In a 1968 plane crash, the US military lost an atom bomb in Greenland's Arctic ice. But this was no isolated case. Up to 50 nuclear warheads are believed to have gone missing during the Cold War, and not all of them are in unpopulated areas.
The Cold War's Missing Atom Bombs
Accidents may happen, no system is perfect, granted. But when dealing with this level of lethality, it would seem that if we can't be perfect, we have no right to play God. Well, enough of the anti-nuke talk. Personally, I can't really say that I am against nuclear weapons. What I can say though, is that we fall miserably short of being safe "gun owners."
More startlingly, it seems there are unchecked rogue factions which seek to undermine ever-more stringent controls, safeguards, even treaties. Factions which seek to exploit the "accidents will happen from time to time" approach, in order to carry out clandestine agendas which are no accident at all. I am not speaking here of radical madmen in a cave or secret laboratory. No, I am speaking of factions within the highest echelons of government, far from the purview of common man. Factions which violate international law and the security regulations of nuclear weapons, in order to carry out their agendas. What precisely those agendas are, of course we can only guess, but if we look closely enough we see that there is a most dangerous game afoot. A chess-match with nuclear weapons, more complex than the Us vs. Them approach of the Cold War, and more likely to see a mushroom cloud. A chess-match where nuclear devices have become literal game-pieces themselves, being shuffled around the planet in secrecy.
Rogue Nukes of the Eastern-Bloc
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War, there has been much concern about the security of nuclear weapons in former Soviet empire. In Russia, the power-vacuum was filled by factions of organized crime popularly known to the west as the Russian Mafia. Were they powerful enough to get their hands on nuclear weapons? Quite possibly. Were they crazy enough to sell them on the black market? Perhaps, but it's unlikely that one would go to a lunatic nihilist with a grudge and a fat bank account. Not unless some bigger fish planned it that way anyway. It is more likely that if a nuke got loose so to speak, it would be at the behest of very powerful people with a very deliberate agenda that goes well beyond the want of a madman to vaporize a city.
It is now possible for a government like Russia to make a limited nuclear strike which can be disavowed, which they can deny that they had any part of, and blame it instead on some wily rogue. Whether or not any nuclear bomb has actually been sold by the Russian mafia on the black-market, the possibility adds a whole new complex psychological dimension to international politics and military strategy. And that may be more dangerous than one despot with his finger on the button.
84 Missing Russian Suitcase Nuke Bombs
While it is easy to imagine a lone-gunman plot, or a conspiracy portraying a lone-gunman plot with a nuclear bomb, the collapse of the Soviet Union also added another complexity to the international balance of power. Your average "Idol"-watching American probably believes that the Soviet Union is just an outdated name for Russia, and couldn't tell you the difference between Kazakhstan and Pakistan even with Borat and some Romanian village people. Russia is one country, which was the most powerful country, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), that included nation-states such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, similar to the way the United States counts Puerto Rico and Guam as "territories." The Soviet Union then held sway over other Communist nations of the Eastern Bloc, such as East Germany and Poland, the way America held sway over western European nations such as West Germany and France, during the Cold War.
When the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed, three newly independent nations found themselves inheriting thousand of nuclear weapons which had been "stranded" outside of Russia. Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan were all hosts to Soviet-era nuclear weapons outside of Russia. In the years that followed, nuclear weapon systems and the actual warheads themselves were either dismantled or shipped back to Russia, for the most part anyway, as part of different international agreements and treaties. We may never know though, how many nukes may have slipped through the cracks in those years.
Ukraine, like Russia, has been overrun by gangsters. Kazakhstan was repeatedly accused of selling warheads to Iran. Belarus still has a stockpile of highly enriched weapons-grade Uranium. Even if assurances that every warhead has been accounted for and removed from each of those countries, it's still like trying to put the genie back in the bottle or to un-ring a bell. Ukraine not only hosted these weapons, but was actually a major producer of military technology. So even without the devices themselves, they still have that knowledge. To a significant extent, that is true too for Kazakhstan, who were host to a number of key test-facilities. Today there is some concern that Russia will re-arm Belarus as a counter to the US missile shield in Europe.
