they are at the negotiating table.
That would be ideal, but there are too many interests involved—including Lockheed Martin’s, Northrop Grumman’s, and other war machine contractors' who make up the military-industrial complex—for that to happen easily.
Barack Obama entered office in 2009 with a mandate to abolish nuclear weapons. It was a noble goal, but one Republicans in Congress were completely against. There was no collective political will or ideological outlook that could envision a world without nuclear weapons. You also had a more expansionist Putin who was expanding the Kremlin’s regional influence by invading Ukraine in 2014 and supporting the Assad regime in Syria. Consequently, Obama’s administration saw fewer reductions of the stockpile than past administrations.
“It's going to take some very wise and thoughtful leadership at the highest levels,” Togzhan Kassenova, a nonresident fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, said. “We had it in Obama, but we didn't have a proper counterpart on the Russian side for that. For example, like what the Soviet Union had with Mikhail Gorbachev. So, somebody like Gorbachev on the Russian side, and somebody like Obama on the U.S. side. But also the military-industrial complex would need to do some soul searching.”
Northrop Grumman is expected to make $85 billion developing the next generation of ICBMs, and other military contractors are profiting from producing weapons as Americans are waiting for Congress to provide relatively modest monthly stimulus checks during the pandemic. If profit is prioritized over peace and if leadership believes that maintaining the military-industrial complex is central to a safer world, then abolishing nukes will be incredibly difficult.
It’s not possible to know that at this point.
But many experts agree that president-elect Biden would bring back a more traditional, less erratic approach to negotiating such treaties. But the downside is that Biden will likely not have much time to negotiate a new treaty and may be able just to extend the current one.
Without New START, Gaukhar says there would be no rules by which either side has to abide. And that could very well trigger an arms race.
“We would have for the first time in decades a situation where there is no bilateral nuclear arms control between the U.S. and Russia,” she said. “There would be no treaty obliging either side to report on any part of their nuclear arsenal. There would be no verification, no inspections, no neutral reporting, and no legally binding limitations on the number of weapons on each side. We've seen qualitative improvements in the arsenals, especially the Russian arsenal in the past decade or so. And the United States has started its own modernization efforts. It's very expensive, but, so far, it's really been focused on qualitative. But if we allow the last treaty limiting strategic nuclear weapons to expire, we could see a quantitative build-up and that's destabilizing and increases risks. That's something that American taxpayers should also consider. The expenditure on nuclear weapons is already humongous.
The modernization Gaukhar discusses was approved by Obama before he left office and is projected to cost well over $1 trillion over 30 years. When she says qualitative modernization, she means updating the current arsenal, not adding more weapons to it.
What is promising is that anything is possible. Relations between Moscow and Washington are tense but not at Cold War levels. There were upwards of 70,000 warheads in the world as recently as the late 1980s. There are around 13,500 at present. So there is much room to feel optimistic.
That said, no one knows what will happen with New START or how non-proliferation talks between Moscow and Washington will go. But a new White House with experience in these matters may bring forth a positive outcome that both America and the Russian Federation would welcome.
Edited by eagleoftheninth on Jan 22nd 2021 at 3:00:19 AM
Moving the nuclear weapons talk here from the US Politics thread.
None of them broke the NPT, by virtue of having never joined it.
Israel doesn’t even admit to having nuclear weapons, which has enabled it to avoid the fallout from such a program, that and its historically very precarious place in the world has given it some diplomatic leeway. Hell it possibly only even managed to develop nuclear weapons with the help of South Africa (the only country to peacefully give up functional nuclear weapons).
India developed nukes as a response to China, with potential help from the US (it’s unclear if the US actually believed that the nuclear material it was selling to India was going to be used peacefully), Pakistan then developed nukes as a response to India. Since the world has been paying for allowing Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons, as it has become the international equivalent of a toddler with a bomb vest.
Other countries have tried to break the NPT, but it’s not gone well. Saddam did originally try it and doing so got him on such a shit list that he gave up, Gadaffii tried it and gave up for similar reasons (he also saw what even the rumour of a WMD program helped do to Saddam), Assad likewise has tried things in the past and gotten himself bombed for his trouble.
North Korea has successfully pulled it off, but it’s suffered for doing so. It only managed to pull it off because it had China’s protection, Pakistan’s help and the US was kinda busy starting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
It really is more than just a question of technology as to if a country can successfully become a nuclear weapon state. There’s a ton of geopolitics involved.
As well as internal politics. Japan is also a screwdriver's turn away from having functional bombs, but if the LDP so much as hinted at an armament program they'd be crucified.
Contrariwise, I think Iran is in a geopolitical position where they can get away with building nukes, because America's credibility is that badly shot right now.
Even if the US was unwilling to carry out direct action to prevent Iran it’s likely that Saudi Arabia and Israel both would, plus we should consider the chance of the EU taking economic actions to get Iran to give up its program.
The US might be the nation most vocal about its concerns of a nuclear Iran, but it’s not the only nation concerned.
The EU has tried to maintain the Iran deal. So yea, loads of nations are concerned about Iran, even though the EU is not as concerned with it as the US. Talk of stuff like an invasion happens in US politics (serious or not) but it's not an option for the EU.
Edited by devak on Feb 11th 2021 at 8:20:22 PM
I can't imagine anyone wants a nuclear-armed Iran, but the ones most likely to act are it's immediate neighbors, then the US, followed by everyone else who don't want the status quo rocked.
Yeah the problem with a nuclear Iran is multi-faceted.
You do know that Iran’s nuclear program is illegal, right? Like it’s not just a violation of the deal (which is arguably gone after the US withdrew under Trump), it’s an outright violation of international law. Iran’s nuclear program isn’t some morally neutral international relationship bargaining chip, it’s a breach of international law and obviously I hold it against them.
I don't particularly care, the US has been hostile to Iran ever since they overthrew the autocratic Shah that we imposed upon them. Why wouldn't they try to get the means to ensure security?
International law is not a suicide pact, expecting nations to put it above their own security is a losing proposition in the long run.
Edited by Fourthspartan56 on Feb 22nd 2021 at 8:17:12 AM
So we should toss out all international law because the US is mean to one country?
Can you please respond to my argument? Just a little bit?
You're not even making an argument, you're just shrugging and going "international law doesn't matter" to continue beating on about how the US is entirely in the wrong and must do everything before Iran should deign to consider not doing something it: A) obliged itself not to do, and B) paints a massive local target on it.
It's hard to believe that you're arguing in good faith when you act like this.
I have an argument, if you go back and read my post you'd see it. Otherwise, I'm not interested in wasting my time discussing with someone who isn't interested in engaging with my point.
Edited by Fourthspartan56 on Feb 22nd 2021 at 8:38:03 AM
Again, what point? Your continued argument is that the US should lift all sanctions immediately and then hope that Iran is going to comply, during which time it will both be enriching uranium in contravention of the lapsed deal and its own international obligations. Continuously, you've insisted that the US is absolutely in the wrong and must do everything and Silas has made at least two posts (that haven't been replied to IIRC) indicating that you're simultaneously holding the US to treaty obligations whilst acting like the deal is lapsed so Iran isn't bound.
All you've done here is extend the same lack-of-logic to all international law: the US is bad, it should drop all sanctions, there is nothing wrong with the country violating international law.
"The US applied unfair sanctions therefore a country is entitled to build nukes" is a stupid position.
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