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The danger of war between USA and Russia now greater than in the cold war

Germany Warns of the Danger of War  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-friedman/germany-warns-of-the-dang_b_12565994.html George FriedmanGeopolitical Forecaster and Strategist, 26 Oct 16 

 German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Oct. 8 that the situation between the U.S. and Russia today is more dangerous than it was during the Cold War. As he put it, “It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War. The current times are different and more dangerous.” Since most of us think of the Cold War as by far the most dangerous time we have known, Steinmeier’s view is startling. It is important to understand what he is saying, not simply because he is the foreign minister of an important country, but because he is a smart man.

In the interview, Steinmeier discussed the Russian intervention in Syria, the standoff with the United States and the frozen but still dangerous confrontation over Ukraine. When we look at these two confrontations between the United States and Russia (Germany doesn’t have the military strength to affect this balance) either situation could result in a direct confrontation of U.S. and Russian forces.

On paper, the United States remains committed to the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while the Russians are protecting it. There is now combat in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. Russian and Assad regime forces seem to be trying to take control of the city. The United States sees Aleppo as a bastion of anti-Assad forces and doesn’t want to see it fall. The U.S. has the option to try to block the Russian and Assad advance. Russia has to decide whether to stand and fight or withdraw. Neither side is confident it knows the other’s intentions, but both believe that Aleppo is a critical if not decisive battle. The chances of intentional conflict are real, as is the possibility of an unintended clash escalating.

At the same time, Syria is not essential to the national security of Russia or the United States. It is not without importance, but a defeat or capitulation there will not change the balance of power between them at all. It would of course affect psychological and political perception, but in the long run, perception ultimately comes down to substantial military and economic power. The United States can afford to back off. The Russians will find it more difficult, but can contrive reasons for slowing or halting the attacks.

In Ukraine, the issue is fundamental to Russia and secondary to the United States. Therefore, it is far more dangerous than Syria. For Russia, a Ukraine dominated by a third power, with forces deployed in Ukraine, represents a fundamental threat to its national security. For the United States, it is a secondary issue that can rise to a primary one.

As I have written, the foundation of U.S. foreign policy since World War I was preventing any single power from dominating Europe and Russia, as their combined strength in technology and resources would threaten American interests. Therefore, Russia returning to its prior position, with the potential to dominate the European Peninsula, would rise to a primary issue. If Russia invaded Ukraine and used it as a base to threaten its former satellite states, this would begin escalating to a primary level. But that is several steps from happening, and if it did, it would still not constitute a direct threat to the entire European Peninsula.

The Cold War focused on the center of Germany, and the possibility of a Soviet seizure of Western Europe did not appear far-fetched. Since the U.S. was defending Western Europe at a distance, its conventional forces facing the Soviets appeared to be inferior. Therefore, part of U.S. strategy, at least officially, was the use of nuclear weapons, both strategically and on the battlefield, to stop a Soviet offensive. That meant that should the Soviets have chosen to undertake an offensive, or if they detected a U.S. offensive, they had to go nuclear at the earliest possible moment.

This is what kept the Cold War from turning into a shooting war. The Soviets and the Americans, along with their allies or subordinates in Europe, saw themselves in an existential crisis. The deterrence against conventional war in Europe, as opposed to proxy wars elsewhere such as Vietnam or Afghanistan, was nuclear war. Wars that did not involve primary and overwhelming interests did not involve the risk of nuclear war. There was no military target worth a nuclear strike in either country, nor would either country risk immolation over Vietnam or Afghanistan. Therefore, these wars could take place.

I think this is Steinmeier’s point. The confluence of extremely critical fears and interests paradoxically reduced the chance of conflict, because it increased the chance of nuclear war. Today, none of the friction points between the United States and Russia are of primary interest to both countries. Syria is at best secondary to both, and Ukraine really matters only to Russia. This cannot result in nuclear war, and therefore, each side will take greater risks than they would have in Central Europe during the Cold War.

Therefore, the situation is more dangerous now precisely because the stakes are lower. In lowering the stakes, the risks decline and the possibility of serious conflict between U.S. and Russian forces rises. That direct clash did not occur during the Cold War, at least not on any significant scale. That means that the risk of nuclear war is diminished, but the risk of direct conflict is higher. This would not be proxy wars, but direct war. Undisciplined crises are the most dangerous.

Steinmeier’s observation seems valid. The mystery, of course, is what he is planning to do about that. Having made the declaration, it would seem reasonable that Germany would try to defuse the U.S.-Russian confrontation. Is Germany announcing that it is shifting its role in global politics to a more active role, albeit mediation? These crises raise the question of what Germany will do. That is a question with an ominous past. But if the German foreign minister is speaking for Germany, then this is exactly where his logic would lead him.

