No Harm In A Little Perspective: Nuclear Weapons

A Vintage Threat

Black and white image of a stereotypical 1950s family in a nuclear bomb shelter

Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old school feel

Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old-school feel. The threat of nuclear Armageddon is what our parents grew up with, not us. It is not something we tend to think about from day to day. We did some research, though, and were surprised to find the likelihood of nuclear war today is higher than we might think.

The closest the world ever came to nuclear devastation was completely by accident. On September 26th 1983 Soviet Russia picked up signals that a US ballistic missile was heading their way. The poor sod in charge, Stanislav Petrov, had to make the call whether or not to retaliate with their own missiles. Refusing to be ‘that guy’ who started World War III, Petrov decided it was a false alarm and did nothing. Luckily he was right – and the world was spared millions of deaths. Neat. Close call though.

And now for something completely obvious: This would not have happened if nuclear weapons didn’t exist.

Well duh-doy. Donald Trump wouldn’t keep happening if he didn’t exist. Then again, the world’s nations haven’t signed a treaty promising to rid the planet of him, like they have with nuclear weapons.

Ever since 1970 with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT, the whole world, including Britain, has been officially committed to global nuclear disarmament. If we all agree with the UN party line: getting rid of nuclear weapons makes the world a safer place.

Meanwhile, in Britain, senior members of every major political party insist that Britain should keep and update its own nuclear weapons in order to make Britain a safer place. Members of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have even said they would resign if the new Labour leader did not support the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident. [What is Trident?] A Telegraph column stated recently that possessing nuclear weapons is what keeps European countries protected and free.

Hang on just a tick. How can eliminating nuclear weapons make the world safer while at the same time Britain needs nuclear weapons in order to be safe?

Deterrence Theory: Explained

The logic that solves this conundrum is called deterrence theory.

Deterrence theory is very simple: Take two enemy countries: Country X and Country Y. If Country X possesses nuclear weapons, they are capable of inflicting such enormous damage that Country Y wouldn’t dare attack them.

If both countries have nuclear weapons, their early-warning systems mean that if they are attacked, they will have time to retaliate with their own missile before they are hit. If Country Y was to launch a nuclear missile on country X, deterrence theory suggests that they can expect to have a missile launched right back at them.

False Alarm?

False Alarm?


The result is that no one dares do anything.

So – according to this theory – possessing nuclear weapons deters other countries from making aggressive moves. A recipe for everlasting peace?

Perhaps, except when false alarms very nearly lead to nuclear war like it did in 1983. Since we’re only human and liable to make mistakes from time to time, would it not still be safer for the world to get rid of all these weapons of mass destruction? Keep Out of Reach of Humans?


The problem with this: now that nuclear weapons exist, we can never un-exist them. They are out there now, like the bad smell of a cooking experiment gone wrong. And like bad smells, not everyone wants to own up to making them.

There are 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Here is a map to show you where those bombs are. Five of the eight countries who possess nuclear weapons have signed the non-proliferation treaty, recognising that any aggressive use of their nuclear weapons would be illegal under international law and stating that they will take concrete steps towards worldwide disarmament. These countries are Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

There are three other countries who have openly tested and declared possessing atomic bombs who have not officially agreed to play nice with their bombs: these are India, North Korea and Pakistan.

Still from Team America of Kim Jong Il

North Korea have got Alec Baldwin. And also nuclear bombs.


Meanwhile, Israel is believed to have been developing nuclear weapons since the 1950s and there has been major diplomatic work in the last year to ensure Iran is not making nuclear weapons on the sly.

The key word here is uncertainty. Some reckon that nuclear states like Britain would be mad to get rid of their nuclear deterrents at a time like this. This is because no one can be 100% certain which other countries may or may not possess weapons of mass destruction, and how they intend to use them. Better safe than sorry?

But uncertainty can easily turn into scaremongering: rogue states like North Korea are not the number one threat the UK faces. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament points out that the UK government’s National Security Strategy sees international terrorism, cyber-attacks and climate change are greater threats than nuclear war. These problems cannot be solved with a nuclear deterrent. As the old saying goes, you can’t nuke a terrorist.

Bad for the world, Good for Britain?

What does this mean for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident? (Tell me again, what’s Trident?). The programme, funding and nuclear technology are outdated and due for renewal – and the House of Commons will vote next year on how, and if, this should be done.

