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The Unwarranted Ukraine Proxy War: A Year Later

US Big Defence will be the only winner of the proxy war in Ukraine. Not only do these global military contractors arm Ukraine, but they stand to benefit from the re-militarisation of Western European countries, Japan, and new NATO members.

In the view of Big Defence, peace is just a bad business proposition. There’s no money in it.

  

The World Financial Review, By Dr Dan Steinbock, 27 Jan 23

To Russia and Ukraine, the crisis is an existential issue. To the US and NATO, it’s a regime-change game. To Europe, it means the demise of stability – in the world economy, lost years (and that’s the benign scenario).

That’s how I characterised the US/NATO-led proxy war against Russia in Ukraine back in early March 2022. I argued that it was an “avoidable war that will penalise severely Ukraine, Russia, the US and the NATO, Europe, developing countries and the global economy”.[1]

At the time, the prediction was seen as contrarian. But it has prevailed. However, on January 25 the Ukraine proxy war entered a new, still more dangerous phase. The commitment of some 70 US, German, UK and Polish battle tanks herald lethal escalation, although hundreds more are needed to defeat Russia. For the first time since World War II, German tanks will be sent to the “Eastern front.” In Moscow, it will foster those voices who see the stakes of the war as existential.

Not only will economic and human costs climb even further, but strategic risks, including the potential of nuclear confrontation, will soar. With such escalation in high-tech arms sales to Ukraine, regional and military spillovers are no longer a matter of principle, but a matter of time.

Russia’s economic resilience

In early 2022, Western observers, with rare exceptions, predicted that the Russian economy would default within months as a net effect of sanctions. “Putin’s war” was doomed, they said. Obviously, the sanctions, which have been fuelled by might and economic coercion, have not been inconsequential. But nor were they new.

Already in February 2014, following the Russian annexation of Crimea, international sanctions were imposed against Russia and Crimea by the US, Canada, the EU, and the international organisations they dominate. While the West’s sanctions contributed to the fall of the Russian ruble, they also caused significant economic damage to the EU economy, with total losses at €100 billion in 2015. By mid-2016, Russia had lost an estimated $170 billion due to financial sanctions and another $400 billion in revenues from oil and gas.[2]………………………….

In fact, the Russian economy plunged 3.5 per cent in 2022, whereas inflation amounted to 5.4 per cent. In other words, Western institutions dramatically overestimated the GDP impact. Discrepancies of such magnitude are hard to explain away as simple prediction errors (figure 1 on original).

Proxy war united Russia            

Officially, the invasion of Ukraine began as Russia’s “special military operation”. Unofficially, it soon morphed into a US/NATO-led proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. The true political objective of this war has been regime change. Hence the goal “to weaken Russia”, as Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin acknowledged later. Hence, too, the international media predictions that the Russian economy would “inevitably” default and Putin be overthrown……………………

Today, in the view of ordinary Russians, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a defensive response to NATO’s offensive eastward enlargement. They see their country fighting for survival. That’s why the war caused Putin’s ratings to soar to the low 80s. That’s also why over 60 to 70 per cent of Russians support their government and believe the country is on the right track, despite extraordinary hardships. ……………………………………..

Amid this collapse of trust in the US and the EU, it certainly did not help that the Minsk peace process proved to be another Western ruse. Last December, German ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel disclosed in the Zeit newspaper that “the 2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to give time to Ukraine.” That is, to make Ukraine stronger and for NATO to increase its support to the country in the face of Russia.[4]……………………

In the view of ordinary Russians, there is now a long continuum of betrayals from the pledge that NATO would never expand eastward in the early 1990s to Minsk today. In their view, the West’s recent arms escalation only confirms their worst suspicions.

Contradictory realities

Right before Christmas, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an emotional wartime appeal to a joint meeting of US Congress, pleading for more military assistance from the lawmakers, who were about to approve $45 billion in additional aid. It was necessary for “eventual victory”.[6]

Yet, there was a huge disconnect between the triumphant declaration and the realities. Earlier in the month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had acknowledged that Ukraine’s losses in the war amounted to 100,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians, though her tweet was quickly deleted and a new one was released without the true death count (figure 3 on original).[7

Behind the choreographed photo ops and bold sound bites, devastation had been expansive, progressive, and relentless…………..

 In September 2022, a month before the Russian winter offensive, a World Bank report estimated that Russia’s invasion had caused over $97 billion in direct damage to Ukraine and it could cost $350 billion to rebuild the country. Worse, Ukraine had also suffered $252 billion in losses through disruptions to its economic flows and production, as well as extra expenses linked to the war.[8] (The report was quiet about the economic and human costs on the Russian side.)

In other words, what Zelenskyy asked in the Congress was less than one-tenth of what is actually needed to rebuild Ukraine.

Ukrainian nightmare

In effect, even as the international media was touting the mirage of Ukraine’s military triumph, the country’s real GDP declined over 35 per cent on an annual basis in the third quarter of 2022; that is, before Russia’s massive infrastructure attack.

Starting on 10 October, Russia’s waves of missile and drone attacks opened a new phase of the war.

