Planet Watch
F-35A

Rapid nuclear escalation, East and West

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Moscow will deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons if NATO does not accede to demands to stop arming Ukraine and guarantee an end to eastward expansion of the alliance. His remarks come amid tensions over Russian military movements near Ukraine’s borders, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed some 100,000 troops. Amid similar tensions over Chinese incursions into the Taiwan Strait, a Pentagon report warns that the People’s Republic is undertaking an expansion and “modernization” of its nuclear arsenal to “provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.” And the US is meanwhile replacing gravity bombs with digitally guided nuclear missiles on its new design of the F-35A fighter jet. (Photo of F-35A via Air Force Times)

Planet Watch
spacedebris

Dangerous debris from Russian space kablooie

Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile, in a test of its PL-19 Nudol DA-ASAT (direct-ascent anti-satellite) system. The blast created thousands of pieces of debris that have spread out into Earth orbit. The US says it has identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the strike, and many thousands of smaller ones. That same day, the Russia’s RosCosmos space agency reported that the astronauts aboard the International Space Station had to shelter in place due to a cloud of debris passing by the station every 90 minutes, the time it takes for the ISS to orbit the Earth. It was unclear if the debris threatening the space station came from Russia’s ASAT test. But Washington charges that the new debris field poses a danger to the space station. (Image: MIT News)

East Asia
kurils

Podcast: 007 in the New Cold War

In Episode 97 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg dissects the geopolitics of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and how the Daniel Craig reboot of the series has finessed the cultural icon’s role in the New Cold War. Famously, the film was produced pre-pandemic, with its release postponed a year due to the lockdown—and its key plot device is a mass biological warfare attack, anticipating the conspiranoid theories about COVID-19. Yet it could also be prescient in warning of a superpower confrontation over the Kuril Islands—disputed by Russia and Japan, and an all too likely flashpoint for global conflict. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Oceania
Vanuatu

Vanuatu seeks ICJ opinion on climate justice

The South Pacific nation Vanuatu announced its intention to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the right of future generations to be protected from the consequences of climate change. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman warned that the climate crisis is “increasingly eluding the control of individual national governments,” and stressed the need for a global solution. The announcement set out his government’s plan to coordinate the efforts of Pacific Island states and other vulnerable nations to seek clarification on the legal duties of large emitters of greenhouse gases. (Photo: David Cobbin via NUPI)

Planet Watch
hiroshima

Podcast: Hiroshima at 76

In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city’s Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world’s nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Hiroshima Day vigil 2014, via Nihon zan Myohoji Buddhist Peace Council)

Planet Watch
PLARF

China: rapid expansion of nuclear missile silo fields

Satellite images reveal that China is building two new nuclear missile silo fields. The Federation of American Scientists reports that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) appears to be constructing new missile silos near Yumen, Gansu province, and at another site some 380 kilometers to the northwest, near Hami in Xinjiang. The construction at Yumen and Hami constitutes the most significant expansion ever of China’s inter-continental ballistic missile silos. China has for decades operated about 20 silos for its DF-5 ICBMs. With 120 silos under construction at Yumen, another 110 silos at Hami, a dozen silos at Jilantai, Inner Mongolia, and possibly more silos being added in existing DF-5 deployment areas, the PLARF appears to have approximately 250 silos under construction—more than ten times the number of ICBM silos currently in operation in China. (Photo: Federation of American Scientists)

Planet Watch
greenland

Greenland suspends oil exploration, citing climate crisis

The government of Greenland announced that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis… The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain.” The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory’s lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to acheive independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark. (Photo: Pixabay)

Iran
syria

Biden’s air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. The militias have vowed to avenge the air-strikes. The strikes followed talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, including US re-entry, lifting of sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with limits on uranium enrichment. The discussions adjourned over a week ago, with Iranian officials saying a deal could be reached in the next round. However, since then, both Tehran and Washington have taken tougher public positions. (Image: Pixabay)

Planet Watch
Narsaq

Mining project behind Greenland political upheaval

In snap elections, Greenland’s indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit(Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland’s south, has divided the territory’s political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths,” adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resourcesowns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing’s perceived design to establish control over the planet’s rare earth minerals. (Photo of Narsaq via Polar Connection)

Planet Watch
United Nations

Treaty on prohibition of nuclear arms takes force

The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades has come into force, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.” However, the US and the world’s eight other nuclear powers—Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—have not signed the treaty. (Photo: Pixabay)

Watching the Shadows
federal police

Podcast: the most dangerous period comes now

In Episode 58 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of pro-Trump rabble threatening insurrection from Michigan to Idaho (where overt neo-Nazism is in evidence) as explicit calls are raised from the far right for “martial law” and nullification of Biden’s election. In this light, the petition to the Supreme Court by “red state” attorneys general was not significant because of its odds for success but as an indication of how the political lines are drawn at this moment. With the attempted “judicial coup” now failing, Trump and his partisans are preparing for Plan B—an actual military coup. The Pentagon purge is clear evidence of this, and the sabre-rattling at Iran may be aimed at fomenting a global crisis that will provide a convenient pretext. It is a failure of America’s progressive forces that #StopTheSteal has become a popular hashtag on the right but #StopTheCoup has not become a popular hashtag on the left. Weinberg urges that we reject the dubious precepts of “American exceptionalism” and start acting like it can happen here—before it is too late. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via CrimethInc)

Africa
Somaliland

Russia seeks naval base in Sudan —and Somaliland?

Just after Russia finalized plans to establish a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, Moscow’s UN ambassador for the first time weighed in diplomatically on the dispute between Somalia and the separatist enclave of Somaliland, urging both sides to find a compromise solution. The move sparked speculation within the region that Russia is seeking a second naval facility at Somaliland’s port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden which guards the southern mouth of the Red Sea. This would allow Russia to establish a counter-presence to US, French and Chinese bases in Djibouti, just across the land border to the northwest, as well as Turkish military forces in Somalia proper to the south. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)