Was Japan building a nuclear bomb? Notebooks uncovered in Kyoto show how far wartime scientists had got | South China Morning Post

The notebooks are dated October and November 1944 and were apparently the findings of Sakae Shimizu, a researcher who worked for Bunsaku Arakatsu, known as the foremost nuclear scientist in Japan in the 1940s.

Arakutsu had studied in Cambridge and under Einstein at Berlin University and in 1943 was tasked with achieving the separation of Uranium-235 with centrifuges. The research was given the code-name F-Go Project.

Due to a chronic shortage of raw materials, progress on the project, as well as a parallel scheme by the army, was slow. It was also disrupted by air raids on Japan as the war wore on, although the Allies were not apparently aware of the nuclear programmes and did not target the research centres.

In April 1945, the army’s project was abandoned when the research facility in Tokyo was badly damaged in air raids.

Had the weapon been perfected before Japan’s surrender, however, there is little likelihood a desperate government in Tokyo would not have used it against its enemies, given the chance.

Was Japan building a nuclear bomb? Notebooks uncovered in Kyoto show how far wartime scientists had got | South China Morning Post

Russia: rattling sabres or preparing for war?

‘In addition to these “conventional” military maneuvers, David Blair in the Daily Telegraph writes that “the Kremlin is willing to use nuclear weapons. Last year Russian jets simulated a nuclear attack on Bornholm, Denmark.”’

From March 2014 to March 2015 there were 39 well-documented military provocations by Russia’s military forces. Since then the Russians have conducted massive military maneuvers in the Artic in March (80,000 men and hundreds of combat aircraft); surprise maneuvers in the Black Sea (12,000 soldiers, 250 combat aircraft); military maneuvers all along NATO member-Russian borders; and  a 33,000-man exercise in Northern Russia involving the entire Russian Baltic fleet of more than 50 ships.

This latest “exercise,” according to a recent Centre for European Policy Analysis study entitled “Baltic Sea Security: The Coming Storm,” states that the 33,000-man maneuvers were a rehearsal of the invasions of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Two of those countries aren’t even in NATO — Independents Finland and Sweden.

The Russians practiced taking islands similar to those found near these four countries so that Russia could control the Baltic Sea shipping lanes and stop reinforcements from aiding the invasions and occupation of the Baltic, NATO countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In addition to these “conventional” military maneuvers, David Blair in the Daily Telegraph writes that “the Kremlin is willing to use nuclear weapons. Last year Russian jets simulated a nuclear attack on Bornholm, Denmark.” That is a big difference in the old Cold War “Mutual Assured Destruction“ strategy. I guess you could say this new Russian military strategy could be called “ Nuke First.”

Russia: rattling sabres or preparing for war? – Quad-Cities Online: Viewpoints

Yerevan Shows Fragility of Post-Soviet Regimes | Opinion | The Moscow Times

Armenia is Russia’s main ally in the Caucasus and, at the same time, one of the poorest countries of the world. The mass protests that broke out in Yerevan a few days ago could become a serious test for the regime of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan as well as a test of the strength of Russia’s position among the former Soviet republics.

Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, member states of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community, all have authoritarian political systems, unstable economies, strong monopolies and widespread corruption. They also lack the means for achieving a peaceful transfer of power.

As a result, each of those ruling regimes is vulnerable and Moscow knows that the collapse of just one of them could destabilize the entire region and strip Russia of its influence over that particular country.

Yerevan Shows Fragility of Post-Soviet Regimes | Opinion | The Moscow Times

Jupiter Venus Conjunction June 30, 2015 – Stellarium – YouTube

We’re back in Stellarium to give a preview to tonight’s planetary conjunction between Jupiter and Venus in the Western skies just after sunset. The planet’s will appear just 0.33-degrees apart in the sky and to the naked eye resemble a close double-star. Through binoculars or telescope you could make out the crescent phase of Venus and Jupiter’s moons.

Stellarium planetarium software: http://www.stellarium.org/

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Jupiter Venus Conjunction June 30, 2015 – Stellarium – YouTube

Stellarium

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.

It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.

Stellarium

In order to avoid another war in Asia, we need to visualize it.

“If the parallel for today is the period before World War I, as Henry Kissinger worries, …”

The risk is obvious: The once unthinkable is more thinkable by the day, a brewing Cold War between great powers, one that could even turn hot. The Pacific Ocean covers nearly a third of the Earth’s surface, making it a large canvas on which to paint a picture of the digital age’s first war between great powers. The potential locales could be the Taiwan Strait or an artificial islet in the South China Sea created by Chinese military construction teams. Or the spark for such a conflict may come halfway around the world, driven by China’s growing presence in strategically vital areas like the Middle East or Africa’s resource regions. If the parallel for today is the period before World War I, as Henry Kissinger worries, remember that there were numerous crises and standoffs between Great Britain, France, and Germany before 1914, with friction points from South Africa to Algeria to the Pacific. Yet it was an assassination in Sarajevo, at the other end of Europe from Berlin and London, which led both the world’s leaders and their publics to see logic in a war they once thought impossible in an age of globalization and progress.

Weapons of the Next War | The Diplomat

Putin Allies Aided Russian Mafia in Spain, Prosecutors Say – Bloomberg Business

Some of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, including the chairman of OAO Gazprom, a deputy premier and two former ministers, helped one of Russia’s largest criminal groups operate out of Spain for more than a decade, prosecutors in Madrid say.

Members of St. Petersburg’s Tambov crime syndicate moved into Spain in 1996, when Putin was deputy mayor of the former czarist capital, to launder proceeds from their illicit activities, Juan Carrau and Jose Grinda wrote in a petition to the Central Court on May 29, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

The 488-page complaint, the product of a decade of investigations into the spread of Russian organized crime during the Putin era, portrays links between the criminal enterprise and top law-enforcement officials and policy makers in Moscow. The petition, based on thousands of wiretaps, bank transfers and property transactions, is a formal request to charge 27 people with money laundering, fraud and other crimes. Approval by a judge would clear the way for a trial, but Spain doesn’t try people in absentia.

Putin Allies Aided Russian Mafia in Spain, Prosecutors Say – Bloomberg Business

Russia: From MAD to Nuclear Coercion

“In short, Russia’s strategy is now one of nuclear coercion, not stable mutual deterrence.”

Instead, Russian president Vladimir Putin has taken a page from Nazi Germany’s playbook of the 1930s and early 1940s. He claims responsibility for ethnic Russian minorities in neighboring countries. We saw this gambit in Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008, in the military occupation of Crimea in 2014, and in its ongoing military operations in Eastern Ukraine. “Ethnic cleansing” and “Russification” of key areas have followed some of these military operations. But Putin has what Hitler lacked: nuclear weapons. With these, he attempts to pressure neighboring states to timidly accept Moscow’s desires, including the redrawing of European borders and “Russification.” Russia now wields nuclear weapons and threats not only to protect its territory but also to intimidate and coerce its neighbors into submission. Moscow’s crude nuclear threats to its neighbors, including American allies, vividly demonstrate its aggressive nuclear strategy. Those threats are intended to stoke such fear in the U.S. and its allies that all will hesitate to respond strongly to Russian military aggression. For Putin, the fruits of this grand strategy include approval ratings within Russia that are the envy of the world: 89 percent.

In short, Russia’s strategy is now one of nuclear coercion, not stable mutual deterrence. How far Putin will push this strategy remains an open question, but recent history does not suggest a comforting answer. As Secretary of Defense Ash Carter observed in a speech to American allies this month: “Moscow’s nuclear sabre-rattling raises questions about Russia’s commitment to strategic stability and causes us . . . to wonder whether . . . they share the profound caution . . . that world leaders in the nuclear age have shown over decades to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.” Precisely so, which is why Russia’s nuclear policies are now so dangerous.

Russia Uses Nukes to Coerce and Threaten Its Neighbors | National Review Online

“In short, Russia’s strategy is now one of nuclear coercion, not stable mutual deterrence.”

MAD is out and nuclear coercion is in. What is the path to nuclear war? One thing is clear. Any movement away from MAD is a really bad sign. It is one big step toward nuclear war.

Mutually assured destruction (MAD) could be susceptible to change when one side thinks the destruction part is manageable. For example, if the level of nuclear weapons is reduced low enough that a preemptive strike would leave one side with only the ability to launch one counter-strike. One side launches a preemptive nuclear strike and many people have time to enter fallout shelters. The other side is caught off-guard, the people are not in fallout shelters and there is nothing left after one counter-strike.

The problem here is based on the low level of nuclear weapons held by both sides. It is destabilizing. The side initiating an attack has a huge advantage.

Expectations About the Future

What if Russia thinks it is headed for conflict or war anyway? Should a conflict occur then it might rapidly escalate into a nuclear war. What if the US manages to initiate a preemptive strike?

What if Russian leaders are really worried about the possibility of coup or revolution? Maybe a war wouldn’t be so bad for the leaders. It would be better than death – for the leaders.

As Russia Makes Moves in the Arctic, Some Finns Fear a Red Army from Within

Like most of his friends in Finland, Vadim works, likes heavy metal and has completed his military service. What sets him apart from most of his peers, however, is his citizenship status: He’s both Russian and Finnish. Since Finland passed a law permitting dual citizenship 12 years ago, more than 24,000 Russians have acquired Finnish passports and kept their Russian ones. Hundreds are required to serve in both militaries, but these days, few want to talk about it. (Vadim, like others interviewed for this story, asked me not to use his real name.) In recent years, some Finnish lawmakers and military officials have grown wary of dual citizens serving in the military. And the country’s citizenship law, once popular, has become controversial.

“We thought that granting citizenship was an easy step,” says Markku Kivinen, a professor of sociology and director of the Finnish Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Helsinki. “But it’s not.”

As Russia Makes Moves in the Arctic, Some Finns Fear a Red Army from Within

Russia’s Top Brass Preparing to Battle Dissent (Op-Ed) | Opinion | The Moscow Times

All of this points to an amazing paradox. On one hand, the vast majority of Russians respect Putin. On the other hand, the Kremlin is preparing both ideologically and physically to use force against the population. The Russian authorities’ deep contempt for the people is the only way to explain this phenomenon.

The Kremlin is convinced that the Russian masses are easily manipulated into holding this or that view of their leaders: today Kremlin spin doctors convince them to love Putin, tomorrow the West brainwashes them into hating him. And that is why Russian intelligence agencies and the military are preparing for the violent suppression of civil protests.

Russia’s Top Brass Preparing to Battle Dissent (Op-Ed) | Opinion | The Moscow Times

Most Russians fear imminent war with the West, but Putin’s popularity has reached record high

More than half of Russians fear war with the West in the near future, according to the findings of an independent poll within the country. Despite this, President Putin’s approval rating has reached an all-time high.

The findings come from two recent polls by the Levada Centre in Moscow, as reported by The Times. One poll gave the president an approval rating of 89% – an all-time high which appears to reflect his hard-line stance against the West. The other indicated that 55% of Russians are either “afraid” or “very afraid” of “the possibility of war between Russian and western countries”.

Most Russians fear imminent war with the West, but Putin’s popularity has reached record high

Related articles:
How World War III became possible: A nuclear conflict with Russia is likelier than you think – Vox
How a crisis in Estonia could lead to World War III: A flowchart – Vox

Monitoring emerging risks.