The direct physical damage to infrastructure soared to $127 billion already in September; that’s over 60 per cent of Ukraine’s pre-war GDP. The impact on the productive capacity of key sectors, due to damage or occupation, is substantial and long-lasting.[9]

The population share with income below the national poverty line in Ukraine may more than triple, reaching nearly 60 per cent in 2022. Poverty will increase from 5.5 per cent in 2021 to 25 per cent in 2022, with major downside risks if the war and energy security situations worsen.[10] As casualties continue to mount, over a third of the population has been displaced and over half of all Ukrainian children have been forced to leave their homes. The nine months of war have caused massive population displacement. As of October 2022, the number of Ukrainian refugees recorded in Europe was over 7.8 million, and the number of internally displaced people was 6.5 million (figure 4 on original).[11]

As former Pentagon adviser Col. (ret.) Douglas Macgregor has argued, “Washington’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and human suffering.”[12]

As former Pentagon adviser Col. (ret.) Douglas Macgregor has argued, “Washington’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and human suffering.”[12]

West’s tough 2022 and darker 2023

Currently, the risk of recession casts a dark shadow over the US economy, ……………………………………………..

US and international war funding

In the proxy war, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine has been abundant………………………..

Internationally, the US provides the bulk of total aid to Ukraine (62 per cent). Aid from non-US sources amounts to $41.4 billion. The international total of more than $110 billion accounts for more than half of Ukraine’s pre-war GDP ($200 billion).[17] Effectively, these funding arrangements aim to sustain the hostilities and destruction not just in 2023, but at least until the late 2020s.[18] A scenario the West’s recent arms sales escalation could reinforce.

Ailing and indebted, the West cannot afford the proxy war in Ukraine. Hence, the frantic debt-taking. In the Eurozone, government debt to GDP remains close to 100 per cent. Ironically, that’s 40 percentage points higher than the region’s own debt limit. In the UK, the figure has doubled since 2008 to almost 100 per cent. In Japan, it is the worst among all high-income economies – close to 265 per cent, thanks to over two decades of secular stagnation. In the US, the debt ratio has also doubled and is inching toward 140 per cent. (That’s over 20 percentage points higher than that of Italy amid Rome’s 2010 debt crisis.) The rising debt as a percentage of the GDP will slow economic growth, push up interest payments to foreign holders of US debt, and heighten the risk of a fiscal crisis. The periodic debt-limit debacle in the US is just a minor political sideshow to the West’s future debt crisis, which will leave no economy, not even the major ones, unscathed (figure 5 on original).

The post-9/11 wars: the Big Defence bonanza

Ukraine is “absolutely a weapons lab in every sense because none of this equipment has ever actually been used in a war between two industrially developed nations,” said one source familiar with Western intelligence to CNN. “This is real-world battle testing.” Or as Zelenskyy put it more recently, arming Ukraine is a “‘big business opportunity,” as evidenced by his government’s new ties with Blackrock, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. In December 2022, he revealed that Ukraine had hired Blackrock to “advice” Kyiv on how to use the West’s reconstruction funds, which he then estimated would have to increase at least to $1 trillion.[19]

As I predicted in March 2022, US Big Defence will be the only winner of the proxy war in Ukraine. Not only do these global military contractors arm Ukraine, but they stand to benefit from the re-militarisation of Western European countries, Japan, and new NATO members. Washington has a great economic interest in such geopolitics. Brussels’ incentives are harder to fathom, especially as the euro area will pay a hefty premium on energy and food, which will also benefit Washington…………………………..

Military Keynesianism to rescue

From the economic standpoint, these military expenditures, including US Ukrainian aid, should be seen as massive, recurrent, multi-year bastard Keynesianism. That is, as a series of military stimulus packages to prop up the American economy (not Ukraine’s). Unlike Keynesian stimuli that can have an accelerator effect in the civilian economy, these packages benefit mainly the Pentagon and Big Defence; that is, the military industrial complex and its revolving-door elites.

Take, for instance, President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security advisor Jake Sullivan and Blinken’s right-hand, Victoria Nuland. All four were key actors already in the 2014 Ukraine crisis. In one way or another, all are also linked with the Center for a New National Security (CNAS) and its consulting arm WestExec Advisors, which in turn is funded particularly by Big Defence. The same goes for Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, a veteran of the US Army and ex-board member of Raytheon, one of the largest defence giants and a big beneficiary of the Ukraine devastation.[22]

what’s good for Big Defence is not necessarily good for either the American people or the global economy. It aggravates income polarisation in America and between the high-income West and the developing Global South, while escalating geopolitical risks worldwide…………………………………

Plunging global growth

Unsurprisingly, global growth is now expected to decelerate sharply to 1.7 per cent in 2023…………………………

The unwarranted war

A year ago, I characterised the Ukraine conflict as an “unwarranted war” because it was avoidable. As declassified files show, a series of security assurances were given to Mikhail Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders against NATO’s eastward expansion at the turn of the 1990s, starting with President George H.W. Bush, followed by a cascade of assurances by German, French, British, and NATO leaders. The betrayal of these pledges was widely condemned already in 1997 by 50 US foreign policy authorities, including the leading Cold War hawks, in an open letter to President Clinton. What has ensued is three decades of NATO eastward expansion, which has made the world poorer and less secure, just as these US experts predicted over 25 years ago.[28]

If in 2022 the proxy war’s costs were disastrous in the West and Russia, 2023 will be worse…………………………….

