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World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Nuclear War

Posted by Adrian on August 2, 2007

In 1991 the cold war ended between America and Communist Russia, in the same year communism collapsed in Russia. In 1992 George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin officially declared the cold war over. The cold war was essentially a nuclear stand off between the two world superpowers at the time (Russia and America). The cold war lasted from 1947 through to 1991. In 1949 Russia detonated it’s first nuclear bomb codenamed named ‘Lightning one’. The Nuclear arms race officially began when Russia showed the world it now had nuclear weapon capacity. The nuclear arms race intertwined within the Cold War period, between the two superpowers for 44 years up to 1991, the threat of all out Nuclear War was always imminent.

World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Nuclear War

Now in the 21st century we are entering a new nuclear age. With mounting evidence that global warming has been directly contributed by fossil fuels , nuclear power is being looked at as a widespread industry to replace the fossil fuel energy based industries, like coal and other carbon energy industries. New countries now posses the ability to produce nuclear power and of course weapon grade uranium or plutonium – for nuclear arms.

This means more countries that require nuclear power will also have the ability to create nuclear weapons simultaneously. The current countries that are forming a stockpile of nuclear armory, from The Bulletin Online (Bulletin of Atomic scientists),

Currently, nine countries possess nuclear weapons—the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. The United States and Russia maintain by far the largest nuclear arsenals, with Russia possessing 15,000 nuclear weapons and the United States 10,000 weapons. Both countries would need to dismantle one weapon a day for the next 25 years to even approach the stockpile size of any of the other nuclear weapon states.”

“More countries may also acquire nuclear weapons in the coming years. Most of the talk surrounds Iran, which is pursuing a civilian nuclear power capability with the potential to produce the elements for a nuclear weapon. But Mohammed ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general, estimates that another 20 to 30 countries possess the capabilities, if not the intent, to pursue the Bomb.”

As more countries look for a nuclear edge in both energy and geopolitical influence, a widespread and global nuclear arms race has begun. If we look at the past and see the two biggest nuclear arsenals, both Russia and America it was always plausible that assured nuclear destruction would be the outcome of a nuclear war. The stand off ensued that no one would be foolish enough to launch a full scale nuclear attack. Even though both nations were always on high alert for a possible nuclear strike. The world between 1947 and 1991 lived in that shadow of nuclear war, after the cold war Russia and America slowly disarmed. from The Bulletin Online,

“In 2002, the United States and Russia signed the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (commonly referred to as the Moscow Treaty or SORT). Under SORT, both countries vowed to reduce their deployed strategic warheads to 1,700–2,200 by 2012.”

How far this treaty goes is disputable, The Bulletin Online explains,

However, since SORT only accounts for “deployed strategic warheads,” the total number of warheads in each arsenal will be larger than the cuts mandated by the treaty. (In terms of size, today’s typical strategic nuclear weapon is 200 kilotons; as a point of comparison, the relatively small 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb obliterated a city and killed 100,000 people.)”

Recently however nuclear tensions between Russia and America have increased, with America setting up a missile defense shield in former eastern bloc countries that now come under NATO. The dispute over the missile defense shield is the possible prelude to the new cold war and closer to the renewed risk of a nuclear confrontation between America and Russia, from the Times online.com June 04, 2007

” President Putin has warned the US that its deployment of a new anti-missile network across Eastern Europe would prompt Russia to point its own missiles at European targets and could trigger nuclear war.”

from the Sunday Herald.com August 2, 2007,

“Just two months ago, Putin threatened to re-target the Kremlin’s nuclear missiles on European cities in response to the US decision to site its defence system on Russia’s doorstep.

Putin’s decree, which he said he signed because of “extraordinary circumstances affecting national security”, signaled Russia’s growing antagonism at President Bush’s plans for a rocket defence system to intercept nuclear missiles aimed at the US.”

Does the current US administration see a possible Nuclear threat scenario with Russia? Akin to the old cold war days?

It appears that the implication of a ‘missile shield’ based in the Czech republic and Poland are indicators of America’s fear that Russia could be stepping up it’s nuclear weapon program and recreating it’s superpower status in the world, after Communism collapsed Russia became a social and economic problem, it is only until recently under president Vladamir Putin has Russia regained it’s regional power and geopolitical dominance, exert from the Sunday Herald.com (August 2, 2007) explains:

“Under the Russian constitution, President Putin is due to stand down next year but his tough foreign policy stance has made him incredibly popular domestically and restored Russian national pride. By taking control of natural resources, particularly oil and gas, the Russian state now has its hands on powerful economic levers with which it can influence the west and enrich the country. According to The Economist, Russian GDP has grown at 6% or 7% each year since 2003. Inflation fell to under 10% last year, and its trade balance has increased threefold in four years. Oil wealth has helped bring Russia back from the depths of impotence. A $200 billion military modernisation project over the next eight years, including updated nuclear missile systems, adds to Russia’s new sense of heightened power”.

CNN report on missile shield tension, Russia’s threat to redeploy it’s missile targeting in Europe:

With a new cold war developing between Russia and America, another threat of Nuclear War or attack comes from the ever increasing problem of Terrorism (please note Morbius Glass blog will look at the Nuclear threats in this blog post, whether from country based or individual, i.e terrorist. Although Morbius Blog will look at the general terrorism threat at a later time. As the redefining of terrorism needs to be made in regards to the so called current terrorist threat or ‘war on terror’. Morbius Glass does not believe that the threat of terrorism is a widespread problem, but an overblown exaggeration of Western governments and fueled by poor Western regional policies).

When communism collapsed in Russia, so did the strict control of it’s nuclear arsenal, nuclear weapon grade material. The Fear for many scientists and security analysts, is that a group or individual could steal or be sold nuclear material to make a nuclear bomb.

As we enter an age were Islamic based suicide attacks appear to be a common place exasperated by poor Western judgment (as far as sensible negotiating and serious analysis of terrorist threat countries, namely Islamic). Could the nightmare situation occur, where a suicide bomber could detonate a nuclear devise? A possibility according to the Bulletin Online,

“For the first time, an individual or group could plausibly perpetrate a catastrophic nuclear attack. And the evolving terrorist methodology—a reliance on suicide missions and a premium on the spectacular—leaves many experts worried that the next 9/11 might include nuclear materials.”

” The possibility of a terrorist using a nuclear bomb challenges the concept of deterrence, long the policy that supposedly prevented a nuclear attack. Who would the aggrieved state retaliate against? It could take weeks, if not months, to identify where the fissile material came from. Beyond that, the suicide bomber who conducted the attack would already be dead, and unlike during the Cold War, that bomber would represent a cause, not a country.”

“In addition, civilian highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium, the materials necessary to construct a bomb, exists in substantial quantities outside of Russia—in weapon and non-weapon states alike. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union both initiated programs to spread civilian nuclear power technology and research reactors fueled by HEU. As a result, substantial quantities of HEU remain in more than 40 non-weapon states. Save for Antarctica, every continent contains at least one country with civilian HEU.”

So even if countries like Russia begin to tighten control of their boarders and nuclear arsenal, what of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) in research facilities across the world. How tight is their security?

Argentina who has a limited Nuclear program with two Nuclear power stations, also has nuclear research facilities. One facility was recently attended by an Australian reporter for the SBS current affair show Dateline. It showed HEU unguarded and poor security at a research power plant. From transcript of show August 1, 2007:

“Earlier this year, Dateline traveled to Argentina where we discovered that security in storage facilities is not always water tight. While I was filming in one of Argentina’s nuclear research facilities, I was shown weapons grade uranium sitting in a small storage pool.
MAN (plant employee): This is 90%, the concentration of uranium.
Incredibly, there was no-one there to guard it. It only takes a few kilograms of material to make a bomb. This is where much of the world’s uranium comes from.”

links for reference:

Cold War Time Line – Wikipedia

The Bulletin Online – 5 minutes to Midnight

SBS news – Dateline ‘The Nuclear renaissance’

Sunday Herald – ‘Fears of A New Cold War’

Putin raises spectra of nuclear war in Europe – Times online

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2 Responses to “World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Nuclear War”

  1. […] Comments (RSS) « World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Nuclear War […]

  2. […] by zekukith on August 7th, 2007 World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Nuclear War (update […]

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