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ON THE BRINK OF THE APOCALYPSE ONCE MORE?

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13AUG 2015
PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT NSW

70 YEARS SINCE HIROSHIMA – AND ON THE BRINK OF THE APOCALYPSE ONCE MORE?

As tensions in Europe between NATO and Russia climb, a series of warnings have emanated from former US and Russian commanders of nuclear forces, from the nobel-prizewinning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and yesterday and today from the European Leadership Network.

These in turn are still only the latest in a list of apocalyptic warnings of the possibility of war between NATO and Russia – war that might easily become a global thermonuclear war – all emanating from the highest and most respectable authorities.

It was deep concern over the catastrophic possibilities of NATO-Russian tension that in January last year led the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move the hands of its Doomsday Clock from five minutes, to three minutes, to midnight.

Hopefully (though you never know for sure) the probability of global thermonuclear war between Russia and NATO in the next 6-12 months is low. Hopefully.

The use of US and Russian nuclear arsenals, still essentially aimed at each other, even if confined to the land-based, silo-based missiles that are maintained on high alert (which the US DoD calls 'day-to-day alert'), would result, should keys ever be inserted into locks and turned, and launch codes ever be input, would be:

--In the first milliseconds, both nations would 'take out' the others communication systems with a high-altitude or space burst that would cause the global financial system, all communications, the internet, the electricity supply, and everything that has a microchip in it to cease working.

--In the next hour, as many as a billion people would die as cities became firestorms.

--For the next few decades, temperatures lower than the last ice age and semi-darkness would prevail as smoke from the burning cities settled in the upper stratosphere and blotted out the sun.

--Human survival would depend on our ability to do for 30 years without agriculture, and on how fast the destroyed ozone layer would reconstitute itself.

These utterly catastrophic possibilities were on the global agenda in the 1980s, and now have come roaring back.

Yet for the most part public opinion is either apathetic, unaware, in denial, or paralyzed.

The urgency of taking measures to reduce the risks of nuclear war – in particular to reduce the risk of inadvertent nuclear war – have never been greater.

These would include both technical measures such as lowering the alert status of US and Russian nuclear weapon systems as repeatedly called for by a number of UN resolutions and operationalising the Joint Data Exchange Center promised four if not five times since 1998 by both US and Russian governments – and a political settlement that does not begin and end with demonizing both Russia and Vladimir Putin.

The alternatives are too terrifying to contemplate.

John Hallam
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Last Updated on Thursday, 13 August 2015 15:35