February 1, 2006 – In one of the twenty known incidents of the attempted illicit sale of Russian bomb-grade fissile material in the last 25 years, especially since the breakup of the Soviet Union, law enforcement officials arrested a number of suspects in Tbilisi, Georgia, a former Soviet republic, on this date, for the attempted sale of 79.5 grams of highly enriched uranium to one or more buyers, who were in actuality undercover security forces.  In April 2015, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Deputy Director Anne Harrington testified at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Strategic Forces that, “Of the roughly 20 documented seizures of nuclear explosive materials since 1992, all have come out of the former Soviet Union.”  Despite recent assurances from Rosatom, the state-owned corporation that runs Russia’s nuclear energy and weapons plants, that their nuclear materials, “are always strictly controlled” and accounted for, a Center for Public Integrity November 2015 investigative report concluded that, “In fact, some 99 percent of the world’s weapons-grade materials have been secured.  But one percent or more is still out there, and it amounts to several thousand pounds that could be acquired by any one of several terrorist organizations.”  Comments:  Although some significant progress in securing and protecting nuclear materials from theft or diversion has been allegedly confirmed by Russia and other Nuclear Club nations at the four biennial nuclear security summits (2010-16), much more needs to be accomplished in the U.N. and other international fora, as well as bilaterally by the Trump and Putin administrations, to prevent the use of fissile materials in dirty bombs or primitive small-yield fission weapons whether the material diverted comes from civilian nuclear plants or military nuclear weapons facilities.  In addition to concerns about the resulting mass casualties and short- and long-term radioactive contamination from such a catastrophe, there is also the frightening possibility that in times of crisis, such an attack might inadvertently trigger nuclear retaliation or even precipitate a nuclear exchange.  (Source: Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith. “The Fuel for a Nuclear Bomb is in the Hands of an Unknown Black Marketeer from Russia, U.S. Officials Say.”  Center for Public Integrity, Nov.12, 2015 reprinted in Courier: The Stanley Foundation Newsletter, Number 86, Spring 2016, pp. 7-14.)

February 5, 1987 – The Soviet Union ended a nuclear testing moratorium due to continued U.S. testing but expressed a willingness to revisit such a moratorium if the Americans followed suit.  Forty-four months later, on October 24, 1990, the Soviets conducted their last of an estimated total of 715 nuclear explosive tests that began in 1949.  The French, British, and Americans later committed to end their testing programs (the last U.S. test was Sept. 23, 1992) and although the Russian Duma ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (signed by the U.S., Russia, and more than sixty other nations on Sept. 24, 1996) on April 21, 2000, the U.S. Congress has failed to do so since the Senate rejection of the CTBT by a vote of 51-48 on Oct. 13, 1999.  Comments:  The testing of over 2,050 nuclear devices over the last seven decades by nine nuclear weapons states has inflicted extremely harmful short- and long-term health impacts to global populations, especially native peoples and veterans who participated in observing tests at a relatively close range.  Increased cancer rates, groundwater contamination, destruction of land and ocean ecosystems, and other detrimental health and environmental impacts still plague large numbers of people due to nuclear testing.  President Trump should convince the Senate to ratify the CTBT, which would increase international pressure on North Korea to cease their nuclear testing program.  (Source:  Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology.”  Washington, DC: Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp. 13-15; 19; 22.)

