- The threat of devastating nuclear attack by Russia against
the United States has not diminished, warns former Sec. of Defense Robert
- Writing in Mondayís Los Angeles Times, McNamara
and co-author Helen Caldicott claim that the threat of a nuclear catastrophe
remains real, ìwhether by accident, human fallibility or malfeasance.î
- The Soviet Union collapsed on itself and the divide between
Eastern communism and Western democracy disintegrated more than 13 years
- Because of that, the nightmare scenario is not on the
minds of many Americans today.
- Missiles Still Pointed at New York, Cities
- Nevertheless, the threat remains serious, McNamara and
Caldicott argue, because, despite the end of the Cold War in the early
1990's, thousands of Russian nuclear warheads are still pointed at the
U.S. targeting many civilian population centers.
- McNamara, defense secretary to presidents Kennedy and
Johnson, U.S. and Caldicott, a pediatrician and head of the Nuclear Policy
Research Institute, say that Russian nuclear targeting strategies haven't
changed much ó and certainly not enough to reflect the thaw in relations
between both nations.
- The pair also cite a January 2002 document from the U.S.
Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., titled, "Prototypes
for Targeting America, a Soviet Military Assessment."
- The study reports that New York City is the single most
important target after military installations on the U.S. Atlantic coast.
- In addition, a report commissioned in the 1980s by the
U.S. Office of Technology Assessment is still as relevant today.
- It said Soviet nuclear war plans called for aiming two
one-megaton bombs at each of the following: The three airports serving
NYC; Wall Street; each major bridge; all major rail centers; all power
stations; four NYC-area oil refineries; and the NYC port facilities.
- Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a recent
report on nuclear-attack preparedness, featured a map showing an obliterated
New York City from nuclear blasts and the resultant firestorms and fallout.
- It predicted millions of people would instantly perish,
while most survivors would die shortly thereafter from radiation burns
- Russia, Leading Nuclear Superpower
- Russia, despite press reports to the contrary, remains
a nuclear superpower, arguably the greatest nuclear superpower.
- Between Moscow and Washington, the two governments can
lay claim to 96 percent of the world's 30,000 nuclear weapons.
- In Russia, says the National Resources Defense Council,
most of the 8,200 nuclear warheads are pointing at American cities and
- In return, most of the United States' 7,000 warheads
are targeting Russian missile silos and command centers.
- Russia continues to lead the U.S. in smaller tactical
nuclear warheads. The U.S. destroyed most of its tactical nuclear arsenal
during the 1990s.
- Of the 7,000 warheads in the U.S. arsenal, 2,500 are
maintained on a 24-hour ready alert status, and can be launched within
- And, the commander of the Strategic Air Command has only
about three minutes to decide if a nuclear attack warning is real or not.
Then he has 10 minutes to find the president and give him a 30-second attack
briefing, including options.
- After that, the president has three minutes to decide
whether or not to retaliate and if so, which targets will be hit. Once
they were launched, U.S. missiles would reach their Russian targets in
about 15 to 30 minutes.
- The situation is relatively similar in Russia, with the
exception that Moscow's early warning system is rapidly aging.
- According to the McNamara and Caldicott, the systems
of both countries sound alarms daily, in response to wildfires, satellite
launchings and solar reflections off clouds or oceans.
- But as the Russian system continues to decay, it may
be more difficult for Moscow to determine whether alerts are real or not.
- That's dangerous, argue experts, because it may mean
in the future, Russian commanders and leaders may have to rely more on
human judgmentóa concept much less reliable than computerized early
warning systems that operate without emotion.
- Russia Continues Missile Build-up
- Perhaps worse, as Russia's overall military structure
continues to suffer from a lack of funding and crumbles, Moscow continues
to pour scarce military funding into more nuclear weapons.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters
Monday Moscow will test its mobile version of the Topol-M intercontinental
ballistic missile once more before it is put into service.
- The missile, which will form the backbone of Russia's
nuclear defenses, is 47 tons, will carry one warhead, and has an estimated
range of 6,900 miles. Ground-based Topol-M rockets are already in use;
the mobile version could be operational by 2006.
- The last test of the mobile missile came earlier this
month, Ivanov said. It traveled its maximum distance before hitting a target
on the Kamchatka peninsula.
- In addition, according to Agence France Presse, the U.S.
has hinted it may use a loophole to get out of a treaty signed with Russia
in 2002, which mandates both countries slash their nuclear arsenals by
two-thirds over a decade.
- Give Them Up
- The liberal leaning McNamara and Caldicott say the best
strategy now is to simply abandon nuclear weapons altogether.
- They say Russia and the U.S. are now allied in the global
fight against terrorism.
- As such, "their first duty in this effort should
be immediate and rapid bilateral nuclear disarmament, accompanied by the
other six nuclear nations (France, Britain, China, India, Pakistan and
Israel)," followed by U.N. Security Council action "to ensure
no other nations, particularly Iran and North Korea, acquire nuclear weapons."
- "Time is not on our side," they wrote.