Belarus Special Weapons
Kazakhstan Special Weapons
Ukraine Special Weapons
From all of this we might be left with the chilling impression that there could be dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of undocumented or unaccounted-for nuclear weapons in the world. They might be in the hands of black-market arms dealers, international gangsters, former military or political leaders, or even held secretly by current legitimate governments in violation of their treaty agreements. Nonetheless, promises have been made to and thoroughly investigated by western powers that this is not so. That the nukes of the old Soviet empire are either secure or dismantled. The truth of that is really up to you, the reader to discern for yourself at this point, but it has to be agreed that despite the volume of potential rogue-nukes from the Soviet collapse, most of the fear is based on vague information and anonymous sources rather than specific evidence. Which of course one would expect in the realm of the world's deepest, darkets, most dangerous secrets.
Even in the case of the missing suitcase bombs, there is no evidence that they were actually stolen or otherwise illegally distributed. It could be that they were destroyed, recycled, or wound up in some other Russian armory. On the one hand, we have folks who say that the case of the missing Russian suitcase nukes is nothing more than a conspiracy theory rooted in the simmering fears left behind from the Cold War. On the other hand, we have a new breed of conspiracy-theorists suggesting that miniature nukes were what brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11.
mini-nuke theory to support that 9/11 was an inside job, by our own government, it might actually be proof that it was not in fact our own government at all. Was it those old Russian suitcase nukes which brought down the Towers on 9/11? Was Russia behind the attack, or perhaps some remnant faction of the old KGB? Were they bent on revenge, having lost the Cold War? Had such a faction perhaps infiltrated our government, the CIA, the White House? Or is this evidence, perhaps, that Israel was secretly behind the 9/11 attacks as other conspiracy-theorists have argued?
While Russia and Israel have not enjoyed the best political relations over the years, Russian Jews have flocked to Israel. Russian is the third largest spoken first-language in Israel, who host the largest number of Russian-speakers outside of former Soviet countries. Israel is also a key base for money-laundering and other operations of the Russian Mafia, the same group of people who might have gotten their hands on rogue Russian nukes to begin with. As I said earlier, such gangsters may not be insane enough to hand over a nuke to a lone-gunman lunatic, or a Muslim in the mountains of Afghanistan, but they may have felt more comfortable secretly selling them to a legitimate nation which they felt some kinship with. Was 9/11 a Mossad operation using rogue Russian nukes?
The potential number of rogue Russian nukes is intimidating. The possibility that such nukes may have been used to attack the United States is infuriating to say the absolute least. But the United States is not without it's own tarnished record on nuclear security. One incident in particular is downright chilling.
The Minot-Barksdale Incident
AGM-129 ACM cruise missiles were each armed with a W80-1 variable-yield thermonuclear warhead, mounted to an external pylon under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress strategic heavy-bomber at Minot Airforce Base in North Dakota, and flown across the country to Barksdale Airforce Base in Louisiana. This flight was a flagrant violation of our own laws here at home, military policy, and even international treaties. The Air Force explained away the incident as a simple mistake, but there are those who believe that such a mistake would be virtually impossible and that deliberate steps were taken for this Bent Spear event to occur. Was this incident really a mistake, or a secret mission of some kind?
USAF bombers have not flown armed with nuclear weapons since 1968, just after a B-52 crashed at Thule Air Force Base in Greenland while armed with 4 hydrogen bombs. (It is widely believed that in that incident one of the weapons was lost and never recovered.) From 1968 to 1991 USAF strategic bombers were armed, but grounded and kept on a high-readiness alert. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, all nuclear armaments for Air Force bombers were removed, to then be maintained permanently in storage bunkers. Ground readiness drills with live nuclear weapons were also canceled from that point forward. These policies stood in accordance with international law and treaties regarding nuclear weapons.
Officially, the mission of this particular bomber and her crew was to take 12 of these cruise-missiles to be decommissioned or scrapped. Six were to be loaded on each wing, and all were supposed to be fitted with an inert warhead rather than a live nuclear one. It is not known why the bombers were tasked with this mission, rather than standard cargo transports such as C-17's or C-130's specially outfitted for such missions, as per Standard Operating Procedures. It is not typical for weapons to be transported mounted in combat positions for a non-combat mission, even when not armed with live explosives. The USAF even maintains a special squadron for the transport of nuclear devices and related components, the Prime Nuclear Airlift Force (PNAF), 4th Airlift Squadron of the 62nd Airlift Wing. It is also not known why these cruise missiles, inert or not, were being flown to Barksdale AFB. The usual place where missiles are put out of service is Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, not Barksdale, which was operating as a primary staging area for war operations in the middle-east. Nuclear weapons are usually decommissioned through Kirkland AFB in New Mexico where they are handed off to the Department of Energy for final disposal. But of course, the nuclear component of these weapons were never supposed to leave the bunker in North Dakota.
