Rumblings of Nuclear War
While all of America is nervously counting down the last days to a hotly contested — and possibly disputed — election …
All of Russia is resolutely building up its forces — and defenses — in anticipation of a future war.
The Kremlin has recently revamped Soviet-era civil-defense plans. It has upgraded bomb shelters in major cities. And it has just orchestrated emergency drills for 40 million civilians and military personnel to prepare for nuclear or chemical attacks. All under the umbrella of extreme and intense anti-American rhetoric!
On the offensive side, Russia is sharply upgrading its firepower in the Baltic Sea and adding warships armed with long-range cruise missiles. In the event of a conflict, they could defeat NATO forces in the Baltic countries within 60 hours or less, warns the RAND corporation.
Right now, this story is getting buried in the U.S. press by some of the most bombastic election headlines in history. But nearly three weeks ago, Larry Edelson alerted you to new warnings of war between U.S. and Russia. Two weeks ago, I told you about Russia’s march to war in detail. And in the weeks after the election, the danger of war is bound to burst into the headlines with gale force.
When it does, the most important question, in my view, won’t be about the plans of America’s next president. Nor will it be about the next move by Vladimir Putin. Rather, it will most likely pivot around one widely ignored issue:
Tactical Nuclear Weapons
Tactical (or non-strategic) nuclear weapons are supposedly smaller and less destructive than the strategic nuclear weapons that defined the 20th Century Cold War.
A good thing? Not really. Here are five reasons why they’re so dangerous:
Reason #1. They’re still massive.
For example, the supposedly “lower yield” W48 tactical warhead packs the power of 72 tons of TNT. That’s over three-times larger than the “Fat Man” atomic bomb that leveled Nagasaki and four-times larger than the “Little Boy” that destroyed Hiroshima.
Reason #2. Tactical nuclear weapons weaken the deterrent power that has so far helped prevent nuclear war.
As long as leaders and military strategists on both sides equated nuclear war with assured mutual destruction, it was very rare for them to seriously consider pressing the buttons.
Indeed, during the 20th Century Cold War, every time the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. approached a direct confrontation, one side or the other always backed down.
Take a quick walk through time and you’ll see exactly what I mean …
- Budapest, 1956. Soviet tanks invade Hungary to put down an anti-Soviet rebellion. At least 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Russian troops are killed. Rebel forces plead desperately for U.S. assistance. But fearing a mutually destructive nuclear war, President Eisenhower refuses to get directly involved.
- Berlin, 1961. Nearly one-out-of-five East Germans has fled to the West, creating a massive brain drain of young education professionals. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev issues an ultimatum, demanding the withdrawal of Allied forces from West Berlin. The Allies call their bluff, and the Soviets back down: Instead of starting a conflict, they build a wall between East and West Berlin.
- Cuba, 1962. Ostensibly in response to U.S. nuclear bases in Turkey, the Soviet Union installs nuclear missiles in Cuba. They’re within easy striking distance of major U.S. metropolitan areas.The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommends that President Kennedy authorize a full-force invasion of Cuba to overthrow the Castro regime.But Kennedy balks. He believes that, if the U.S. moves on Cuba, Khrushchev will retaliate in Berlin, triggering an all-out nuclear war. So instead, Kennedy decides to mount a U.S. naval blockade, preventing any Soviet missiles from reaching Cuba. And this time, it’s the Soviet’s turn to back down, removing all rockets from Cuba.
- In every case, both sides fear a conflict that could easily escalate into guaranteed mutual annihilation. And it’s this fear that becomes the driving force for détente — first in the form of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I, SALT II) and then the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START I, New START).
Today, however, with regard to tactical nuclear weapons, their posture is very different: Military strategists in the U.S. and Russia seem to be operating on the theory that these lower-yield weapons can be used without fear of total mutual destruction.
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Whether this theory is correct or not is something I’ll review in a moment. For now, let me move on to …
Reason #3. Tactical nuclear weapons were never included in any strategic nuclear arms treaties.
This is shocking in its own right. But it should come as no surprise. As the names of the treaties clearly state, they deal exclusively with strategic arms. Plus, more recently …
- In the administration of George W. Bush, no one ever addressed tactical weapons in The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.
- And in 2009, when Presidents Obama and Medvedev outlined arms-control discussions, talks on tactical weapons went nowhere.
Why have they fallen through the cracks of arms control? One answer lies in …
Reason #4. One side or the other always seemed to think it had “more leverage.”
As the Soviet empire collapsed, the West felt it had the upper hand. The prevailing theory was that any transparency or arms control might undermine U.S. flexibility and limit NATO options for deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.