October 27, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Reheating the cold war between Russia and the West

Cold war 2.0: how Russia and the west reheated a historic struggle
As chasm grows between a resurgent Russia and a divided US and Europe, diplomats say conflict is now more dangerous, with ‘no clear rules of the road’,
Guardian,  and   Washington 25 October 2016

Shirreff, then deputy supreme allied commander Europe, was at Nato’s military HQ in Mons, Belgium, when an American two-star general came in with the transcript of Putin’s speech justifying the annexation. “He briefed us and said: ‘I think this just might be a paradigm-shifting speech’, and I think he might have been right,” Shirreff recalled.

The Russian president’s address aired a long list of grievances, with the west’s attempts to contain Russia in the 18th to 20th centuries right at the top.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said: “The reality is that behind the appearance of consensus … a form of world disorder took hold. We are now paying the price for that error of assessment that gave westerners a feeling of comfort for two decades”.

In the UK, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said in his party conference speech that the west had been mistaken in its belief that “the fall of the Berlin Wall meant the world had come to a moment of ideological resolution after seven frozen and sometimes terrifying decades of communist totalitarian rule”.

Others such as Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, warned: “We are moving into an era that is as dangerous, if not more dangerous, as the cold war because we do not have that focus on a strategic relationship between Moscow and Washington.” But unlike the cold war, there are now “no clear rules of the road” between the two countries.

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, an advocate of dialogue, made the same point: “It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the cold war. The current times are different and more dangerous.”………

Many acknowledge the west must take its share of the blame for the collapse of relations. The mistakes are real, notably the scale of Nato expansion to the east and in the Baltics. Russia also feels deeply that it was duped into accepting a UN resolution criticising Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, only to find it was used as cover for regime change. Hillary Clinton, then at the State Department, did little to mange the Russians. Russia has not voted for humanitarian action at the UN since……….

The issue in Europe and the US now is how to respond to Putin? Some believe Russian statehood requires a more aggressive foreign policy. The Kremlin, faced by an ailing economy and declining population, needs external threats of war and violence in the media because Putin “has no civilian project to offer to society”, said Dr Andrew Monaghan at Chatham House. Putin instead offers a mobilisation strategy. The answer is to confront and push back, acknowledging that Putin sees offers of dialogue as a sign of weakness.

Others insist the west must continue to engage and keep pressing the reset button because coexistence is the only option.

In the US and Europe, the question about what to do with Russia is far from settled, something Putin is likely to continue to exploit……

The German chancellor, who has probably devoted more hours to the Putin relationship than any other western politician, is exasperated. She is a dealmaker, but in 2014 – following a conversation with Putin on Ukraine’s annexation – she told Obama that the Russian president was “living in a different world”. But a second round of sanctions in an election year is not attractive.

In Britain, the pre-eminent home for anti-Russian rhetoric since Cameron’s failed attempt at detente in 2011, Johnson has warned Russia that if it continues on its path it could be deemed a rogue nation.

But there are British voices urging calm. Tony Brenton, Britain’s ambassador to Moscow from 2004 to 2008, calls for realism. He argues that the post-war international system – or “liberal hegemony” as he puts it – no longer works. “We have failed with Russia and we are failing with China,” he said.

Brenton’s answer is to accept the limits of 21st-century western influence. “We are going to have to moderate our own ambitions. We can defend ourselves. We can protect our interests. But telling other bad countries how they should behave is less and less possible,” he said.

What’s next? How the west could respond to Russian threatsThe EU, in search of a policy response, is reaching again for sanctions. They have been estimated to have cost the Russian economy $280bn in capital inflows and to be taking roughly 0.5% a year off the GDP. In a society devoid of internal political and institutional constraints on the behaviour of the elite, extended sanctions could weaken Putin’s grip on power………

ultimately the key decisions will be taken in the new White House. Anthony Cordesman, a strategic analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the new administration must confront three realities. “First, Russia is a now broad strategic rival and is likely to remain so at least as long as Putin is in power. Second, the US can’t rebalance to Asia away from Europe or the Middle East. And third, short of being chased off the stage, the United States will have to play out a weak hand in Syria to limit and contain Russian influence.”

“There are no easy answers to the Russians,” said a Washington-based European diplomat. “They are deploying such aggressive rhetoric and policy. During the cold war there was an accepted vocabulary between the sides. There was a game, there was an accepted game,” the diplomat said. “Now the danger is there is no order. There is no accepted language. We are not talking the same language”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/24/cold-war-20-how-russia-and-the-west-reheated-a-historic-struggle

October 27, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, UK, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA and North Korea are talking, unofficially

diplomacy-not-bombsUnofficial US-N. Korea talks held in Malaysia https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/32991266/unofficial-us-n-korea-talks-held-in-malaysia/#page1   October 24, 2016 Seoul (AFP) – A group of former US diplomats held closed door talks at the weekend with senior Pyongyang officials, even as international efforts gather pace to further isolate North Korea, diplomatically and economically.

The two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which was confirmed by the South Korean and US governments, was the latest in a series of unofficial talks commonly referred to as Track 2 that are closely monitored in the absence of any official contact between Washington and Pyongyang.

In July, the North cut off its only remaining official channel of diplomatic communications with the United States in retaliation for American sanctions against its leader, Kim Jong-Un.

The so-called “New York channel” had previously served as a key point of contact between North Korean and US diplomats at the United Nations.

American participants at the talks in the Malaysian capital included Robert Gallucci, who had led the US negotiating team that brokered a 1994 deal with Pyongyang on freezing its nuclear weapons programme.

Among those on the North Korean side was vice foreign minister Han Song-Ryol, who previously served as deputy ambassador to the UN.

The meeting came after North Korea on Thursday test-fired a powerful new medium-range missile and Leon Sigal, an academic specialising in the Koreas who attended the talks, said the North’s nuclear weapons programme had dominated the discussion.

Sigal told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that the North had reiterated the need to sign a peace treaty with the United States before moving on its weapons programme.

The US side stressed that the moves to scrap the nuclear programme had to come first, said Sigal. Under President Barack Obama, the United States has eschewed an official dialogue with the North, but with a looming change in the White House, there is growing speculation as to whether a new administration might adopt a different track.

Critics of the current policy say sanctions and non-engagement have done nothing to prevent the North’s accelerated drive towards a credible nuclear deterrent that could directly threaten the US mainland.

South Korea, which has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the US hardline on Pyongyang, stressed that the talks with North Korea had no governmental involvement.

“We are aware that the US government maintains a firm stance that rushing into dialogue in the absence of North Korea’s will to denuclearise will only justify their wrong behaviour,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.

The UN Security Council is currently discussing a new resolution to punish North Korea over its fifth nuclear test in September — having already imposed tough economic measures after a fourth test in January.

The Track 2 talks have been taking place sporadically for years, with meetings in Singapore, Berlin, Beijing and elsewhere.

October 27, 2016 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Poor prospects for completing a Japna-India nuclear co-operation deal

When Modi Flies To Japan, Bleak Chances For Long-Pending Nuclear Deal Outlook,  Tokyo will recognise New Delhi as de facto N power with the deal. But it wants, in writing, a verification mechanism to check fuel diversion, an end to deal in case of testing, and signing of CTBT

RAJESWARI PILLAI RAJAGOPALAN, 25 Oct 16 When Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Japan in mid-November for a bilateral annual summit, he will carry a baggage of expectations about a long-pending India-Japan nuclear deal and possible agreements on defence cooperation, particularly the US-2 amphibious aircraft.

The nuclear deal has been straddling the fences, certainly, not for lack of political will but a variety of domestic factors at play, particularly in Japan.

In December 2015, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart announced an in-principle decision to cooperate on civil nuclear matters which would facilitate export of Japanese civil nuclear technology to India.

The joint statement stated that the two Prime Ministers welcomed the agreement “for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and confirmed that this agreement will be signed after the technical details are finalised, including those related to the necessary internal procedures”.

But why haven’t both the countries yet put pen to paper?……..

It is important to see what is driving Japan to consider nuclear commerce with India, a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  If it does, it will be a first for Japan.  If the nuclear agreement is signed, it would amount to Tokyo accepting the de facto status of India as a nuclear weapon power. …….

Japan’s history will make it difficult for it to accept this and develop a full-fledged nuclear cooperation agreement.  This will especially be the case due to Japan’s domestic context where there is a large public antipathy to nuclear weapons.

Japan’s general anti-nuclear sentiment will continue to be a stumbling block in realising the full potential of the relationship in this regard.  The fact that the bilateral negotiations on nuclear cooperation have gone on for several years is indicative of how lukewarm Japanese sentiment is to this type of cooperation. …….

Toshiba Westinghouse the deal is important for more than one reason. Signing of the India-Japan nuclear agreement will pave way for the operationalisation of India’s agreement with Westinghouse, a US unit of Toshiba Corporation.

