Overview: War and Weapons

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Author: Metta Spencer

Even before our primate ancestors began to walk upright, there were wars—times when whole human communities or groups within a community tried to kill each other. Scholars have reached this conclusion partly on the basis of Jane Goodall’s discovery that our closest primate relative, the chimpanzee, engages in war,(1) and partly on the basis of archaeological evidence. One site of skeletons was found in Kenya dating back 9,500 to 10,500 years showing that a group of 27 people had been massacred together.(2) Indeed, there is strong evidence that levels of violence were higher in prehistoric times than today.(3) One example is a cemetery about 14,000 years old where about 45 percent of the skeletons showed signs of violent death.(4) An estimated 15 percent of deaths in primitive societies were caused by warfare.

But life did not consistently become friendlier as our species spread and developed. By one estimate, there were 14,500 wars between 3500 BC and the late twentieth century. These took around 3.5 billion lives.(5)

Can we conclude, then, that war is simply an intrinsic part of “human nature,” so that one cannot reasonably hope to overcome it? No, for there is more variation in the frequency and extent of warfare than can be attributed to genetic differences. In some societies, war is completely absent. Douglas Fry, checking the ethnographic records, identified 74 societies that have clearly been non-warring; some even lacked a word for “war.” The Semai of Malaysia and the Mardu of Australia are examples.(6)

We may gain insights about solutions to warfare by exploring the variations in its distribution, type, and intensity. We begin with the best news: We are probably living in the most peaceful period in human history!

Infographic-Healthcare-Not-Warfare-GDAMS-3.jpg

Infographic, Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)

Historical Changes in Rates of War

Steven Pinker is the scholar who most convincingly argues that violence has declined, both recently and over the millennia. Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now, contains a graph showing the numbers of battle deaths by year from 1945 to 2015. A huge spike represents World War II, of course, for that was most lethal war in human history, causing at least 55 million deaths. How can we reconcile that ghastly number with any claim that the modern era is a peaceful epoch?

Pinker’s proof is based on distinguishing sharply between absolute numbers and rates. To be sure, 55 million is a huge number, but the Mongol Conquests killed 40 million people back in the thirteenth century, out of a world population only about one-seventh the size of the world’s 1950 population. Pinker says that if World War II had matched the Mongols’ stupendous rate of killing, about 278 million people would have been killed.

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An interesting article from Dr. Tariq Rauf – the Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Disarmament, Arms Control, and Non-Proliferation Programme – regarding the impacts of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) on the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty conferences. There is a possibility international travel will be restricted – causing the conferences and associated discussions to be pushed to 2021 and beyond.

Title: Relentless Spread of Coronavirus Obliges Postponing the 2020 NPT Review to 2021
Author: Rauf, Tariq
Publication(s): UN Insider
Date: 2 March 2020
Link: https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/global-governance/un-insider/3351-relentless-spread-of-coronavirus-obliges-postponing-the-2020-npt-review-to-2021
Notes: Dr. Rauf is additionally a participant in Project Save the World’s podcast and talk-show. Dr. Rauf is featured in Episode 94 “Nuclear Weapons in 2020.” Check it out if you get the chance!

Article Excerpt(s):

“Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch in his “very, very rough” estimate (relying on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other”) has stated that 100 or 200 people were infected in the U.S. a week or so ago. But that is all it would take to widely spread the disease. Lipsitch has predicted that within a year, 40% to 70% of the world’s population could be infected with COVID-19? With the world’s population hovering around 7.5 billion, that translates to some 3 to 5 billion people getting COVID-19 and that perhaps fatalities of 60 to 100 million, according to Lipsitch.

Should unfortunately this worst case prevail, we could have the worst pandemic in human history, even exceeding the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 that killed 50 million people. Under the above scenario, in the United States there could be up to 130 to 230 million cases of COVID-19, with up to 2.5 to 3.5 million fatalities. Obviously, these are the worst “worst case” predictions and likely will not come true, but still an abundance of caution is advisable and unnecessary large conferences and gatherings of people should be avoided. Hence, all the more reason to postpone the 2020 NPT review conference to 2021.”

[…]

What is the NPT?

“The NPT is the world’s most widely adhered to multilateral nuclear arms reduction and non-proliferation treaty. It is considered to be a resounding success in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons to five States that have signed the Treaty and to four others that are not bound by it. Mainly as a result of the NPT, some 10% of the electricity generated in the world is by nuclear power reactors contributing to clean energy, and billions of people benefit daily from the applications of nuclear technologies in such areas as medicine, agriculture, water and animal husbandry.

The principal failing of the NPT has been lack of progress towards eliminating nuclear weapons. Despite a half-century having elapsed since the NPT entered into force, as I have written previously, “The grim reality is that more than 14,000 nuclear warheads of the nine nuclear-armed States are deployed at more than 100 locations in 14 States, the dangers of nuclear weapon use are increasing, and there are stocks of nearly 1,400 tonnes (or 1,400,000 kg) of weapon-grade uranium and 500 tonnes (or 500,000 kg) of weapon-usable plutonium good for more than 130,000 nuclear warheads. Remember, it takes 25 kg or less of highly-enriched uranium and 8 kg or less of plutonium for one nuclear warhead.””

[…]

“Furthermore, some delegations have been complaining about visa denials by U.S. authorities to attend UN conferences and this year’s session of the UN Disarmament Commission had to be postponed. Costs of hotel accommodation in New York are soaring, as are the costs of food and eating out in restaurants. The expertise for nuclear verification, safety and security, and peaceful uses lies in Vienna (Austria), while that of negotiating multilateral nuclear arms control in Geneva (Switzerland). New York has no diplomatic expertise related to the NPT. Thus, there are no compelling reasons at all to convene the presently scheduled NPT review conference in New York this year.”

[…]

“An NPT review conference this year though desirable for meeting the five yearly cycle is not absolutely necessary; rather under the circumstances it poses unacceptable health risks and is a luxury that the international community can ill afford.

The best option is to formally announce the postponement of the 2020 NPT review conference to 2021 with the venue being Vienna, as soon as possible – the earlier the better. The longer this decision is delayed the greater the costs incurred in cancelling flights and hotel rooms – while government and IAEA/CTBTO delegates may well be able to afford such penalties as tax dollars pay for their expenses, for civil society participants the cancellation costs would be onerous and unaffordable as they either self-finance or rely on charitable donations.

For all the reasons noted above, including especially the continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus designated by WHO as a very high global risk, it would not only be inexcusable but also immoral on the part of the UN and the NPT Secretariats to delay any further the announcement of the postponement of the NPT review conference to 2021 and to initiate the logistical preparations for holding it in Vienna next year. “

An interesting article about the current and evolving geopolitical situation in the Arctic.

Title: A World War Could Break Out in the Arctic
Author: Klare, Michael T.
Publications: The Nation
Date: 11 February 2020
Link: https://www.thenation.com/article/world/nato-russia-norway/
Notes: Discusses various elements ranging from the role of the military to the role of the resource extraction industry. Particular focus is on the new military exercises that will be occurring in March 2020 in Scandinavia.

