Posted: 11th May 2022
War in Ukraine
Joe Biden’s top intelligence official has told the US Senate armed services committee, that Russia could use a nuclear weapon if the prospect of defeat in Ukraine looks likely. Avril Haines said Vladimir Putin would continue to use nuclear threats as part of efforts to deter NAT members from supporting Ukraine further. “There are a lot of things that he would do in the context of escalation before he would get to nuclear weapons, and also that he would be likely to engage in some signalling beyond what he’s done thus far before doing so,” Haines said.
Independent Ukraine’s first president Leonid Kravchuk – who oversaw the country agreeing to give up its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal, has died at the age of 88 after a period of poor health. Kravchuk was Ukraine’s Communist party leader at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse and oversaw its transition to democracy. Along with Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus, the trio signed the 1991 agreement that effectively ended the Soviet Union as a political entity. Stanislav Shushkevich, a nuclear scientist who became the first president of Belarus, died last week, reportedly from Covid complications at the age of 87.
“We have a military doctrine – everything is written there,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday, after being asked if Russia would rule out a preemptive nuclear strike on Ukraine. Russia’s official nuclear doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons if they – or other forms of weapons of mass destruction – are used against the country, or if Russia feels it is facing an existential threat by conventional weapons.
A Survation poll, commissioned by campaign group Scotland in Union, has found that a majority of Scots are in favour of keeping nuclear weapons and NATO. The survey found that 58 percent backed keeping nuclear weapons – with just 20 percent against. Meanwhile, 82 percent said the UK’s membership of NATO was important. A spokesperson for SNP told the Times that an “independent Scotland’s security and safety is best guaranteed as a non-nuclear member of NATO, just like Denmark and Norway and almost every other member.”
UK Nuclear Energy
Campaigners opposed to the development of the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk took their protest to Downing Street this week – placing adverts at Underground stations and accusing the government of “green-washing.” Stop Sizewell C and Together Against Sizewell C protesters descended on the capital as the Business Secretary considers a planning application for the plant – expected on May 25th. Alison Downes, of Stop Sizewell C, said: “We’ve come to Whitehall and Aviva’s AGM to send a message that Sizewell C does not merit either political or financial support. The poor track record of EDF’s EPR reactor – massively delayed and overspent wherever it has been built and offline in China for the last nine months with fuel failure and vibration problems – should sound Sizewell C’s death knell.”
The US military’s secret weapons development agency, DARPA, is seeking to develop a nuclear rocket to help monitor developments in the space between Earth and the moon. A statement issued by the Defense Advanced Research Projects agency said it was seeking proposals for the second and third phases of a project to design and demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine operation in orbit by 2026. Phase 2 fits into the agency’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (Draco) programme – which is seeking to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system for use in the Earth-moon space. Washington deems the area a strategic priority for “modern commerce, scientific discovery, and national defense.”
Nature looks at the impact of what a small regional nuclear war would mean for the planet. It uses a scenario put forward by researchers of what would happen if a nuclear conflict happened between India and Pakistan. Effects include crop failures that would devastate food supplies for more than one billion people and a change to our oceans’ chemistry that would destroy coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
Iran Nuclear Deal
Middle East Eye has a piece looking at the war in Ukraine and its impact on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Mohamed Amersi, a British businessman and Tory Party donor, argues that the two security options available to independent mid-sized powers is to either pursue nuclear weapons or to seek “robust security arrangements” with “reliable superpowers.” On moving forward and on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, Amersi says: “it would be in nobody’s interests if they gatecrash the nuclear club. For that reason, diplomatic efforts must remain directed at reaching a deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions and it is still more likely than not that it will happen.”
Iran has not been forthcoming with information about the presence of uranium particles found at a previously undeclared nuclear site, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog told members of the European Parliament. International Atomic Energy Agency head, Rafael Grossi said he found it difficult to imagine a revived nuclear deal being finalised as the agency had serious doubts about information it should have known about. “I am not trying to pass an alarmist message that we are at a dead end but the situation does not look very good. Iran has not been forthcoming in the type of information we need from them, Grossi said. The IAEA boss is currently working on a report on Iran’s nuclear programme which is due to be submitted to the agency’s Board in June.
The US has called an emergency meeting of the UN’s Security Council on Wednesday, to discuss North Korea’s recent spate of ballistic missile tests. “The DPRK continues to destabilize the region and threaten international peace and security through its missile launches,” a spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN told AP ahead of the official announcement.
The Financial Times looks at how South Korea’s new government plans to respond to North Korea’s recent missile tests and suspicions Pyongyang will soon conduct a nuclear test. Karl Friedhoff, a Korea expert at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, says Russia’s use of nuclear threats over Ukraine may embolden North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to follow suit: “The Korean security establishment never quite took the possibility of North Korean nuclear coercion entirely seriously, but seeing how Russia has been able to threaten potential nuclear use from the very beginning of the war has opened people’s eyes.” Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s new president, described the current security situation as “tough” with leaders from abroad also expressing concern over renewed nuclear tests by Pyongyang.
Press and Communications Officer
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament