Cooperation of U.S., Russian scientists helped avoid nuclear catastrophe at Cold War’s end, Stanford scholar says

BY CLIFTON B. PARKER, Stanford University

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the worry in the West was what would happen to that country’s thousands of nuclear weapons. Would “loose” nukes fall into the hands of terrorists, rogue states, criminals – and plunge the world into a nuclear nightmare?

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried Hecker recounts the epic story of how American and Russian scientists joined forces to avert some of the greatest post-Cold War nuclear dangers.

Fortunately, scientists and technical experts in both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union rolled up their sleeves to manage and contain the nuclear problem in the dissolving Communist country.

One of the leaders in this relationship was Stanford engineering professor Siegfried Hecker, who served as a director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory before coming to Stanford as a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. He is a world-renowned expert in plutonium science, global threat reduction and nuclear security.

Hecker cited one 1992 meeting with Russian scientists in Moscow who were clearly concerned about the risks. In his new book, Doomed to Cooperate: How American and Russian scientists joined forces to avert some of the greatest post-Cold War nuclear dangers, Hecker quoted one Russian expert as saying, “We now need to be concerned about terrorism.”

Earning both scientific and political trust was a key, said Hecker, also a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The Russians were proud of their scientific accomplishments and highly competent in the nuclear business – and they sought to show this to the Americans scientists, who became very confident in their Russian counterparts’ technical capabilities as they learned more about their nuclear complex and toured the labs.

Economic collapse, political turmoil

But the nuclear experts faced an immense problem. The Soviets had about 39,000 nuclear weapons in their country and in Eastern Europe and about 1.5 million kilograms of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (the fuel for nuclear bombs), Hecker said. Consider that the bomb that the U.S. dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in 1945 was only six kilograms of plutonium, he added. Meanwhile, the U.S. had about 25,000 nuclear weapons in the early 1990s.

Hecker and the rest of the Americans were deeply concerned about the one million-plus Russians who worked in nuclear facilities. Many faced severe financial pressure in an imploding society and thus constituted a huge potential security risk.

“The challenge that Russia faced with its economy collapsing was enormous,” he said in an interview.

The Russian scientists, Hecker said, were motivated to act responsibly because they realized the awful destruction that a single nuclear bomb could wreak. Hecker noted that one Russian scientist told him, “We arrived in the nuclear century all in one boat, and a movement by anyone will affect everyone.” Hecker noted, “Therefore, you know, we were doomed to work together to cooperate.”

All of this depended on the two governments involved easing nuclear tensions while allowing the scientists to collaborate. In short order, the scientists developed mutual respect and trust to address the loose nukes scenario.

The George H.W. Bush administration launched nuclear initiatives to put the Russian government at ease. For example, it took the nuclear weapons off U.S. Navy surface ships and some of its nuclear weapons off alert to allow the Russians to do the same. The U.S. Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction legislation, which helped fund some of the loose nuke containment efforts.

While those were positive measures, Hecker said, it was ultimately the cooperation among scientists, what they called lab-to-lab-cooperation, that allowed the two former superpower enemies to “get past the sensitivity barriers” and make “the world a safer place.”

Since the end of the Cold War, no significant nuclear event has occurred as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its nuclear complex, Hecker noted.

Lesson: cooperation counts

One lesson from it all, Hecker said, is that government policymakers need to understand that scientists and engineers can work together and make progress toward solving difficult, dangerous problems.

“We don’t want to lose the next generation from understanding what can actually be done by working together,” he said. “So, we want to demonstrate to them, Look, this is what was done when the scientists were interested and enthusiastic and when the government gave us enough room to be able to do that.”

Hecker said this scientific cooperation extended to several thousand scientists and engineers at the Russian sites and at U.S. nuclear labs – primarily the three defense labs: Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories. Many technical exchanges and visits between scientists in Russia and the United States took place.

He recalled visiting some of the nuclear sites in Russian cities shrouded by mystery. “These cities were so secret, they didn’t even appear on Soviet maps.”

Change of threat

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the nature of the nuclear threat changed, Hecker said. The threat before was one of mutual annihilation, but now the threat changed to what would happen if nuclear assets were lost, stolen or somehow evaded the control of the government.

“From an American perspective we referred to these as the ‘four loose nuclear dangers,’” he said.

This included securing the loose nukes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; preventing nuclear materials or bomb fuel from getting into the wrong hands; the human element involving the people who worked in the Soviet nuclear complex; and finally, the “loose exports” problem of someone trying to sell nuclear materials or technical components to overseas groups like terrorists or rogue nations.

For Hecker, this is not just an American story. It is about a selfless reconciliation with a longtime enemy for the greater global good, a relationship not corrupted by ideological or nationalistic differences, but one reflective of mutual interests of the highest order.
“The primary reason,” he said, “why we didn’t have a nuclear catastrophe was the Russian nuclear workers and the Russian nuclear officials. Their dedication, their professionalism, their patriotism for their country was so strong that it carried them through these times in the 1990s when they often didn’t get paid for six months at a time … The nuclear complex did its job through the most trying times. And it was a time when the U.S. government took crucial conciliatory measures with the new Russian Federation and gave us scientists the support to help make the world a safer place.”

Majority of Scots willing to leave UK

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the BBC that Holyrood could try to block the UK’s exit from the EU.
She was speaking following a referendum on Thursday which saw Britain vote by 52% to 48% to leave Europe.
However, in Scotland the picture was different with 62% backing Remain and 38% wanting to go.
SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said that « of course » she would ask MSPs to refuse to give their « legislative consent ».
Keep up with the latest news following the Brexit vote
Fear of populism haunts European press
Corbyn under pressure amid top team revolt
Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, insisted the Edinburgh parliament did not have the required authority to block Brexit.
In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme Ms Sturgeon was asked what the Scottish Parliament would do now.
Ms Sturgeon, whose party has 63 of the 129 Holyrood seats, said: « The issue you are talking about is would there have to be a legislative consent motion or motions for the legislation that extricates the UK from the European Union?
« Looking at it from a logical perspective, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be that requirement – I suspect that the UK government will take a very different view on that and we’ll have to see where that discussion ends up. »


Germany makes plans for a post-Brexit Britain and wants us to still trade with the EU


She is already making plans to keep business going with Britain just hours after it was announced Brits had voted for Brexit.

Boris Johnson has said there is no need to rush the process of leaving the EU but it looks like it needs us as work is already underway to draw up terms.

German business paper Handelsblatt reports Germany wants to offer us ‘associated partnership status’ with other European Union countries.

This is according to an eight-page document entitled “The German strategy regarding a Brexit”, where the finance ministry said it wanted “to offer constructive exit negotiations” with other EU members, and adds it expects the talks between Brussels and London to be difficult.

The precise terms of the “associated partnership status” will depend on the deal hammered out between Britain and the remaining EU members.

It would draw up a framework for co-operation between us and the European Union and could include political, trade, social, cultural and security links.

Germany’s strategy comes after Brussels chiefs demanded Britain get on with leaving the EU.

In a joint statement from Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and EU Council chief Donald Tusk, the PM was urged to invoke Article 50 – effectively Britain’s resignation letter – as soon as possible to kick-start talks over a departure.

They said: “This is an unprecedented situation but we are now united in our response.

“We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be.

“Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty.”

But in his resignation speech earlier today David Cameron signalled the UK would not be in a position to begin divorce negotiations until a new PM is in Downing Street this October.

Britain remains a member of the EU with all the rights – and obligations – until the process of negotiations over the terms of a departure is settled.

Invoking Article 50 begins a two-year period of talks to try and thrash out terms.

Earlier today European Parliament chief Martin Schulz threatened to hit Britain with “consequences” – to show other EU member states they should not follow the UK out of the door.

‘Brexit’ Opens Uncertain Chapter in Britain’s Storied History

By Steven Erlanger New York Times

LONDON — Asked to vote in or out, Britain has chosen decisively to cast off its 43-year-old membership in the European Union, leaving it to face a more complex question: What kind of nation will it be now?