The Air Force account of how this happened leads one to the impression that it was a simple oversight, a mix-up, a slip-up in paperwork which precipitated everything which followed. It is their position that there was a last-minute switch within the bunker, as to what pylon was to be loaded and that as a result one of the pylons affixed with six cruise missiles did not have the nuclear warheads removed and replaced with dud-weights. It seems almost impossible though, that such a mistake could ever happen at all when you understand the procedure of how weapons are moved and accounted for. Less believable still is all subsequent oversight.
To start, a crew within the bunker readies the weapons to be moved according to the serial numbers of each unit. Once prepared to be moved, those serial numbers are then verified against the existing stockpile by this team, also known as a Breakout Crew, who must then report on any discrepancies between the weapons on hand and the weapons ordered to be moved. Control of the payload is then turned over to a Convoy Crew, who verify that the Breakout Crew is handing over the proper munitions. Keep in mind here that these are specialized crews, elites, who have been vetted and specially trained in the handling of nuclear weapons. Even if a mistake in paperwork had occurred in the bunker, they certainly should be expected to notice the mix-up at that point when the weapons were being handed off from one crew to another.
Even a cursory examination of the munitions would have revealed that these warheads had red warning signs, rather than the blue and yellow signs which declare "Inert, Non-Nuclear." One crew should have noticed that these were not the weapons they were supposed to be handing over, while the other should have noticed they were being given the wrong weapons. At the very least, even if they believed they were supposed to be moving live nuclear weapons, they should have then activated that protocol, which calls for heavily armed security and a number of other measures even to simply move them across the tarmac. Nonetheless, these weapons were moved without guard and the crew spent the next 8 hours mounting them on the B-52H. The mounted nuclear weapons were left unguarded over night, except for a chain link fence and a roving patrol. The next day, the bomber crew also failed to notice the nuclear nature of their payload. Inexplicably, only one pylon was inspected, while the other, armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles was not.
It is difficult to imagine that such elite crews working with such sensitive material could be so complacent. But even if we accept that, we would also have to ignore other safeguards. Even if mindless drones had tried to move nuclear weapons out of the bunker, that should have triggered a number of electronic alarms which can only be deactivated by key personnel with explicit orders from the highest levels of authority. Some alarms work like basic anti-theft devices like those used to deter shoplifters at the mall. As soon as you move a nuke out of the bunker, it trips alarms to go off everywhere alerting a special security team who are authorized to use deadly force. Other measures include motion sensors. The government is hush hush about exactly what electronic security they have on nuclear weapons, but it is also believed that any movement of nuclear weapons is tracked and monitored electronically by the NSA remotely. So even if the entire base had suddenly decided to go rogue and steal nuclear weapons, someone back in Washington DC or other monitoring station should have seen an illegal movement of nuclear weapons. Not to mention too, that whoever was in charge of the bunker should have noticed six missing nuclear warheads before they showed up on the other side of the country 36 hours later.
Even if we accept a whole string of errors and complacency which defy anything reasonable, we still must accept that, at several points, security measures were deliberately circumvented. Deliberately disarming security systems is no mistake. Either those persons were knowingly complicit in a crime, or they were acting under orders believing that the movement of nuclear weapons had been authorized. Unfortunately, either conclusion opens up any number of possibilities as to what was actually behind the Minot-Barksdale incident.
Was there a conspiracy among certain personnel and officers within the Air Force to perhaps steal a nuclear weapon? Given that the plane was left unguarded overnight at Minot, and again for another 11 hours on the Tarmac at Barksdale, there was ample opportunity. There are also discrepancies in initial reports of how many warheads were involved, among anonymous sources who first leaked the story to the press. What you will not read in any newspaper today is that while six warheads left Minot, only five warheads were actually accounted for at Barksdale. There is no way of proving that now, but it is possible that one warhead was stolen and has never been recovered. By whom exactly, and for what purpose, again can only be guessed at.
|B-52H armed with AGM-129 ACM's|
There has been quite a lot of speculation that points finger a the White House, President George Bush or his VP Dick Cheney. Just a few months before this incident, President Bush met with officers from Minot AFB who flew into Wichita to meet him, aboard a B-52H. Could that meeting have been a catalyst for some secret mission with nuclear missiles? Did the White House plan to nuke Iran in a secret mission, outside the normal chain of command? Or did they maybe plan to create a false-flag attack in which terrorists would be blamed for a nuclear explosion? Was this maybe intended to be a secret and illegal delivery of nuclear cruise missiles to Israel? What other possibilities might be considered? Whatever the plan, and whoever it was orchestrated by, it might very well have been much more nefarious than it was a secret mission of noble cause when one considers all of the mysterious deaths on the periphery of the Minot-Barksdale Incident.