  • The year 2022 turned the Ukrainians’ dream of peace and development to ashes, as over a third of their economy disappeared, perhaps a quarter of the population fled and a generation of young men was sacrificed for the West’s geopolitics. What’s ahead in 2023 will be worse. Reconstruction will require a lot more than $1 trillion, according to Zelenskyy. That’s over five times Ukraine’s pre-war GDP.
  • US Big Defence is the big winner of 2022 and, thanks to the military aid arrangements, could reap war profits well into the late 2020s. By then, new big “weapons labs” will be needed elsewhere – North Korea, Taiwan, Iran, perhaps even China, where there’s a will, there’s a way – to ensure new wars that will generate adequate returns.

…………………………………….. In the view of Big Defence, peace is just a bad business proposition. There’s no money in it.

………………………………….. Even in April 2022, after a month of hostilities, Russia and Ukraine tentatively agreed to end the war. Yet, that decision was undermined by former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His carefully timed Ukraine visit was designed to stop the talks, which were not acceptable to the US and its allies.[30] Today, in Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sees the escalation as “a window of opportunity here, between now and the spring.”[31]

Only a year ago, Ukraine, under Zelenskyy’s leadership, was still positioned to play a constructive role as a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe, thanks to its vital position in China’s Bridge and Belt Initiative. Had that future prevailed, Ukraine might today be peaceful. Its GDP would be a third bigger. As a neutral country, its trading relationships would have thrived and it would have attracted investment from Russia and both Western and Eastern Europe. Young men would have good jobs. And Ukrainian refugees would be returning for new opportunities at home. When old sectarian conflicts dissipate, escaping abroad is no longer a necessity and even little children sleep their nights rather than being haunted by nightmares, overshadowed by post-traumatic stress.

Today, all those dreams, too, are in ashes. The proxy war is aimed against Russia. The Ukrainians’ role is to die in it. The puppet masters are the primary beneficiaries.

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January 31, 2023 Posted by | business and costs, Canada, Ukraine, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Chris Hedges: Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong

A state of permanent war creates complex bureaucracies, sustained by compliant politicians, journalists, scientists, technocrats and academics, who obsequiously serve the war machine.

This militarism needs mortal enemies — the latest are Russia and China — even when those demonized have no intention or capability, as was the case with Iraq, of harming the U.S. We are hostage to these incestuous institutional structures. 

byEDITORJanuary 29, 2023

NATO support for the war in Ukraine, designed to degrade the Russian military and drive Vladimir Putin from power, is not going according to plan. The new sophisticated military hardware won’t help.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

Empires in terminal decline leap from one military fiasco to the next. The war in Ukraine, another bungled attempt to reassert U.S. global hegemony, fits this pattern. The danger is that the more dire things look, the more the U.S. will escalate the conflict, potentially provoking open confrontation with Russia. If Russia carries out retaliatory attacks on supply and training bases in neighboring NATO countries, or uses tactical nuclear weapons, NATO will almost certainly respond by attacking Russian forces. We will have ignited World War III, which could result in a nuclear holocaust.

U.S. military support for Ukraine began with the basics — ammunition and assault weapons. The Biden administration, however, soon crossed several self-imposed red lines to provide a tidal wave of lethal war machinery: Stinger anti-aircraft systems; Javelin anti-armor systems; M777 towed Howitzers; 122mm GRAD rockets; M142 multiple rocket launchers, or HIMARS; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Patriot air defense batteries; National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); M113 Armored Personnel Carriers; and now 31 M1 Abrams, as part of a new $400 million package. These tanks will be supplemented by 14 German Leopard 2A6 tanks, 14 British Challenger 2 tanks, as well as tanks from other NATO members, including Poland. Next on the list are armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) ammunition and F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022, Congress has approved more than $113 billion in aid to Ukraine and allied nations supporting the war in Ukraine. Three-fifths of this aid, $67 billion, has been allocated for military expenditures. There are 28 countries transferring weapons to Ukraine. All of them, with the exception of Australia, Canada and the U.S., are in Europe. 

The rapid upgrade of sophisticated military hardware and aid provided to Ukraine is not a good sign for the NATO alliance. It takes many months, if not years, of training to operate and coordinate these weapons systems………………….

NATO military commanders understand that the infusion of these weapons systems into the war will not alter what is, at best, a stalemate, defined largely by artillery duels over hundreds of miles of front lines. The purchase of these weapons systems — one M1 Abrams tank costs $10 million when training and sustainment are included — increases the profits of the arms manufacturers. The use of these weapons in Ukraine allows them to be tested in battlefield conditions, making the war a laboratory for weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin. All this is useful to NATO and to the arms industry. But it is not very useful to Ukraine.

The other problem with advanced weapons systems such as the M1 Abrams, which have 1,500-horsepower turbine engines that run on jet fuel, is that they are temperamental and require highly skilled and near constant maintenance. They are not forgiving to those operating them who make mistakes; indeed, mistakes can be lethal. 

 The most optimistic scenario for deploying M1-Abrams tanks in Ukraine is six to eight months, more likely longer. If Russia launches a major offensive in the spring, as expected, the M1 Abrams will not be part of the Ukrainian arsenal. Even when they do arrive, they will not significantly alter the balance of power, especially if the Russians are able to turn the tanks, manned by inexperienced crews, into charred hulks.

So why all this infusion of high-tech weaponry? We can sum it up in one word: panic.

