By Baher Kamal at IPS: They call it MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction. It is about the nuclear-armed powers’ doctrine of military strategy and national security policy. And they spent on their MAD policy more than 156,000 US dollars, every single minute, in just one year–2021.
According to their MAD doctrine a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by an attacker on a nuclear-armed defender, with second-strike capabilities, would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender.
Nine countries are classified as nuclear-armed powers, with the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France ranking at the top of the list. Others: India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea.
Already before the war now unfolding in Europe
In its report “Squandered: 2021 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) reveals that in 2021 –the year before the Russian invasion of Ukraine– nine nuclear-armed states spent 82.4 billion US dollars on these weapons of mass destruction, that’s more than 156,000 US dollars… per minute.
Specifically, the United States spent three times more than the next in line- a whopping 44.2 billion US dollars, reports ICAN. China was the only other country crossing the ten billion mark, spending 11.7 billion US dollars.
Russia had the third-highest spending at 8.6 billion US dollars, though the United Kingdom’s 6.8 billion US dollars, and the French 5.9 billion, weren’t so far behind. ICAN adds that India, Israel and Pakistan also each spent over a billion on their arsenals, while North Korea spent 642 million US dollars, according to the 2017 Nobel Peace laureate: ICAN.
Arsenals expected to grow
Another prestigious global peace research body, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on 13 June 2022 launched the findings of its Yearbook 2022, which assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security.
One key finding is that despite a marginal decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2021, nuclear arsenals are expected to grow over the coming decade.
The nine nuclear-armed states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea —continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals and although the total number of nuclear weapons declined slightly between January 2021 and January 2022, the number will probably increase in the next decade, SIPRI reports.
90% of all nukes, in the hands of U.S. and Russia
Russia and the USA together possess over 90% of all nuclear weapons.
Of the total inventory of an estimated 12,705 warheads at the start of 2022, about 9,440 were in military stockpiles for potential use.
Of those, an estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, and around 2000—nearly all of which belonged to Russia or the USA—were kept in a state of “high operational alert,” according to SIPRI’s 2022 Yearbook Global nuclear arsenals are expected to grow as states continue to modernize.
Technology adds greater risks
The study Emerging technologies and nuclear weapon risks explains that the specific risks posed by advancements in cyber operations and artificial intelligence are still being discovered, but some risks include:
- Cyber attacks could manipulate the information decision-makers get to launch nuclear weapons, and interfere with the operation of nuclear weapons themselves;
- The increased application of advanced machine learning in defense systems can speed up warfare – giving decision-makers even less time to consider whether or not to launch nuclear weapons;
- Countries may be eager to apply new artificial intelligence technologies before they understand the full implications of these technologies;
- It is impossible to eliminate the risk of core nuclear weapons systems being hacked or compromised without eliminating nuclear weapons.
‘Eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us’
“These [nuclear] weapons offer false promises of security and deterrence – while guaranteeing only destruction, death, and endless brinkmanship,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on 20 June 2022 in a video message to the First Meeting of States Parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, in Vienna, Austria.
“Let’s eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us.”
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon-related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, or stockpile nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices.
It was adopted in July 2017 and entered into force in January 2021.
‘Recipe for annihilation’
The UN chief also said that the “terrifying lessons” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are fading from memory, referring to the atomic bombing of these two major Japanese cities during the Second World War.
However, with more than 13,000 nuclear weapons still held across the globe, “the once unthinkable prospect of nuclear conflict is now back within the realm of possibility.”
“In a world rife with geopolitical tensions and mistrust, this is a recipe for annihilation. We cannot allow the nuclear weapons wielded by a handful of States to jeopardize all life on our planet. We must stop knocking at Doomsday’s door.”
The most destructive instruments of mass murder ever created
ICAN has been repeatedly warning that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate instruments of mass murder ever created.
The term “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” describes their unique and horrifying effects on people, including lethal harm to those who are not part of the conflicts in which they are used.
The world at Doom’s doorstep
While the past year offered glimmers of hope that humankind might reverse its march toward global catastrophe, the Doomsday Clock was set at just 100 seconds to midnight, on 20 January 2022 warned the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The time is based on continuing and dangerous threats posed by nuclear weapons, climate change, disruptive technologies, and COVID-19.
“All of these factors were exacerbated by “a corrupted information ecosphere that undermines rational decision making.”
“US relations with Russia and China remain tense, with all three countries engaged in an array of nuclear modernization and expansion efforts—including China’s apparent large-scale program to increase its deployment of silo-based long-range nuclear missiles; the push by Russia, China, and the United States to develop hypersonic missiles; and the continued testing of anti-satellite weapons by many nations.”
Founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet.