Russia and the West’s tense relationship explained

Journalist and historian James Pearce explores some of the myths surrounding Russia. Is it true that Russians don’t like Westerners? If not, where does this idea come from?

 

Why is our relationship with Russia so tense?

The communist flag. Russia was once under the rule of Communism

Communism; all are equal…ish

Russia was once a country under the banner of Communism.

Communism is a political system where (in theory at least) all means of production are owned by the community rather than by individuals.

Russia was known to the world as ‘the Soviet Union’ or ‘USSR’ (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The revolution of October 1917 created a new kind of system which strived to create a communist state (by implementing the ideas of philosopher Karl Marx) in Russia. Before this point Russia was ruled for centuries as an autocracy by a ruling class called the Tsars.

The West (e.g. America, Britain and the rest of Europe) had adopted a system called Capitalism. This means trade, industry and the means of production are mostly privately owned and operated for profit.

Map showing the various sides and alliances in the cold war between Russia and the West

Cold War; in the red corner – Russia, vs. the West, in the blue corner

Because of these two different political ideas, Russia’s relationship with Western countries became strained. The West saw the Soviet Union as the true enemy to Western capitalism and civilisation.

As well as this initial reaction to the appearance of the Soviet Union, the post WWII world witnessed a nuclear arms race between America and Russia as a way of showing ideological superiority. The consequence of this was the staunch anti-Soviet rhetoric on one side in the West, and the anti-American policy complemented by strict censorship in the Soviet Union.

However, in Soviet times, the citizens would turn off the sound when images of America were shown on television. Ordinary people knew little about America and wanted the story beyond the anti-American propaganda of the Soviet government. Particularly in the 1980s when the incumbent leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, began to allow more freedoms in the media with his policy of glasnost (openness).

Today, this situation has changed dramatically. A recent survey by Levada found that around 70% of Russians have a negative opinion of Americans. Many will recall a laser image on the U.S Embassy of president, Barack Obama, eating a banana. Such actions come about as a result of the bad press abroad, particularly in the U.S. With the continued negativity throughout the media is it any wonder? This is not to defend these actions, but this combined with the geopolitical tone towards Russia has sparked a new feeling of anti-Westernism in Russia.

 

What is the Western media saying about Russia?

Screenshot of the Guardian asking "Is Western media biased towards Russia?"

Is Western media biased towards Russia?

There is no Soviet Union anymore, but Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis has witnessed the return of negative stories about Russia in the Western press. However, the Russian press also produces negative stories about the West and these two prejudices play off one another.

EXPLORE: the Ukraine crisis, and how Russia is involved?

It’s an easy task to find headlines which adhere to the anti-Russian style, and doing so is also essential. As well as slamming Russia’s democratic record, the Western press has largely been focussing on Russia’s military capability, especially since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

For example, there was a copy of Time magazine which depicted Russian President Putin and the remains of flight MH17 in his shadow. MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, and there was speculation that Russia was involved. This has not been proved. That didn’t stop The Sun newspaper referring to downing of flight MH17 as ‘Putin’s Missile’ on its front page.

EXPLORE: the “annexation” of Crimea – did Russia steal a country

Obscene titles such as ‘Putin has Asperger’s’ or ‘Russians need to suffer to survive’ provide no real information about the situation, but do reveal the growing obsession with condemning Russia.

It is the belief of some, such as former CNN producer Danny Schechter, that the majority of Americans ‘completely trust’ their news channels. He told Russia Today “they don’t speak Russian and there is no background or context. As a result, they are willing to believe the worst”.

 

War Games

Russian military forces stand in front of a tank

War games; Russia’s military presence worries the West

Moscow has repeatedly denied claims of Russian troops being present in Ukraine and recently started developing new nuclear missiles and tanks.

According to Test Tube News, Russia has around 8,500 nuclear warheads, of which 1,800 are operational, and around 845,000 active troops. These missiles are only a deterrent, meaning any launch would result in the same amount of destruction in return. The troop size is actually one of their stronger points. Military funding in 2015 is expected to be at around $81 billion compared to the U.S’s $831 billion. Much of Russia’s army is also ill equipped with modern technology, yet they operate more tanks than the U.S.

