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Post Is It Possible to Get Rid of Nuclear Weapons? Response to Istvan Simon
Created by John Eipper on 02/01/18 4:11 AM

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Is It Possible to Get Rid of Nuclear Weapons? Response to Istvan Simon (David Krieger, USA, 02/01/18 4:11 am)

Istvan Simon's first question regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons is, "Is it possible?" (27 January).

I would choose a different first question: "Are we willing to tolerate the possibility of destroying civilization and most complex life on earth for the purported and uncertain security of a few nations?"

Istvan calls my goal of a world free of nuclear weapons a "dream"; but I would say that he is the dreamer to believe that humankind can go on year after year threatening nuclear weapons use without actually using them again by accident, miscalculation or design.

I favor negotiations for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons. Such negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons were agreed to by the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but have yet to be carried out. I think our choices come down to these: eliminate nuclear weapons by negotiated agreement, or run an increasing risk of eliminating the human species.

Istvan and I seem to come down on opposite sides of the available choices.

JE comments:  "Yet to be carried out"--therein lies the rub.  Since at least 1945, world policing has a spotty record.  How do you keep nations from harming themselves or others?  And what if they don't want to be prevented from harming themselves (or others)?

These questions are maddeningly abstract, so I'll ask David Krieger a more empirical one:  what is the technological state of nuclear detection?  Meaning, to return to my original question, is it now possible to "catch" a rogue state enriching uranium in the proverbial underground lair?

David, glad you're settled back in your home.  Let's hope for a dry (but not too dry) and fire-free 2018 in Montecito/Santa Barbara.

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  • Ridding the World of Nuclear Weapons: A Challenge for David Krieger (Istvan Simon, USA 02/03/18 9:58 AM)
    I would like to extend to David Krieger my heartfelt relief that he and his family are safe back in their home, with only minor damage after a terrifying evacuation.

    Second, I'd like to thank him for his thoughtful response (February 1st) to my post.

    David calls me a dreamer. Well, perhaps. Still, I'd like to insist on my points.

    Let me start by saying that I'd like nothing more than for David to convince me that I am wrong. So here is a challenge for you David: Convert me to your point of view.

    David replaces my first question "Is it possible?" by a question that of course no sane person would not answer the way he wants it answered. Are we willing to gamble destroying life on earth, David asks, for the uncertain security of a few nations? Well, of course my answer to this question is exactly what he wants: no. I'm not insane, and so of course my answer is no. Yet let's just follow his next thought, after he calls me a dreamer. He says:

    I favor negotiations for the phased verifiable (emphasis added by me) , irreversible, and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.

    I favor this too. But the trouble is that as far as I know (please convince me I'm wrong), there exists no method to verify with 100% certainty that countries complied with such a hypothetical agreement. As far as I know, David's goal which both of us favor is technically impossible at the present time.

    JE comments:  David?  The former Soviet republics (other than Russia itself) voluntarily gave up their nuclear weapons.  And to my knowledge, no one has suspected Ukraine of cheating.  Is there a useful model here?

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    • Ukraine's Renunciation of Nuclear Weapons, 1994 (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 02/04/18 4:12 AM)
      JE commented on Istvan Simon's post of 3 February: "The former Soviet republics (other than Russia itself) voluntarily gave up their nuclear weapons. And to my knowledge, no one has suspected Ukraine of cheating."

      Absolutely correct, but Ukraine has regretted it so many times in the past few years. I am not only mentioning the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 1994. The Memorandum signed by the United States, Great Britain and Russia included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine and two other former Soviet republics.

      It makes no sense to remind WAISers what happened with the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014 and what is still going on today in Donbass. The document signed by three states who claim they play a certain role in world politics is not worth the toilet paper in the Budapest public WCs.

      Now about the discussion on whether it is possible or not to get rid of nuclear weapons. Easy! There are much more powerful and dangerous weapons already tested and ready for use that the great powers, including Russia (which is not a great power but still rather well armed and dangerous), have in their arsenals. The effects of Hiroshima pale in comparison to the potential effects of the new generation of weapons. In the next 8 to 10 years all existing military nuclear devices as we know them will simply become obsolete.

      So what's the sense of keeping the old scrap? Today the question is who has made better progress in developing those new weapons. Here I am not sure who is leading.

      JE comments: Boris, do the Ukrainians believe that Putin would have left them alone, had they kept their nukes?

      A second question:  What can be more powerful and dangerous than the nuclear weapons we already have? Bigger nukes?  More tactically nefarious ones?

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      • Psychotronic and Electromagnetic Weapons (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 02/05/18 4:33 AM)
        Briefly answering JE's questions of 4 February:

        (a) "Do the Ukrainians believe that Putin would have left them alone, had they kept their nukes?"

        No, the Ukrainians believe the United States and Britain would not have left them alone had they kept their nuclear arsenal.

