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How The US’s Best Defense Against North Korean Nukes Could Spark A Nuclear War With Russia
The U.S. has spent at least $40 billion on a missile defense system intended to knock down or deter intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by North Korea, but actually using the system could lead to an accidental nuclear war with Russia, according to an expert.
Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, took to Twitter to detail how the U.S. could find itself exchanging nuclear salvos with Russia if it ever tried to shoot down an incoming North Korean ballistic missile.
The U.S.'s Missile Defense Agency, which operates the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile shield, told Business Insider in May that in the event of a real incoming threat, they would launch several interceptors to increase the chances of knocking out the missile.
Lewis pegs this figure at about four or five interceptors.
But only one interceptor missile could hit the threat. The others would continue streaking through the high atmosphere towards Russia and China.
The problem is that, in that moment, while U.S. missile defense forces are praying their interceptor hits North Korea's nuclear missile, they're also relying on Russia to be able to tell that the other interceptor missiles aren't a salvo of US nukes.
There's plenty of reason to believe Russia can't do that.
While North Korea, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and much of the world agree that North Korea's Hwasong-14 missile flew for about 37 minutes to a high point of about 1,800 miles, Russian intelligence assesses that the missile flew for just 14 minutes and reached a height of only 332 miles.
It is possible that Russia's public estimation was so different because it wanted to block UN condemnations and further sanctions on North Korea, by objecting to the consensus that the missile was an ICBM, as it already has.
It is also possible Russia legitimately thinks the missile was far short of an ICBM because their early warning system "stinks" as Lewis put it on Twitter.
For years, Russia has come out with assessments of North Korea's missile launches that wildly diverge from the global consensus. Unlike the U.S., which uses a mix of satellites and ground-based radars, Russia only uses radars to detect incoming launches.
The U.S.'s monitoring system provides the U.S. as much as 20-30 minutes to detect missile activity and to determine a response. Russia's system, meanwhile, provides only a few minutes for determining whether the streaks across its radar screens constitute unarmed interceptors or nuclear-armed ICBMs.
Russia's missile detection difficulties are well-documented. M. Elaine Bunn, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, wrote in 2004 that the US needed to consider how to notify Russia of interceptor missiles launches during a crisis given "the possibility for Russian misidentification of a GMD or Aegis interceptor launch."
However, since Bunn's suggestion in 2004, U.S. and Russian lines of communication and deconfliction have only suffered.
With little communication or cooperation between the U.S. and Russia about missile launches, Lewis warns that an attempt at intercepting a North Korean nuclear attack could spook the Russians so bad that they respond with a full-on nuclear attack that would leave much of the U.S. reduced to ashes.
More from Business Insider:
- A tiny detail from North Korea's missile launch points to an even more dangerous threat
- Here are all the missile tests conducted by North Korea since 1984
- Rex Tillerson still has a skeleton crew at the State Department to deal with North Korea
- The Navy just laid the keel for its latest attack submarine
- Coast Guard officials say they're struggling to keep up with the drugs flowing to the U.S.
Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.
The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.
Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.
It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.
More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.
Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.
The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.
NAS Pensacola shooter railed against the US and quoted Osama bin Laden online hours before the attack
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.
Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.
NAS Pensacola shooter reportedly hosted a 'dinner party' to watch mass shooting videos the week before the attack
The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the week before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.
The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.