But the negotiations have gone on for so long that New Delhi may be beginning to lose interest. http://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/when-modi-flies-to-japan-bleak-chances-for-long-pending-nuclear-deal/297317

October 27, 2016 Posted by | India, Japan, politics international | Leave a comment

Risk of a military conflict between Moscow and Washington has been overstated

Why a military conflict between Russia and the US is unlikely, Russia Direct, Oct 21, 2016, 
The risk of a military conflict between Moscow and Washington has been overstated. However, both sides should think about prevention mechanisms to minimize the risk of accidents that could lead to an open conflict. The expert community has been crying wolf for a long time now: “War is at the doorstep!” The gloomy predictions indicate that Russia and the United States are at the brink of direct military clashes, as if they were trying to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis in some perverse way. However, any conflict, if it happens, will most probably be accidental  the parties are not yet ready for full-scale military confrontation.

In the last few years, Russia has been modernizing its armed forces to replace the outdated Soviet-era materiel and structure. Numerous exercises, trillions of rubles spent, new equipment and combat vehicles emerging out of the blue, and a charismatic defense minister who changed the entire image of the Russian Army and brought back its popularity with society  all these steps provided for the fast (and real) growth of national military might.

However, it remains rather limited in comparison with the overall total potential of theNATO states. Some would say that the alliance is reluctant to take any serious decisions and is nothing more than a paper tiger. Nonetheless, the brainwashing of the last two years has significantly improved the decision-making capacity of NATO and the chances for achieving consensus over the “Russian threat.”

The ability to mobilize quickly strong conventional forces is still low, as NATO generals admit themselves. However, active recent revival of the nuclear sharing arrangements and the consolidation of U.S. troops in various countries of Central and Eastern Europe present enough deterrence against any light-minded action. It is clear that the war will not happen in Europe (and not even in Ukraine with its unpredictable leadership). However, wherever it occurs, NATO forces can eventually be mobilized to help their allies.

Moreover, Moscow has largely been pursuing a defensive policy over the past 16 years. Even now, when “the Russians are (seemingly) coming,” an independent observer would probably notice that the lion’s share of the activities of Moscow are reactive rather than proactive. …….

Two factors raise the probability of an armed clash between Russia and the U.S. One of them is rhetoric. There have been more words than action so far and there is a clear trend nobody is responsible for their words any longer. Any of the statements of the last few months would mean immediate war in the 19th or even in the 20th century. Nowadays, politicians throw thousands of words against each other and the struggle is with the minds and hearts and not with bodies. However, such belligerent rhetoric creates the climate of antagonism and public anticipation of a conflict. As a result, such atmosphere may facilitate prompt steps “in response” to another accident.

The second factor is, paradoxically, the low importance of the regional conflicts. Syria is so far away from Moscow and Washington that the parties do not really care about its future, its population and even its militants. Both Russia and the United States can afford there much more than they could in Ukraine, for instance (where actually none of them cared about the fate of Ukraine, but the proximity of Europe made it more difficult to fight). And such lack of significance may lead to a dangerous neglect of dramatic consequences of any armed clash and make the decision-making process easier to go to war.

Nowadays, Russia and the United States demonstrate wisdom and restraint. Given the current leadership in both countries, the expectations of war will hopefully stay just that expectations. However, the situation may change next year and it would be better for the parties to think about some minimal confidence-building measures and provide for the prevention of accidents, any of which may become fatal, just like an accidental missile launch during the Cold War era. http://www.russia-direct.org/opinion/why-military-conflict-between-russia-and-us-unlikely

October 22, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s Congressional hawks rev up their anti Russia rhetoric

US Hawks Continue Hysteria Over All Things Russia http://news.antiwar.com/2016/10/19/us-hawks-continue-hysteria-over-all-things-russia/

Amid Rising Tensions, Old Allegations Spark New Panic

by Jason Ditz, October 19, 2016 In 2008, Russia carried out a test of a cruise missile which US officials argued might conceivably violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This was first brought up by US officials in 2014,  during the anti-Russia hysteria surrounding the East Ukraine civil war.

Two and a half years later, tensions with Russia are on the rise again, so officials appear to have decided that the exact same 2008 test is suddenly a huge thing again, with a number of Congressional hawks issuing a letter claiming the Russian test was an “egregious” violation, and demanding that the Obama Administration “impose penalties” on Russia over it.

Russia had threatened to withdraw from the INF over NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe, saying it changed the balance of power in the region. They were also riled by the Bush Administration’s threats to install missile defense along the Russian frontier.