President Obama has described Russia as only a ‘regional power’, something which still plays into the hands of the press. In an article for Russia! magazine, Mark Galeotti wrote that Russia’s military is ‘good enough to chew through Ukraine and Georgia, but not for more advanced purposes’.

This was enough justification for the West to send extra troops to the Russian border in Estonia and Latvia (also Poland). Stories about Crimea and Russian ‘volunteers’ fighting in Eastern Ukraine create the impression of an imminent Russian invasion.

Russia and the West; President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin sit awkwardly in silence

Tension, what tension?

In another example, the visit of former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras to Moscow caused panic. An article by Timothy Heritage for Reuters highlighted how realistic it would be for Greece to link up with Russia. Ties of culture and religion keep them closely acquainted and sympathisers to each other’s situation.

For months after the visit the press talked of Greece leaving the Eurozone and becoming a prospective member of BRICS (the countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, all deemed to be at a similar stage of new economic development). If this happened it could open a space for Russian business and military bases on the European continent.

By the press focusing on a fear of what Russia might do as opposed to why such a move may have suited Greece, it in turn showed Russia as a real threat to the national security of Western nations.

Regardless of Russia’s military capability, the belief of a dangerous Eastern neighbour exists. There is a clear anxiety shown in reports of Russian planes entering NATO member airspace or submarines just off shore. A visitor to my university, Chuck Snodgrass who worked in the U.S military and closely with the CIA, told us of the ‘Pearl Harbour Syndrome’ America has. The Western press echoes the American fears of being caught out again with their planes on the ground like in 1941.

This paranoia coupled with Russian planes entering UK airspace and their large nuclear arsenal creates a very tense situation with the potential to worsen. The nuclear of Russia arsenal leads the West in to thinking a war would be disastrous. This is an area where they cannot compete.

 

What do the Russians think?

LGBT activists were attacked during an action "Day of Kisses" against a homophobic bill that would prevent "non-traditional sexual relations propaganda among minors", aka the "gay propaganda ban" in front of the State Duma in Moscow, Russia. Москва. Акция активистов ЛГБТ сообщества "День Поцелуев" против приниятия гомофобного закона у ГосДумы в Москве закончилась избиениями активистов и задержаниями.

Russia has been criticised as being homophobic –  LGBT activists under attack in Moscow

On my first visit to Russia in 2013, I stayed with friends in their apartment in Southwest Moscow. As is the ‘done thing’ here, we started drinking in the kitchen and discussing politics. When America came up in conversation, my friend Svetlana said something I had never considered, yet perpetually do now. Specifically discussing Russia’s gay propaganda laws, she exclaimed:

“How can America lecture us on what to do and how to live, then justify going to war with everybody?!”

This viewpoint is similar to that of Russian film maker, Andron Konchalovskiy. Whilst discussing Russo-Western relations with Russia’s most famous journalist he said:

“It’s too bad we’re not blue, green or purple, because if we were, then the world would treat us differently […] The West expects us to act like they act. They go after us all the time. Do you know why? It’s because we look like them. If we looked different they’d get off our backs. Take the Chinese. Does the west ever go after them for not being democratic, for not living up to Western standards? No. And why not? Because the Chinese look different. I tell you, the problem is that we look like westerners, but in fact we’re not, we’re different”.

The feeling in Russia, by at large, is one of mistreatment. The population feel that their situation is not entirely understood, especially concerning Ukraine, a crisis with local roots. Despite Russia not being considered a part of the ‘civilised world since the time of the Mongol occupation, there is still a huge expectation among Western nations for Russia to play along. They look like westerners, but they are not. When Communism fell, the expectation was that Russia would change overnight and jump on the free market economics band wagon; it did not.

It is also possible that Russia does not understand America’s situation since both have little in common as nations; their histories have been completely different.