Will Britain be the outward-looking, entrepreneurial, confident country that makes its independent way in the world, as the leaders of the Leave campaign insisted it could be?
Or will it retreat to become a Little England, nationalist and a touch xenophobic, responding to the voters that drove it to quit the European Union?

Even more important: Will it even hold together? With Scotland deeply pro-European, pressure will increase for another independence referendum that could bring an end to the United Kingdom.

Britain, a nation whose storied history has encompassed the birth of constitutional government, global empire, royal pageantry and heroic defense against fascism, is entering unknown territory.

The questions about its new path could remain unresolved for years. On Friday morning, at least, Britain remained a member of the European Union in full standing, just as it was 24 hours earlier.

But the impact of this plebiscite is likely to be profound and long-lasting, well beyond the immediate tumult in the financial markets, and the questions about Britain’s future will be answered against the backdrop of potential political, legal and economic upheaval.

A Conservative government with its first majority since 1992 has ripped itself apart on a global stage and is badly damaged. The main question on that front seems to be whether Prime Minister David Cameron and his top aide, George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, leave slowly or speedily. An early general election is not out of the question.

Once Britain begins the formal process of withdrawing from the European Union by exercising Article 50 of the treaty that governs membership in the bloc, it will trigger a two-year clock on negotiations, a period in which Britain — including millions of European citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the European Union — will be in limbo.

And if the British Treasury, the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund and the Institute for Fiscal Studies are to be believed, the British economy is in for a severe shock. The Treasury estimates that the British gross domestic product, representing the size of the economy, will fall by 3.5 percent, clobbering tax receipts; that half a million people will lose their jobs; and that housing prices (and thus personal wealth of homeowners) will fall by 10 percent.

Those estimates were criticized by the Leave campaign, including senior members of government, as unfounded fear mongering. Now Britain will find out how accurate they are.
This vote was a severe shock to Britain’s political class from voters who are angry, confused and deeply distrustful of elites.

The Labour Party joined Mr. Cameron in campaigning to stay in Europe, as did nearly all the other parties represented in Parliament, with the exception of the Democratic Unionists and the U.K. Independence Party, which was founded on a platform of leaving the European Union. Yet despite that solid wall of establishment voices — or perhaps because of them — Britain voted for a fundamental change in direction.

“The British political class should pay attention,” said Tony Travers, professor of government at the London School of Economics.

“There is a lot of disaffection with both main parties,” he said. In 1955, the Conservatives and Labour won 97.5 percent of the vote, but in last two elections, the two won only about 66 percent of the vote, he said.

Graphic | Repercussions of Britain’s Exit From the E.U. Investors, policy makers and countries face a messy breakup with vast financial, economic and political implications.

“Into that vacuum something else has to move, but what?” Mr. Travers asked. “The political class has to wonder how to appeal to those who increasingly feel left out of the system, how to stop large numbers of voters feeling cut out of economic change and success.”

The Conservative Party is already split between traditional establishment figures like Mr. Cameron and others who embraced the anti-elite, anti-immigration posture of the Leave campaign, most prominently the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and one of Mr. Cameron’s senior cabinet members, Michael Gove.

Pourquoi la BCE achète de la dette privée

Source: la croix(avec Afp)

1/Que fait la BCE sur les marchés ?

Le 10 mars 2016, la Banque centrale européenne (BCE) a annoncé qu’elle allait muscler son programme de rachat d’actifs, le quantitative easing. Dans ce cadre, l’institut monétaire a commencé à acheter, mercredi 8 juin, des obligations émises par des entreprises privées (sans préciser lesquelles), alors que jusqu’ici, il se contentait d’acquérir des titres de dette émis par les États, les collectivités locales et certains organismes parapublics.

Cette action représente un nouvel élément inédit de la panoplie de mesures qu’elle déploie depuis des mois pour faire repartir l’inflation, aux côtés d’achats de titres publics, de baisses de taux d’intérêt et de prêts géants aux banques.

Les obligations d’entreprises ne devraient représenter qu’une petite partie des 80 milliards d’euros déboursés par la BCE chaque mois. Beaucoup d’analystes misent sur un volume mensuel de 5 à 10 milliards d’euros – ceux de Commerzbank ont un pronostic de 3 à 5 milliards d’euros.