The missiles in question are a multi-stage system Russia designed which are aimed to technically comply with the letter of the treaty, while expanding intermediate range capabilities in ways that the treaty was meant to forbid. The US has made similar developments over the years since 1987.

With US officials riled at Russia over Aleppo, and presenting the fighting in the city as a “holocaust,” they have also brought up several other grievances they have with Russia, accusing them of everything from treaty violations to supporting Donald Trump.

It’s interesting to note, however, that most of the grievances aren’t particularly new, and didn’t have a lot of meat to them the last time they brought them up. The effort seems to be to just keep Russia’s name out there, and always in a negative light.

October 22, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA wants meeting with Russia Over Missile Treaty Dispute

U.S. Calls For Meeting With Russia Over Missile Treaty Dispute , Radio Free Europe,  20 Oct 16 WASHINGTON — The United States has called for a special meeting with Russia over alleged violations of a landmark Cold War-era arms-control treaty, a policy reversal that echoes deepening U.S. fears about Moscow’s intentions.

The planned meeting of the Special Verification Commission, scheduled in the near future, focuses new attention on concerns about the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF).

The treaty, which bans testing, producing, and possessing ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500 to 5,500 kilometers, eliminated an entire class of missiles from Europe, and set up an extensive system of verification and compliance. The agreement was considered crucial in the thaw between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Two years ago, the United States first asserted that Russia was in violation of the treaty, by developing a missile system that fell within the INF prohibitions. Moscow denied the allegations, and later charged that U.S.-led efforts to install elements of a missile-defense system in Europe were in fact prohibited by the INF.

Since then, U.S. officials have pressed Russia on the alleged violations; at one point, President Barack Obama raised the issue directly with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin……..http://www.rferl.org/a/us-calls-meeting-with-russia-nuclear-missile-deployment-concern-russian-nuclear-arms-buildup/28064316.html

October 22, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The American point of view on USA-Russia crisis over Syria

Throughout her campaign, Clinton has repeatedly called for a no-fly or “safe zone” for Syrian civilians, without providing a detailed explanation as to what that would entail. But her advisors have suggested that it could involve the United States shooting down Syrian aircraft, forcing Russia to choose between defending Assad or working with Washington. In discussing the no-fly-zone idea, Clinton has not acknowledged the presence of an advanced Russian S-400 air defense system in Syria, which potentially could be used against U.S. aircraft enforcing a no-fly zone

usa-vs-russia

Putin Throws Out the Old Nuclear Rules, Rattling Washington, FP, Washington and Moscow used to keep arms control separate from other crises around the world. But that era is over and the next president will have to decide how to deal with it. BY DAN DE LUCEREID STANDISH OCTOBER 16, 2016

   Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling and military brinksmanship have upended the rules that long governed relations between Moscow and Washington, presenting the United States with a dangerous dilemma.

The next U.S president will inherit an increasingly fraught relationship with Russia in which Washington’s attempts to deter Putin have mostly failed. Moscow’s decision this month to pull out of a landmark agreement on disposing tons of weapons-grade plutonium, coupled with reports last week that Russia deployed new nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, underscore how Putin is flexing Russia’s power in new and often unpredictable ways.

U.S. and European officials are increasingly alarmed over Putin’s willingness to risk military confrontation and threaten to use his country’s nuclear arsenal over issues the West sees as unrelated and separate. That makes it devilishly difficult for the United States and its European allies to find an effective response to Putin’s audacious tactics that in recent years range from Russia’s annexation of Crimea, to its air war in support of the Syrian regime, to Moscow’s suspected hacking of America’s presidential election.

“It very much feels like we are entering a very troubled and dangerous phase in this bilateral relationship,“ said Julianne Smith, a former senior Pentagon official who oversaw NATO policy and a former senior advisor to Vice President Joe Biden. “The next president will face some big strategic choices,” said Smith, who now advises Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Europe and Russia.

President Barack Obama’s successor will have to choose from a range of unpleasant and risky options when it comes to handling a resurgent Russia, current and former officials said. A more conciliatory stance, aimed at cutting a grand bargain with Russia focused on Ukraine, would defuse tensions in the short term but at the cost of ultimately emboldening Putin. A more hawkish line — like the one championed by Clinton, who is leading nationwide polls — would risk escalation, with the chance of a military showdown in Syria or the Baltics……….

In the Kremlin’s decree this month declaring Russia would no longer cooperate with the United States on a 2009 agreement to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, Moscow said it would consider reviving the agreement only if the United States scaled back its military presence near Russia’s border, lifted all sanctions against Russia, and paid Moscow compensation for the economic losses caused by the sanctions.