Every major political party, except the Scottish National Party,  supports Trident renewal in principal. So Trident = good?

Not everyone thinks so. The No to Trident campaign argues that the £100 billion needed to renew the programme would be better spent on other methods of national defence, seeing as the threats Britain faces like terrorism and climate change cannot be tackled with nuclear weapons.

This £100 billion cost for renewing the Trident programme is disputed.

According to the Guardian, the Commons library estimates the cost of renewing the programme to be closer to £25 billion.

Whichever estimate convinces you, it’s a lot of monies.

A pricey safety net or necessary investment?

A pricey safety net or necessary investment?

Is Trident an expensive but necessary investment in UK security, or is it a very pricey safety net that we do not need?

The safety of the nation is not the only thing in question. Britain’s status in the world as a nuclear power is what guarantees it a place on the Security Council.

It’s not all or nothing. Britain does have the option of remaining a nuclear power, but reducing its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The UK has in fact been gradually dismantling its own nuclear warheads from 225 to a goal of 180 by the mid 2020s. This may not seem like much, but it is similar to the agreed joint-reduction of nuclear warheads by the US and Russia that earned President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize.

Are these the concrete steps towards global nuclear disarmament the UK has signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty? Are they enough? Would renewing Trident negate these actions, or is it still a necessary part of Britain’s defence?  

Nuclear weapons explained: When nuclear weapons were invented, we opened a Pandora’s box that cannot be shut.

We now live in a world where we cannot be certain who does and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Because of this, some would argue that it is better to be safe than sorry, and to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent: the most deadly defence mechanism ever. The counterargument is that nuclear weapons are not what we need to tackle the problems we actually face today, and that they are an unnecessary, expensive and potentially deadly safety net. It is difficult to face the ugly truth of how peace works now, and there are decisions and judgement calls we have to make that we wish would go away, but won’t.

Take Action as part of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons


The Iran Nuclear Deal Explained

Iran (a Middle East country bordering Iraq and Afghanistan) just struck a deal with the USA and other countries over its use of nuclear power.


How did this all start?

In 2002 it was made public that Iran was working towards creating nuclear power. And that they’d tried to keep it a secret. Naughty Iran.

Nuclear power ditches fossil fuels and uses Uranium to create an energy that produces less greenhouse gases. It’s purpose? Less pollution.


So why all the drama?

Iran Nuclear Deal - A mushroom cloud nuclear explosion


Messing about with Uranium is properly dangerous. If exposed to large amounts you can suffer rashes, kidney failure and the cells in your body  begin to prematurely die.

The most famous nuclear disaster was 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. A nuclear reactor failed, spilling radioactive material into the environment. The estimate for deaths brought on by the catastrophe is disputed: ranging from 4,000 to half a million.

There’s also no way to dispose of nuclear waste.

And then there’s the security side of things… Uranium can also be used to make nuclear weapons.

Watch-dog organisation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) doesn’t fully trust that Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and isn’t just a front to create nuclear weapons.

World powers have been attempting to dissuade Iran away from nuclear power with a series of sanctions including the European Union banning importation of oil from Iran. The EU used to import 20% of Iran’s oil so this was a big step.

Whether it’s right for Iran to have nuclear power is not for us to say – but this debate has created massive tension for years.


Who was involved in the Iran Nuclear Deal?

Waiting for the Iran Nuclear Deal

Waiting for a sign.

Over several sessions Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met representatives from the governments of the United States of America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

This group is known as P5 + 1Don’t ask us why. They also go by E3/EU+3 Again, this means nothing to us.

For over 18 months the discussions attempted to come up with a solution. In April the group were delayed in reaching an agreement.

A draft of the Iran Nuclear deal was agreed, but there were issues still to be resolved – such as what research into nuclear power Iran would be allowed to undertake and what they would get in return for cutting down their nuclear ambitions.

Finally after several delays a final deal has been agreed. Iran will cut back on its nuclear programme in return for economic restrictions being lifted by other countries. Better late than never, guys.


What’s in the deal?

Iran Nuclear Deal Agreed; Batman vs Superman shake hands


Iran will give up most of its Centrifuges; equipment to make nuclear fuel. They currently have around 20,000 and this will drop to 6,000. Centrifuges can also be used to create a nuclear bomb so cutting down on the numbers makes it harder for Iran to build a nuke.

Uranium will only be enriched to 3.67% – powerful enough for fuel, but not for a nuclear bomb.

Iran will also give up nearly 97% of its nuclear material. This means it would take them much longer to make a nuclear bomb. So if they break the rules it’s more likely they’ll get caught. They get to keep their two battle-protected Nuclear bases but only one will be used to create fuel; the other will become a research facility.

Economic sanctions from the other countries will begin to lift at the end of the year; so long as Iran shows commitment to the deal by autumn. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gets to check nuclear sites, especially those which look dodgy. But with some sites Iran will “manage” the visit – so investigators can’t just turn up unexpectedly.

This historic deal could succeed in stopping Iran from building nuclear bombs. If so it will be remembered as a turning point in history. The leaders of the countries involved all made proud announcements when the deal was signed. The USA especially is keen to emphasise their role in the proceedings. The Iran Nuclear Deal means that some of the politics in the Middle East might start to transform. Iran’s economy, which has been suffering due to the sanctions, could be on the rise, and it has been suggested that they might be able to support the fights against ISIS.


Don’t cheat on the Iran Nuclear Deal;

Iran Nuclear Deal; cat gets trapped

Break the rules and the sanctions will fall back into place real quick

Those sanctions can be put back in place real quick. If member of the P5 + 1 thinks Iran has broken the deal they can list this complaint to a panel of eight countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran and the EU) who have 35 days to sort out the issue between themselves.

But if any member disagrees with the ruling of the panel they can send the complaint to the United Nations Security Council. Ooooh.

The UN then has 30 days to decide that sanctions should not be brought back in. They all have to be agreed, otherwise the sanctions automatically “snap back” into existence.

Fool-proof, right?


So that’s it? The world is saved?

Not so fast, hot-shot. The deal still had to be checked and approved by the United States Congress. Things look good though.

Everyone thought the United States House of Representatives (their version of the House of Commons) was where this deal would stop dead.

The Republican party (supported by some congressmen from the Democrat party) put forward a resolution to block the deal. This resolution was blocked, and the deal is likely to pass.

If the House of Representatives had voted to block the deal, then President Obama had the option to veto their decision. This means he would use his presidential power to push the deal through anyway. Obama threatened to veto the resolution even if it made him unpopular. Maybe as he’s leaving next year he doesn’t care what people think, and wanted to score a win for the history books.

If Obama had vetoed the resolution, the deal would pass through to the United States Senate (the US upper house; their version of the House of Lords). Two thirds of the Senate would have to vote against the President’s veto to override it.

In the end Obama didn’t have to use his veto power, as the Democrats rejected the resolution to block the Nuclear Deal. Obama also had enough Senators on his side to protect the deal in Senate. Phew.

The finer details of the deal are now being discussed, but the BBC reports that Obama will be able to lift sanctions on Iran starting next week. Consider that history made.

Explore: how the USA Presidential System works


Iran Nuclear Deal; pretty important for everyone involved.

Having passed it’s biggest test in United States Congress, things look promising for the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Israel isn’t happy about the deal though. They don’t get on with Iran (partly due to who owns land in the middle east) and their Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been slating the deal, stating that the deal is too easy on Iran.

The full text for the Iran Nuclear Deal can be read on the Russian government’s website, according to Buzzfeed.


Is the Iran Nuclear Deal enough to keep Iran on the straight and narrow? Should Iran be allowed any nuclear power at all?

For more on the Iran Nuclear Deal subscribe to our weekly explainer The Week: Decoded, like us on Facebook and follow @scenesofreason

Kurds, Riots and Islamic State: three reasons Turkey is a hot mess

Recent riots across Turkey and politics surrounding the fight against Islamic State shed a light on an age-old argument between the Turkish people and the Kurdish minority.


What’s the story?

Turkish nationalists have been rioting and ransacking the buildings of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The violence comes in retaliation to a group of Kurdish terrorists, the PKK, who recently carried out several attacks against Turkish soldiers and police. The Kurds are an ethnic minority group within Turkey.

Nationalism is a strong form of patriotism (love of your country) with feelings of superiority over other countries and nationalities.


Olivia from Scenes of Reason reports from Turkey;

Mannequins lie on the floor like bodies. Riot damage in Alanya, Turkey. Turkish nationalists are attacking buildings linked to the Kurdish PPK party. The PPK have been fighting Islamic State, but that hasn't stopped the government using airstrikes against them. (C) Scenes of Reason

Local shops linked to the Kurds have been ransacked

Reporting from popular Turkish tourist destination Alanya, Olivia from SoR states “it is very clear that not only are the Turkish people patriotic (most evident from the wealth of Turkish flags on almost every shop and street corner), but a large number are seemingly intolerant in their dealings with the Kurdish people.

Even in a town like Alanya, where everyone welcomes you with open arms, three local shops and two popular restaurants have been burned to the ground because of some association with the Kurdish.

These are innocent shop owners and restaurateurs whose livelihoods have been temporarily destroyed. Not to mention the groups of tourists who were at the epicentre of this violence.”


Why is this happening?

A building on fire in Turkey. Riot damage in Alanya, Turkey. Turkish nationalists are attacking buildings linked to the Kurdish PKK party. The PKK have been fighting Islamic State, but that hasn't stopped the government using airstrikes against them. (C) Scenes of Reason

Olivia from SR witnessed riots in Turkey

The Turkish nationalists involved in the riots are being organised by supporters of a far-right political party – the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and another nationalist organisation called the Grey Wolves (Ülkücü Ocakları). Far-right politics often (but not always) involve extreme nationalism.

The Nationalist Movement Party believes that the Kurdish people are trying to split up the country.

These recent riots were provoked by attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). This rebel Kurdish group is attempting to create a Kurdish independent state within Turkey. 16 police officers were killed recently by bombs laid by the PKK.

That’s a lot of names so we’ll make it really simple: nationalist Turks are ransacking buildings of a pro-Kurdish political party, in response to attacks by a separate rebel Kurdish group.

With us so far?


Hold up – who are the Kurds again?

The Kurds or the Kurdish people originate from a region called Kurdistan.

Map of Kurdistan, areas in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran where the Kurdish people originate from

The map shows the area historically known as Kurdistan, now split between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran

The country now known as Turkey was once part of the Ottoman or Turkish Empire.

It was massive: containing Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and parts of North Africa and many more. Though the Ottoman/Turkish Empire was one of the largest and longest lasting empires in history by 1915 it had gone into decline.

The Empire was run as a Muslim Caliphate (a state where Islam is recognised as top law).

Kurdistan was a region within the Ottoman Empire. It covered areas which are now southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, northern Syria and western Iran.


After World War I the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne created the states of Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The creation of the new states meant that Kurdistan was now split within these countries.

Around 1/5th of Turkey’s population are Kurdish. Most of the Kurdish population still live in the southeast of Turkey; which used to be the region of Kurdistan. The Kurds were promised within the treaty that they would still be allowed to use their language. The state of Turkey became secular, meaning there is no official religion of the country.

Syria, Iraq and Iran also have Kurdish populations.



Riot damage in Alanya, Turkey. Turkish nationalists are attacking buildings linked to the Kurdish PPK party. The PPK have been fighting Islamic State, but that hasn't stopped the government using airstrikes against them. (C) Scenes of Reason

Turkish Riots: Over the years the Kurds claim to have been oppressed

Over the years the Kurds have accused the Turks of oppressing them. In 1930 the Turkish Minister of Justice is reported to have said “The Turk is the only lord, the only master of this country. Those who are not of pure Turkish origin will have only one right in Turkey: the right to be servants and slaves.”

The Kurdistan Tribune describes how the Turkish constitution forces citizens to protect the “indivisible integrity” of the country. This means “that the whole of the country should be kept as a single Turkish nation with no separatist inclinations”. To achieve this, the constitution rules that “everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk” (Turkey 21)”. This attempt to “Turkify the population” restricts the Kurdish culture by forcing Kurds to identify as Turkish. It’s also illegal to give a child a Kurdish name.

To avoid groups like the Kurds being segregated in one area (which potentially could lead to rebellion) the Turks moved and deported many Kurds to non-Kurdish areas. Cultural Survival reports the deportation and killing of 1.5 million Kurds in the years between 1925 and 1939.

