Nuclear weapons

Is North Korea about to test another nuke?

North Korea’s spring has started with a bang. The United States and South Korea have staged their largest joint military exercises in five years, and Pyongyang’s rhetoric is becoming more aggressive. Kim Jong Un has warned that the US and South Korea would ‘plunge into despair’ for holding the drills, as he fired two missiles into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Kim’s regime has already fired more than 20 missiles this year, launching increasingly ambitious and sophisticated ballistic and cruise missiles. Earlier this week, North Korean state media proudly claimed that the regime had developed tactical nuclear weapons for the first time. Photographs showed Kim inspecting what looked like miniaturised nuclear warheads that

Is the SNP now pro-nuke?

At the rate he’s going, the SNP’s hawkish spokesperson on defence, the MP Stewart McDonald, will soon be talking about an independent Scotland having a weekly armed forces day where citizens don camouflage and wargame defending the nation. McDonald is tasked with making the SNP sound sensible when it comes to defence and western collective security. His latest manoeuvre appears to be to turn his party’s long-standing anti-nuclear weapons position on its head. This would move the SNP on from merely pretending it wants to be a part of Nato to credibly backing an independent Scotland’s membership of the alliance. When asked in an interview with the BBC if an

My childhood Cold War fears are back

On the day before my seventh birthday, which I spent at my grandma’s in Yorkshire, a young man named Raymond Jones walked into North End Music Stores in Liverpool and asked the guy behind the counter for a record on which an obscure local group called the Beatles provided the backing track for a song titled ‘My Bonnie’. The guy behind the counter was the shop’s manager and the son of its owner. His name was Brian Epstein, and as a restless budding entrepreneur he felt he should be alert to what was going on around him. Because of young Raymond’s evident enthusiasm, Brian made a note on a piece

What does it mean to go ‘full tonto’?

The wild one Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that Vladimir Putin had gone ‘full tonto’. The word tonto is used in Spanish for ‘stupid’ or ‘foolish’, but one of its suggested origins has a meaning which would perhaps go down better with Putin himself. Tonto was used by Apache Indians as a term for the Western Apaches – mean ‘wild ones’. It went on to become the name of a native-American character in the 1930s radio show The Lone Ranger – later a TV series. The colour of money What will sanctions on the Russian economy mean? Potential losses in US dollars: Largest Russian exports in 2019: Crude petroleum $123bn

What really went on at Britain’s Bikini Atoll?

Nearly a century ago, some Chinese water deer swam the River Ore to Orford Ness. They had escaped from the ornamental deer park at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire and, perhaps through ancestral homing instinct, headed as far east as possible without falling into the North Sea. They climbed unsteadily on to this strange shingle spit at the end of England and made it home, along with the gulls, thistles, wild poppies and the brown hares who, reportedly, are too burly to be airlifted by the Ness’s marsh harriers and barn owls. The pioneering deers’ descendants have borne witness since to many faces of human folly. From the first world war

The increasing cruelty of the North Korean regime

On a humid summer’s day in Singapore three years ago today, Donald Trump became the first incumbent US president to meet with his North Korean counterpart. For all of the summit’s theatre, Kim Jong-un’s pledge to ‘work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’ seems unlikely to be realised. Three years on, and the country shows little intention of either abandoning its nuclear ambitions or reforming Pyongyang. Instead, the regime has tightened its control over society, not least ideologically, after the failure of the Supreme Leader’s five-year economic plan. In 2018, the leadership assured North Koreans that the country had achieved its primary geopolitical aim of becoming a ‘fully-fledged nuclear

A nuclear crisis is closer than you think

It has long been widely accepted as orthodoxy that the world was saved from nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis because of the wisdom of John F. Kennedy and the diplomatic backchannel his aides had with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. But this is only half true. The Soviet sources that have emerged since the end of the Cold War as well as recently declassified KGB archives suggest that, more than anything, we were saved from nuclear annihilation by sheer luck. In the late hours of 27 October 1962, the crucial day of the crisis, American ships targeted a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine with practice depth charges, forcing it to surface.

The West’s shameful Iranian capitulation

On a sweltering day in July 2018, German police pulled over a scarlet Ford S-Max hire car that was travelling at speed towards Austria. The driver, Assadollah Assadi, the third secretary to the Iranian embassy in Vienna, was arrested at gunpoint and taken into custody. Although unusual, there was a good reason for detaining the diplomat: Assadi had used his immunity to smuggle a bomb on a commercial airliner from Tehran to Austria, intending to carry out what would have been one of Europe’s worst atrocities in recent years. Once in Vienna, he had handed the device — codenamed the ‘Playstation’ — to two married Belgian-Iranian agents, Amir Saadouni and

The quick-witted Russian who saved millions of lives

Spectator contributors were asked: Which moment from history seems most significant or interesting? Here is Dominic Cummings’s answer: In the early morning of 26 September 1983, Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Union’s Air Defence Force was on duty, monitoring his country’s satellite system, when the siren sounded. His computer indicated that the US had just launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, and protocol required him to notify superiors immediately. Soviet strategy was to ‘launch on warning’, and many in Moscow believed Ronald Reagan was planning a first strike.  But Petrov had a gut feeling this was a false alarm. Five missiles seemed too few, and the system itself was new.