The Current Nuclear Threat – Part 1, by John M.

Mutually assured destruction. This phrase has long helped prevent direct armed conflict between Russia and the United States. Although many proxy wars have been fought over the past 70 years, since the Soviet Union developed nuclear weapons, both sides have been careful not to start a direct conflict that could escalate toward a nuclear exchange.

During the Cold War, there were many moments that brought us close to nuclear war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the world held their breath as the U.S. faced off with the Soviets over their attempt to place nuclear weapons in Cuba. Many other events taht brought us close to war were less known, publicly. They were kept classified until 25 years later. One such event was in 1979, when a training tape was accidentally loaded to NORAD computers, leading to the military believing that a launch had occurred. Another event in 1983 involved a Soviet satellite error that misidentified five missile launches from the U.S. Many other accidents have occurred, some which have been made public, and others which have been kept secret.

When the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the world  abreathed a collective sigh of relief. The only remaining fear was that a former Soviet state might lose control of nuclear weapons that still remained in their new countries. But the past few years have reawakened fears of nuclear exchanges with Russia or other nations.

Soon after the U.S. developed nuclear fission bomb weapons, the Soviet Union also developed similar weapons. [JWR Adds: Their technological leapfrogging was based on Manhattan Project technical data provided by American spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.] The United Kingdom, France, and China all soon had weapons of their own. The United Nations helped promote the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) between 1965 and 1968. However, after the signing of the NPT, Pakistan, India, and, most recently, North Korea developed their own nuclear weapons. Israel has maintained a status of deliberate ambiguity as to whether or not they have nuclear weapons. Despite the NPT, Iran has also had a program, but has not yet produced nuclear weapons. Other fears remain as to whether rogue actors, such as terrorists or other nations, might acquire weapons and use them.

Despite recent fears, it is unlikely that Russia or China would directly attack the United States or their allies with nuclear weapons. Despite great reductions in nuclear weapons since the 1980s, the threat of mutually assured destruction remains a sufficient deterrent. Pakistan and India are primarily only a threat to each other. Israel has nuclear weapons only as a deterrent against their neighbors, such as Iran, to prevent them from making a full-scale attack.

North Korea Added to the Mix

North Korea’s recent acquisition and testing of nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver such weapons has become a great concern of the United States. Kim Jong-Un has made numerous threats. Historically, these threats have been part of an effort to obtain concessions and aid from the United States. North Korea has struggled to feed their people and threats have brought concessions in order to maintain peace.

While President Donald Trump was not open to giving aid directly to North Korea, he was able to open negotiations with Kim Jong-Un, the first negotiations between the two countries’ presidents since the cessation of fighting in the Korean War. While these peace talks initially ended North Korea’s nuclear testing, they have not yet ended their nuclear program entirely. Most of North Korea’s weapons have not yet proven reliable enough for full scale operations. North Korea’s arsenal might only harm the United States, but the U.S. would surely annihilate North Korea in retaliation if they ever attempted an attack on the U.S. or their allies.

So, what fears of nuclear weapons remain? Clearly, the threat of an open nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia or China remains, but it is unlikely. So the most likely threats remain from North Korea, Iran, or terrorist organizations.

North Korea, Scenario 1

Since the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945 and the subsequent Korean War, there has long been a desire on both sides to see an eventual reunification. U.S. troops stationed in South Korea have helped to discourage any potential invasions from the north. Since the end of the Korean War Conflict in 1953, there have been various skirmishes back and forth across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which was established with the armistice. Contrary to common understanding, the Korean War did not actually end with a treaty, but is only under an armistice that declared a cease-fire. Technically, the war has not ended, only the fighting.

If Kim Jong-Un wanted to push for a reunification under North Korean rule, implemented by a invasion of South Korea, nuclear weapons could give him the advantage to do so. Such an engagement would be risky, likely causing massive casualties in his own country. But nuclear weapons are likely the only way he could make such a move. This outlines a possible scenario.