Image of a woman over a dead child in the Armenian genocide

Like the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish authorities deported thousands of Kurds

This was similar to the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Turkish rulers killed of over 1 million Armenians. Armenia, like Kurdistan, was once part of the Ottoman Empire. Armenians were also treated like second class citizens by their Turkish rulers. The terrible irony is that the Kurds took part in the Armenian genocide, only to find themselves the victims of similar oppression later.

Publications in the Kurdish language were shut down in the 1960 and after 1980 the language was banned in government offices. Until 1991 it was illegal to broadcast in any language other than Turkish, unless it was the language of a country which Turkey had diplomatic relations with. This new law affected the Kurds the most as the Kurdish language is not the official language of any country.


Leyla Zana, Kurdish MP in Turkey

Leyla Zana, Turkeys first female MP is Kurdish.

Kurdish is still banned in parliament. Turkey’s first female MP Leyla Zana caused outrage when she spoke in Kurdish when being sworn in as an MP. “I have completed this formality under duress. I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people”. The Nobel Peace Prize nominee was given a 10 year jail sentence in 2012 for spreading Kurdish propaganda. The Turkish government has imprisoned many other Kurdish activists.

The Turkish government denies that they have oppressed the Kurdish minority. The fear of losing the Turkish national identity is understandable. Remember, Turkey’s ancestors ruled a mighty empire for hundreds of years.


What is the PKK?

A fighter in the PKK holds an AK-47 assault weapon. In Turkey the PKK fight for the rights of the Kurdish people

A Kurdish fighter in the PKK

From the 1960s onwards more and more people called for recognition of the Kurdish culture. Eventually the militant Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) formed in 1984 and began an uprising in the southeast of Turkey. The rebel group wants a Kurdish independent state in the area which use to be Kurdistan. It’s estimated that 40,000 people have died due to the conflict between the Turks and the PKK.

The Turkish government view the PKK as a terrorist group. This view is shared by the United States of America.

By 2004 things seemed to look more positive. The first Kurdish language programme was broadcast on TV and famous Kurdish activists were freed from prison.

However the PKK then resumed hostilities and violence occurred over the next couple of years. In 2009 the Turks promised to extend the rights of the Kurdish people and reduce the military presence in the Kurdish regions. A ceasefire was declared whilst both sides engaged in talks. These then broke down when 14 Turkish soldiers were killed by the PKK in 2011.

In 2013 PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan ordered fighters to stop attacking the authorities. This uneasy ceasefire lasted for two years, until 2015. The recent riots are a reaction to a PKK bomb which killed Turkish soldiers. Everything changed when the Turkish government announced airstrikes against Islamist group Islamic State.


What has Islamic State got to do with this?

Islamic State Flag. Kurdish fighters from Turkey have been assisting the fight against IS

Flag of the so-called Islamic State

Just when you thought you had the PKK sussed as “just another rebel group” it turns out that the UK, USA and the PKK share a common enemy. The PKK are taking the fight to Islamic State (IS).

Islamic State: a group of militant Muslims who were once part of rebel group Al Qaeda. IS formed as a separate group in 2006 and are reported to have around 30,000 soldiers, controlling areas in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Islamic State fighters want to create a Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East.

Kurdish PKK fighters in Iraq have been praised for fighting back against IS. Time magazine outlines how they’ve won back land from the Islamist group. “The Kurdish groups, most notably, the Peshmerga are being seen as the most effective ground troops in the battle against ISIS as Turkey sits almost idle with its well-equipped army on the border.”

The Kurdish forces are also assisting the USA in the IS fight. The New York Times details how allies of the PKK are target spotting for US drone strikes within Syria. The Kurdish group People’s Protection Units (YPG), joined the fight last year and has dealt “significant setbacks” to the Islamist group.


A demonstration against the PKK in Kadıköy, İstanbul Turkey on 22 October 2007

Friend of foe: an anti-PKK demonstration. Despite helping fight IS the PKK are seen as terrorists

Turkey doesn’t see it that way. They seem to think a terrorist is a terrorist. “How can you say that this terrorist organization is better because it’s fighting ISIS?” says Mevlut Cavusogl, the Turkish Foreign Minister. “They are the same. Terrorists are evil. They all must be eradicated.”

Under increasing international pressure Turkey announced it would be assisting the fight against Islamic State with airstrikes. Yet many see this move as a smokescreen to attack the Kurds.