But now, there’s an even bigger roadblock: The Russian side has a far larger arsenal of tactical weapons. What’s worse, unlike NATO’s, it seems that the bulk of the Russian arsenal is deployed — in other words, stored adjacent to delivery vehicles.
So Russian negotiators have consistently applied that leverage by insisting that NATO first remove its tactical weapons from Europe. Even if they return to the bargaining table (not likely in today’s climate), a treaty that limits tactical nuclear weapons is unlikely.
Reason #5. Escalation!
Proponents of tactical weapons argue that they can be deployed within the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), citing two of the law’s basic principles:
- First, the principle of “military necessity” — using only the degree and kind of force that’s required to overcome the enemy, while supposedly minimizing loss of life and treasure; and …
- Second, the principle of “lawful targeting” — taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that only (or “mostly”) military objectives are targeted, limiting collateral damage “as much as possible.”
They then insist that tactical nuclear weapons can conform to these two principles.
True? Certainly not if they pack tonnage equivalent to the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Moreover …
In the heat of battle, there is no law that can prevent escalation. And there’s no agreed-upon dividing line between “tactical” and “strategic” nuclear weapons.
“60 Minutes” Weighs In
Last month, long after we first began warning of these dangers here in Money and Markets, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” weighed in with a blockbuster segment, “The New Cold War.”
Click here to watch their 13-minute video, which includes a transcript.
Or read on for the highlights …
“President Obama’s nuclear strategy states that, ‘while the threat of all-out nuclear war is remote, the risk of a nuclear attack somewhere in the world has actually increased.’
“When that was written three years ago, the risk came from a rogue nation like North Korea. Back then, the U.S. and Russia were said to be ‘partners.’
“But that was before Russia invaded Crimea, using military force to change the borders of Europe, and before Vladimir Putin and his generals began talking about nuclear weapons.
“For generations, nuclear weapons have been seen as a last resort to be used only in extreme circumstances. But in this new Cold War, the use of a nuclear weapon is not as unlikely to occur as you might think …
“To them [the Russians], the use of nuclear weapons is not unthinkable. It says so in their military doctrine, signed by Putin in 2014: Russia ‘shall reserve the right to use nuclear weapons … in the event of aggression …
“Putin has personally directed nuclear exercises which have increased in both size and frequency. …
“And the U.S. has responded with more aggressive exercises of its own: One year after Crimea, four B-52s flew up over the North Pole and North Sea on an exercise called Polar Growl. …
“Each bomber can carry 20 cruise missiles, or a total of 80 that could have been launched against targets inside Russia.”
This entire discussion was about “low-yield” or tactical nuclear weapons. But the “60 Minutes” segment continues:
“Russia is also developing low-yield weapons, which a declassified CIA document says could ‘lower the threshold for first use of nuclear weapons.’
Admiral Cecil Haney is Head of the U.S. Strategic Command, the man who would carry out a presidential order to launch a nuclear weapon. His concluding comment in the “60 Minutes” report:
“It concerns me that Russia has a lot of nuclear weapons. It concerns me that Russia has behaved badly on the international stage. And it concerns me that we have leadership in Russia, at various levels, that would flagrantly talk about the use of a nuclear weapon in this 21st century.”
What do we do?
Long before my mind can focus on money, my heart skips several beats for the children and grandchildren in our lives.
Our generation has a very good chance of avoiding Armageddon. But what about theirs?
And exactly what are the statistical probabilities of a “very good chance”? No one can possibly put numbers on any of this.
However, I do know a few things with confidence:
- A nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia is not going to happen out of the blue. A lot still has to happen before we reach that point — recalling of ambassadors, a rupture in diplomatic relations, an escalation of proxy wars (like Georgia, Ukraine and Syria), conventional conflicts between the two nations and more.
- Long before we reach that point, you should have a place to go to that’s as far away as possible from present and future dangers — where terrorist attacks are almost nonexistent, where military targets are inconsequential and … in a place where the winds of nuclear fallout are unlikely to reach. Today’s not the day to tell you more about these places. But I promise to do so soon.
- Needless to say, rumblings of nuclear war can kill confidence in financial markets. In fact, as soon as the election is behind us, it could emerge as one of the biggest factors deflating stocks and bonds, while lifting commodities. (See especially Larry’s latest report “When gold will explode higher.”)
- Regardless of who moves into the White House come January 20, the defense sector is on the verge of massive growth. (Stay tuned for details.)
- Whatever happens on election day, NO ONE should miss Larry’s upcoming webinar on how the election will affect your finances. (You can sign up here.)
In the meantime, I trust you’re doing everything you can to keep your money – and your family – safe.
Good luck and God bless!
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