Their first step would involve launching a strike against the continental United States. This would require only a couple of well-placed missiles into the upper atmosphere, causing an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) that would bring down the U.S. electrical grids. This would not initially cause massive casualties, although many who are dependent on medical life-support systems would die quickly. However, as has been discussed in many EMP scenarios, there would follow several massive die-off events within the U.S., leading to an estimated death of 90% of the population within a year. This attack would cripple the United States and much of the military would be occupied with recovery efforts at home.

U.S. retaliation would likely be swift, so the next steps would have to occur in rapid succession after the EMP strike to employ North Korean forces before they were destroyed by U.S. bombers and missiles. One option would be to get protection from China or Russia, which will be discussed in the next section. But, acting on their own, North Korea would have to also launch successive attacks on U.S. bases in Japan and South Korea, in order to eliminate the possibility of counter-attack as quickly as possible. Additionally, an attack on Seoul and Tokyo would cripple those two countries’ leadership, allowing North Korean troops to begin ground attacks on South Korea.

The successive attacks on U.S. bases would have to be done immediately, probably before the initial launch against the continental U.S. had detonated, or shortly thereafter. This strike would also have to include bases such as Guam and bases in Hawaii. Timing so that all strikes occurred simultaneously would be most effective, but difficult, depending on North Korea’s level of technology.

The ground and naval invasions of South Korea would have to be timed so that they begin before the dust settles from the initial strikes. Too soon, and North Korean troops are at risk of being destroyed by their own weapons. Too late and they risk annihilation from U.S. retaliatory strikes.

Without a major military resistance, North Korean troops would be able to push south and take the entire peninsula. A strike on Seoul, either in the form of a a high altitude EMP airburst or a groundburst nuclear strike, would leave South Korea leaderless and ripe for a takeover.

President Kim would have to take immediate shelter and allow his troops to carry out their invasion without his direction. He would need a hidden bunker where he could remain until all U.S. strikes ceased. Once this all happened, he would then be able to re-emerge and resume control.

Once President Kim were to take the entire peninsula, he could begin negotiating a settlement with the U.S. His negotiations might include Japan, but he would have the advantage of the U.S. military having to maintain peace and restore order within their continental borders. Many deployed units would be required to return home to provide support.

While North Korea would likely incur massive losses in their own territory, the gained territory in the south might be worth the gamble. The Kim regimes have long shown a disregard for the welfare of their own people, so this scenario might appear worth the risk. The goal of a united Korea would be accomplished and it would demonstrate to the world that President Kim and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a force to be reckoned with.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)




16 Comments

  1. While the scenario is interesting I seriously doubt that he would have a country to come out of his bunker to. I also think that such a surprise attack has a high probability of triggering a general exchange of weapons with China or Russia or both since US leadership would have to be concerned about follow-up attacks from either/both as they might try taking advantage in the world arena of our plight.

  2. With wich Missile NK could attack the US

    Second what do you think the South Korean Forces would do with the North Korean Army, Maybe just Maybe NK Army could overwhelm their opponents – Maybe even before their supply is running out

  3. You have not addressed the “boomers” that are all over the Sea. One Sub. has enough fire power to knock N. Korea off the face of the earth without us flying any bombers there.
    As a country I have to wonder if the USA will sit back and whine if the Dems. are in power? I am an old Vet. from the cold War era. If we the people don’t stand up an tell these worthless As*ess who hate our country to take a hike we are going to be in deep sh-t.
    Gman

  4. While a DPRK EMP attack against the US is possible, I think it’s less likely than one from Iran utilizing proxy terrorists groups. The Iranians have just shown that they are willing to do such with the attack on the Saudi Oil facilities.

    1. The second potential Iranian attack. The first attack was cyber utilizing the Stuxnet virus that was left behind by the joint USA/Israel Cyber attack staged against Iran in 2009. Iran responded to the attack by going after Western Banks and the Saudi Aramco oil company. You can imagine what kind of mayhem could be wrought by gaining access to SCADA systems at an oil refinery. The recent attack was different in that it was kinetic vs cyber. Not sure the kinetic attack did as much damage as the cyber attack. It certainly got a lot more news coverage which may have been the central reason for going kinetic.