Right after announcing its involvement in the IS fight Turkey started a continued bombing of Kurdish territory. The New York Times reports that “Turkey is more actively targeting Kurdish insurgents with the P.K.K. than it is fighters with the Islamic State. In Turkey’s recent roundup of 1,300 people it identified as terrorism suspects, 137 of those arrested were linked to the Islamic State and 847 were linked to the P.K.K.”

When Turkey joined the IS fight it set out a non-IS area which is to be bombarded. However this area has also been designated a non-Kurdish zone. This prevents the Kurdish forces entering the area to attack Islamic State. In agreeing to the Kurdish free zone the anti-Islamic State coalition has gained Turkey as a partner. Yet, it means losing a valuable ally on the ground – the Kurdish groups.

Food for thought: if the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is true, does that technically mean that the USA is friends with the PKK – a group they call terrorists? Work that one out if you can.


What happens next?

Refugees arrive in Turkey

Each day more refugees arrive in Turkey

Perhaps more than any other country Turkey is feeling the effects of the Islamic State situation.

Violence in Iraq and Syria has led to thousands of refugees being forced from their homes. Turkey is right next door so many of these refugees are fleeing into the country before attempting to travel to Europe. Not all of this is due to Islamic State; in Syria a civil war is raging.

The crossing to Turkey is not safe; many of the boats used are in poor condition. The Turkish coastguards have rescued 48,000 people this year. Yet, many more are being lost. This month the western media gave an outcry over an image of a young Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, washed up dead on a Turkish beach.

If they make it across refugees in Turkey are vulnerable to people smugglers. Many don’t have money or passports.

Riot damage in Alanya, Turkey. Turkish nationalists are attacking buildings linked to the Kurdish PPK party. The PPK have been fighting Islamic State, but that hasn't stopped the government using airstrikes against them. (C) Scenes of Reason

Violence against the Kurds in Turkey is likely to continue

Ahmet Davutoglu comments in the Guardian that Turkey is hosting 2 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, spending £3.9 billion to do so. Turkey’s Prime Minister says that the West is to blame for the current crisis. Whoever is to blame, Turkey is picking up the pieces.

What is certain is that the attacks on pro-Kurdish properties are likely to continue.

Olivia spoke to several locals today, one particular account struck a chord; “a shop owner noted heavily that attacks like these do happen, and more frequently than is realised, he was very quick to state however, that on the whole Kurdish and Turkish people live in harmony, he recalled how his best friend is Kurdish ‘I’ve drank tea with my Kurdish best friend every morning, I have done so every single morning for the past seven years… today, he did not show up’.”


Kurdish Learnings: we’re all people, and we all have a culture we wish to protect.

Are the Turkish government in the wrong over their treatment of the Kurdish minority? As the Kurdish groups are helping in the fight against IS does this mean we should forget the illegal acts they’ve committed in the past?


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Nuclear Bombs Explained: how likely is nuclear war?

 Nuclear Bombs Explained: How many are there in the world?

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Map of the world showing which countries have nuclear weapons

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Blue = NPT states (with nuclear weapons), Red = other states with Nuclear Weapons, Brown = Suspected of having weapons, Navy = NATO nuclear weapon sharing states, Green = Formally had nuclear weapons

There are around 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Who do these belong to, I hear you ask?

– NPT-designated nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia,United Kingdom, United States)
– Other states with nuclear weapons (India, Pakistan, North Korea)
– Other states believed to have nuclear weapons (Israel)
– States formerly possessing nuclear weapons (Belarus, Kazakhstan,Ukraine, South Africa)

That sounds like a lot of weapons.

Nuclear Bombs Explained A Mark 28 thermo-nuclear bomb is downloaded from a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft during Exercise GLOBAL SHIELD '84.

Nuclear Bombs Explained; the cold war saw stockpiles of weapons

Yeah, but it could be a lot worse. In the early 1980s the number of Nuclear Bombs was around 70,000.

Countries were stockpiling weapons due to the “Cold War”. This was a war without actual fighting, with countries like the USA and Russia gradually building up their weapons stockpile; each daring the other to fight.

Eventually, the Cold War began to thaw out, and countries with Nuclear Bombs decided that making more was a really daft idea. So they signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT countries listed above). The treaty aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually disarm and get rid of them altogether. Don’t hold your breath any time soon.


Hiroshima: the world’s first nuclear bomb

Recently the world marked the 70 year anniversary of the Hiroshima Bomb. This was the first nuclear weapon.

Should the Hiroshima bomb have been used?

Nuclear Bombs Explained The US Battleship USS California sinks in Pearl Harbor. Hiroshima Explained

Hiroshima Explained; the Americans had a score to settle after Pearl Harbor

An article by the Center for Strategic and International Studies explores the reasons why the bomb was used;

The Americans wanted to end the war as quickly as possible, and at the lowest cost (financially, as well as the cost of American lives). The USA had spent a ton of money the “Manhattan Project”, their top-secret project to design the nuclear bomb.

$1,889,604,000 had gone into the Manhattan Project. Given that this was in 1945, the build would have cost a lot more today. Not using the bomb would have meant all that $$$$ was wasted.

As well as this, the attack on Pearl Harbor meant that the USA really didn’t like Japan. In 1941 Japanese planes attacked the base at Pearl Harbor killing 2,000 Americans and destroying 20 ships and 200 airplanes. The next day America declared war on Japan and joined World War II. By the end of the war the US had a score to settle.

The Americans were also thinking about how the world would be after the war. The Soviet Union (now Russia) was becoming a dominant force in the world. Dropping the Hiroshima bomb was a sign of strength – don’t mess with us. It’s been claimed that impressing Russia was the real reason for dropping the bomb; others argue it was just an added benefit.

As the article says “weapons were created to be used”. What else would one do with a nuclear bomb?

However, there were alternatives. US generals believed that conventional bombing and using the navy to blockade Japan would have forced the country to surrender within months. The lives of Americans would have been at risk, but it would have saved the consequences of a nuclear attack.



Nuclear Bombs Explained: what are the chances of them being used now?

Nuclear Bombs Explained; a satellite radar dish

Nuclear Bombs Explained; satellite “early warning” systems have failed in the past

Higher than you might think.

Relations between Russia and the West have recently gone sour again, and countries like Iran are trying to get in on the nuclear act. Though the Cold War is now over, the USA and Russia still have hundreds of Nuclear Bombs on “hair trigger alert”. This means that the nuclear weapons could be deployed within minutes. So don’t make any sudden moves.

There have been several examples where errors by computers and humans have almost led to nuclear bombs being deployed. In 1979, a technician accidentally inserted a tape with a training exercise into the computer monitoring incoming threats. The computer showed an incoming Russian attack and the Americans nearly fired their weapons in retaliation.

In 1983 a Russian satellite mistook reflections from the sun as American missiles launching. And in 1995 the Russian warning system noticed the launch of a missile. The Russian President activated a device that would allow a launch of nuclear bombs. It turned out the “missile” was an US/Norwegian scientific rocket being sent up to study the Northern Lights. Norway had warned Russia about the experiment but the message had failed to get to the right departments. The world potentially nearly ended because a memo went to the wrong office.


Nuclear Bombs Explained: a nuclear war is now a possibility?

Nuclear War Explained: President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin sit awkwardly in silence

Nuclear War Explained: things are still tense between the USA and Russia

At the moment there is quite a lot of tension in the world. Note, we have zero intention of scare mongering, just a few things worth bearing in mind;

Russia has managed to p£$$ everyone off for taking an area of land called Crimea away from Ukraine. This has caused a drastic heightening of tensions between the USA and Russia. Because of this, Russia’s President Putin has lowered the bar for when Russia would use nuclear weapons.

Many experts now say that nuclear war with Russia is a possibility. A report from the London think-tank Chatham House states “the probability of inadvertent nuclear use is not zero and is higher than had been widely considered.”

Iran has just signed a deal to cut back on its nuclear activity. However countries like Israel still suspect they are up to no good and will “receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.” Why so suspicious, Israel?

China is worrying everyone by building military bases in the south China sea. It could be only a matter of time before someone decides to stand up to China.

And there are alarming reports that North Korea has an army of computer hackers that could cause havoc at the push of a button. Which is always good.

All these countries have (or at some point have been suspected to have) nuclear weapons. It’s unlikely these countries will be dropping a nuke any time soon – but all it would take is one country being pushed too far, again. So, are we heading for World War III? Let’s just hope world leaders learn from the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Want to understand a bit more?

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is pushing to scrap the UK’s nuclear programme.

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