On the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world is closer than ever to nuclear apocalypse, with the NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine and the US military deploying nukes to Europe and Australia.
Historian and political scientist Aaron Good recently discussed the important lessons to learn from that dangerous historical episode and the current events swirling around the globe today.
President Joe Biden also recently said the world is closer to a nuclear conflagration than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The commander of U.S. Strategic Command said that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is not the worst that the U.S. should be prepared for so the U.S. must be prepared for much more.
“This Ukraine crisis that we’re in right now, this is just the warmup,” said Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of Stratcom. “The big one is coming. And it isn’t going to be very long before we’re going to get tested in ways that we haven’t been tested a long time.”
Meanwhile, the US is deploying B61-12 tactical bombs to Europe comes after Moscow held military exercises showcasing its own ballistic capabilities.
The B61 nuclear bomb is the primary thermonuclear gravity bomb in the United States Enduring Stockpile following the end of the Cold War. It is a low to intermediate-yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon featuring a two-stage radiation implosion design.
About 150 of these bombs were already stored at six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel Air Base in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi Air Base in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands and Incirlik in Turkey.
Those same locations are scheduled to receive more nuclear weapons by the end of December. The move is part of a decade-long $10 billion upgrade program for several variants of B61-class unguided nuclear bombs, which first became part of the US arsenal in 1968.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ran a two-week long exercise in Europe to train aircrews in using U.S. non-strategic nuclear bombs. The exercise, known as Steadfast Noon, was centered at Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium, one of six airbases in Europe that store U.S. nuclear bombs.
The Steadfast Noon practiced a controversial arrangement known as nuclear sharing, under which the United States installs thermonuclear bombs on fighter jets of select non-nuclear NATO countries and train their pilots to carry out strikes with U.S. atomic weapons.
During the past several years, the nuclear bases and the infrastructure that support the nuclear sharing mission in Europe have been undergoing significant upgrades, including cables, command and control systems, weapons maintenance and custodial facilities, security perimeters, and runway and tarmac areas.
In addition to modernization of bases and support facilities, delivery systems and weapons are also being upgraded. Five of the seven countries that contribute dual-capable aircraft to the nuclear sharing mission are upgrading to the F-35A fifth-generation fighter-bomber: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States. Turkey was scheduled to upgrade to F-35A but lost the contract after it purchased the Russian S-400 system.
While fault lies with Vladimir Putin for turning the conflict bloody, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has presented the United States with a geopolitical crisis that it played a critical role in creating. It would be wise to learn from that mistake.
With Russia’s nuclear-backed invasion of Ukraine highlighting the potential coercive benefits of nuclear weapons, this would be a terrible time to encourage North Korea, Iran or other would-be proliferators to believe they could get away with acquiring them.
At the same time, citizens should demand action to ensure that political leaders have a keen understanding that it is imperative to avoid a nuclear nightmare, a point that should not be up to debate.