Having declared a de facto war on Russia and openly calling for the removal of Vladimir Putin, the neoconservative pimps of war watch with dread as Ukraine is being pummeled by a relentless Russian war of attrition. Ukraine has suffered nearly 18,000 civilian casualties (6,919 killed and 11,075 injured). It has also seen  around 8 percent of its total housing destroyed or damaged and 50 percent of its energy infrastructure directly impacted with frequent power cuts. Ukraine requires at least $3 billion a month in outside support to keep its economy afloat, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director recently said. Nearly 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced — 8 million in Europe and 6 million internally — and up to 18 million people, or 40 percent of Ukraine’s population, will soon require humanitarian assistance. Ukraine’s economy contracted by 35 percent in 2022, and 60 percent of Ukrainians are now poised to live on less than $5.5 a day, according to World Bank estimates. Nine million Ukrainians are without electricity and water in sub-zero temperatures, the Ukrainian president says. According to estimates from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 100,000 Ukrainian and 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war as of last November.  …………………………

In desperation, the empire pumps ever greater sums into its war machine. The most recent $1.7 trillion spending bill included $847 billion for the military;  the total is boosted to $858 billion when factoring in accounts that don’t fall under the Armed Services committees’ jurisdiction, such as the Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons maintenance and the infrastructure that develops them. In 2021, when the U.S. had a military budget of $801 billion, it constituted nearly 40 percent of all global military expenditures, more than the next nine countries, including Russia and China, spent on their militaries combined.

A state of permanent war creates complex bureaucracies, sustained by compliant politicians, journalists, scientists, technocrats and academics, who obsequiously serve the war machine. This militarism needs mortal enemies — the latest are Russia and China — even when those demonized have no intention or capability, as was the case with Iraq, of harming the U.S. We are hostage to these incestuous institutional structures. 

Earlier this month, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, for example, appointed eight commissioners to review Biden’s National Defense Strategy (NDS) to “examine the assumptions, objectives, defense investments, force posture and structure, operational concepts, and military risks of the NDS.” The commission, as Eli Clifton writes at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, is “largely comprised of individuals with financial ties to the weapons industry and U.S. government contractors, raising questions about whether the commission will take a critical eye to contractors who receive $400 billion of the $858 billion FY2023 defense budget.” The chair of the commission, Clifton notes, is former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who “sits on the board of Iridium Communications, a satellite communications firm that was awarded a seven-year $738.5 million contract with the Department of Defense in 2019.”…………………………..

America’s two ruling parties depend on campaign funds from the war industry and are pressured by weapons manufacturers in their state or districts, who employ constituents, to pass gargantuan military budgets. Politicians are acutely aware that to challenge the permanent war economy is to be attacked as unpatriotic and is usually an act of political suicide.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. The plan to reshape Europe and the global balance of power by degrading Russia is turning out to resemble the failed plan to reshape the Middle East. It is fueling a global food crisis and devastating Europe with near double-digit inflation. It is exposing the impotency, once again, of the United States, and the bankruptcy of its ruling oligarchs. As a counterweight to the United States, nations such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Iran are severing themselves from the tyranny of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a move that will trigger economic and social catastrophe in the United States. Washington is giving Ukraine ever more sophisticated weapons systems and billions upon billions in aid in a futile bid to save Ukraine but, more importantly, to save itself.  https://scheerpost.com/2023/01/29/chris-hedges-ukraine-the-war-that-went-wrong/

January 31, 2023 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Despite failure to refit nuclear submarine, UK senior defence officials get £200,000 in performance bonuses

 Three senior ministry of defence officials have received more than
£200,000 in performance bonuses despite not being able to get a
Scottish-based nuclear submarine back in service more than seven years
after it started undergoing a refit and refuelling.

The MoD had hoped that
HMS Vanguard would be returned to Royal Navy service at Faslane last summer
but The Sunday Times has learnt that the repair and refuelling project for
the Trident missile-armed vessel has hit new snags.

However, the three top
executives at the ministry’s Submarine Delivery Agency, which is
responsible for keeping the navy’s submarines in working order, were paid
performance bonuses last year. Its chief executive, Ian Booth, received
£95,000 on top of his £290,000 salary before he retired just before
Christmas, according to the agency’s accounts. Its technical director and
financial officer each received £55,000 bonuses.

 Times 29th Jan 2023

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bonus-for-mod-officials-despite-sub-refit-delays-gmqb30s35

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) sends specialist team to Western Australia in search for missing radioactive capsule

Nuclear safety agency joins radioactive capsule hunt

By Michael Ramsey, January 31 2023 https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/8067912/nuclear-safety-agency-joins-radioactive-capsule-hunt/

Federal authorities are set to join the massive search for a dangerous radioactive capsule missing in Western Australia.

The 8mm by 6mm item fell out of a density gauge while being trucked from a Rio Tinto mine in the Pilbara to Perth.

Emergency services are searching a 1400km route amid warnings the Caesium-137 in the capsule could cause radiation burns or sickness if handled and potentially dangerous levels of radiation with prolonged exposure.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) on Tuesday said it had sent a deployment team with specialised car-mounted and portable detection equipment to join the search.

Led by WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the hunt is expected to take five days with vehicles travelling at 50km/h.

Radiation services specialists and detection and imaging equipment are also being sent to WA by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Rio Tinto has apologised and ordered an investigation into what went wrong during the haul, which was carried out by a contractor.