Article Excerpt:

“In early March, an estimated 7,500 American combat troops will travel to Norway to join thousands of soldiers from other NATO countries in a massive mock battle with imagined invading forces from Russia. In this futuristic simulated engagement—it goes by the name of Exercise Cold Response 2020—allied forces will “conduct multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions,” or so claims the Norwegian military anyway. At first glance, this may look like any other NATO training exercise, but think again. There’s nothing ordinary about Cold Response 2020. As a start, it’s being staged above the Arctic Circle, far from any previous traditional NATO battlefield, and it raises to a new level the possibility of a great-power conflict that might end in a nuclear exchange and mutual annihilation. Welcome, in other words, to World War III’s newest battlefield.

For the soldiers participating in the exercise, the potentially thermonuclear dimensions of Cold Response 2020 may not be obvious. At its start, Marines from the United States and the United Kingdom will practice massive amphibious landings along Norway’s coastline, much as they do in similar exercises elsewhere in the world. Once ashore, however, the scenario becomes ever more distinctive. After collecting tanks and other heavy weaponry “prepositioned” in caves in Norway’s interior, the Marines will proceed toward the country’s far-northern Finnmark region to help Norwegian forces stave off Russian forces supposedly pouring across the border. From then on, the two sides will engage in—to use current Pentagon terminology—high-intensity combat operations under Arctic conditions (a type of warfare not seen on such a scale since World War II).

And that’s just the beginning. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Finnmark region of Norway and adjacent Russian territory have become one of the most likely battlegrounds for the first use of nuclear weapons in any future NATO-Russian conflict. Because Moscow has concentrated a significant part of its nuclear retaliatory capability on the Kola Peninsula, a remote stretch of land abutting northern Norway—any US-NATO success in actual combat with Russian forces near that territory would endanger a significant part of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and so might precipitate the early use of such munitions. Even a simulated victory—the predictable result of Cold Response 2020—will undoubtedly set Russia’s nuclear controllers on edge.

To appreciate just how risky any NATO-Russian clash in Norway’s far north would be, consider the region’s geography and the strategic factors that have led Russia to concentrate so much military power there. And all of this, by the way, will be playing out in the context of another existential danger: climate change. The melting of the Arctic ice cap and the accelerated exploitation of Arctic resources are lending this area ever greater strategic significance.

ENERGY EXTRACTION IN THE FAR NORTH
Look at any map of Europe and you’ll note that Scandinavia widens as it heads southward into the most heavily populated parts of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As you head north, however, it narrows and becomes ever less populated. At its extreme northern reaches, only a thin band of Norway juts east to touch Russia’s Kola Peninsula. To the north, the Barents Sea, an offshoot of the Arctic Ocean, bounds them both. This remote region—approximately 800 miles from Oslo and 900 miles from Moscow—has, in recent years, become a vortex of economic and military activity.

Once prized as a source of vital minerals, especially nickel, iron ore, and phosphates, this remote area is now the center of extensive oil and natural gas extraction. With temperatures rising in the Arctic twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet and sea ice retreating ever farther north every year, offshore fossil-fuel exploration has become increasingly viable. As a result, large reserves of oil and natural gas—the very fuels whose combustion is responsible for those rising temperatures—have been discovered beneath the Barents Sea and both countries are seeking to exploit those deposits. Norway has taken the lead, establishing at Hammerfest in Finnmark the world’s first plant above the Arctic Circle to export liquified natural gas. In a similar fashion, Russia has initiated efforts to exploit the mammoth Shtokman gas field in its sector of the Barents Sea, though it has yet to bring such plans to fruition.

For Russia, even more significant oil and gas prospects lie further east in the Kara and Pechora Seas and on the Yamal Peninsula, a slender extension of Siberia. Its energy companies have, in fact, already begun producing oil at the Prirazlomnoye field in the Pechora Sea and the Novoportovskoye field on that peninsula (and natural gas there as well). Such fields hold great promise for Russia, which exhibits all the characteristics of a petro-state, but there’s one huge problem: The only practical way to get that output to market is via specially designed icebreaker-tankers sent through the Barents Sea past northern Norway.

The exploitation of Arctic oil and gas resources and their transport to markets in Europe and Asia has become a major economic priority for Moscow as its hydrocarbon reserves below the Arctic Circle begin to dry up. Despite calls at home for greater economic diversity, President Vladimir Putin’s regime continues to insist on the centrality of hydrocarbon production to the country’s economic future. In that context, production in the Arctic has become an essential national objective, which, in turn, requires assured access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Barents Sea and Norway’s offshore waters. Think of that waterway as vital to Russia’s energy economy in the way the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, is to the Saudis and other regional fossil-fuel producers.

THE MILITARY DIMENSION
No less than Russia’s giant energy firms, its navy must be able to enter the Atlantic via the Barents Sea and northern Norway. Aside from its Baltic and Black Sea ports, accessible to the Atlantic only via passageways easily obstructed by NATO, the sole Russian harbor with unfettered access to the Atlantic Ocean is at Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. Not surprisingly then, that port is also the headquarters for Russia’s Northern Fleet—its most powerful—and the site of numerous air, infantry, missile, and radar bases along with naval shipyards and nuclear reactors. In other words, it’s among the most sensitive military regions in Russia today.

Given all this, President Putin has substantially rebuilt that very fleet, which fell into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union, equipping it with some of the country’s most advanced warships. In 2018, according to The Military Balance, a publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it already possessed the largest number of modern cruisers and destroyers (10) of any Russian fleet, along with 22 attack submarines and numerous support vessels. Also in the Murmansk area are dozens of advanced MiG fighter planes and a wide assortment of anti-aircraft defense systems. Finally, as 2019 ended, Russian military officials indicated for the first time that they had deployed to the Arctic the Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hypersonic velocities (more than five times the speed of sound), again presumably to a base in the Murmansk region just 125 miles from Norway’s Finnmark, the site of the upcoming NATO exercise.

More significant yet is the way Moscow has been strengthening its nuclear forces in the region. Like the United States, Russia maintains a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), long-range “heavy” bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Under the terms of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed by the two countries in 2010, the Russians can deploy no more than 700 delivery systems capable of carrying no more than 1,550 warheads. (That pact will, however, expire in February 2021 unless the two sides agree to an extension, which appears increasingly unlikely in the age of Trump.) According to the Arms Control Association, the Russians are currently believed to be deploying the warheads they are allowed under New START on 66 heavy bombers, 286 ICBMs, and 12 submarines with 160 SLBMs. Eight of those nuclear-armed subs are, in fact, assigned to the Northern Fleet, which means about 110 missiles with as many as 500 warheads—the exact numbers remain shrouded in secrecy—are deployed in the Murmansk area.