        (b) "What can be more powerful and dangerous than the nuclear weapons we already have? Bigger nukes? More tactically nefarious ones?"

        The answer is psychotronic and electromagnetic (EM) weapons. One report, allegedly referring to a secret KGB file, that, of course, cannot be independently verified, stated, "The principle of remote exposure of humans to a psychotronic generator is based on the resonance of frequency characteristics of human organs--the heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. Each human organ has its own frequency characteristic. And if the same frequency is beamed at it by means of electromagnetic radiation, the organ enters into resonance, and the result is either acute cardiac insufficiency, or renal insufficiency, or a person starts to behave inadequately."

        Plans to introduce the super-weapons were announced quietly in March 2012 by the then Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov, fulfilling a little-noticed election campaign pledge by president-elect Putin.

        Mr Serdyukov said: "The development of weaponry based on new physics principles--direct-energy weapons, geophysical weapons, wave-energy weapons, genetic weapons, psychotronic weapons, and so on--is part of the state arms procurement programme for 2011-2020.'

        JE comments: Sheesh.  These weapons are the rayguns of Buck Rogers fame, but scarier.  What about the "delivery" of Remote Organ Failure?  I cannot see how you can protect your own while zapping others.  Perhaps this is what Russia's mad scientists are working on now.

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      • Post-Nuclear Superweapons: Biological Agents (John Heelan, -UK 02/05/18 4:48 AM)
        JE asked on February 4th: "What can be more powerful and dangerous than the nuclear weapons we already have? Bigger nukes? More tactically nefarious ones?"

        Biological weapons based on disease-producing agents, such as bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi, toxins, or other biological agents. They can be used as weapons against humans, animals, or plants. They are cheaper to develop (e.g. Genetic Modification) and easier to deliver by using the target population itself.

        JE comments:  Don't we already have these?  Biological weapons go back at least to Cortés and Tenochtitlan.  Cortés delivered a smallpox-infested blanket to his Aztec enemies.  The result was far deadlier than any blade or projectile.

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    • Ridding the World of Nuclear Weapons: Trust, but Verify (David Krieger, USA 02/07/18 3:24 AM)
      I appreciate Istvan Simon's kind words (February 3rd) about returning to our home after the fire and floods in our community. It has been not only tragic, but also traumatic for many of us here.

      Istvan challenges me to convert him to my point of view regarding nuclear weapons abolition. He seems to agree with me that a nuclear weapon-free world is desirable, but he questions its feasibility, primarily based upon the verifiability of a negotiated agreement to abolish nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan, who ended up supporting the abolition of nuclear weapons, said, "Trust, but verify." So, if you find negotiated nuclear weapons abolition desirable, how do you develop confidence in verification?

      First, negotiations must be phased. Countries can go as far as trust allows in each phase, building confidence along the way. On-site challenge inspections would be one means of verifying. Technical means using satellites would be another. The US and Russia have developed such means of verification that have allowed them to dismantle tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Countries don't need to go immediately to zero; they need to be negotiating with each other, and then with the other nuclear weapons states to move as far as they can in any given phase. As parties to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they are required under Article VI of the treaty to engage in good-faith negotiations to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve complete nuclear disarmament. The problem is they are not fulfilling their obligations to negotiate and are, in fact, bolstering and "modernizing" their nuclear arsenals. As a consequence, they not making any progress at present. The recently released Trump Nuclear Posture Review makes nuclear war more likely by calling for development and deployment of new, smaller nuclear weapons that would be more likely to be used.

      I would say to Istvan that, if he truly favors a world free of nuclear weapons, he should be joining me in pushing for negotiations toward that end. It is only through the process of negotiations that progress toward verifiability will be achieved. No side is obligated to go further in moving toward zero than their trust in verification allows at any given time. But there should be pressure on political leaders to be continually pursuing this end, rather than developing even stronger nuclear arsenals than those that already place the human future in serious danger. In addition, any threat or use of nuclear weapons would be illegal and immoral. Even the preparations for nuclear war are exceedingly costly.

      Istvan, I hope you will join me and others throughout the world in calling for a nuclear weapons-free future, and help to stop the drift toward nuclear war--by accident, miscalculation or design. What is needed is the "political will" to end the nuclear weapons threat to humanity, including reliable systems of verification. Lacking this, we will continue to drift toward nuclear disaster.

      JE comments:  If one nation "modernizes" its nukes, the others in the Club will be compelled to follow suit.  Trust indeed builds trust, but among nations it is forever in short supply.  (Trust within nations hasn't been doing so well, either.)

      David, could you walk us through the concept of "challenge inspections"?  Does this mean other nations have the right to inspect at will, with no prior warning?

      (Newer WAISers may not know that David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.  Visit the NAPF here:  https://www.wagingpeace.org .  Keep up the good fight, David!)

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