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson flagged the WA government was likely to also probe the incident.

“How these are transported does need to be looked at,” he told ABC radio.

“It does puzzle me how such a thing can fall off the back of a truck.”

Rio said a bolt that secured the capsule within the gauge appeared to have sheared off, creating a hole just big enough for the item to escape.

The truck arrived in the Perth suburb of Malaga on January 16 but it wasn’t until nine days later that a technician realised the capsule was missing.

The capsule is smaller than a 10 cent coin but the amount of radiation it emits is equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in an hour.

Drivers have been warned it could have become lodged in their car’s tyres.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, incidents | Leave a comment

California’s plan to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear plant online hits regulatory snag


Kavya Balaraman
, Senior Reporter, Utility Dive, Jan. 30, 2023

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week rejected a request from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to resume its review of the license renewal application for the 2.2-GW Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant the utility filed in 2009.

……………………………………………. Diane Curran, an attorney for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace — one of three groups that petitioned the NRC to reject PG&E’s request — praised the agency’s decision. “The license renewal application was withdrawn by PG&E from the license renewal docket and then they let it lapse … when you file a license renewal application, you have to update it every year,” she said.

Curran said that the NRC’s decision is a big setback for PG&E because a new application filed at the end of the year won’t give the NRC much time to complete its review before the license for Diablo Canyon’s Unit 1 expires in 2024.  https://www.utilitydive.com/news/california-plan-diablo-canyon-nuclear-plant-online-regulatory-snag-NRC-PGE/641482//

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics, USA | 1 Comment

The Last Existing U.S.-Russia Nuclear Treaty Could Soon Fail

New START is on the ropes after years of neglect and abuse from Moscow and Washington. VICE, By Matthew Gault 30 Jan 23

Russia signaled to the U.S. on Monday that the world may soon see the end of nuclear-arms control, decades long agreements between nations that have helped limit the production of weapons that can end civilization. New START, an Obama-era treaty that limits the number of nuclear missiles Moscow and Washington can deploy, will expire in 2026. According to Russia, renewing that treaty will depend on whether or not the U.S. seeks the strategic defeat of Russia in Ukraine.

“The entire situation in the sphere of security, including arms control, has been held hostage by the U.S. line of inflicting strategic defeat on Russia,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state-owned news agency RIA Novosti. “We will resist this in the strongest possible way using all the methods and means at our disposal.”

Part of that resistance might mean holding enforcement of the New START treaty hostage. Signed in 2010, the treaty limits Russia and America’s deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 each and deployed missiles and bombers to 700 each. As part of the treaty, each country agreed to inspections to verify that they’re abiding by the treaty.

America and Russia control 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal and have used treaties to control and limit the deployment of those nukes for decades. The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 ended above ground nuclear testing, the Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms of 1972 stopped both countries from deploying new nukes, a revision of this treaty in 1979 further limited each country’s deployed arsenal.

New START is a sequel, of sorts, to a treaty that began negotiations under Ronald Reagan called Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Reagan was famous for pursuing an arms build up and antagonizing Russia, but nuclear weapons frightened him. After watching the TV movie The Day After, he became depressed. “My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent and to see there is never a nuclear war,” he wrote in his diary

………………………………………………….. The crumbling of international nuclear arms treaties is another sign that the world is closer to nuclear war than it’s been in decades. Russia is building new nuclear weapons and threatens nuclear annihilation as it wars in Ukraine. The U.S. is modernizing its nuclear forces, updating old systems, and signaling to the world that it’s ready to drop the bomb too.  https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d3xkz/the-last-existing-us-russia-nuclear-treaty-could-soon-fail

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

African states meet in South Africa to discuss UN Nuclear Ban Treaty

 https://www.icanw.org/african_states_meet_in_south_africa_to_discuss_un_nuclear_weapon_ban_treaty 30 Jan 23

Representatives from 37 African states have gathered in Pretoria at the African Regional Seminar on the Universalisation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to discuss how to get every African state to sign and ratify the UN nuclear ban treaty as soon as possible.

The two day Seminar, co-hosted by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), ICAN, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, will serve to take stock of the TPNW from a regional perspective and consider the need for further progress towards universalisation of the treaty on the continent.

African countries have been long-time leaders on nuclear disarmament. The continent is a nuclear-weapon-free zone under the Treaty of Pelindaba, and the TPNW enjoys strong support from all the countries in the region. So far 33 African UN member states out of 54 have signed the TPNW and 15 have ratified it.

While opening the Seminar, Deputy Minister of DIRCO, Mr Alvin Botes, highlighted South Africa’s history as one of the few states to start developing and then fully dismantle its nuclear arsenals to being an active supporter of the TPNW. “South Africa’s own experience has shown that neither the possession nor the pursuit of nuclear weapons can enhance international peace and security. The continued retention of nuclear weapons based on the perceived security interests of some states comes at the expense of the rest of humanity.”

He also called on all African states “to sign and ratify the TPNW at the earliest possible opportunity and thus reassert Africa’s leadership in nuclear disarmament and contributing to international peace and security.”

ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn also highlighted this leadership during the opening speeches:“African states are rightly proud of the role they played in the TPNW’s negotiation and adoption. Support for the treaty in this region is universal, even if much work remains to be done to bring all states on board as parties,” calling on the 21 states that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the treaty. She also celebrated African civil society for their tireless efforts to raise public awareness of the TPNW and promote its universalisation.