U.S. officials said they were disappointed by Moscow’s decision and dismayed at what they consider a worrisome pattern of behavior……..
The United States says Russia has flouted a 1987 arms control treaty, negotiated by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which called for the elimination of all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and served as a crucial foundation for arms control efforts.
After signing the New START arms control accord in 2010, Russia has rebuffed overtures from Obama during the past six years to negotiate further reductions in nuclear weapons. The treaty expires in 2021, and without a new deal, the gains in arms control over the last 25 years would be endangered. Putin’s government also has backed away from mutual efforts launched in the 1990s to secure nuclear material. In March, Russia declinedto attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington…….
Against the sharp deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations, finding a new way to moderate mounting tensions between the two countries will be left to the next U.S. administration. In Syria, Russia’s deployment of fighter aircraft squadrons and artillery in 2015 blindsided the Obama administration, and has succeeded in shifting the tide of the war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The intervention has enabled Russia to set the agenda in Syria, reducing Washington’s influence and drastically limiting U.S. options for any military action.

When lawmakers last month asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, about the possibility of the United States setting up a no-fly zone in Syria, he said it “would require us to go to war with Syria and Russia.”

Throughout her campaign, Clinton has repeatedly called for a no-fly or “safe zone” for Syrian civilians, without providing a detailed explanation as to what that would entail. But her advisors have suggested that it could involve the United States shooting down Syrian aircraft, forcing Russia to choose between defending Assad or working with Washington. In discussing the no-fly-zone idea, Clinton has not acknowledged the presence of an advanced Russian S-400 air defense system in Syria, which potentially could be used against U.S. aircraft enforcing a no-fly zone………….. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/10/16/putin-throws-out-the-old-nuclear-rules-rattling-washington-clinton-trump-arms-control/

October 18, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

People and planet endangered by the Trans Pacific Partnership

TPP would allow firms to turn to secretive international tribunals where they can sue governments for millions or billions of dollars if environmental or other public interest regulations interfere with expected future profits

The TPP undermines sound climate policy. The TPP would ramp up global warming by increasing U.S. coal, oil and gas exports to the world

texy-TPP

7 ways the Trans Pacific Partnership threatens people and the planet, FOE USA,  by Bill Waren, senior trade analyst, 13 Oct 16,    The Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is not so much about trade as it is about deregulation and forcing governments to pay corporations and wealthy investors for the cost of complying with environmental and other public interest safeguards. The TPP broadly restricts the policy space for governments to take effective environmental and climate action.

Unlike most international agreements, tribunals of trade lawyers would effectively enforce the TPP. Such tribunals could impose retaliatory sanctions like higher tariffs on the non-complying countries’ exports or award money damages that can run into millions or even billions of dollars.

Trade tribunals often treat environmental and public health regulations as trade barriers.

Until about twenty years ago, trade deals focused on reducing trade barriers like tariffs and quotas. Today’s trade deals, by contrast, focus on curbing the authority of democratic governments and legitimate courts to regulate the global marketplace. Trade tribunals often treat environmental and public health regulations as trade barriers. Trade deals like the TPP focus on dismantling many regulations that are alleged to interfere with the profits of multinational corporations and wealthy foreign investors.

Multinational corporations have lined up behind the TPP, as have Wall Street banks and Big Oil. But over 1,500 public interest organizations, such as internet freedom groups, faith-based organizations, labor unions, women’s & LBGT advocates and environmentalists, are standing up to oppose TPP……

Here are seven ways that the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal threatens people and the planet:

1) TPP investment tribunals subvert democracy. TPP would allow firms to turn to secretive international tribunals where they can sue governments for millions or billions of dollars if environmental or other public interest regulations interfere with expected future profits. This would discourage government action like restricting oil and gas drilling, imposing pollution controls, and limiting the use of fracking (hydraulic fracturing). TransCanada, for example, is using a similar provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement to sue the U.S. for $15 billion for stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

2) The TPP undermines sound climate policy. The TPP would ramp up global warming by increasing U.S. coal, oil and gas exports to the world. The TPP is designed to protect “free trade” in such dirty energy products shipped out of West Coast ports. The result would be worsened climate change from carbon emissions across the Pacific.

3) The TPP deal threatens bees. …….

4) TPP threatens deregulation of chemical safety standards…..

5) TPP undercuts prudent food safety regulations. ….

6) TPP encourages GMOs……

7) TPP puts family farms at risk. …….

