The Global Peace Index 2016 reported that there are only 10 countries in the world which are actually free from conflict (Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam). This is worse than at any time in the last ten years. In some countries the conflict is the threat of terrorism and acts of terrorism. The troubles in the Middle East, the huge refugee crisis and terrorism mean that 2016 is less peaceful than 2015 and considerably less than 2008. Political instability has worsened in 39 countries from 2015 to 2016.
Terrorism is, of course, a serious threat. But nuclear terrorism is a huge threat. The Luxemburg Forum for Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe met on June 7th-8th 2016 and warned that ISIS is actively trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moshe Kantor, head of the Forum, said: “ISIS has already carried out numerous chemical attacks in Syria. We know it wants to go further by carrying out a nuclear attack in the heart of Europe. This, combined with poor levels of security at a host of nuclear research centres in the former Soviet Union, mean the threat of a possible ‘dirty-bomb’ attack on a Western capital is high.” The Brussels suicide bomber brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui had originally planned an attack on a nuclear site in Belgium and filmed the routine of the head of the country’s nuclear research and development programme. Isis member Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris terrorist attack, also had nuclear files stashed in his flat
Former MP Des Browne, said at the Forum: “It isn’t that hard to build a ‘dirty bomb.’ They may not kill that many people with such a bomb, but the effect on the environment, the infrastructure and the psychological impact on people would be devastating. They can also use cyber warfare to target a nuclear facility.”
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists comments on what nuclear terrorism really means. It says it would be difficult for terrorists to acquire and detonate a nuclear bomb. But they could “set off a ‘dirty bomb,’ a weapon made of radioactive material attached to conventional explosives, sometimes referred to as a radiological dispersal device or RDD. Executing this scenario would be so easy that many experts are surprised it hasn’t happened already.” Alternatively, they could sabotage a nuclear facility.
The Bulletin points out that there are thousands of sites in over 100 countries which contain the sort of material required for a ‘dirty bomb.’ The International Atomic Energy Agency reports 2,734 incidents of radioactive material being lost, stolen etc., between 1993 and 2014.
Between 2010 and 2015 the FBI foiled plots by five criminal gangs to sell nuclear material to ISIS. The problem is that some of Russia’s huge store of radioactive materials have reached the black market. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who helped develop Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, confessed in 2004 that his network had sold nuclear know-how on the black market to states such as North Korea and Iran. In 2015, India’s defence minister warned that Isis could obtain a nuclear weapon from “states like Pakistan.” Isis has also claimed it could buy its first nuclear weapon but that is unlikely.
President Obama warned of the danger of a terrorist nuclear attack. At a nuclear security summit in April 2016, he said: “Just the smallest amount of plutonium – about the size of an apple – could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It would be a humanitarian, political, economic and environmental catastrophe with global ramifications for decades. It would change our world. So we cannot be complacent. We have to build on our progress.”
The UK Office for Nuclear Regulations said in March 2016: “The threat of terrorism in the nuclear sector will continue to be managed proportionately and effectively through national and international capabilities. The capabilities of potential adversaries to operate in cyberspace will continue to grow.”
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that there are some 15,850 nuclear warheads spread between nine nations: Russia (7,500), USA (7,200), France (300), China (250), UK (215), Pakistan (100-120), India (90-110), Israel (80) and N Korea (less than 10). China, France, Russia and the UK are either developing or deploying new weapon systems. Obviously, an extremist state like N Korea is a real danger as it develops nuclear weapons.
Moshe Ya’alon, who was the Israeli Defence Minister, said: “We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb.” He did not provide evidence but it is well-known that Israel spies on the military activities of Islamic countries.
There are tensions between China and the US. The US has hypersonic glide missiles capable of hitting China in less than an hour. China is prepared to send submarines armed with nuclear weapons into the Pacific for the first time.
Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Non Proliferation Programme commented that there is a danger of the two sides fatally misunderstanding each other’s intentions.
China has also deployed surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
In May 2016 General Sir Richard Shirreff, who was NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe between 2011 and 2014, said that an attack on Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia – all NATO members – was a serious possibility and that the West should act now to avert “potential catastrophe”. He warned of the danger of nuclear war and pointed out that Russia had invaded Crimea, Georgia and the Ukraine.
N Korea has recently threatened China with a “nuclear storm” because of its involvement in UN sanctions against N Korea. It also threatens the US but could probably not currently launch a successful attack. The problem is that N Korea is constantly trying to upgrade its nuclear capabilities.
Jesus predicted “wars and rumours of wars” but these are not signs of the End. Rather they are “Birth pangs of the Messiah” – reminders that he is coming back (See https://christianteaching.org.uk/blog/eschatology/birth-pangs-of-the-messiah/).
Pray that the Lord will have mercy and protect the world from nuclear attack.