Interview. For Theodore Postol, author of the latest alarming report from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Pentagon’s notion of a “limited nuclear war” should scare everyone. We spoke with him in New York.

Why is everyone so quiet about the risk of a nuclear catastrophe?

Theodore Postol, a nuclear physicist and author of the latest report of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, according to which we are only “two minutes” away from the “midnight” of a nuclear catastrophe that could annihilate mankind’s existence on Earth, does not mince his words as he talks straightforwardly in terms of a coming “apocalypse.”

“Historically, we are living in one of the most dangerous times for our existence on planet Earth, considering the risk of a nuclear catastrophe that is being ignored by governments and the media in the US and internationally, against the backdrop of the current conflicts, if we think about unforeseen incidents and what is expected in the coming years.”

What are your fears as concerns any immediate danger?

President Trump has just approved a defense budget for 2018 which amounts to $715 billion, and, thanks to his “America First” ideology, he has given free rein to the “Dr. Strangeloves” at the Pentagon to develop a new generation of nuclear missiles which are to be used as conventional weapons and which should be of sufficient power to win any future nuclear wars.

At the Pentagon, they have the mistaken belief that nuclear war could be likened to an extension of war using conventional weapons. But it is impossible to stop an opponent who has an arsenal with large-scale nuclear capabilities. The idea of being able to use nuclear weapons in a limited and controlled way is a Kafkaesque thesis, totally divorced from reality. And I would add that the unpredictability of events on the world stage makes the goal pursued by the US, to develop a further ability to fight and win a nuclear war in order to prevent the destruction of their country, simply madness.

The expansion and modernization of the US nuclear arsenal already far exceeds the “first strike” level reached during the Cold War as a deterrent for the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) scenario, and it is increasing the tension and encouraging similar pursuits on the part of Moscow. As indicated in our Bulletin of Atomic Scientists report of March 17, 2017, Putin, speaking in 2016 at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, called on Obama to stop the arms race. The United States has refused the offer of cooperation and the proposals made by Russia, continuing to accelerate the development of their missile defense system in countries neighboring Russia. I do not know what will be the result, but I will note that the leaders of NATO are failing to grasp the present danger. It is a situation that worries me because of the risk of accidents which may result in a nuclear war.

Are you worried about the alarm raised by the United States and the world regarding the nuclear capabilities of North Korea and the risk of an attack coming from them?

The US is not interested in pursuing a diplomatic path regarding North Korea, even though they have begun to loudly denounce the nuclear potential of Pyongyang, evoking the threat of an attack against the allies of the United States, i.e. Japan and South Korea. The notion of an immediate threat is something being pushed by the American media—and yet, despite the threatening rhetoric, North Korea is extremely fearful, and with good reason, of the military capacity and nuclear arsenal that the United States possesses.

The North Koreans have every intention to fight to the end in order to continue to exist as an independent state. Their leadership has been able to convince their people and their military to resist in case of an attack, just as they did against Japan during World War II. But in the case of a preemptive and unilateral attack by the United States, if they will be put in the position to have to react, they will employ all the nuclear arsenal in their possession.

Again, I do not think this will result in an attack that could reach the United States itself, but it definitely could hit other countries in the Pacific, important allies of the United States. The Trump administration is aggravating the risk of a nuclear war, because the “Dr. Strangeloves” at the Pentagon are able to let their imagination run free regarding the catastrophic effects of the new nuclear weapons.

Their “bright idea” of a limited nuclear war with controllable effects should worry everyone. However, there has been nothing but deathly silence about this. Both here in the US and globally.

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