A number of ICAN partner organisations are represented at the meeting, and ICAN campaigners have been delivering presentations about the TPNW’s status, and campaign activities throughout Africa, as well as engaging with representatives of the countries that have yet to sign the treaty to make it a priority.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | AFRICA, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

French nuclear availability reduced by 1.1 GW as strike gets under way– EDF

https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/french-nuclear-availability-reduced-by-1.1-gw-as-strike-gets-under-way-edfForrest Crellin for Reuters  30 jan 23

PARIS, Jan 30 (Reuters) – French nuclear power availability has been reduced by 1.1 gigawatts as production at four reactors lowered, the outage table of state-controlled nuclear group EDF showed on Monday as a strike over pension reforms got under way.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | employment, France | Leave a comment

A Costly and Prolonged Cold War Now Seems a Certainty

a “new golden age” for military contractors.

 https://www.counterpunch.org/2023/01/30/a-costly-and-prolonged-cold-war-now-seems-a-certainty/ BY MELVIN GOODMAN 30 Jan 23

No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end, but there is one post-war certainty: there will be a prolonged and costly Cold War between the United States and Russia.  In an interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who has been doing the bidding of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency for several decades, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the importance of a “long-term goal of deterrence.”  Ignatius took this to mean that the Biden administration will make sure that Russia “should not be able to rest, regroup and reattack.”

Ignatius is joining the likes of such Cold Warriors as former secretary of state Condi Rice, former secretary of defense Bob Gates, journalists such as Max Boot and scholars such as Angela Stent and Leon Aron who believe that Russia’s war is not directed only against Ukraine, but against the larger idea that European states can peacefully cooperate.  Yale historian Timothy Snyder goes further, arguing that the rule of law can have a chance in Russia only if “Russia loses this war,” and that Russia’s defeat will reverse the “trend…towards authoritarianism, with Putinism as a force and a model.”  It is naive to think in terms of “rule of law” coming to Russia.

The Biden administration’s gift to the military-industrial complex rivals what the Reagan administration provided in the 1980s and ensures the country’s rich market for weapons sales.  Nearly half of the record defense spending of $858 billion goes to military contractors.  The House and Senate Armed Services Committees made sure that these spending spigots remain open by naming individuals with ties to the weapons industry to a commission that will review the Biden National Defense Strategy.

The chairwoman of the commission, former Representative Jane Harman, protected Lockheed-Martin when she served on the Hill and currently is on the board of a military contractor that recently received a seven-year $800 million contract from the Pentagon.

We have been accustomed to politicians who blithely talk about the “war to end all wars,” but it is unusual to have a distinguished historian argue that the “Ukrainians have given us a chance to turn this century around, a chance for freedom and security that we could not have achieved by our own efforts, no matter who we happen to be.”  Snyder argues that “if Russia loses” it would mark an “end to an era of empire,” marking the “last war fought on the colonial logic that another state and people do not exist.”  According to Snyder, a Ukrainian victory would “teach Beijing that such an offensive operation [against Taiwan] is costly and likely to fail.”  Snyder believes that “this is a once-in-lifetime conjuncture, not to be wasted.”

In addition to this year’s record defense budget that found the Congress providing $45 billion more than the Pentagon requested, a so-called “emergency” provision will lay the foundation for adding scarce resources to defense spending in the coming year.  This provision will allow multiyear, noncompetitive agreements to produce such ordinary weaponry as rockets and munitions.  According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon will now have a way to replenish its stockpiles that will provide a “new golden age” for military contractors.

The Biden administration’s gift to the military-industrial complex rivals what the Reagan administration provided in the 1980s and ensures the country’s rich market for weapons sales.  Nearly half of the record defense spending of $858 billion goes to military contractors.  The House and Senate Armed Services Committees made sure that these spending spigots remain open by naming individuals with ties to the weapons industry to a commission that will review the Biden National Defense Strategy. The chairwoman of the commission, former Representative Jane Harman, protected Lockheed-Martin when she served on the Hill and currently is on the board of a military contractor that recently received a seven-year $800 million contract from the Pentagon.

The increased defense spending and the new emergency provision coincide with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s creation of a new committee—the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party!  McCarthy appointed the requisite number of China hawks, including its chairman, Mike Gallagher.  George Will, writing in the Post, predictably praised the creation of the committee, and lauded a new book by scholars from Johns Hopkins University and Tufts titled “Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China,” which may become a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy.  In view of the recent rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States, It can only be hoped that Democrats appoint members to the committee who understand the domestic consequences of hyping the threat from China at this particular time.

Our China policy is not working, and the exaggeration of the China threat comes just in time for the hawks in the political aviary who fear that the severe deficiencies of the Russian military in Ukraine is making it more difficult to exaggerate the Russia threat.  I’ve been calling attention to the exaggeration of the Russian threat for the past 50 years, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which included the implosion of the Red Army, should have provided political ammunition to downplay the Russian threat.  I had a distinct advantage from 1966 to 1990 as a Soviet analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, which had intelligence that documented Soviet deficiencies.

