Boeing recently announced its readiness to manufacture global hypersonic missiles within 30 months. Reportedly, its X-51 project has already passed the test. According to the manufacturer, any country in the world would be within striking distance in less than one hour. The Pentagon plans to spend 500 million dollars to check its aptitudes, before putting in a large order.

With the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), to be signed in Prague on April 8th [1], the United States and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers, are sending a "clear message": they intend to "lead" the fight against nuclear proliferation. Those were the words of President’s Obama who, after sealing the accord, will address the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington set for April 12-13. On that occasion, said a White House spokesperson, Obama "will present facts, not just words". What are these facts?

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the United States has a stockpile of 5 200 operational nuclear warheads, i.e. deployable at all times; Russia has 4 850. In addition, the two nuclear powers have a combined total of 12 350 non-operational warheads (but not yet dismantled). The new START does not limit the number of operational nuclear warheads contained in the arsenals. It only sets a limit for carrier-based "deployed nuclear warheads", i.e. kept ready for launch, with a range greater than 5 500 km: land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missiles launched from submarines and from heavy bombers.

An impropable count

Whereas missile warheads are counted individually, each heavy bomber is counted as a single piece regardless of its load. As The New York Times pointed out [2], a B-52 bomber can carry all at once 14 cruise missiles and 6 nuclear bombs. Thus, on the basis of a partial count, the State Department reckons that the United States currently has 1 762 nuclear warheads deployed on 798 carriers, versus 1 741 and 566 respectively for Russia. The new START allows each side to keep 1 550 deployed nuclear warheads, i.e. at a level slightly lower (10%) than the present one, plus a number of carriers substantially unchanged: 800 each, of which 700 readily deployable. A destructive potential capable of wiping the entire human race and any other form of life off the face of the Earth.

Moreover, the new treaty sets no real limit to the qualitative build-up of nuclear forces. In the U.S., the nuclear laboratories have already signaled to Congress that federal programmes to "extend the life of the nuclear arsenal" are inadequate to guarantee its viability over the coming decades. The pressure is on for creating an expensive new generation of nuclear warheads" [3] and, Vice-President Joseph Biden has promised an additional $5 billion to that end. Concurrently, plans are underway to develop new carriers, such as Boeing’s "global hypersonic missile" which will be ready in less than three years: it will enable the Pentagon to strike any target in any part of the world in less than one hour. Also not covered by the treaty is the question of "tactical" nuclear weapons which the United States continue to stockpile in five "nuclear-free" NATO countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Neterlands and Turkey) as well as in other countries, thereby violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The unbridled "shield"

Nor does the new START place any restrictions on the new anti-ballistic missile "shield" project that the United States aims to deploy in Europe, along the Russian border: an offensive, and not a defensive, system which would enable the USA to launch the first strike against another country, relying on the "shield"’s capability to neutralize any reprisals [4].
Washington insists that the "shield" is not directed against Russia but against the threat of Iranian missiles. Not surprisingly, Moscow construes it as an attempt to gain a decisive strategic edge over Russia [5]. Therefore, General Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, has warned that if the United States persists in developing the "shield", it would undermine the very essence of the treaty on nuclear arms reduction and would inevitably lead to a renewed phase of the arms race [6]. Meanwhile, Moscow is not standing idle: in May it will launch its new state-of-the-art multi-purpose nuclear submarine Yasen, equipped with 24 long-range cruise missiles, including a nuclear warhead.

The first 885 Project model (dubbed Yassen, i.e. "ash tree" in keeping with NATO’s classification system) is poised for launching on the 7th of May, in time for the celebrations commemorating the Russian Front victory (World War II). This fourth generation nuclear submarine is rigged out with state-of-the art technology, surpassing the U.S. Seawolf. It’s multi-purpose features render it particularly suited for coastal combat.

With these facts, President Obama will go to the Security Council on April 12 to present the new START, which confers on the two largest nuclear powers - possessing 95% of the world’s 23 000 nuclear weapons - the right to "lead" the fight against nuclear proliferation. But the finger will be pointed at Iran (as confirmed during the Obama-Sarkozy meeting of March 31), indicting her with the intention of developing the atomic bomb, while no doubt leaving Israel off the hook despite its stockpile of hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at other countries in the region.

Translated by: Marie-Ange Patrizio
Source: Il Manifesto

[1It was in Prague, on 5 April 2009, that Barack Obama announced his wish to embrace a "nuclear-free world". Read "Speech by Barack Obama dealing with nuclear issues", Voltaire Network. In fact, in the midst of an economic crisis, the real aim is to reach an agreement with Russia to slow down the arms race and reduce the ensuing defense budget increases. (Ndlr)

[2«Arms Control May Be Different on Paper and on the Ground», par Peter Baker, The New York Times, 30 March 2010.

[3«Nuclear Labs Raise Doubts Over Viability of Arsenals», par William J. Broad, The New York Times, 26 March 2010.

[4With reference to the shield, see the three-part study in French by Nicolas Ténèze : «Le bouclier de l’invincibilité», «Du combat contre l’Empire du Mal à celui contre l’Axe du Mal» and «La débâcle du laser tactique à haute énergie», Voltaire Network, 19, 21 and 22 March 2010. Regarding the first strike potential, see «The anti-missile shield and the first strike», by Manlio Dinucci et Tommaso di Francesco, Voltaire Network, 14 March 2010.

[5If Iran were actually in possession of long-range missiles and had the intention of launching them against the United States, Tehran would choose the shortest route to minimize interception hazards. Consequently, it stands to reason that the missiles would not be sent via Eastern Europe. It necessarily follows that U.S. devices in the region are serving a different purpose.(Ndlr)