  5. 1) There are two reasons why the probability of a nuclear war with Russia and China is much higher than John M thinks.

    2) Reason 1: The Cold War has restarted because Washington is posing a lethal threat to Russia. Like a python slowly strangling a pig, Washington has engaged in relentless aggression against Russia since 1990. The US Congress itself issued a report noting how Bill Clinton had supported the massive looting of Russia by a few oligarchs while ordinary Russians starved.

    Contrary to Reagan’s agreement with Gobachev, NATO was rolled forward 600 miles eastward with the enlistment of Poland and other East European nations.

    George W Bush next pushed for the enlistment of Ukraine into NATO in 2008 but was blocked by France and Germany. Barack Obama’s Asst Secretary of State Vicky Nuland boasted of how Washington had spent $5 Billion
    “spreading democracy” in Ukraine — what the cynical might consider subversion.
    After the 2014 coup that overthrew the lawfully elected government, Vicky was caught on tape handpicking the next leader of Ukraine– our man “Yats”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Ukrainian_revolution#United_States_involvement

    The only reason for Washington to care about a bankrupt manure hole 4500 miles away is that Ukraine is on Moscow’s doorstep. GPS-guided stealth cruise missles launched from there could take out Russia’s nearby (300 miles) ICBM sites in a surprise First Strike on dark , foggy night.

    Thereby giving Russia’s massive oil and gas deposits to Exxon and Chevron.
    And making Washington Master of the World.

    Because of past Arms Control agreements, Russia’s nukes are only 17% of what they were during the 1980s. A reduction policy that is now being reversed by an arms race due to the 2014 coup.

    3) Reason 2: The advance of Stealth technology has undermined the Mutual Assured Destruction policy.

    In response to Ukraine, Russia is now flying bombers in international waters down the coast of the USA. Those bombers may have Russia’s KH-101 cruise missiles. More alarmingly, they may have the rumored KH-102 stealth cruise missile. If so, those missiles could be launched and destroy our eastern seaboard cities
    without warning.
    Note that Bill Clinton the Moron LOST a US stealth fighter in the Balkans in the 1990s and failed to bomb the wreckage before it was carried off by the Serbs and given to the Russians. A high school chemistry teacher could analyze the stealth coating.

    Washington is trying to deny those Russian bombers any air base in which to land in central America — which is why Obama made overtures to Cuba and why we are overthrowing the government of Venezuela.

    4) NOTE that China could trigger a nuclear war between the US and Russia by having a merchant ship covertly launch a stealth cruise missile to hit New York City while a Russian bomber was flying past. With China taking over the world after the US and Russia destroyed each other.

    Such an action by China might be a mistake. In his recent book “The Doomsday Machine”, Daniel Ellsberg — a former nuclear war planner with high clearances — noted how some hardened Army generals were surprised in the 1960s that the Air Force’s plan for war with the Soviet Union included massive strikes on China — EVEN if China was NOT supporting Russia.

    5) But the calculation is obvious — if the USA goes down, every other power needs to be destroyed as well. Otherwise the rebuilding US would be conquered by any power left unscathed.

    This, for example, is why Trump scrapped the Intermediate Range Missile treaty and is pushing to deploy missiles in EU that could hit Russia. That attack on Russia would have a bonus — it would trigger a counterattack by Russia that would destroy the EU.

    6) China knows all this. Which is why she would likely join in if Russia decided it had to launch a preemptive attack on the US to avoid being conquered.

    1. I see just the opposite scenario.
      No country will risk their own destruction over starting a nuclear war.
      There is nothing to be gained. On the other hand, the development and increasing use of cyber-warfare will become the battlefield of the future.

      I personally believe that the recent wide-spread power outages occurring across the globe are test runs that evaluate the capability of cyber weapons in a way major players will not retaliate. What major power will get involved when the lights go out in Brazil…for example. No one. Hence, it is a relatively safe testing ground.