For Russian nuclear strategists, such nuclear-armed submarines are considered the most “survivable” of the country’s retaliatory systems. In the event of a nuclear exchange with the United States, the country’s heavy bombers and ICBMs could prove relatively vulnerable to pre-emptive strikes as their locations are known and can be targeted by American bombs and missiles with near-pinpoint accuracy. Those subs, however, can leave Murmansk and disappear into the wide Atlantic Ocean at the onset of any crisis and so presumably remain hidden from US spying eyes. To do so, however, requires that they pass through the Barents Sea, avoiding the NATO forces lurking nearby. For Moscow, in other words, the very possibility of deterring a US nuclear strike hinges on its ability to defend its naval stronghold in Murmansk, while maneuvering its submarines past Norway’s Finnmark region. No wonder, then, that this area has assumed enormous strategic importance for Russian military planners—and the upcoming Cold Response 2020 is sure to prove challenging to them.

WASHINGTON’S ARCTIC BUILDUP
During the Cold War era, Washington viewed the Arctic as a significant strategic arena and constructed a string of military bases across the region. Their main aim: to intercept Soviet bombers and missiles crossing the North Pole on their way to targets in North America. After the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Washington abandoned many of those bases. Now, however, with the Pentagon once again identifying “great power competition” with Russia and China as the defining characteristic of the present strategic environment, many of those bases are being reoccupied and new ones established. Once again, the Arctic is being viewed as a potential site of conflict with Russia and, as a result, US forces are being readied for possible combat there.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first official to explain this new strategic outlook at the Arctic Forum in Finland last May. In his address, a kind of “Pompeo Doctrine,” he indicated that the United States was shifting from benign neglect of the region to aggressive involvement and militarization. “We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic,” he insisted, “complete with new threats to the Arctic and its real estate, and to all of our interests in that region.” To better protect those interests against Russia’s military buildup there, “we are fortifying America’s security and diplomatic presence in the area…hosting military exercises, strengthening our force presence, rebuilding our icebreaker fleet, expanding Coast Guard funding, and creating a new senior military post for Arctic Affairs inside of our own military.”

The Pentagon has been unwilling to provide many details, but a close reading of the military press suggests that this activity has been particularly focused on northern Norway and adjacent waters. To begin with, the Marine Corps has established a permanent presence in that country, the first time foreign forces have been stationed there since German troops occupied it during World War II. A detachment of about 330 Marines were initially deployed near the port of Trondheim in 2017, presumably to help guard nearby caves that contain hundreds of US tanks and combat vehicles. Two years later, a similarly sized group was then dispatched to the Troms region above the Arctic Circle and far closer to the Russian border.

From the Russian perspective, even more threatening is the construction of a US radar station on the Norwegian island of Vardø about 40 miles from the Kola Peninsula. To be operated in conjunction with the Norwegian intelligence service, the focus of the facility will evidently be to snoop on those Russian missile-carrying submarines, assumedly in order to target them and take them out in the earliest stages of any conflict. That Moscow fears just such an outcome is evident from the mock attack it staged on the Vardø facility in 2018, sending 11 Su-24 supersonic bombers on a direct path toward the island. (They turned aside at the last moment.) It has also moved a surface-to-surface missile battery to a spot just 40 miles from Vardø.

In addition, in August 2018, the US Navy decided to reactivate the previously decommissioned Second Fleet in the North Atlantic. “A new Second Fleet increases our strategic flexibility to respond—from the Eastern Seaboard to the Barents Sea,” said Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson at the time. As last year ended, that fleet was declared fully operational.

DECIPHERING COLD RESPONSE 2020
Exercise Cold Response 2020 must be viewed in the context of all these developments. Few details about the thinking behind the upcoming war games have been made public, but it’s not hard to imagine what at least part of the scenario might be like: a US-Russian clash of some sort leading to Russian attacks aimed at seizing that radar station at Vardø and Norway’s defense headquarters at Bodø on the country’s northwestern coast. The invading troops will be slowed but not stopped by Norwegian forces (and those US Marines stationed in the area), while thousands of reinforcements from NATO bases elsewhere in Europe begin to pour in. Eventually, of course, the tide will turn and the Russians will be forced back.

No matter what the official scenario is like, however, for Pentagon planners the situation will go far beyond this. Any Russian assault on critical Norwegian military facilities would presumably be preceded by intense air and missile bombardment and the forward deployment of major naval vessels. This, in turn, would prompt comparable moves by the United States and NATO, probably resulting in violent encounters and the loss of major assets on all sides. In the process, Russia’s key nuclear retaliatory forces would be at risk and quickly placed on high alert with senior officers operating in hair-trigger mode. Any misstep might then lead to what humanity has feared since August 1945: a nuclear apocalypse on Planet Earth.

There is no way to know to what degree such considerations are incorporated into the classified versions of the Cold Response 2020 scenario, but it’s unlikely that they’re missing. Indeed, a 2016 version of the exercise involved the participation of three B-52 nuclear bombers from the US Strategic Air Command, indicating that the American military is keenly aware of the escalatory risks of any large-scale US-Russian encounter in the Arctic.

In short, what might otherwise seem like a routine training exercise in a distant part of the world is actually part of an emerging US strategy to overpower Russia in a critical defensive zone, an approach that could easily result in nuclear war. The Russians are, of course, well aware of this and so will undoubtedly be watching Cold Response 2020 with genuine trepidation. Their fears are understandable—but we should all be concerned about a strategy that seemingly embodies such a high risk of future escalation.

Ever since the Soviets acquired nuclear weapons of their own in 1949, strategists have wondered how and where an all-out nuclear war—World War III—would break out. At one time, that incendiary scenario was believed most likely to involve a clash over the divided city of Berlin or along the East-West border in Germany. After the Cold War, however, fears of such a deadly encounter evaporated and few gave much thought to such possibilities. Looking forward today, however, the prospect of a catastrophic World War III is again becoming all too imaginable and this time, it appears, an incident in the Arctic could prove the spark for Armageddon.”

There is ongoing debate in Ireland – as well as elsewhere – around allowing the United States’ military to use airports – both as a base for operations, as well as a stopover. Attached here is an article from January 2020 identifying the political and public debate on this subject:

Title: Poll: Should the Irish government push for an end to the US military use of Shannon Airport?
Author: N/A
Date: 29 January 2020
News Agency: The Journal (Ireland)
Link: https://www.thejournal.ie/us-military-shannon-4984136-Jan2020

Article Excerpt:

If in Government, Labour would push for an end to the use of Shannon Airport for US military planes according to party leader Brendan Howlin.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie for the general election podcast The Candidate, Howlin said the Labour Party would go head-to-head with President Donald Trump and end the use of Shannon for US military planes unless those troops were involved in UN-sanctioned military operations.

Howlin’s calls follow concerns about inspections of US aircraft that land at Shannon being raised on numerous occasions in the last Dáil.

The issue was highlighted again last week when US Vice President Mike Pence met with US troops during a stopover at Shannon Airport.

So, today we’re asking you: Should the Irish government push for an end to the US military use of Shannon Airport?

Please refer to the article itself for the poll.

Please find attached a recent (January 2020) update from the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign:

[URL link missing]

In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.

Last Tuesday (January 28), the Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.

The draft measures were introduced to the council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos. Since then, New York peace, climate and disarmament activists have been campaigning to build endorsement from enough council members for the adoption of these two measures.

The campaign has included directed research, lobbying of councillors, public events & actions, and open letters in support such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open letter to New York City Council sent to every city councillor in November 2019.