Late John P. Wheeler Tied To Minot-Barksdale Nuke Event
Cause unclear in death of Minot crew commander
Minot AFB Clandestine Nukes 'Oddities'
Missing Nukes: Treason of the Highest Order
Incompetence or Cover-Up? The Air Force Report on the Minot-Barksdale Nuclear Missile Flight
The Dolphin, the Nuke, and Operation Samson
On May 1 of this year a report by Gordon Duff of Veteran's Today started to make it's way around conspiracy forums and alternate-media sources. The claim was that a 500-kiloton hydrogen bomb had been loaded onto a submarine in Germany. As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Germany is not supposed to have any such weapons, having finally turned over 182 warheads to the United States in 2005, concluding their nuclear obligation to NATO military strategy.
Who exactly was operating the submarine was not made clear in the report, which raised the point as cause for concern. More disconcerting, was that the submarine slipped beneath the waves before it even left port, and vanished in the face of tracking efforts by no less than four American and British agencies. The NSA, Office of Naval Intelligence, MI6 and the British Royal Navy were all tracking the rogue weapon as part of a counter-terrorism operation. One high ranking NATO intelligence officer was said to have been detained in Oxford for 12 hours after having all of his equipment confiscated, feeding rumors that there was some upset in loyalties within the intelligence community in the wake of having lost track of a rogue nuclear bomb.
More evidence of conspiracy, and that certain factions within British and/or American intelligence deliberately lost the bomb, is that specialized aircraft used to perform such tracking missions had been ordered to stand down. The British operate the sophisticated Boeing E3D Sentry AEW1 out of RAF Waddington, and all 7 of those units were put on a mechanical fault stand-down on April 14.
While some may speculate that Germany did not in fact turn over all of their nuclear weapons in 2005 as promised, and that perhaps the Bush Administration was in on the duplicity, the report also suggests that the device in question was not of Western-make but was instead one of four Soviet-built nuclear weapons that were being tracked.
Being unable to find any independent corroboration for the report, I didn't think too much of it and didn't bother taking the time to post a snippet here at S6U. Especially when I saw some updates talking about aliens taking the sub into another dimension and then trying to tie this story in with the Fukushima disaster and so forth. I chalked it up conspiracy-theorist cage rattling on a slow news day. I still kept it in mind though over the next few days. While I don't wholeheartedly buy into some of the more zany conspiracy theories out there, I wondered if there might be some truth at the core of the story, so I kept an eye out for more news on the matter.
|INS TANIN or 'Alligator' at Kiel|
So did Germany throw in a nuke with the deal? Did Germany serve as proxy to deliver a black-market Soviet-built warhead to the Israelis? Is Russia complicit or negligent? For that matter, are Western powers complicit, given the debacle of losing this nuclear bomb? It is unlikely that the Russian government would have given Israel a nuclear weapon while at the same preparing to deploy their military in support of the Assad regime in Syria. Perhaps there was some assumption that because the weapon was not of Western build, that it must be Russian, especially given that it was a rogue weapon and given all that we discussed above with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But there is a third option, the Samson Option. Was the nuclear bomb seen being loaded onto the submarine actually an Israeli nuke all along? That prospect is probably more alarming than the idea that they purchased a Soviet warhead from Russian gangsters. This would mean that Israel had a pressing need to get that bomb on the boat as quickly as possible, if they were going to risk transporting it all the way to Europe from their home on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
What does this mean for the prospects of war in the next six months to a year? The INS Tanin is not expected to dock in Israel until sometime in 2013, which means that it immediately set out on a patrol, more than likely to the Persian Gulf, straight from the German port. Any sailor can tell you this is quite irregular with a new ship. Usually new ships undergo a series of sea-trials. Short-trips to sea with a skeleton crew in order to test and verify all of the systems of the ship. More sea-trials are then performed with a full regular crew, so that they can become familiar with the new ship. In this case too we might expect that such an expensive, brand new ship which is such a source of pride for Israel, and which was delivered in a foreign country, might first make it's way to home port before setting out on a full mission. The urgency to put this ship into action so quickly is disconcerting, all the more so considering the likelihood that it is armed with a rogue nuclear weapon, being operated by a rogue state that will neither admit nor deny it's own nuclear capability.
Operation Samson: Israel's Deployment of Nuclear Missiles on Subs from Germany
Israel's quest for for atomic weapons existed already at their inception in 1949.