      The ideal end game is to engage in a cyber-attack that is not traceable back to the originator. If successful, the victim country who will lose their power grid or industrial capability if the “Internet of Things” is successfully hacked and will self destruct.

      Many scenarios claim that if the US power grid goes down 90% of the population would quickly die…that is far more effective than any nuclear device and the ground would not be contaminated in the process.

  6. 1) Re Manhattan espionage, there were TWO separate spy rings: the Rosenberg and the Cohen. The Rosenberg ring conveyed info from Manhattan scientist Klaus Fuchs — a German communist supplied to the Project by the Brits. Plus the Rosenberg ring also received some info on the explosive lens used in the implosion bomb from Project technican David Greenglass –Ethel Rosenberg’s brother.

    The Cohen spy ring received info from Project scientist Theodore Holtzberg aka Ted Hall. Between the two, Beria was able to provide the detailed design of the plutonium implosion bomb to the Soviet atomic bomb project.

    Ted Hall’s brother Edward played a key role in development of the Minuteman ICBM missile but his Air Force career was blighted by the FBI’s suspicions of Ted Hall (from the Venona partial breaking of some Soviet encrypted messages.)

    2) Some have argued that the Soviets would have developed the bomb even without the spy rings but that is claptrap. The uranium bomb was simple but it was extremely difficult to extract even a small amount of the necessary U235 isotope. Even with the massive electricity supplies of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    Plutonium, by contrast , could be extracted with conventional chemical processes but its use in an atomic bomb required a very difficult implosion bomb design — in which a sphere was compressed into a small ball by converging explosion from multiple detonations on the sphere’s surface. The implosion design required the massive resources (both money and scientific geniuses ) of the multi-$Billion Manhattan Project. The head of the Soviet bomb project admitted that the concept had never occurred to him, much less have been independently developed.

    If not for the spy rings, the USA would probably have been able to impose controls on atomic bomb technology to block its spread. Europe and the Soviet Union were both in rubble after WWII.

    The Brits developed their bomb after being thrown off the Manhattan Project. They had a big head start with the partial info they had gained from work on the Project plus their spy Klaus Fuchs filled in the blanks in exchange for not being executed for helping Russia.

    The French and CHinese developed their bombs much later — 1960 for France and
    1964 for China. China received a lot of help from the Soviet Union.

    1. Don you nailed it ,right on ,,,I joke about Dr strange love’s ” learn to love the bomb ” the truth is its here can we learn to live with it ? I am more concerned about a starfish prime event than a direct hit , or a k129 event ,,

      Tea and chocolate and time to reflect ,

  7. I think there is a lot more here that needs to be examined. The “elephant in the room” is not necessarily a nuke going off a thousand feet up or 200 miles up to create the EMP. The thing that we really should be focused on are the aftermath effects. Regardless of where “that nuke” was detonated, the entire global economy would instantaneously be thrown into chaos. Markets would crash, and a general anarchy would slowly develop. Yes, millions would ultimately die, if not immediately, then within the first year or two. If you haven’t already, take a look at William F. Forstchen’s “One Second After” as well as Ted Koppel’s “Lights Out”, Jack Hunt’s “Days of…” series, and of course JWR’s “Patriots”. They all touch on a common theme: We likely won’t have to deal with the nuke, per se, but we WILL have to deal with the after effects. No electricity, anarchy, disease, etc. We would effectively be put back into around 1800 or so. We have become so reliant on technology and living in our little “bubble world,” that we can’t see the big picture.

    I can envision a huge variety of nuke scenarios (Remember the WOPR from the movie “War Games”?), however the end result is always the same. Let’s not play the game, elect leaders who think the same, PREPARE for the worst, hope for the best, and ALWAYS pray (unceasingly) to our good and gracious Heavenly Father for grace and mercy.