February 11, 2004 – Bruce Blair’s Nuclear Column on the Center for Defense Information website which featured an article titled, “Keeping Presidents in the Dark – Episode 1:  The Case of the Missing Permissive Action Links,” was published on this date.  Along with information provided in Daniel Ellsberg’s new book “The Doomsday Machine:  Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” we learned that after John H. Rubel, deputy director of defense research and engineering, discovered that operators of Minuteman nuclear-tipped ICBMs had circumvented a design feature to protect against a possibly unauthorized launch of World War III by a single launch control center, he urged then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to require an electronic lock on the missiles.  Decades later, a former Minuteman launch control officer and now prominent nuclear weapons expert and scholar, Dr. Bruce Blair, notified a retired McNamara, “…that the locks had been installed, but everyone knew the combination.  The Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha quietly decided to set the ‘locks’ to all zeros in order to circumvent this safeguard…SAC remained far less concerned about unauthorized launches than about the potential of these safeguards to interfere with the implementation of wartime launch orders.  And so, the ‘secret unlock code’ during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War remained constant at 00000000.”  Daniel Ellsberg, famously known for his release of the Pentagon Papers to the media in 1971, who earlier in his career served as a Rand Corporation analyst, a consultant to the Pentagon and White House, and drafted McNamara’s plans for nuclear war in 1961, noted that, “…the Joint Chiefs of Staff tolerated the shortcomings of the (nuclear command and) control system (in order) to put up fierce and prolonged resistance to measures that would tighten control of nuclear weapons up and down the line.  That was their distrust, above all in a crisis, of the judgement of civilian commanders and their staff and advisors, especially their willingness to launch nuclear attacks when military commanders believed them to be urgently necessary.  That distrust had emerged under Harry Truman during the Korean War and intensified under Eisenhower (both presidents vetoed the use of nuclear weapons in Korea and in other crises)…It was to become even more intense under JFK and McNamara.”  Comments:  Today serious concerns still exist on how to prevent the unauthorized, accidental, or irrational use of nuclear weapons and unfortunately not much has changed, in terms of U.S. nuclear policy, since the early decades of the Nuclear Age as Ellsberg explained, “The basic elements of American readiness for nuclear war remain today what they were almost sixty years ago:  Thousands of nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert…The declared official rationale for such a system…the supposed need to deter…an aggressive Russian first strike…That widely believed public rationale is a deliberate deception…The nature, scope, and posture of our strategic nuclear forces has always been shaped by the requirements of quite different purposes:  to attempt to limit the damage to the U.S. from Soviet or Russian retaliation to a U.S. first strike against the U.S.S.R. or Russia.  This capability is, in particular, intended to strengthen the credibility of U.S. threats to initiate limited nuclear attacks, or escalate them – U.S. threats of ‘first use’ – to prevail in regional, initially non-nuclear conflicts involving Soviet or Russian forces and their allies.”  (Sources:  Daniel Ellsberg. “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” New York:  Bloomsbury, 2017, pp. 12, 61-63 and Bruce Blair’s 2004 article is available at http://www.webarchive.org/web/20120511191600/http://www.cdi.org/blair/permissive-action-links.cfm)

February 16, 1904 – George F. Kennan, a U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union who became famous for his “Mr. X” July 1947 article in Foreign Affairs magazine titled, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” that recommended the policy of “containment” rather than war with America’s former World War II ally, was born on this date.  The Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study at  Princeton University for six decades, who passed away on March 17, 2005, wrote several books but one of the most prominent and relevant in the Nuclear Age and beyond was his 1982 work, “The Nuclear Delusion: Soviet-American Relations in the Atomic Age.”  In this book, Kennan noted that, “War itself as a means of settling differences…will have to be in some ways ruled out; and with it there will have to be dismantled the greater part of the vast military establishments now maintained…the recognition that the weapons of this age – even the so-called conventional ones – are of such great destructiveness that there can be no clear line between the discriminate ones and the weapons of mass destruction.”  Comments:  Even a war fought in this technologically advanced 21st century, without resorting to the use of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons, have had devastating human, environmental, societal, and financial impacts as have been proven in many conventional wars fought since World War II.  The use of depleted uranium munitions, phosphorous bombs, modern precision-guided weapons such as Hellfire missiles, cluster bombs, and many other devices such as the Assad regime’s use of barrel bombs have not only killed and injured large numbers of combatants and civilians, but also caused cancers and other long-term mortal diseases.  It also seems increasingly likely that when a regime’s survival is at stake, nuclear weapons will also likely be used.  Therefore not only must we reduce dramatically and eliminate nuclear weapons, as well as enforce existing treaty prohibitions against the use of chemical and biological weapons, but we must also redouble global efforts to make war itself illegal, untenable, and obsolete as a means of settling disputes.  In return, our global civilization will prosper as trillions of dollars in military expenditures are redirected to fighting climate change, eliminating poverty and malnutrition, providing a free education to every person, finding cures for cancer and other chronic diseases, and insuring the survival of the human race indefinitely.  (Source:  George F. Kennan.  “The Nuclear Delusion:  Soviet-American Relations in the Atomic Age.” New York: Pantheon, 1982 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/1982-12-01/nuclear-delusion-soviet-american-relations-atomic-age accessed Jan. 20, 2018.)