"What Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Teller, the three of them are Jews, made for the United States, could also be done by scientists in Israel, for their own people." -David Ben-Gurion, First Prime Minister of Israel
They began by dispatching graduate students of physics to study abroad under leading scientists such as Enrico Fermi, who had been instrumental in bringing the world into the atomic age. They also recovered some small amounts of uranium from the Negev desert in a two year survey.
In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. Secretly, France proposed that Israel attack Egypt, as a pretext for French and British forces to invade and seize the canal, while claiming to be peacekeepers. In exchange for this, France would sell Israel a small nuclear reactor and help them build a chemical reprocessing plant. . An agreement was signed on October 3, and Israel attacked Egypt on October 29.
The Sinai War
The agreement stated that the reactor was meant for peaceful purposes, but it is fairly clear that France knew Israel intended to build atomic weapons. The reactor that was actually built was three times larger than the one outlined in the agreement, could produce 22 kilograms of plutonium annually, and became the basis of Israel's nuclear weapons program. All but one member of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission resigned in protest of the reactor, believing it to be the foundation of "political adventurism which will unite the world against us."
"I gave you the bomb in order to prevent another Holocaust from befalling the Jewish people and so that Israel could face its enemies in the Middle East." - Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury, Prime Minister of France
When Charles de Gaulle became President in 1958, he tried to pull the plug on the project and stop shipments of uranium, unless Israel agreed to international inspection and promised to not enrich plutonium. Through a series of negotiations, the project continued relatively unchanged and France continued to assist Israel's program until 1966.
The British also helped Israel by sending them restricted materials through the 1950's and 60's.
Some CIA intelligence indicates that Israel had several crude nuclear weapons by 1967, made with highly enriched uranium stolen from the US Navy. The decision to begin full production of nuclear weapons is believed to have been made following the Six-Day War that year. It is believed that the words "Never Again" were welded onto Israel's first entirely domestically produced nuclear warhead in 1968.
A secret White House memo (.pdf) reveals that President Nixon may actually have started Israel's policy of ambiguity regarding their nuclear program. The memo shows that the US was not actually aware Israel had nuclear weapons in 1969, but in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Nixon emphasized American concern that Israel "make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program." That policy continues to this day. The only acknowledgement of a nuclear program of any kind was made in a statement to the Knesset, by then Prime Minister and Mossad founder David Ben-Gurion, insisting that the nuclear plant at Dimona was for peaceful civilian purposes only, when its existence was revealed in the American press.
"There is no distinction between nuclear energy for peaceful purposes or warlike ones." - Ernst David Bergman, first chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission
It's little wonder why Israel doesn't believe a word Iran says about their own so-called peaceful nuclear ambitions, or their commitment to non-proliferation, when Israel themselves have made the same lies and played the same game in the past. Israel has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, refused international inspections, and has carried out clandestine production of nuclear weapons for decades now.
In 2010 a disturbing set of documents were discovered by an American academic and published in the British press. They appeared to not only confirm that Israel did have nuclear weapons, but that they were trying to sell them to the racist apartheid government of South Africa in 1975. Eight Jericho missiles tipped with nuclear warheads were on the discussion table.
Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons
The memos and minutes that confirm Israel's nuclear stockpile
This clearly shows that Israel is not a responsible, even if secretive member of the nuclear club. They weren't just sharing technology, but ready to deliver turn-key nuclear missiles to a regime being condemned by in the international community for their racial oppression.
Are Israel and apartheid South Africa really different?
Failing to show restraint in the proliferation of nuclear weapons is bad enough, but we also see that Israel has acted as a military aggressor on numerous occasions. First, by attacking Egypt and provoking the first war with an Arab neighbor since Israel was established, in a secret deal to get a nuclear reactor. There is no need to re-hash the entire history of the Arab-Israeli conflict here, but we do see a pattern of violent hypocrisy. While building and maintaining their own illegal arsenal of nuclear weapons, they have attacked neighboring countries who undertook nuclear research of any kind.
In the late 1970's, France agreed to supply Iraq with a nuclear reactor, fuel, and a technical staff. Unlike France's deal with Israel two decades earlier, this reactor was almost certainly for peaceful civilian purposes only, and the deal was perfectly legal by the standards of international law. As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iraq's nuclear program fell under strict regulations and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The design of the reactor was such that it would have taken decades to produce any weapons-grade plutonium. The presence of hundreds of foreign technicians would have made a secret weapons program impossible.