If you want to join the fight against the TPP, contact Bill Waren at wwaren@foe.org.    https://medium.com/economic-policy/7-ways-the-trans-pacific-partnership-threatens-people-and-the-planet-ad49815f337b#.u2u3a5pif

October 14, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Spiral of repeated failure in nuclear sanctions against North Korea

Nuclear conflict with North Korea: a spiral of repeated failure, DW, 9 Oct 16 

flag-N-KoreaNorth Korea carries out a nuclear test; the UN imposes sanctions; North Korea repeats its actions. This cycle has been repeated for 10 years now and has so far proved impossible to break. North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests in the past 10 years. Five times, the UN Security Council has imposed or tightened sanctions. For years now the West has issued similar words of condemnation after each new test. And time and again North Korea has demonstrated that the international community still has not found any way of resolving this nuclear confrontation in the long term. Meanwhile, the cycle of action and reaction continues.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Exactly ten years ago, then dictator Kim Jong Il shocked the world with the first North Korean nuclear test. It was the middle of the night in Europe when the earth shook in the northeast of the country at 10:36 local time. The South Korean secret service estimated that the bomb had an explosive force of 0.55 kilotons. This was considerably smaller than the first atomic bomb ever used in conflict, dropped on Hiroshima in Japan by the United States: That had an explosive force of around 12.5 kilotons. But the message is clear – and the rest of the world is outraged.

US President George W. Bush on 9 October 2006:

“The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.”

It was the start of a spiral that has continued ever since, with no resolution in sight.

Five days later, the 15 members of the UN Security Council vote unanimously to impose sanctions against North Korea.

UN Resolution 1718, passed on 14 October 2006  The resolution forbids North Korea from carrying out any further nuclear tests or firing any ballistic missiles. It calls upon the country to suspend its nuclear program and return to the negotiation table. Among other things, Resolution 1718 freezes the assets of people involved in the North Korean nuclear program and imposes travel bans on them. It also imposes a trade embargo covering items such as tanks, combat vehicles, large war materials, fighter planes, helicopters and battleships. And, of course, anything connected to the further development of North Korea’s nuclear program………

Friday, 9 September 2016

Just nine months after the fourth nuclear test, North Korea carries out a fifth – and last, to date – on its Punggye-ri test site. It is also the strongest. Foreign experts estimate that it had an explosive force of around 10 kilotons.

US President Barack Obama, 9 September 2016:

“To be clear, the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state. […] Today’s nuclear test, a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, makes clear North Korea’s disregard for international norms and standards for behavior and demonstrates it has no interest in being a responsible member of the international community.”

The UN Security Council has announced that further sanctions will be imposed. http://www.dw.com/en/nuclear-conflict-with-north-korea-a-spiral-of-repeated-failure/a-35999751

October 10, 2016 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russia has suspended its nuclear and energy research agreement with the United States

Russia suspends its nuclear agreement with the United States http://www.smh.com.au/world/russia-suspends-its-nuclear-agreement-with-the-united-states-20161005-grvw7t.html Lidia Kelly 

Moscow: Russia has suspended its nuclear and energy research agreement with the United States as a countermeasure against Washington for imposing sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.

The Russian government also said on Wednesday it was terminating an agreement between its nuclear corporation Rosatom and the US Department of Energy on feasibility studies into conversion of Russian research reactors to low enriched uranium.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin suspended a treaty with Washington on cleaning up weapons-grade plutonium, signalling he was willing to use nuclear disarmament as a new bargaining chip in disputes with the United States over Ukraine and Syria.

“The regular renewal of sanctions against Russia, which include the suspension of Russian-American cooperation in the field of nuclear energy demands the adoption of countermeasures against the US side,” the Russian government said on its website.

The agreement on co-operation in nuclear- and energy-related scientific research, signed in 2013, provided the legal framework necessary to expand work between US and Russian nuclear research laboratories and institutes in nuclear technology and nonproliferation, among others.

The uranium agreement, signed in 2010, provided for feasibility studies into the conversion of six Russian research reactors from dangerous highly enriched uranium to more secure low enriched uranium.

The West imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, followed by a pro-Russian insurrection in the east of the country. The breakdown of a ceasefire in Syria, where Russia backs government forces and the West supports rebel groups, has added to tensions.

October 6, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Diplomacy Is Over As Russia and The U.S. Face Off

U.S.-Russia Ties Crumble Under Weight of Syria, Nuclear Pact, Bloomberg      , 4 Oct 16 

October 5, 2016 Posted by | politics international | Leave a comment

With a list of grievances, Putin suspends nuclear pact with USA

Putin suspends nuclear pact, raising stakes in row with Washington http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/04/putin-suspends-nuclear-pact-raising-stakes-in-row-with-washington.html 

 Starting in the last years of the Cold War, Russia and the United States signed a series of accords to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals, agreements that have so far survived intact despite a souring of U.S.-Russian relations under Putin.

