The Doomsday Clock says it’s two minutes to nuclear midnight and the potential annihilation of the human race.
The last time the clock stood still was when it went unchanged at three minutes to midnight as 2015 passed into 2016. It has lost 30 seconds each of the last two years.
The Doomsday Clock, begun in 1947, speaks to the global disaster of nuclear war, though it also now factors in climate change. The 2018 report from president and CEO Rachel Bronson, made these observations a year ago:
“Although the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists focuses on nuclear risk, climate change, and emerging technologies, the nuclear landscape takes center stage in this year’s Clock statement. Major nuclear actors are on the cusp of a new arms race, one that will be very expensive and will increase the likelihood of accidents and misperceptions. Across the globe, nuclear weapons are poised to become more rather than less usable because of nations’ investments in their nuclear arsenals. This is a concern that Bulletin has been highlighting for some time, but momentum toward this new reality is increasing.”
Now consider the developments around the world in the past year:
• According to the Department of Defense, Russia is adding new military capabilities to its large stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs), including those deployable by ships, aircraft, and ground forces.
• China has about 75 to 100 ICBMs with nuclear missions in its inventory, including a class of missiles with a range in excess of 6,835 miles. Those can reach most locations within the continental United States. The remainder of China’s nuclear force includes road-mobile, solid-fueled CSS-5 (DF-21) medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) for regional missions.
• Israel is reportedly adding three submarines with nuclear capabilities as a hedge against Iran. Iran could have renewed aspirations for nuclear weapons after the United States withdrew last May from the 2015 international treaty governing its enrichment capacity and stockpile.
• North Korea’s on-again, off-again conversations with the United States have yielded no cutback in nuclear arms development and reports indicate some bases are secretly being expanded.
• Pakistan and India are nuclear powers with a generational dislike for each other that includes periodic military flareups. Both are confronting serious internal issues as well.