Back to the Brink, Nuclear Catastrophe

As nuclear treaty after nuclear treaty bites the dust, today, February 1st, 2019, the U.S. announces its intent to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Nuclear arms control is immeasurably damaged. A new nuclear arms race is heralded, a global breakout characterized by many as “insanity”.


Trump makes it official: The U.S. will leave the INF Treaty

Europe fears new arms race

February 2, 2019 / NY Times

Adding to a sense that the broader architecture of nuclear disarmament has started to unravel, Mr. Putin also said that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.

February 2, 2019 / No expansion of INF treaty to cover China  

Chinese President Xi Jinping… China will not negotiate or expand any nuclear arms control treaty, a top Communist diplomat said Saturday (Feb 2).

“It would involve a series of complicated political, military and legal issues to make the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty multilateral, and many countries remain concerned about this,” Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. “A higher priority is to maintain and fully implement the existing treaty rather than establishing a new one.”



Russia says it will build weapons previously banned under a nuclear disarmament treaty and will no longer initiate talks with the U.S. on any matters related to nuclear arms control


Tom Nichols@RadioFreeTimes

Of course.

Of *course* they did. Because for the second time in 20 years, we walked out of a treaty with them, instead of figuring out something smarter.




February 1, 2019
Thread / The INF treaty and “idiotic move to dump it”


Tom Nichols @RadioFreeTom
Prof, Naval War College
Nuclear Weapons expert
Author, The Death of Expertise, Oxford Press, 2017


Okay, everyone, I’m going to explain why the INF Treaty even existed and why it’s an idiotic move to dump it and think we can replicate our success against the USSR in the 1980s all over again. Mute or turn off notifications if you don’t want this mini-lecture. /1
7:07 PM – 1 Feb 2019
The problem centers around “extended deterrence.” How do you convince your opponent you’ll respond to an attack on your allies as you would an attack on yourself? You can *say* that you will treat invading Bonn like it’s an invasion of New York, but how do you make it stick? /2
NATO had this problem because it was grossly outnumbered during the Cold War. So we said: Well, we’ll nuke you. The Soviets said: “Whatever. You won’t trade Chicago for Frankfurt.” For us to jump from “war in Europe” to “nuking Leningrad” was a stretch. /3
We had a gap. We had”battlefield” nukes for affecting the course of battles (like tank engagements) and “strategic” nukes for US vs USSR strikes. We needed something in between, which would strike Soviet forces in Eastern Europe as a step toward all-out war./4
Both sides developed “theater” nukes that could strike far in the rear of each alliance, and thus provide a link from Europe to all-out nuclear war. This is why they were a deterrent: because they made it, paradoxically, easier to get from “shots fired” to “Moscow melted.” /5
In the 1970s, the Soviets (as usual) tried to get the upper hand in this competition and fielded a much more accurate, mobile version of these weapons, a strategically insane move that was even opposed by the Soviet diplomatic establishment. But Moscow’s generals got their way /6
These Soviet weapons were so menacing that NATO came together in the late 70s – yes, at the behest of Carter, not Reagan – to field a responding system that could also drop a nuke down a rabbit hole (or on Moscow) almost immediately. This was an *immensely* dangerous time. /7
By the 1980s, war in Europe could go to all-out nuclear war in minutes. But here’s what was *different*: We put those weapons in Europe *in the path of a Soviet invasion.* We told the Soviets: “If you come in, we’ll have no choice. It’ll be your doing, not ours.” /8
In other words, deterrence relied on the Soviets triggering a “use or lose” crisis, rather than relying on some steely-eyed decision in Washington to unleash hell. That made a huge difference. Maybe a POTUS would lose his nerve…but what about the guys about to be overrun? /9
This was a good move, because it made the link from war in Europe to the end of the USSR a lot more credible. Deterrence was, in a way, taken out of our hands, and nuclear war would be the fault of the Soviets for invading, whether we wanted it or not, and they knew it./10
And there’s the hitch: today, we’re not defending against some massive Soviet invasion anymore. The targets for most of the old US INF were areas that are now part of NATO.
Now, a new US INF would have only one target: Russia. /11
Today, there’s no “Warsaw Pact” to fight this out on. If we use INF, we’ll be hitting inside Russia. If you think that this is a good idea, well, te salud, Don Corleone, because there’s no way the Russians will sit around and just take a nuke strike inside Russia. /12
Likewise, in Asia, we have nowhere to put these weapons if we develop them again. (Japan? South Korea? Uh, no.) And the only targets for them will be in China itself. There’s no “theater” in which we’ll be striking; in both Russia and China, these will be strategic strikes. /13
Or, put another way, the Russians and the Chinese will have to *assume* these are strategic strikes, especially if we do something ludicrous like put the new INF on submarines. “Oh, that launch? Just a theater strike. Don’t overreact.” Sure. Good luck with that. /14
What will deter Russia? If they know they’d lose a conventional action of any size. But we don’t like spending money on expensive troops and guns, so instead, we’re letting the Russians bait us into a nuclear standoff that benefits *them*, because of the home turf advantage. /15
Without the trigger of INF placed in the way of advancing Russian armies – and no one’s going to do that, unless you think we should line the Polish and Baltic borders with nukes – we’re left with a *discretionary* force that relies solely on our promise to go nuclear. /16
This is the situation we were trying to get *out of* in the 60s, that we solved briefly in the 80s (at the risk of a holocaust), and that Reagan got us out of as soon he could. We’re now the conventionally superior power – but we’re acting like it’s 1975. /17
And trying to replicate the 1980s in Europe by doing it again in Asia is mindless and ahistorical, the kind of thing wargamers come up when they treat nuclear weapons like a big game of Risk. You want to worry China? Build more ships, not more nukes that you won’t use./18
Dumping the INF Treaty has long been a cherished idea among guys like Bolton who hate treaties, and nuclear enthusiasts who think you can pop off a couple of dozen small nukes and not escalate to Armageddon. No Dem or GOP administration wanted that until now, so here we are. /19
In sum, we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re not thinking about why we would go to war, what scenarios we’re trying to defeat. We’re just playing tit for tat, without even knowing why. We’re just flailing around, alienating our own NATO allies, then pretending we’re tough. /20
Worse, we’ve come to believe that everything worked out fine in the 1980s, when in fact guys on both sides had to change their shorts when all that was over. We got by that with careful leadership and some basic luck. I guess now all that’s left is to buy stock in Vault-Tec. /21x