But the policy community, the bipartisan congressional community, and the pundit community can’t let go of the idea that the Soviet Union and Russia present a threat to the national security of the United States.  The dysfunctional, but superficially successful, Russian military performances in Georgia (2008); Crimea (2014); and Syria (2015) were misread as a demonstration of a strong Russian military.  It took the unsuccessful Russian efforts against Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson to fully demonstrate the deeply rooted dysfunction of the “new” Red Army and its inability to sustain offensive and combined arms operations.  Instead, Russia must rely on a campaign of military terrorism to hold its own against Ukrainian forces.

 The Biden policy ensures a robust military presence on the Russian border that will worsen Cold War 2.0.  There will be prolonged and unnecessary increases in defense spending, and the absence of a diplomatic dialogue in those important areas where there is Russian-American agreement. 

These areas include a variety of arms control and disarmament issues, such as stopping the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and limiting the use of space in the military competition as well as dealing with insurgencies and terrorism; environmental degradation; and future pandemics.  It is hard to imagine any Russian regime willing to pursue diplomatic solutions with a United States that has sponsored a NATO with more than 30 members; a military base in Poland; a regional missile defense in Poland and Romania; and the use of Romanian military facilities close by Russian forces and the Black Sea.  This serious turning point is being ignored by the policy community as well as the pundit and academic communities.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent books are “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing, 2019) and “Containing the National Security State” (Opus Publishing, 2021). Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

‘Delays and broken promises’ as flagship UK nuclear agency stalls

Great British Nuclear will be tasked with overseeing the development of the next generation of nuclear power sources

 https://inews.co.uk/news/business/delays-broken-promises-flagship-uk-nuclear-agency-stalls-2115492

By David Connett 30 Jan 23

The Government has been urged to stop delaying a new “flagship” ­agency to develop the UK’s next generation of nuclear reactors.

Ministers have been warned that the country risks “sleepwalking into the familiar pattern of delays and broken promises that have held back our nuclear ambitions in the past”.

The warning is contained in a letter signed by major companies, including Rolls-Royce and the US Westinghouse group, as well as the Prospect union, cross-party MPs and Lords, and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

It expresses dismay over delays in setting up Great British Nuclear (GBN), a body tasked with overseeing the development of the next generation of nuclear power sources.

It was envisaged as the cornerstone of former prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans to produce enough energy for the nation and reduce reliance on imports.

Last year, Mr Johnson said it would be launched to oversee the construction of up to 24 gigawatts of new capacity by 2050. “Our aim is to lead the world once again in a technology we pioneered so that by 2050, up to a quarter of our power consumed in Great Britain is from nuclear,” he said at the time.

However, a dispute between the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has delayed the move.

The letter warns that progress on GBN has “stalled”. It says: “We do not have time to spare. All but one of the UK’s existing nuclear reactors are due to retire by the end of the decade and this capacity needs to be replaced.”

It warns that private-sector funding and expertise could be lost to rivals because of the delay. It also says that a “global race for investment in next generation nuclear technologies is accelerating, spurred on by the Inflation Reduction Act in the US”.

The letter says the recent Skidmore report into the UK’s route to meet its net-zero climate change commitments demands “stable, long-term policy”, and adds: “We call on the Prime Minister to launch a fully funded Great British Nuclear programme as a matter of priority.”

A report outlining GBN’s strategy and operation, drawn up by the nuclear industry expert Simon Bowen, has been with ministers for several months.

He has asked for it to be published to help the industry prepare for the demands it will face in funding and training sufficient numbers of skilled people, but he has been told that it cannot be.

Experts have warned that continued delays in the nuclear programme will mean that the “ambitious” 2050 target will be missed.

The Government is already struggling to replace its current nuclear generation capacity even before it manages to expand it. Five nuclear power plants generated more than 15 per cent of the UK’s electricity last year. All but one is set to be decommissioned by 2028.

French power company EDF, which operates Sizewell B, has discussed plans with the UK’s nuclear regulator to extend the life of the existing UK reactors, but has not yet made a formal bid to the Office of Nuclear Regulation.

The energy minister, Graham ­Stuart, told MPs last week that he hoped the GBN strategy would be “published early this year”, but refused to be more specific.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance refuses to guarantee funding for expansion of nuclear power

Expansion in nuclear power generation hits snags Kazim Alam  January 31, 2023 

KARACHI: The development of C-5, which is the fifth unit of the Chashma Nuclear Power Generating Station, has hit a snag because of the reported refusal by the Ministry of Finance to furnish a sovereign guarantee, sources told Dawn on Monday.

The Chinese partner has agreed to provide financing for up to 85 per cent of the $3.7 billion nuclear power plant having a nameplate capacity of 1,200 megawatts, subject to the sovereign guarantee.

Such guarantees are meant to assure the creditor that the government will satisfy the obligation if the primary obligor — the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commis­sion (PAEC), in this case — defaults on the loan repayment.

The loan programme of the Internat­io­nal Monetary Fund (IMF) seems to have tied the government’s hands with regard to the sovereign guarantee. As part of the 2022-23 budget, the government has laid before the National Assembly a Statement of Contingent Liabilities.

The list contains all guarantees expected to be issued during the fiscal year. The government is treating it as a ceiling to contain fiscal risks and safeguard the public debt trajectory.