February 20, 1950 – A New York Times article published on this date titled, “Second Capital Urged in Atom Era: Underground Plan to Be Broached,” reported that Congressmen Chet Holifield and John Rankin, cognizant that a recent Atomic Energy Commission report concluded that three atomic bombs of the yield dropped on Hiroshima would “tear the guts out of Washington,” proposed creating an alternative seat of government located possibly in an underground cave such as Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave.  Ten months later on Dec. 1, 1950, President Truman signed Executive Order 10186 establishing the Federal Civil Defense Administration (which in 1958 merged with the military’s Office of Defense Mobilization to become a new agency, the Office of Defense and Civil Mobilization, which eventually became the Federal Emergency Management Agency).  Comments:  For almost seventy years, the U.S. and the other eight nuclear weapons states have spent many billions of dollars on programs to preserve their nations’ leadership or at least a representative sample of such leadership in the midst of a nuclear or WMD attack.  Over several decades, the U.S. government built a top secret Congressional bomb shelter under The Greenbrier resort hotel in West Virginia and secret bunkers for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at Raven Rock near Camp David, Maryland, Mount Weather, Virginia and at dozens of other locations.  A 24-hour airborne command post dubbed Looking Glass was created along with other extensive means of maintaining Continuity of Government (COG) and Continuity of Operations (COOP).  The rest of us, the vast majority of American and global populations were left to fend for ourselves, to find a large public shelter or build our own private bunker.  But the dirty little secret, long indisputably known by all thinking persons around the world, is that surviving a nuclear war is virtually impossible, an unviable option when we consider that even a so-called “limited” nuclear war can destroy global agriculture and result in the starvation of billions.  Now after the false “incoming ballistic missile” alerts in Hawaii on Jan. 13th and in Japan on Jan. 16th, as well as the Center for Disease Control’s recent public relations boondoggle of informing Americans what to do in a nuclear war, it seems clear that continuing to waste even more of our global treasure on not only preparing for nuclear war but surviving such a unprecedented catastrophe is illogical and counterproductive.  This is obviously yet another reason why global citizenry should continue to pressure the leaders of the nine nuclear weapons states to reverse course, eliminate these doomsday weapons, and redouble international efforts to demilitarize the planet.  (Source:  Garrett M. Graff. “Raven Rock:  The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die.”  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. 31.)

February 29, 2012 – A supposed breakthrough occurred on this date when U.S. negotiators convinced those from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) to sign on to an agreement in which all North Korean missile and nuclear testing would be suspended in exchange for extensive food aid assistance (targeting the poorest, most disadvantaged population groups in that nation).  However, somewhat predictably and not unlike a plethora of other agreements between the U.S. and its allies and the North Korean regime over the last several decades, this deal collapsed when a satellite launched by the North Koreans in April of 2012 was interpreted not as a commercial scientific advance, but as another step towards militarizing its ballistic missile capabilities.  Comments:  What many politicians, military leaders, arms control experts, and a growing segment of the global public see as a top U.S. priority – ending the Korean War with a peaceful, nonmilitary solution that not only demilitarizes but unites the two Koreas, rebuilding the North’s economy and redoubling its technological and commercial ties with Western and other nations – is apparently not a priority of the Trump Administration.  The 45th President’s extreme rhetoric and military-focused responses have ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula and throughout Northeast Asia since he took office.  However, recent bilateral successes by the two Koreas, including peaceful cooperation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, hold promise, long-term, for a peaceful end to the seven-decade long Korean Conflict.  (Sources: Suzanne DiMaggio. “Learn from Iran, Engage North Korea,” pp. 37-40 in Tom Z. Collina and Geoff Wilson, editors. “10 Big Nuclear Ideas for the Next President.”  Ploughshares Fund Study Report No. 2, The Ploughshares Fund, November 2016 and Steven Lee Myers and Choe Sang Hun.  “North Koreans Agree to Freeze Nuclear Work; U.S. to Give Aid.”  New York Times.  Feb. 29, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/world/asia/us-says-north-korea-agrees-to-curb-nuclear-work.html accessed Jan. 20, 2018.)