Seront concernés les titres des entreprises basées dans la zone euro, même si elles ont une maison mère en dehors. Les titres doivent avoir un niveau minimum de notation (au minimum, BBB-) décerné par au moins une des quatre grosses agences de notation.
Concrètement, la BCE va financer directement les grands groupes pharmaceutiques, des compagnies aériennes, des constructeurs automobiles, voire des assurances. Les sociétés françaises, plus enclines que d’autres en Europe à se financer sur le marché obligataire, sont en première ligne pour profiter de ces nouvelles largesses. En revanche, la BCE ne rachètera pas d’obligations émises par des banques.

2/Quels sont les effets attendus ?

L’objectif affiché est de faciliter le financement des entreprises, pour les inciter à investir. Reste à savoir si la cible sera atteinte. En effet, beaucoup de sociétés se contentent aujourd’hui d’émettre de la dette pour financer des acquisitions – en profitant des taux bas –, ou encore pour rembourser d’anciens crédits.

Autrement dit, il ne s’agit pas là de véritables investissements et de créations de richesses dans l’économie réelle. C’est ce que confirme Jack Allen, de Capital Economics, qui n’attend pas non plus « de réel effet sur l’investissement, et pas d’impact important sur la croissance et l’inflation en zone euro ».

L’idée de la BCE est aussi de permettre aux grands groupes de se financer plus facilement sur les marchés, et de libérer ainsi des marges de manœuvre bancaires en faveur des PME, qui sont davantage dépendantes des banques.

Certains économistes estiment néanmoins que l’action de la BCE aurait dû être plus franchement tournée vers les PME, par exemple en rachetant aux banques des prêts qu’elles ont déjà consentis à ces dernières, ou en apportant sa garantie à des demandes de prêts bancaires formulées par la BCE.

3/Quelles perspectives peut-on prévoir ?

L’annonce de la BCE le 10 mars avait été suivie d’une baisse marquée des taux aux entreprises, et les nouvelles émissions se sont succédé à un rythme soutenu, dont la plus grosse opération en euros de tous les temps par le brasseur AB Inbev (plus de 13 milliards d’euros). Et Sanofi a réussi à lever 1,8 milliard d’euros dans la foulée, quasiment à taux zéro.

Mais depuis, les taux sont quasiment revenus à la normale. Certains économistes estiment que la BCE ne s’en tiendra pas là et finira par annoncer des rachats d’actions, si la reprise en zone euro ne se confirme pas au deuxième trimestre.

La BCE communiquera pour la première fois le 18 juillet, puis à un rythme hebdomadaire, sur ses rachats d’obligations d’entreprises, mais sans révéler lesquelles elle a en portefeuille.

Soleil couchant

Soleil couchant, Théophile Gautier

Que c’est beau !

Victor HUGO

En passant sur le pont de la Tournelle, un soir,

Je me suis arrêté quelques instants pour voir

Le soleil se coucher derrière Notre-Dame.

Un nuage splendide à l’horizon de flamme,

Tel qu’un oiseau géant qui va prendre l’essor,

D’un bout du ciel à l’autre ouvrait ses ailes d’or,

– Et c’était des clartés à baisser la paupière.

Les tours au front orné de dentelles de pierre,

Le drapeau que le vent fouette, les minarets

Qui s’élèvent pareils aux sapins des forêts,

Les pignons tailladés que surmontent des anges

Aux corps roides et longs, aux figures étranges,

D’un fond clair ressortaient en noir ; l’Archevêché,

Comme au pied de sa mère un jeune enfant couché,

Se dessinait au pied de l’église, dont l’ombre

S’allongeait à l’entour mystérieuse et sombre.

– Plus loin, un rayon rouge allumait les carreaux

D’une maison du quai ;

 – l’air était doux ; les eaux

Se plaignaient contre l’arche à doux bruit, et la vague

De la vieille cité berçait l’image vague ;

Et moi, je regardais toujours, ne songeant pas

Que la nuit étoilée arrivait à grands pas.