Nevertheless, Israel undertook a "premeditated and unprecedented act of aggression," as described by UN Security Council Resolution 36/27. In cooperation with Iran, Israel launched Operation Babylon (aka Operation Opera) which destroyed the facility that had not yet been completed. The attack was condemned by world as a "clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct" in UN Security Council resolution 487. Sadly, no substantive penalty was applied against Israel and the whole affair amounted to an admonishment for Israel to never do anything like that again. Of course, that did not stop them from doing the same thing all over again, this time to Syria. Operation Orchard was carried out in September 2007. The Israeli military strike against Syria destroyed an unguarded facility that Israel claimed was a plant for building nuclear weapons.
"We can safely say that behind the successful blackout campaign lies an enormous failure... whoever expected him (Syria's Assad) to respond to the operation in a military operation was wrong."-Amir Oren, Haaretz
Given all of this information it is clear that Israel, in regards to nuclear weapons at least, is a violent, rogue state operating outside the boundaries of international law. Given their history of unprovoked attack on neighbors, it is likely that Israel will make good on their threats against Iran's nuclear energy program, while sitting on top of their own illegal arsenal of up to 400 nuclear weapons.The deployment of the submarine INS Tanis is more than likely the nuclear equivalent of putting a gun to someone's head, stalking Iran from the shoreline, while they make ready for war against Syria as well.
Israel considering military attack on Syria
This Summer could turn out to be quite Hellish, even Apocalyptic, in this high-tension environment. The Middle-East looks poised for catastrophic war once again, and this time it might very well go nuclear.
Rational Irrationality: What about Israel's nukes?
More details of Israel's nuclear weapons program can be found at Wikipedia and the Federation of American Scientists.
While Israel may be the more powerful rogue-state on the planet, they are certainly not the only threat to global nuclear stability. As we saw earlier, the collapse of the Soviet Union may have put dozens, even hundreds of nuclear weapons into the hands of unknown parties. France and Britain were both complicit in sharing both technology and materials with Israel. The United States has lost control of a large handful of nuclear weapons over the years, turns a blind eye to the question of Israel's nuclear capability, and may even use nuclear weapons in rogue operations.
Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan are all believed to have disbanded their nuclear weapons programs, as mentioned already above.
Now let's have a look at the other members of the nuclear club to see how they measure up.
South Africa ... is actually now a former member. They are the first and only nation to ever willingly abandon an indigenous nuclear weapons production program and dismantle their capability. Though it is suspected that there were negotiations to purchase nuclear-tipped Jericho missiles from Israel, none were ever delivered. South Africa did however, manufacture six to eight of their own nuclear weapons before dismantling them and their program in the early 1990's. South Africa and Israel are believed to have conducted a joint detonation test in 1974, at sea between Africa and Antarctica.Proliferation from South Africa is no longer a reality.
China ... initiated their atomic research with the assistance of the Soviet Union in the 1950's, but by the 1960's their relations had cooled to the point that Moscow withdrew from agreements to advance China's quest for The Bomb. Nevertheless, China detonated their first nuclear device in October of 1964. Though many estimates put their warhead count near 2000, other sources believe that China only maintains a working arsenal of about 200 nuclear weapons.
It is important to note that China is the only one of five "Nuclear Weapon States" who ratified the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons with an assurance that it would never, under any circumstances, use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state.
Statement on Security Assurances by the People's Republic of China
North Korea ... is believed to be the newest member of the nuclear club after detonating a device of less than one-kiloton yield. A second nuclear test may have been conducted in 2009, with a 10-20 kiloton yield. While the layman might assume that China supported their Communist neighbor in their nuclear endeavors, the facts do not seem to bear out that. North Korea's first reactor came from the Soviet Union in the 1960's, after China rejected assistance requests. In fact, most Communist countries of the era refused to help advance North Korea's nuclear ambitions for fear that they would share nuclear technology with China, in a bit of an ironic twist. This probably accounts for the DPRK's late entry into the game at high cost domestically in energy and human suffering. For the most part, it can be seen that their nuclear capability has been a long, hard endeavor with only tidbits of resources fed to them from the outside world beyond their closed society. Considering this, and considering the limited number of weapons at hand, it is unlikely that North Korea would be a genuine proliferator of nuclear weapons at any time in the near future or recent past. Some suspect that North Korea shared technology with Syria.
India ... began their program in the 1950's with some assistance from Canada, the United States, and later West Germany. Their fist nuclear detonation was achieved in 1974, and they command a vast indigenous technological network to support not only the construction of weapons, but delivery systems as well. Though some examinations reveal a capability to have produced enough raw material to create more than a thousand warheads, actual weaponry is blieved to only be about 30 to 100 weapons. This discrepancy may be a testament to their restraint, and limited goals of deterrence.
Their policy is such that they intend only a retaliatory use, but at the same time cultivate a first-strike capability in their planning. Nuclear tests in the late 1990's drew rebuke from some nations of the international community who imposed limited sanctions. India is one of three nations on the planet (including Israel and Pakistan) to refuse the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Though a bit wily on the international diplomacy scene, India seems to be a stable and responsible nuclear power with no ambitions to proliferate nuclear weapons. They support international measures to reduce, or even eliminate nuclear weapons in the world, and submit to some regulatory oversight. Their rejection of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is largely viewed as a rejection of nuclear monopoly by the "Big Five" rather than the tenets of peace put forth in the treaty itself.
Pakistan ... is a fairly late-comer to the nuclear roundtable. Their program was begun in 1972. In 1998, just after India's test that had drawn rebuke from the international community, Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices, one of which was claimed to be in the range of 40-kilotons. Their weapons program is largely viewed as a response to protect against their chief rival, India. China has been the primary supplier of technology and supplies for their program, but they have also received aid from the former Soviet Union, as well as France and other Western nations.
Pakistan is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They do not maintain a "no first use" policy. particularly in regards to India, whom Pakistan's former President warned, "If your forces cross our borders by an inch, we are going to annihilate your cities." If India's substantially larger conventional forces were to overwhelm Pakistan, it would likely trigger nuclear war. Pakistan and India have been rivals since their modern inception as independent nations, and continually fight for control of Kashmir.
The security of Pakistan's weapons have been of particular concern to the United States since 2001. While Pakistan maintains that their nuclear security is the best in the world, the US fears Muslim radicals might seize nuclear weapons to be used in a terrorist attack. With upsets within Pakistan's intelligence service, the possible influence of radicals within the legitimate government is also cause for concern. The US maintains a Special Operations Force prepared to "snatch and grab" Pakistan's nukes should the need arise. These so-called "snatch squads" were put on high alert after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
Pakistan continues to expand their arsenal at the same time relations with the United States deteriorate.
Iraq ... began their nuclear technology program with a Soviet-supplied reactor in 1962. A secret nuclear weapons plan was approved by the Revolutionary Council in 1972, despite the fact that they were sworn not to pursue such weapons as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The plan was specifically aimed at pursuit under the guise of a civilian-use-only research and energy program. Iraq was successful in penetrating spies into the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to maintain the charade. Despite those successes though, Saddam Hussein, now rising to prominence in the government, openly declared Iraq's intent to be the first Arab state to pursue nuclear weapons in order to counterbalance Israel's (secret) arsenal. He made this known in an Arab language newspaper in Beirut, while on his way to finalize a deal with France for the Osirak reactor, in an appeal for international assistance for Iraq's program.
Even after Hussein ascended to the Presidency in 1979, Iraq's nuclear program was still being carried out as ostensibly a civilian program with regular oversight by the international community. His own oppressive methods actually stalled the program though, as brilliant physicists were not drawn to work under the violent dictator, who even had some of his lead scientists imprisoned for essentially not delivering nuclear bombs fast enough. The war between Iraq and Iran also drew heavily on resources that might have otherwise been directed to the program.
During that war, and at the behest of Israel, Iran launched an airstrike against the Osirak facility. The damage was repaired, but the plant had still never been operational by the time it was destroyed by Israel. That attack was largely seen as having been motivated by Israel's own internal politics and upcoming elections, rather than any immediate threat by Iraq. While Israel claimed that bombs were being produced there. the reactor had not yet gone online, and a weapon system was probably not possible for another decade or more.
What advances Iraq was able to make in order to recover from the loss of the Osirak facility are debatable, but a general consensus is that Iraq was still 3-5 years away from building a nuclear weapon when they invaded Kuwait in 1990. Whatever their program was, it was reduced to rubble in Operation Desert Storm, when Iraq was ejected from Kuwait and pummeled by a US-led coalition. Under harsh embargos, no-flight zones and routine inspections by international agencies, it would have been virtually impossible to restart their quest for nuclear weapons, despite US claims to the contrary as an excuse to conquer Iraq outright more than a decade later.
A prime example of American subterfuge is the Valerie Plame affair, in which the deep-cover CIA officer tasked with preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, had her cover blown by the White House as retribution against her husband Joseph C. Wilson. On a mission to Niger, the former ambassador had found that there had been no sale of yellow-cake uranium to Iraq, which was claimed by the White House as being a primary cause for the invasion of Iraq, and he stated this publicly in a newspaper column.