But on Monday, Putin issued a decree suspending an agreement, concluded in 2000, which bound the two sides to dispose of surplus plutonium originally intended for use in nuclear weapons.

The Kremlin said it was taking that action in response to unfriendly acts by Washington. It made the announcement shortly before Washington said it was suspending talks with Russia on trying to end the violence in Syria.

The plutonium accord is not the cornerstone of post-Cold War U.S.-Russia disarmament, and the practical implications from the suspension will be limited. But the suspension, and the linkage to disagreements on other issues, carries powerful symbolism.

“Putin’s decree could signal that other nuclear disarmament cooperation deals between the United States and Russia are at risk of being undermined,” Stratfor, a U.S.-based consultancy, said in a commentary.

“The decision is likely an attempt to convey to Washington the price of cutting off dialogue on Syria and other issues.”

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Monday that bilateral contacts with Moscow over Syria were being suspended. Kirby said Russia had failed to live up to its commitments under a ceasefire agreement.

Western diplomats say an end to the Syria talks leaves Moscow free to pursue its military operation in support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, but without a way to disentangle itself from a conflict which shows no sign of ending.

Russia and the United States are also at loggerheads over Ukraine. Washington, along with Europe, imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and backed pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.

List of grievances

Putin submitted a draft law to parliament setting out under what conditions work under the plutonium accord could be resumed. Those conditions were a laundry list of Russian grievances towards the United States.

They included Washington lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine, paying compensation to Moscow for the sanctions, and reducing the U.S. military presence in NATO member state in eastern Europe to the levels they were 16 years ago.

Any of those steps would involve a complete U-turn in long-standing U.S. policy.

“The Obama administration has done everything in its power to destroy the atmosphere of trust which could have encouraged cooperation,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on the treaty’s suspension.

“The step Russia has been forced to take is not intended to worsen relations with the United States. We want Washington to understand that you cannot, with one hand, introduce sanctions against us where it can be done fairly painlessly for the Americans, and with the other hand continue selective cooperation in areas where it suits them.”

The 2010 agreement, signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on each side to dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium by burning it in nuclear reactors.

Clinton said at the time that there was enough of the material to make almost 17,000 nuclear weapons. Both sides back then viewed the deal as a sign of increased cooperation between the two former Cold War adversaries.

Russian officials alleged on Monday that Washington had failed to honor its side of the agreement. The Kremlin decree stated that, despite the suspension, Russia’s surplus weapons-grade plutonium would not be put to military use.

October 5, 2016 Posted by | politics international, Russia | Leave a comment

U.N. atomic agency chief says Iran sticking to nuclear deal

 Reuters 2 Oct 16  Iran has kept to a nuclear deal it agreed with six world powers last year limiting its stockpiles of substances that could be used to make atomic weapons, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told French daily Le Monde.

Confirming the findings of a confidential report by the U.N. agency seen by Reuters last month, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said Tehran had observed the deal which was opposed by hardliners inside Iran and by skeptics in the West.

“The deal is being implemented since January without any particular problem,” he told Le Monde in an interview published on Saturday……. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-idUSKCN1213DX

October 3, 2016 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

US tells Pakistan that its nuclear threats to India are not acceptable

Nuclear threat not acceptable, US tells Pakistan, http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/nuclear-threat-not-acceptable-us-tells-pakistan/article9170042.ece  VARGHESE K. GEORGE, 1 Oct 16  The United States has conveyed to Pakistan that nuclear threats are not acceptable, a senior State Department official who did not want to be named, said. The message was conveyed to Pakistan after its defence minister said twice in the span of a week that his country could use tactical nuclear weapons against India.

“We made that clear to them. Repeatedly,” the official said when asked whether the U.S has conveyed to Pakistan that no nuclear capable country is expected to threaten anyone with the use of nukes. “We haven’t kept the devices that we have just as showpieces. But if our safety is threatened, we will annihilate them (India),” the defence minister of Pakistan had said.

 “It is very concerning, it is a serious thing,” the U.S official said, adding that the U.S has been urging both countries to “pull back and deescalate.” “At the same time we have made it very clear that what happened in the Indian arm base (Uri) is an act of cross border terrorism,” the official added.

The U.S is concerned about the safety of Pakistani nuclear weapons otherwise also, the official said. “The safety of these weapons is always a concern for us. So we are always monitoring it, regardless of what they said on this particular occasion,” he said.

October 1, 2016 Posted by | Pakistan, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment