Friday, February 2

Photo: Reuters/ Sergei Karpukhin


US review calls for more nuclear weapons

Photo: Reuters/ Sergei Karpukhin

The role of atomic weapons under President Trump will be codified when the Pentagon releases its ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ today.

The release is expected to align closely with an earlier leaked draft from January, which calls for an expansion of the ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapon arsenal—bombs with destructive power ranging from a large crater to those used during World War Two.

Citing threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the review suggests that low-yield weapons act as a more credible deterrence by providing a relatively less destructive rung on the escalation ladder.

The report outlines an expansion of circumstances acceptable for the deployment of nuclear weapons, which notably includes “massive” cyber-attacks that destroy US infrastructure or lives; this is likely aimed at curtailing the increasingly bold cyber warfare programs of Russia, China and North Korea

The review threatens to undermine New START, the US-Russia treaty aimed at reducing their respective nuclear arsenals. Due to expire in 2021, Trump has flip-flopped on his support for the agreement. Combined with today’s review, the likelihood of renewal is shrinking and threatens a short-term nuclear weapons build-up.

Delve Deeper: The future of Russia-NATO confrontations in cyberspace


Secretary of State embarks on Latin America trip

Photo: Reuters

Rex Tillerson will kick off a week-long trip to Latin America by meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City today; he will then visit Argentina, Peru and Colombia, before heading home via Jamaica.

The focus of the SoS’ trip will be the growing crisis in Venezuela, as all of his hosts are members of the Lima Group, a Latin American collective designed to coordinate a response to the political and economic turmoil in the Bolivarian country.

Throughout his trip, Tillerson is expected to rally support for Washington’s use of sanctions to force democratic change in Venezuela—a strategy that contrasts the Lima Group’s attempt to foster political dialogue.

With severe food and medicine shortages and inflation expected to hit 13,000% this year, it is the Venezuelan people that suffer most from the sanctions; indeed, Nicolas Maduro has continued to strengthen his grip on power despite the country’s economic crisis. As such, the Lima Group will likely stay the diplomatic course, despite Tillerson’s appeal.


Breakthrough in German coalition talks but SPD faces divisive vote

Photo: Reuters/ Fabrizio Bensch

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schultz are expected to announce “concrete results” towards a governing deal today. However, Schultz will need to first clear it with his 450,000 party members in a vote that promises to be closely fought.

Though Schultz won a major concession from the Christian Democrats, a migrant reunification policy that allows entry to 1000 family members of refugees per month, his party remains split on forming a coalition.

The SPD’s youth activist wing, JUSOS, has criticised the talks for not taking the refugee policy agreement farther and not addressing healthcare or tax reform. There has also been a noticeable increase in new membership applications, 600 in North-Rhine Westphalia and 300 in Berlin alone, instigated by JUSOS to induce a “no” vote.

Despite the SPD’s angst, negotiators will likely strike a deal. The looming SPD vote will likely help Schultz squeeze more concessions out of a weakened Merkel, whose only other option appears to be fresh elections, as they inch towards agreement.


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