Home Articles Features TRUMP, PUTIN, SHOULD REITERATE THAT 'A NUCLEAR WAR CANNOT BE WON AND MUST NEVER BE FOUGHT'.

TRUMP, PUTIN, SHOULD REITERATE THAT 'A NUCLEAR WAR CANNOT BE WON AND MUST NEVER BE FOUGHT'.

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 FRI 29 JUNE 2018

PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT

www.pndnsw.org.au
https://www.facebook.com/Human-Survival-Project-388802504634024/


TRUMP, PUTIN, SHOULD REITERATE THAT 'A NUCLEAR WAR CANNOT BE WON AND MUST NEVER BE FOUGHT'.


Nuclear war between North Korea and the US, unless it were to expand to involve China and Russia, would not be, in and of itself alone, literally the 'end of the world', or of civilization as we know it. It would be an unspeakably awful event, with a body count as great as the entire bodycount of WW-II, (let us say, a body count of 10-20 million). It would have cataclysmic effects on the rest of the world. But, unless it involved much greater powers it would not:

--End what we call civilization.
--Bring about the extinction of most complex land-based life forms
--Put question marks over the very survival of humans as a species, and radically reduce human numbers.

Though the DPRK has made impressive advances in its nuclear capabilities (Capabilities it seems unlikely to relinquish in the short – term), it has still the worlds smallest nuclear arsenal, albeit with at least one, (and more likely a single digit number of) 200Kt thermonuclear warheads, and a possibly unreliable and maybe not accurate long-range delivery capability.

Both the US and Russia on the other hand, possess some 90% of all the nuclear warheads that exist, between them. Each of them has appx 4,850-4,500 operational warheads, with Russia having a few hundred warheads more than does the US. Interestingly, the difference in size between the US and Russian arsenals, considered by the two sides to be of minor significance, is the same size as the next – largest nuclear arsenal, that of France.

Most importantly, both Russia and the US maintain just under 1000 warheads each in a state of 'day-to-day-alert', that enables them to be launched in a very few minutes, or as Russia puts it 'a few dozens of seconds'.

A nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, quite likely initiated by miscalculation, or malfunction or malware, and very likely to involve China, (with a relatively small 280 warhead arsenal, but including some impressive capabilities), would be likely to:

--Kill a large portion of all humans (bodycount of a number of billions) in a less than two hour period;
--Loft up to 150 million tonnes of dark black soot into the upper stratosphere blocking sunlight for between decades and a century;
--Make technological civilization non-functional in the first milliseconds of hostilities via electromagnetic pulse.(EMP). (It is also argued, likely correctly, that both China and the DPRK can also do this.)

Clearly, this is an 'existential' issue, in the sense that a DPRK conflict, for all its catastrophic implications, and its greater-than-WW-II bodycount, is not, or is not yet.

Relationships between the US, with its 4,500 warheads,(approx) and Russia, with their 4,850 warheads (approx), are at – arguably – an all time low. If not an all time low, then as low as they have been since the early 1950's, when the US seriously discussed 'surprise' first strikes against the USSR.

Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, there have been intensely provocative, not to say downright dangerous, mirror-imaged exercises of Russian and NATO forces, including nuclear-capable forces.

Most recently we have been told yet again (because we have been told the same many times before) that Russian tactical nuclear forces in Kaliningrad are being dusted off, and major upgrades made to nuclear weapons storage facilities not that far from World Cup venues. (Kaliningrad is quite small).

All this to a steady background of stories that may or may not amount to anything, of Russian 'terror' weapons, notably a torpedo reportedly with a monster multi-megaton warhead aimed at coastal cities, hypersonic weapons, and other wonders.

On the US side, we have equally inflammatory statements from Donald Trump, ranging from 'let there be an arms race' to his commitment to make the US nuclear force the worlds most powerful (it isn't).

No wonder that the hands of the Doomsday clock – more responsive to US-Russian relationships than to US-DPRK ones – are at two minutes to 'midnight'.

There are a bunch of commonsense measures that can be taken to remove the possibility of a civilization-ending, potentially species-ending, US-Russia apocalypse from the global agenda. They include lowering the alert status of US and Russian weapons that are maintained in a state of immediate readiness to launch, 'No-First-Use' commitments, better military-to-military communications (re-establishing and upgrading hotlines instead of scrapping them), and an end to provocative and potentially dangerous military exercises close to each others borders. A list of measures is on the website of Abolition2000's Risk Reduction Working Group, of which this writer is a member.

However there is one first symbolic step that would be really helpful in reassuring the world that the end is not necessarily nigh.

In 1986, in Helsinki, secretary Gorbachev and President Reagan issued a statement that included a declaration that:

“Nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought”.

These simple commonsense words, while they do not substitute for the detailed and concrete measures that are needed to remove a thermonuclear apocalypse from the global agenda, would be a sorely-needed step back from the abyss.

These (or similar) words, together with essential commitments to risk reduction and nuclear disarmament, should be included in any statement that comes from the Helsinki summit.

John Hallam
UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner,
People for Nuclear Disarmament
Human Survival Project
(Member, Abolition 2000 working group on Nuclear Risk Reduction)

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