‘City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told a support action organised by the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign in front of City Hall in October 2019.

‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

Impact of NYC nuclear weapons divestment:

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers.

However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The Hearings:

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90. Click here for a video of the testimonies.

As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

New York Administration resistance addressed by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money

One unresolved issue from the hearings is which city department would oversee the implementation of the two measures. Another issue is what resources, including budget, would be required for implementation and from where these would come.

The New York City administration was represented by Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, who argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted. She argued that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NY City and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting to the UN on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but not to engage in national security policy or international disarmament which was the mandate for the Federal government – not the city.

Mr Jonathan Granoff, representing Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, responded in his oral testimony that the remit from these resolutions was not that the City engage in advocacy at the United Nations, but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that are applicable to cities as well as to federal governments. This is exactly what her department is doing with respect to SDGs, and is what they have a mandate to do for nuclear disarmament.

‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty ,’ said Mr Granoff, who is also President of Global Security Institute and an internationally respected lawyer.

‘Ms Abeywardena, in outlining her department’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, seems to be unaware that SDG 16 includes the obligation to implement such international law at all levels of government, including at city level. As such, the Commission on International Affairs does indeed have the mandate to implement these measures if and when they are adopted.’

With regard to the human resources required to implement the measures, Mr Granoff agreed with Ms Abeywardena that her commission and the City Council did not have much expertise on nuclear weapons. ‘This is exactly why an advisory committee is required – to provide that expertise, and that expertise is here in this room, and you can have our expertise for free. The only resource standing in the way of getting rid of nuclear weapons is emotional, spiritual and political will.’

New York City and Mayors for Peace:

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.

Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and urged she that they do so.

Please find attached a update (January 2020) from the Basel Peace Office. This update was provided to members of its mailing list. At the request of Project Save the World’s coordinator – Professor Metta Spencer – I have attached a copy here:

Link: shorturl.at/cdnTU

Text:

On Tuesday last week (January 28), New York City Council held public hearings on two measures (draft Resolution 0976 and Initiative 1621) which if adopted would oblige the city to divest its city pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry and establish an advisory committee to develop city action to further implement its status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers. However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The adoption of the two measures could also pave the way for New York to become a member of Mayors for Peace, a global network of over 8000 cities working for global nuclear abolition (see Mayors for Peace, below).

Actions to support the two measures:

The two measures, which were introduced to the Council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, have been supported by local peace and disarmament campaigners and by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global campaign co-sponsored by the Basel Peace Office to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel industries and reallocate these budgets and investments to support peace, climate and sustainable development.

Actions to promote the draft measures have included an Open Letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, and a count the nuclear weapons money action in front of city hall.

City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told the Count the Nuclear Weapons Money action. ‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

The Hearings

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90.

As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

Resistance from New York City Administration:

Issues that were presented by the city as difficulties in adopting and implementing the resolutions were the human and financial resources required to implement them, and which city department would be responsible.

Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, testified argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the expertise, resources nor the mandate to implement the measures.

However, her concerns were addressed fully in the oral testimony of Jonathan Granoff, represeting Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, who argued that the expertise and human resources were available from the disarmament and investment communities present at the hearings, and that the mandate for the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs to act already existed in their commitments and programs for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Goal 16 of which includes the role of local authorities to implement universal peace and disarmament obligations.

New York City and Mayors for Peace:

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.

Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and she urged that they do so.

An interesting article from Democracy Now:

Title: Risk of Nuclear War Rises as U.S. Deploys a New Nuclear Weapon for the First Time Since the Cold War
Author: William Arkin
Date: 7 February 2020
Publication: Democracy Now!
Link: https://www.democracynow.org/2020/2/7/us_new_low_yield_nuclear_weapons

Article Excerpt:

The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January that the U.S. Navy had deployed for the first time a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019. The W76-2 warhead, which is facing criticism at home and abroad, is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” We’re joined by William Arkin, longtime reporter focused on military and nuclear policy, author of numerous books, including “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.” He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for Federation of American Scientists. He also recently wrote a cover piece for Newsweek titled “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” “What surprised me in my reporting … was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world,” Arkin says.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: As the nation focused on President Trump’s impeachment trial, a major story recently broke about a new development in U.S. nuclear weapons policy that received little attention. The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January the U.S. Navy had for the first time deployed a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019, armed with a warhead which is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.

The deployment is facing criticism at home and abroad. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” On Capitol Hill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said, quote, “This destabilizing deployment further increases the potential for miscalculation during a crisis.” Smith also criticized the Pentagon for its inability and unwillingness to answer congressional questions about the weapon over the past few months. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded by saying, quote, “This reflects the fact that the United States is actually lowering the nuclear threshold and that they are conceding the possibility of them waging a limited nuclear war and winning this war. This is extremely alarming,” he said.

We’re joined now William Arkin, longtime reporter who focuses on military and nuclear policy. He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for the Federation of American Scientists. He also wrote the cover story for Newsweek, which is headlined “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” He’s the author of many books, including Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.

Bill Arkin, it’s great to have you back.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Thanks for having me on, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, to say the least, this has been an explosive week of news in Washington, D.C., and your news, which has hardly gone reported, is — should really be one of the top news stories of these last weeks.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, during the very time when the Iran crisis was at its highest, the United States, last December, deployed a new nuclear weapon, the first new nuclear weapon to be deployed, Amy, since the end of the Cold War. So here we have not just a momentous occasion, but a weapon which is intended explicitly to be more usable — and not just more usable against Russia and China, but to be more usable against Iran and North Korea, as well. It seemed to me that looking more deeply at this weapon, looking more deeply at the doctrines behind it, and then, really, what surprised me in my reporting, looking more at Donald Trump and the role that he might play in the future, was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what this — what does it mean, “low-yield” nuclear weapon?

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, “low-yield” is actually a little bit wrong. The United States actually possesses nuclear weapons with even smaller yields than five to six kilotons, which is what this is estimated at. That’s 5,000 to 6,000 tons. And so, that would be — if you thought of it in Manhattan terms, it would be probably something on the order of 20 square city blocks obliterated and radiation coming from that area. So, to say “low-yield” is, of course, a little bit wrong. But it is the lowest-yield missile warhead available to the strategic nuclear forces.

And the real reason behind deploying a Trident warhead with this low-yield weapon was that the United States, the nuclear planners, felt that they didn’t have a prompt and assured capability to threaten Russia or threaten other adversaries — “prompt” meaning that it would be quickly delivered, 30 minutes, or even, if a submarine is close, as low as 15 minutes, and “assured” meaning that it isn’t a bomber or an airplane that has to penetrate enemy air defenses in order to get to the target. So, those two things, prompt and assured, is what they really wanted. And putting a warhead on the missiles on the submarines allowed them both covert deployments as well as getting close to the target.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what this means between the United States and Russia.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, between the United States and Russia, I think it really doesn’t change very much. The Russians can denounce the Trident warhead, but the reality is that they have 2,000 of their own small nuclear weapons of this sort opposite Europe. And one of the justifications for the deployment of this new nuclear weapon, Amy, was that the Russians in fact had, if you will, a numerical advantage against NATO, and there was a desire to have a more “usable” nuclear weapon in order to eliminate that advantage. I think the U.S.-Russian situation is certainly tense, but it’s not really what this weapon is about. What this weapon is about is having a more usable nuclear weapon against countries like Iran and North Korea, where in fact a shocking first use of nuclear weapons, a preemptive use of nuclear weapons, would be used to either stop a war or to destroy a very important target, say, for instance, if there were a missile on a launchpad ready to strike at that United States.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2017, General John Hyten, who’s now vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. already has military capabilities to respond to Russian deployment of nuclear weapons.