With regards to the UK, the reaction is mixed. 62% of Russians have a negative attitude towards to EU, although this merely scratches the surface. Since the Iraq War, many Russians see the Brits as the flag carrier of U.S foreign policy, which may explain the claim that the UK is becoming a ‘diplomatic irrelevance’.

The editor of The Moscow Times (Moscow’s English language newspaper), Nabi Abdullaev, wrote in The Guardian that the West’s bias ‘robs it of its moral authority’:

Russia's president Putin at an international summit

Enigma; the West wonder what Putin’s end game is

“Most western media cover the crisis in Ukraine mainly by concentrating on the Russian President’s cynicism and imperial ambitions. There is excellent field reporting from Ukraine in the western media, but they make only a modest part of the general message”

He also went on to say that covering key issues like the U.S’s intentions with Ukraine, Ukraine’s future government and Putin’s paranoia regarding NATO are rarely, if at all covered. For instance, most Crimeans welcomed their reincorporation to Russia, but the West focused on how illegal it was.

Indeed, the NATO paranoia is evident from the president to the people; to be portrayed as a threat and then encircled (and sanctioned) is something Russians view as unacceptable. Not least because Gorbachev was promised NATO would stay put after Germany’s reunification. Now NATO sits on Russia’s border. Having a president who stands up to the West and asserts Russia’s authority is the anecdote.  

Unlike Americans however, Russians do not appear to be fearful of a military conflict. Levada’s report this August showed Russians fear poverty more than a new war. Moreover, it revealed greater numbers of people feel stability inside the country compared with 2013.

 

Bias? If not, what’s happening?

Russia will always be a country which provokes a wide spectrum of views. Evidence usually makes people change their minds, although the line between facts and fiction appears to be blurred. Both sides claim a different truth with a lot of it left unsaid at either end. Without question, the West routinely downplays the Russian side of the story, but 90% of Russians receive their news from state run channels, and therefore also receive biased information.

After the Soviet Union became the new Russian Federation. Russia will not become a new, different kind of country until those who were born in the Russian Federation come to power and start controlling things. However, closing itself off to the West will also not improve the situation at home.

 

James is a Moscow based journalist and historian who also writes for The News Hub and Russia! magazine. Follow him on twitter @JamesPearce_101

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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

Ka-BOOM

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

DEAL!

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

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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Explain It To Me Like I’m 7: Trident

Oversight of the morning: believing the news were banging on about chewing gum.

TRIDENT = UK NUCLEAR WEAPON SYSTEM, NOT GUM.

What is TRIDENT?

The Trident system sees nuclear-armed missiles kept at-sea around the clock on one of four submarines, patrolling the deep oceans ready to strike if an attack were launched on Britain. The missiles can hit a city 7,000 miles away and travel at speeds of up to 13,000 miles an hour.

Where is it?navy uk .001Faslane Naval Base on Gare Loch, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The base is one of three operating bases in the UK for the Navy. Others include Devonport, Falmouth and Portsmouth, this is also where you’ll find the majority of UK Navy ships.

Members of Parliament will vote next year on whether all this should be renewed.

Why does anything need to be renewed? 

For the same reasons you have to replace your car or pants every few years, or at least every twenty years. Trident was last renewed in 1994.

The Vanguard class of ballistic-missile submarines would benefit from a new class, maintaining continuous at-sea deterrence beyond the Vanguard lifespan” – in other words, it can be made better, to last longer and there might be a way to cut some costs.

What’s got everyone twittering about it now?

 

Even though the Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, had voted not to talk about Trident at their conference this week, BBC Radio 4 politics programme The Today Show kind of spoiled that decision – asking Corbyn to tell them, in his new open and honest style of politics, whether or not he would personally push the button on nuclear warfare if he were Prime Minister. He said he wouldn’t, and Twitter blew up like a large bomb of some sort.

Is Corbyn cray-cray? Explore 5 Things Corbyn Wants and whether Nuclear Bombs are Good for Britain but Bad for the World.
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