The spokesperson for the finance ministry wasn’t available for comment……………………………………..https://www.dawn.com/news/1734533/expansion-in-nuclear-power-generation-hits-snags

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics | Leave a comment

Belgium to shut down second nuclear reactor

By Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com

The Tihange 2 nuclear reactor – the second largest of the three Tihange reactors – will shut down permanently on Tuesday evening after 40 years of activity, making it the second nuclear reactor to shut down in the country.

In accordance with 2003 Belgian law on nuclear phase-out, Tihange 2 will be disconnected from the grid on Tuesday at midnight, despite calls from politicians across the political spectrum and citizen associations to stop the nuclear reactor shutdowns…………  https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/belgium-to-shut-down-second-nuclear-reactor/

 

January 31, 2023 Posted by | EUROPE, politics | Leave a comment

GE Hitachi group announce contract for grid-scale small nuclear reactor, requiring large taxpayer subsidy .

GE Hitachi and 3 partners announce first commercial contract for grid-scale SMR in North America.Utility Dive 30 Jan 23

Dive Brief:

  • An energy and construction partnership announced Friday an agreement to build what it says will be the first grid-scale small modular reactor in North America. Terms were not disclosed.
  • GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Ontario Power Generation, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon Group signed a contract to deploy a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at OPG’s Darlington New Nuclear Project site in Clarington, Ontario.

…………………………………….. Critics say SMRs, which are advanced nuclear reactors with a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e), according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, are financially feasible only because of large taxpayer subsidies. Detractors also say solar and wind power, which do not produce waste, can be deployed more quickly than SMRs.  https://www.utilitydive.com/news/SMRs-reactor-GE-Hitachi-Ontario-Public-Power-Aecon-Group-nuclear/641483/

January 31, 2023 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Takahama nuclear reactor in Fukui halted after alert goes off

 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/01/30/national/takahama-nuclear-plant-halt/ 30 Jan 23, FUKUI – A reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture was automatically halted Monday after an alert went off warning of a rapid decrease in the number of neutrons within the unit, the complex’s regulator and operator said.

The No. 4 reactor was halted at 3:21 p.m., the Osaka-based utility said, adding that there has been no indication of the incident causing environmental contamination. The reactor’s cooling function is normal, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The No. 4 reactor restarted in November after being shut down for routine inspections.

The seaside plant has four reactors and faces the Sea of Japan.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s Biggest Fight in Notorious Prison Isn’t Over Extradition

NewsWeek, BY SHAUN WATERMAN ON 01/27/23 “…………………………………………….. Assange’s physical and mental health have declined severely during more than a decade in confinement — first sheltering from U.S. authorities in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012-2019, where he lived in two rooms and never left the building, and for the last almost four years, since he was dragged from the embassy by British police in April 2019, in Belmarsh fighting extradition.

…………………… The proceedings in London continue to drag on. It has been more than a year since the High Court cleared the way for his extradition and his appeal was filed in August. But the court continues to weigh it, with no deadline to reach a decision. Even if he loses, there remains the possibility of an appeal to the British Supreme Court, or to the European Court of Human Rights. Assange could be in the U.S. within months, but he might remain in Britain for years.

His family says that with uncertainty about his extradition hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, he has lost weight and become depressed and anxious.

A confinement of uncertain duration

The worst part about the confinement is having no idea when or how he would be able to leave, Stella Assange said. “It is the uncertain duration that makes it so hard to bear … It’s a kind of torture.”…………..

The uncertainty has exacerbated Assange’s physical and mental deterioration, his wife said. In October 2021, during a High Court hearing about his extradition, Assange, attending via video link from Belmarsh, suffered a “transient ischaemic attack” — a mini-stroke. He has been diagnosed with nerve damage and memory problems and prescribed blood thinners.

“He might not survive this,” she said.

As a remand prisoner, not convicted or sentenced, and facing extradition, not prosecution, Assange is an anomaly in Britain’s most secure prison — designed to hold “Category A” inmates such as IRA militants, jihadis and murderers. One of a tiny handful of unconvicted prisoners, prison regulations require him to be treated differently, his wife said.

“He’s supposed to be able to get visits every day, he’s supposed to be able to work on his case,” she said, “But that’s only on paper. The way the prison system works, it is more efficient to treat everyone like a Cat A prisoner rather than to try to adapt the rules for individuals. In reality, that just doesn’t translate at all.” She said Assange is allowed one or two legal visits, and one or two social visits each week.

In between visits, time can stretch. And the isolation has been hard on him……………………………..

Phone calls, his half-brother Gabriel Shipton told Newsweek from Assange’s native Australia, are limited to 10 minutes. “You’ll just be getting into it and click, it’s over.”

Neither the governor’s office at Belmarsh, nor the press office for the British Prison Service, responded to emails requesting responses to detailed questions.

A source of inspiration and power

Assange gets thousands of letters and parcels from all over the world, Stella Assange said, but the authorities interdict banned items, such as books about national security, paintings and other forbidden objects.

His father, John Shipton, told Newsweek from Australia that Assange draws a lot of inspiration and power from the letters that people write to him. During their phone conversations, he will often read snippets or recall memorable letters, Shipton said. “He loves getting them … You can hear him light up a bit” when he talks about them………………………………………… more https://www.newsweek.com/2023/02/10/julian-assanges-biggest-fight-notorious-prison-isnt-over-extradition-1774197.html

January 29, 2023 Posted by | civil liberties, health, Legal | Leave a comment