GEN. JOHN HYTEN: The plans that we have right now — one of the things that surprised me most when I took command on November 3rd was the flexible options that are in all our options today. So we actually have very flexible options in our plans. So, if something bad happens in the world and there’s a response and I’m on the phone with the secretary of defense and the president and the entire staff, which is the attorney general, secretary of state and everybody, I actually have a series of very flexible options, from conventional all the way up to large-scale nuke, that I can advise the president on to give him options on what he would want to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Arkin, if you could respond?

WILLIAM ARKIN: Options. That’s what they’re always saying, “options.” They need better options to do this, better options to do that. You have to look at this new weapon and say, “In its most basic terms, what does it give the United States that it doesn’t already have?” And those two things that I already mentioned: a prompt capability, being able to strike at a target in 15 minutes or less, and, second, an assured capability — that is, a missile that’s able to penetrate any enemy air defenses.

That makes it a particularly dangerous weapon in the hands of the current president, because I’ve heard from many people, more than I expected in my reporting, that they were concerned that Donald Trump, in his own way, might be more prone to accept the use of nuclear weapons as one of options when he was presented with a long list of options. One senior officer said to me, “We’re afraid that if we present Donald Trump with a hundred options of what to do in a certain crisis, and only one of them is a nuclear option, that he might go down the list and choose the one that is the most catastrophic.” And that officer said, “In 35 years of my being in the military, I’ve never thought before that I had to think of the personality of the president in presenting military options.”

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s talk about Iran now and what this means for Iran.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, the deployment, it happened very quickly. The decision was made in February 2018. The Trident warhead was already on the production line for the strategic submarines. So, at the end of the run of these warheads, they made about 50 new ones that were of the low-yield variety, because the production line was already operating and hot. So it happened very quickly. Ironically, it happened at the very time that the House of Representatives was debating whether or not the weapon should even be deployed. And by the time that was finished and President Trump had signed the defense appropriations bill on 20th of December, the weapon had already been in the field. So, it shows really a disconnect, as well, in the congressional debate between what’s actually happening on the ground and what it is that they’re talking about.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, for this to have been passed, you know, the House isn’t the Senate. The House is controlled by Democrats, so the Democrats passed this.

WILLIAM ARKIN: That’s correct. But in the end, the Senate turned down the House recommendation that the weapon not be deployed. And really, the tragedy here is that all of this occurred while the Tennessee was being loaded with a new missile, while the Tennessee was being prepared to go out on a new patrol, while the Tennessee actually went out into the Atlantic Ocean.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk again about Iran, exactly.

WILLIAM ARKIN: So, Iran is important because in June, when the drone was shot down, the president declined to retaliate militarily. And I think he got a lot of criticism from his party, from his wing, that he had made the wrong decision, that the United States should have retaliated against Iran. I think that stuck with Donald Trump. And I think, in the end, when it came to the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, in Baghdad, killed on the 2nd of January, that strike, people have told me, specifically was approved by Donald Trump, enthusiastically pushed by Donald Trump, because it kind of erased the mistake of him not retaliating in June.

At the same time, the United States was also increasing the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, in the Iran area. B-52 bombers were flown to Qatar. The USS Abraham Lincoln was sailed into the region. And there was a general buildup of defensive forces in places like Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia.

At this very moment when U.S.-Iranian relations are at such a deep, I think, divide and at a time also when Iran is free — and it’s not clear that they will, but free — to continue to pursue the development of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons, I think that we see maybe the beginning of a little bit of a creation of an argument that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction and that the United States is going to have to take action against that. And you’ve seen now from the president a number of very blunt statements that have said, “We will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.” That’s not necessarily what anyone I’m talking to in the military is focusing their attention on. They’re much more concerned about Iran in Syria, Iran in Yemen, Iran’s role in Iraq. But in terms of war planning, I think at the highest levels within the U.S. government there’s a general consensus about Iran as being still one of the “axis of evil,” still being in pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the Trump administration, particularly if it’s re-elected, is going to make Iran, I think, the centerpiece of a new defense strategy.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, it is President Trump that set that situation up by pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear accord and decimating it.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Yes, that and also the second decision that was made, which was designating the Quds Force as a foreign terrorist organization. This, ironically, in kind of the bureaucracy of terrorism, triggered a number of decisions and a number of actions, one of which was, with foreign terrorist organizations, the U.S. military then begins the process of targeting their leadership. And that’s what resulted in their starting to track Qassem Soleimani and then ultimately killing him. So it seems to me that we have these two separate tracks kind of converging at the same time: a foreign terrorist organization designation, on the one hand, and weapons of mass destruction, on the other.

AMY GOODMAN: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently advanced the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight, the clock a symbolic timekeeper that tracks the likelihood of nuclear war and other existential threats. It now stands closer to catastrophe than at any time since its creation in 1947. This is Mary Robinson, former Irish president, former U.N. human rights chief, speaking last month as the clock was set to 100 seconds to midnight.

MARY ROBINSON: The Doomsday Clock is a globally recognized indicator of the vulnerability of our existence. It’s a striking metaphor for the precarious state of the world, but, most frighteningly, as we have just heard, it’s a metaphor backed by rigorous scientific scrutiny. This is no mere analogy. We are now 100 seconds to midnight, and the world needs to wake up. Our planet faces two simultaneous existential threats: the climate crisis and nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Irish President Mary Robinson. The significance of the Doomsday Clock, Bill?

WILLIAM ARKIN: I think the real significance is the lack of public interaction and public activism on the question of nuclear weapons. Really, that’s the missing ingredient today, Amy. We have a situation where the United States and Russia are engaged in multi-hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of nuclear modernization, at a time when the United States is at a high level of crisis with Iran and North Korea. And where is the public? Where is the public? And where is the anti-nuclear movement? And where even is any candidate speaking up about this subject?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, speaking of the anti-nuclear movement, the nuclear-armed submarine we’re talking about was deployed from Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia. This is the same base where seven Catholic peace activists were recently found guilty on three felony counts and a misdemeanor charge for breaking into the base on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth [sic], on April 4th, 2018. This is Plowshares activist Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day. It was actually the anniversary of his assassination. But this is Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, speaking after she was convicted.

MARTHA HENNESSY: The weapons are still there. The treaties are being knocked down one after the next. But we are called to keep trying. And we will do this together. And we have no other choice. Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Martha Hennessy is the granddaughter of the Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, one of the seven who were found guilty when they went onto that nuclear base. So, Bill, in this last comment, if you can talk about the significance of their action? And also, when you say “low-yield” nuclear weapon, it must calm people. But this is a third of the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima?

WILLIAM ARKIN: So, “low-yield” is merely the title. It’s like saying that a Hummer is a small truck. I think that what’s important for people to take away from this development is that the United States has a new usable nuclear weapon, what the military itself considers to be more usable. That’s the change. And it’s also a weapon that can be stealthily and covertly deployed in the oceans. And that’s a change. And we do it at a time when, at least against Russia and North Korea and Iran, the United States is engaged in nuclear brinksmanship, at a time when it seems to me that the Congress is out to lunch, and there isn’t really an anti-nuclear movement in the United States, a mass movement, that could take up arms against this.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of Martha Hennessy, Liz McAlister, the peace activist and widow of Phil Berrigan, and others getting convicted on their protest at the base?

WILLIAM ARKIN: I started writing about nuclear weapons in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president. I believe that’s about the time when we met. And then we had marches in which hundreds of thousands of people were in Central Park and in Europe and around the world. And today we have nothing of the sort. So, yes, it’s important that these peace workers continue to do their work and continue to do their important attention operations and exercises, their own, if you will, actions against nuclear weapons. But it’s not enough. The public has to be more engaged. And I believe that the Democratic Party candidates for president need to speak up and say something about nuclear weapons, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, there is a debate tonight in New Hampshire. We’ll see if that question is raised. William Arkin, longtime reporter who’s focused on military and nuclear policy, author of many books, including Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. And we will link to your articles and your cover story in Newsweek magazine.

It is quite interesting to hear that New York City (New York, USA) is taking measures to divest their pension funds (totaling $189 billion) from the nuclear weapons industry by 2023. I am reminded of how several cities – including Toronto, Ontario, Canada – have signed initiatives to declare their cities nuclear weapons free zones. How many cities globally have invested funds in the nuclear weapons industry? Is this data available? I think encouraging more cities, regions, companies, and organizations to divest from the nuclear weapons industry is a vital subject to explore in more detail.

On this subject, here is a recent update from the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Campaign regarding New York Cities initiative to divest from the nuclear weapons industry:

Link: shorturl.at/nvIS1

Text:

In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.

Last Tuesday (January 28), the Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.

The draft measures were introduced to the council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos. Since then, New York peace, climate and disarmament activists have been campaigning to build endorsement from enough council members for the adoption of these two measures.

Council Members Dromm and Cabrera, co-chairs of the City Council hearings, look at mock $1-million nuclear weapons money notes as Jonathan Granoff presents testimony on behalf of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money.
The campaign has included directed research, lobbying of councillors, public events & actions, and open letters in support such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, plus investors and entrepreneurs.

‘City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ Councillor Helen Rosenthal told a support action organised by the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign in front of City Hall in October 2019.

‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’

Support action outside city hall on October 29 which ‘counted nuclear weapons money’ and presented the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Open Letter to the NY City Council.
Impact of NYC nuclear weapons divestment

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers.

However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The Hearings”

The public hearings on Thursday were run jointly by Council member Daniel Dromm and Council member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the NYC Committee on Governmental Operations. They included testimony from a wide range of New Yorkers and civil society organisations, including from labour, education, academia, finance, health, religious and law sectors and from communities impacted by the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. Witnesses stretched in age from 19-90. Click here for a video of the testimonies.

As the public hearings opened on Thursday, the two measures were one-vote short of a veto-proof majority. By the end of the hearings, Council Member Fernando Cabrera had affirmed his support thus ensuring the required votes for adoption. As such, it looks fairly certain that the measures will be adopted.

New York Administration resistance addressed by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money”

One unresolved issue from the hearings is which city department would oversee the implementation of the two measures. Another issue is what resources, including budget, would be required for implementation and from where these would come.

The New York City administration was represented by Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs, who argued that her department (the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs) had neither the resources nor the mandate to implement the measures if they were adopted. She argued that her department was responsible for building good working relations between NY City and the United Nations, educating youth about the United Nations, and reporting to the UN on NYC’s implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but not to engage in national security policy or international disarmament which was the mandate for the Federal government – not the city.

Mr Jonathan Granoff, representing Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, responded in his oral testimony that the remit from these resolutions was not that the City engage in advocacy at the United Nations, but rather to implement obligations arising from the UN that are applicable to cities as well as to federal governments. This is exactly what her department is doing with respect to SDGs, and is what they have a mandate to do for nuclear disarmament.

‘The very first resolution of the United Nations, which was adopted by consensus, affirmed a universal commitment to abolish atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and this is further affirmed as an obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty ,’ said Mr Granoff, who is also President of Global Security Institute and an internationally respected lawyer.

‘Ms Abeywardena, in outlining her department’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, seems to be unaware that SDG 16 includes the obligation to implement such international law at all levels of government, including at city level. As such, the Commission on International Affairs does indeed have the mandate to implement these measures if and when they are adopted.’

With regard to the human resources required to implement the measures, Mr Granoff agreed with Ms Abeywardena that her commission and the City Council did not have much expertise on nuclear weapons. ‘This is exactly why an advisory committee is required – to provide that expertise, and that expertise is here in this room, and you can have our expertise for free. The only resource standing in the way of getting rid of nuclear weapons is emotional, spiritual and political will.’

New York City and Mayors for Peace

The written testimony of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money included a proposal that a key action New York City should take in implementing the resolutions once adopted would be for them to join Mayors for Peace.

Jackie Cabassso, North America Representative for Mayors for Peace, in her oral testimony outlined some of the actions of Mayors for Peace – including introduction of nuclear disarmament resolutions that were adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Ms Cabasso reminded the City Council of the invitation from Mayors for Peace to New York to join, and urged she that they do so.

It is quite interesting to learn that Russia and the USA both agreed to dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. This was an agreement made in 2000 – 20 years ago.  

https://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=FB223CA2-01F2-4C69-AE70-68750263A995

It is unclear to me how the USA plans on safely disposing of this surplus plutonium – as the 8 November 2018 senate report mentions they are cancelling the MOX program – though no viable alternative exists. Russia has been using fast reactors to burn up the surplus material. 

There was additionally a roundtable discussion on 14 March 2001 – hosted in Washington DC by the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Project and the Monterey Institute for International Studies – which sought to examine challenges in disposing of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.  The chairs for this were Alex Flint, Laura Holgate, and John Tuck. Does anyone know if there have been any more-recent round-table discussions on this subject?

I additionally presently have a CSIS report written by John Taylor,  Lindsey Graham, and Peter V. Domenici (among others) called “Disposing of Weapons-Grade Plutonium” – which I got from the University of Toronto library and which I am planning to read in conjunction with Dr. Ann Frisch’s materials.  I came across the report linked above after Googling Lindsey Graham’s connection to the industry.  
 

Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility additionally wrote this fascinating report about plutonium shipments to Canada. It dates to 17 September 1997 – so may be slightly outdated – but offers valuable contextualization. I am wondering whether there has been any updates regarding these approaches and policies.

Link: http://ccnr.org/mox_ccnr_doe.html

What is the current status of sonic weapons in international policies? Are these prohibited under any of the treaties?

I have heard of some that play the person’s own voice back to them at a slight delay, causing the person to stop talking – as well as some that mess with people through ultra-low volumes and/or infrequent noises.

Sonic weapons: Sonic and ultrasonic weapons (USW) are weapons of various types that use sound to injure, incapacitate, or kill an opponent. Some sonic weapons are currently in limited use or in research and development by military and police forces

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_weapon

I have been reading “Plutopia” by Dr. Kate Brown – a MIT professor of Science, Technology, and Society.

Dr. Brown discusses that during the early stages of Hanford’s development – the US government temporarily considered using strontium-90 byproducts to create a radioactive chemical gas – that could be used on battlefields. This strontium-90 based gas would be incredibly dangerous – with both immediate and lingering effects. Fortunately, military officials and researchers deemed it too dangerous to create and too dangerous to use – so it was never implementing. Alarming to consider nonetheless.

“Earl Turcotte, a veteran Canadian diplomat and arms control specialist, has been appointed Chairperson of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW), succeeding Bev Delong, who held the post for more than twenty years.

WFMC is one of 18 member organizations of the CNANW.

Turcotte served as Director and Senior Coordinator for Mine Action with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, and also United Nations Development Program Chief Technical Advisor to the Government of Laos in the Unexploded Ordnance Sector. He is based in Ottawa. The full press release announcing Turcotte’s appointment is available here.

WFMC and eight other CNANW members recently co-signed a civil society letter to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland which notes Canada’s apparent reluctance to offer concrete support for nuclear disarmament in the NATO context and calls on the government to contribute in a tangible way to reducing global tensions and nuclear risks. ”

https://www.wfmcanada.org/2019/04/earl-turcotte-to-lead-cnanw/

From October 2018:

Similar to the Marshall Islands – USA context:

“France is being taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for carrying out nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia, a Polynesian opposition leader announced on Tuesday.”

“France carried out 193 nuclear weapons tests on islands in the archipelago between 1960 and 1996 until French President Jacques Chirac halted the program.

Around 150,000 military and civilian personnel were involved in France’s nuclear tests, with thousands of them later developing serious health problems.

France has long denied responsibility for the detrimental health and environmental impacts of the tests, fearing that it would weaken the country’s nuclear program during the Cold War.

In 2010, France passed a law allowing military veterans and civilians to be compensated if their cancer could be attributed to the nuclear tests.

Out of approximately 1,000 people who have filed complaints against France, only 20 have been compensated.”

The article additionally discusses German anti-nuclear protests.

https://www.dw.com/en/france-sued-for-crimes-against-humanity-over-nuclear-tests-in-south-pacific/a-45826054

Some interesting articles about the potential of nuclear warheads being hidden in shipping containers and how many ports globally are vulnerable to both the illegal import of radioactive materials, as well as nuclear weapons – both conventional and dirty nuclear bombs.

Radioactive materials have been found in shipping containers before, such as a batch of Cobalt-60 discovered in an Italian port. It was within a container of scrap metal originating from Jeddah, Saudia Arabia and destined for Genoa, Italy. The container sat around for over a year, until authorities could figure out who was responsible for it and subsequently how to safely handle and remove it.

Title: Shipping Containers: The Poor Man’s ICBM – Matthew Wallin [1 September 2011 : American Security Project]

Link: https://www.americansecurityproject.org/shipping-containers-the-poor-mans-icbm/

Excerpt: “60,000 people dead—instantly. 150,000 more exposed to hazardous radiation. All ships and infrastructure at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach destroyed. An exodus of six million people from the greater Los Angeles region. Initial costs of $1 trillion. This is exactly the scenario considered in a 2006 RAND Corporation study of the effects of a possible detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device hidden in a standard 20-foot shipping container. In 2010 alone, these ports received a combined total of over 7.2 million 20-foot equivalent containers. Haystack indeed. ”

Title: We could have shipping containers full of foreign nukes in our ports and not know it – J. M. Phelps [27 February 2018 : Centre for Security Policy]

Link: https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2018/02/27/we-could-have-shipping-containers-full-of-foreign-nukes-in-our-ports-and-not-know-it/

Excerpt: “Though speculative, the numbers could be staggering. Some ships hold as many as 3,000 cargo containers. “Relying on intelligence and risk analysis,” Van Hipp tell us in his book, The New Terrorism, “we are only able to scan less than one percent of the incoming containers before they enter the country.” Do the math, and that’s 30 or fewer containers scanned per 3,000. The potential for a national security threat to be offloaded at Port Canaveral or any other port around the country is alarming. These 40-foot shipping containers could be carried by semi trucks or freight trains anywhere around the country without raising a single eyebrow.”

Title: This Long-Lost Law Leaves U.S. Ports Vulnerable To Nukes – James King [9 September 2016: Vocativ]

Link: https://www.vocativ.com/357650/port-security-nuclear-weapons/index.html

Excerpt: “Right now, our ports are vulnerable targets for terrorism. Not only do they lack sufficient security, an attack on just one port could cripple the national, if not global, economy.” —Congresswoman Janice Hahn. The report also said that “the most powerful investments may be for improvements in technologies with applications across the transportation modes, such as scanning technologies designed to screen containers that can be transported by plane, ship, truck, or rail.” It acknowledged, however, that widespread deployments of these types of technologies are “years away.” In its recommendation, the Commission noted that “hard choices must be made in allocating limited resources. The U.S. government should identify and evaluate the transportation assets that need to be protected, set risk-based priorities for defending them, select the most practical and cost-effective way of doing so, and then develop a plan, budget and funding to implement the effort.””

It is alarming to hear of the ongoing plight of Diego Garcia and the Chagossian population. Diego Garcia is a remote atoll archipelago in the Indian Ocean – between the Maldives, Mauritius, and the Seychelles. For administrative purposes, it is considered part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

In the 1500s, the Portuguese used the area as a slave depot. Prior to this, the islands were uninhabited. A cultural group – known as the Chagossians – and who have a distinct language – emerged from the slave trade. During the Cold War, the Chagossians were evicted by the American and British military forces who cited the strategic geographic importance of the islands in relation to global and regional security – within the specific context of air and maritime access.

Various tactics were used to remove the population (population: 1500 in the late 1960s – 3000-4000 in the 2010s) – including inviting the population to neighboring Mauritius for a conference during Christmas in 1965 and subsequently prohibiting return to Diego Garcia. Other tactics included forced removal – such as via blockade of food supplies and/or forced (and allegedly violent) deportation. Alleged military documents – cited in books about Diego Garcia and its associated foreign policies – indicate that suppression of rights of the Chagossians were encouraged during the late 1960s due to the geopolitical significance of the region. By 1973, all Chagossians had been expelled from Diego Garcia.

Many of the Chagossians now live in Mauritius and the United Kingdom. There have been ongoing appeals and lawsuits in relation to gaining official recognition of the abuse and forced deportation of the Chagossians, alongside some form of financial compensation. The first of these appeals for allowing return to Diego Garcia was filed in 1975, but denied. In 1974, £650 000 was provided to assist with Chagossian resettlement efforts. In 1982 – during the same era that the Marshall Islands were going through legal proceedings around alleged compensation for damage from nuclear weapons testing – the Ilois Trust Fund was established for the Chagossians – though to participate in the financial compensation – it was expected for individuals to sign away their right to return to the islands. In 1995, the United Nations’ Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights Committee declare that Diego Garcia is being illegally occupied by joint American-British military forces – in violation of the Chagossian’s right to self determination. Post-2001, the islands were re-classified as a “vital military asset” in the Afghanistan war – which re-defined and re-shaped the geopolitical significance of the region. A marine reserve was established in the vicinity of Diego Garcia. Leaked documents – from WikiLeaks – allege this was a tactic to limit Chagossian access to the island – while maintaining military and state access. This shares interesting similarities with the environmental protection zone / sanitary protection zone established near the East Ural Radioactive Trace and Mayak site in Russia. Circa 2012, Chagossians were permitted to return to the minor islands in the atoll – but had very limited access to territories and thus limited access to traditional lands used for agriculture, cultural, fishing, etc. purposes.

The Treaty of Pelindaba (African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone) covers some, but not all of the continental region. Perhaps there is potential to expand this to Diego Garcia.

Furthermore, in recent years, alarming reports have arisen from Diego Garcia. These include reports of nuclear weapons being stored on Diego Garcia, alongside a maintenance and re-fueling base for nuclear submarines belonging to the United Kingdom and United States of America. Other reports indicate the presence of an alleged torture site for interrogation by security agencies, as well as a launch zone for aerial attacks against states in the Middle East.

An interesting article on Canada’s connection to the global uranium industry. Does anyone know the validity and veracity of the article’s claims?

Here is an excerpt:

“Our uranium and nuclear technology launched the UK and USA stockpiles, then the Indian nuclear arsenal, followed by Pakistan and others. We continued to sell our CANDU reactor for ‘peaceful energy use’ which was secretly described as a “military plutonium production reactor” by the insiders ever since the Manhattan Project.”

“Plutonium=forever.” Even if bombs are not made, plutonium goes on and on emitting deadly radiation for centuries.

“… ‘following the atoms’ proves that we are a boy-scout nation with a very dirty secret. It has been underwritten by $30 billion taxpayer dollars, greased with secret bribes to win export deals, and buried in decades of deceit by official Ottawa.”

I had not heard of Mr. McKay’s book before this article – though perhaps one of you here has.

https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/review-atomic-accomplice

Is there a risk that a solar flare or solar store – of sufficient strength, such as one comparable to the 1859 Carrington Event – could trigger the detonation and/or launch of a nuclear warhead? Several media articles indicate a solar flare in 1967 almost started a nuclear exchange due to communication and radio signals being jammed. However (and fortunately) some space weather scientists identified the cause was a solar flare. There was another incident where sunlight reflecting off the atmosphere almost triggered a nuclear launch – as early computer systems interpreted it as a nuclear flash. This would have been around the 1960s. Alarming to think about!

The 1859 Carrington Event was one of the largest solar storms with extensive records. There were a limited amount of electronic devices in this era – mostly telegraph wires – which were reported to have gone absolutely haywire when the storm hit.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/solar-flares-ballistic-missile-radar-station-cold-war-1.3719177

Yes, it’s a great interview. I particularly like his statements that it’s a sin merely to own nuclear weapons, and that it’s hypocrisy to say you believe in peace while you’re making money from selling weapons. Right on, Francis!

I am commenting by incorporating the whole of a recent letter from the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to the Prime Minister and many other government officials. In this election period, all concerned citizens should make known their views to candidates, and ask questions at all-candidates meetings in their riding.
Adele Buckley
Canadian Pugwash, a member group of CNANW

——————————————————

Nuclear Disarmament: Canadian Leadership Required

Open Letter to PM Justin Trudeau
cc. All Members of Parliament and Senators

Dear Prime Minister,

The risk of nuclear catastrophe is growing and urgent action is required to prevent it.

Recent developments include:

• marked deterioration in East/West relations, most notably between Russia and NATO;
• U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran;
• imminent U.S. and Russian withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty;
• poor prospects for renewal of New START in 2021;
• heightened military tension between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan;
• resurgence of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program;
• the development of ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ and hypersonic missile systems;
• increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks; and
• the real possibility that non-state actors will acquire and use nuclear weapons or fissile material.

All of this is occurring within the context of a new nuclear arms race, precipitated in large part, by the U.S. allocation of $1.5 trillion to ‘modernize’ its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since the height of the Cold War. Humanity, literally, faces the prospect that at any moment, human folly, miscalculation or nuclear accident could end life on earth as we know it, if not completely.

Canada can help to prevent this.

As you know, in the early 1980s, your late father personally conducted an international campaign aimed at “suffocating” the nuclear arms race; and in recent years, parliamentarians of all political stripes have signaled strong support for Canadian action to this end.

In 2010, a motion was adopted unanimously by Canadian members of parliament and senators that “encourages the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons Convention…and to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”

On June 18, 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence issued the following (all-party) recommendation:

“That the Government of Canada take a leadership role within NATO in beginning the work necessary for achieving the NATO goal of creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons…”

Yet Canada continues to work on the margins of the issue and in 2017, boycotted negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a historic breakthrough supported by 122 UN Member States.

As a member of the G7, G20, NATO, and as a traditionally strong supporter of the United Nations, Canada could do so much more.

The world desperately needs a nuclear disarmament ‘champion’ – a national leader who is well placed and prepared to work closely with the UN Secretary General – to forcefully press nuclear armed states: to reverse the nuclear arms race, to renew and broaden membership to the INF and New START Treaties, and to accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or to negotiate a new, complementary Nuclear Weapons Convention that will achieve the ultimate goal – global denuclearization.

We believe this could be you, Prime Minster.

Please, take up the cause of nuclear disarmament – as you did climate change in 2015 – the other existential threat facing our world.

Time is of the essence and the stakes could not be higher.

Sincerely,

Earl Turcotte, Chairperson, CNANW

I think Canada has a responsibility to engage in both global and regional discussions around nuclear non-proliferation and reducing the number of nuclear weapons – not just for a global responsibility and Canada’s image as “peace-keepers” – but additionally due to Canada’s longstanding ties to the nuclear weapons industry – which originated during the very foundation of the program itself – via providing the uranium ore used to create the first and subsequent weapons.

Can you imagine the multi-billion or multi-trillion dollar impact should someone launch a missile(s) (does not necessarily need to be nuclear) at orbiting satellite(s)? In 1978, Donald J. Kessler theorized that kessler syndrome would become a significant issue. This is where debris in orbit collides with other items in orbit, causing a cascading chain reaction. This was a strong plot point in the 2013 movie Gravity – where a satellite that was shot down for decommissioning started a cascading chain reaction that took out communications and research satellites across the world. Orbital decay would take decades in some cases and it would be virtually impossible to launch new satellites or repair missions to pre-existing satellite if this was occurring .There is already research into a laser broom in attempts to clear some of the pre-existing debris from the planet’s orbit.

Here is a CBC article about a laser broom from 2000: https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/laser-broom-will-sweep-up-space-junk-1.243442