  8. I’m siding with Don. There are over 5,000 attack scenarios considered by the US Government. Mutual Assured Destruction was never embraced by Moscow, and in fact, a Russian foreign minister declared MAD an immoral strategy. Coming from a Communist, this is a stinging rebuke for deliberately leaving your military and civilian populations completely vulnerable to an enemy’s nuclear weapons. The Russians have robust civil and missile defenses. We do not. MAD has been dead for years, but Americans cling to it like the Bible.
    Former Sec Def Rick Perry appeared on camera a few years ago saying the risk of nuclear attack is greater now than ever before. He offered no solutions, such as effecting real civil defense for the masses. I digress.
    The American press knows nothing about nuclear weapons, yet chatter as if they do. What the press called North Korean duds were more likely tests on fission triggers for thermonuclear devices. The triggers are the hard part….making them louder is easy.
    The author is correct about a NK EMP shot over the US in the opening act of a peninsula war, but US forces will wither on the vine without massive support that will no longer be coming. It’s hard to be a superpower when you can’t flush a toilet or fill up a gas tank.
    And South Korea? A close friend was in South Korea a few years ago when the North began shelling the South. He thought it a wise idea to get his family out so headed for the airport. Two miles from the airport, all traffic was halted by police. All jets were being filled with South Korean general officers and their families/girlfriends flying to Japan….they were getting out of Dodge, not preparing to fight.
    There is much doubt that the US will incinerate 27 million slaves in North Korea if they should pull this off. The main value of NK to Russia and China is that they give the latter two plausible deniability. NK can be the bad guy, and the Russians and Chinese win the lottery without breaking a window. Think the EU would fight Russia after seeing what they did to the US? The Commissar’s in town.
    Most Americans cling to the myth that nuclear attack cannot or will not happen. I pray they are right, but I’m not betting that way.
    Don is correct pointing out how the US has pushed Russia with our moving NATO closer to their borders, something James Baker promised would not happen in 1992.
    Russia and China both, have modernized their nuclear arsenals with new systems that have remarkable accuracy and survivability. This wasn’t done on the cheap.
    In 2014, Russia moved 60 million citizens to civil defense shelters for a four day exercise. In 2016, they did it with 40 million. Where’s your shelter? We’re on our own, folks.
    Oh, and all those subs at sea? The Navy tries to keep ONE within range of its targets, and they have four empty missile tubes to comply with New START….and each bird has only four warheads, not 8 to 12 as designed. [this does extend the reach of those D5 missiles, though]
    Treaties are like pie crusts, made to be broken.” Joseph Stalin

  9. I am continually disapointed,frightened and angered by the lack of accurate knowledge by many who hold forth opinions on inadequate research or false conclusions from false information. The world has been saved repeatedly from nuclear war by level headed Russians who reacted to US provocations(Cuban missle crisis-US ships were attacking Russian subs, missle sights in Cuba were operational with discretion to launch,Russians being firm in retaliation if madman Lemay and MacArthur nuked China,spy plane flights etc.). The statement the Russia would not have had technology ignores the Russians grabbed more scientists in their version of operation paperclip than the US and the Germans could of produced a devise if not for sabotage to critical infrastructure.
    You seem to have ignored the Israeli threat to nuke Iran last week,the open admission of illegally possessing nukes but the open treat to use them makes the case for a forceful removal of that capability(especially from a unstable regime that is currently regularly attacking its neighbors and committing war crimes/crimes against humanity/genocide). Please learn the true history to come to correct conclusions.

  10. Regarding the NK scenario, I think the author paints a plausible picture in that the opening act would be an EMP strike against the US Pacific and West Coast. This would significantly degrade our ability to project sustain force into the peninsula. I do not think we would respond in kind, simply because NK borders both Russia and China, and firing a nuke in their direction absent direct action by one of them would be a bad idea. After NK conventional forces rolled over the ROK and US forces already there…and without our ability to quickly reinforce, that’s quite plausible…I could see China stepping in to negotiate a peace. One which would likely include reparations to the US, but would also end with the US out of Eastern Asia (except probably Japan), Korea unified under the PRK, and China enjoying hegemony over Eastern Asia.

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