Iraq now seeks compensation from Israel for the destruction of the Osirak facility. In 2010, nuclear weapons sanctions were lifted, allowing Iraq to pursue nuclear technology once again.
Iran ... began their nuclear technology program in the 1950's with help from the United States. Western assistance continued right up through the revolution of 1979. With help from Russia, their first nuclear power plant was opened in September of 2011.
Iran's public position is that their program is for civilian use only, but admit that they are trying to accomplish a completely indigenous nuclear fuel cycle. They have allowed IAEA inspections since 1992. Their need for nuclear independence, in the face of international pressure and sanctions, appears to have a large degree of legitimacy, as does their claim that sanctions against them are illegal and without standing. In most cases, when a nation submits to international regulations and inspections, they will receive technology and resources in exchange. (Civilian use programs may include power plants, medical research, and industry.) This has not been the case with Iran, because of pressure from the United States, in particular, as well as Israel.
For example, a nation may need enriched uranium in order to operate a civilian-use nuclear reactor. Many nations will have the enriched uranium imported, under inspection, in order to keep their reactor operational. But if an embargo is placed on the nation, and the nuclear fuel supply ceases, so will the operation of the reactor. This would then lead such a nation to pursue a domestic program for uranium enrichment, which is seen as a "dual-purpose" technology, even if it is not the intention to create weapons. A lower grade enrichment is all that is necessary for the fuel to operate a reactor, while a high grade of enrichment is needed for weapons, but the same facility could produce both theoretically. In Iran's case, their enrichment program has been open to IAEA inspectors in order to quell fears of weapons-grade enrichment, but Western embargoes and other interference have led Iran to become less and less cooperative with international regulators, leaving us in the precarious position of severe distrust we have today.
That distrust goes back as far as the 1979 revolution in Iran, where the US-backed government was toppled in favor of the Islamic theocracy which rules today. It may have been unwise to make an enemy of the United States, but America has a long history of having a short memory. Friends today, enemies tomorrow, and visa versa. But that was not the only point of distrust. For the Muslim students who had toppled the American-backed dictator, they were suddenly keenly aware of the duality and hypocrisy of the Western world when it comes to nuclear weapons. Documents they found floating amid the chaos in Tehran showed overtures by the Shah toward Israel, to get involved in their nuclear weapons program. Iran has known all along about Israel's secret nukes. While the world condemns one theocracy for even pursuing any nuclear science at all, they support another that maintains a full renegade arsenal of apocalyptic weapons.
Syria ... is believed to have begun a nuclear technology program in 1979, but progress has been difficult for them and the program has only been rudimentary. As a signatory of the Nonproliferation Treaty all of their research and development was said to be for civilian use only and no substantive evidence of a weapons program has ever been made public. Syria has repeatedly tried to purchase a small research reactor from various countries, legally and under full oversight, but each contract was cancelled under pressure from the United States and Western powers. This may have forced Syria to resort to more secretive methods in order to advance their science. It appears that Syria may have finally gotten a small reactor from North Korea and this time chose not to disclose the deal publicly. That reactor appears to have been the target of an Israeli airstrike in September of 2007, in the above-mentioned Operation Orchard. This "damned if you do, damned if you don't" principle has only become more clear now as Western powers move to topple Syria, even though their nuclear program is virtually non-existent at this point
Other nations with nuclear power
Where we stand now
Western governments portray a popular uprising now in Syria as being the natural will of the people there yearning for democracy, but the facts do not bear out this propaganda. The insurgents battling government troops in Syria are largely foreign-born al-Qaeda fighters, mercenaries and terrorists, secretly supplied with armament by Western powers. In essence, we see a proxy war unfolding now, directly managed by NATO Special Forces units who have been deployed inside Syria. Meanwhile, Russia continues to supply weapons to the Assad government, as they have done by contract for years as an ally. As tensions continue to rise, Russia is about to get underway now with a naval task force bound for Syria.
With Russian forces on one side supporting the legitimate government in Syria, and Western forces on the ground directing the insurgency, the explosive potential for world war now exists. Which of course also sharply increases the chances of nuclear weapons being used, either directly, or covertly perhaps as part of a false-flag operation. Keep in mind too, that it also appears an Israeli ballistic missile submarine is being injected into this precarious strategic environment. What we see happen in the next few months could indeed reach Biblical proportions of disaster and human suffering.