The New Nuclear Peril: Russia, North Korea and Iran

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Russia, North Korea and Iran

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The New Nuclear Peril: Russia, North Korea and Iran

MP3 Audio (43.74 MB)

On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union successfully detonated its first atomic bomb at a remote experimental site in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (today’s Kazakhstan). This came as a shock to many U.S. officials, who didn’t think the Soviets could develop atomic weapons capability so soon after World War II.

Following that episode and throughout much of the 1950s and 60s, the fear of a Soviet nuclear attack against America and its allies was profound. During that time many experts believed that the immediate danger from a nuclear blast would come as a result of its intense heat and from debris and glass flying through the air. Consequently, civil defense “duck and cover” safety drills were conducted by schools and communities across the United States.

As a pupil in elementary school during that time, I participated in those exercises. My schoolmates and I were taught that if we saw the flash of a nuclear fireball, we should duck down under our desks and cover our heads with our hands. After the shock wave, we were to move immediately to the school’s basement cafeteria, which also served as a fallout shelter for ostensible protection from exposure to nuclear radiation.

Although such civil defense drills are a thing of the past, the threat posed by nuclear weapons remains very real. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, thousands of nuclear weapons remained in Russia’s possession. Today, besides the United States and Russia, seven other countries possess nuclear arsenals—China, France, India, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and North Korea.

For decades the greatest danger to America and its allies was Russia, but now North Korea seems to have taken that position due to its unpredictability and open threats to use nukes against the United States. Plus, Iran will almost certainly pose a nuclear peril to the world within several years. To understand this overall problem, let’s examine the sobering security situations these nations present.

Nuclear weapons threat: Russia

Today most Americans think very little about nuclear weapons. However, this powerful, deadly technology matters a great deal to the Russian people and their leaders. Russia relies on its nuclear arsenal as a source of national pride, being one of the last vestiges of its former superpower status. According to the Federation of American Scientists, which calculates nuclear weapon stockpiles, the Russian Federation currently possesses more than 4,300 operational warheads.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not averse to using his country’s nuclear capability to pressure and threaten his adversaries. For example, to express dissatisfaction with perceived NATO incursions into a portion of Russia’s “neighborhood” (former Soviet bloc countries along its western border in the Baltic Sea region), Putin used his nation’s mobile nuclear missile launchers to project power.

This occurred in October 2016 when he ordered nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles to be placed in Kaliningrad, a Russian province between the NATO states of Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. Putin’s action prompted an anxious response from those nations and others in the region.

Putin said at the time, “We must take counter-measures, that is, strike with our missile systems the targets that in our opinion begin to threaten us” (quoted by Nicole Stinson, “Vladimir Putin Moves Nuke-Capable Missiles Closer to Europe in Latest Move Against NATO,” Daily Star, Nov. 22, 2016).

Besides its moves in the Baltic region, Russia has flexed its muscles in other ways, such as its annexation of Crimea in 2014, its overt support of Russian-separatist forces in eastern Ukraine beginning that same year, and its military ground and air operational support (beginning in September 2015) of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared North Korea’s push to acquire nuclear-armed missiles a “clear and present danger” and an “urgent military threat.”

Russia’s confrontational approach to the United States and its allies has taken an even more troublesome turn with its efforts to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile system. Putin’s action was in response to perceived threats related to NATO’s missile defense system, which became operational in Europe in July 2016.

Newsweek recently reported: “Russia has for months been testing a giant nuclear weapons delivery system that can carry 10 heavyweight warheads. Russia began testing the Sarmat last year and had been expected to enter it into service in 2018. The Russian weapon was designed to push through U.S. missile defenses. It is expected to replace the RS-36M, which was known as ‘Satan’ by NATO in the 1970s” (Cristina Silva, “Russia’s New ‘Satan’ Nuclear Weapons System Could Wipe Out Texas or France,” March 23, 2017).

In addition, as TIME magazine pointed out, “Moscow has also returned to a habit of nuclear threats, while in its military exercises, it has begun to practice for a nuclear strike, according to the NATO military alliance” (Simon Shuster, “Why Russia Is Rebuilding Its Nuclear Arsenal,” April 4, 2016).

Nuclear weapons threat: North Korea

Another peril facing the United States and its allies comes from North Korea, with its accelerating missile development program and nuclear attack capability. Although it’s the world’s 51st most populous country, North Korea according to some sources fields the earth’s largest army with 1.3 million men under arms, led by “supreme leader” Kim Jong un.

Its armed forces face South Korea’s 625,000 frontline military personnel and 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. North Korea is “equipped with 20,000 artillery pieces, 1,000 short- and medium-range missiles, 70 submarines, more than 400 patrol/missile boats and 563 combat aircraft. A strike against [South Korea’s capital] Seoul would be devastating” (Christopher Wallace, “North Korea’s Army: 1.2M Men, Obsolete Equipment and Nukes,” Fox News, April 28, 2017).

Seoul is a city of 10 million people—the most densely populated in the world. And it’s located only 30 miles from the demilitarized zone, the disputed boundary between the two nations.

While a military conflict in that region employing only conventional weapons would be dreadful in terms of loss of life, injury and property damage, the carnage and destruction resulting from a nuclear strike or exchange would be unthinkable. Despite that, considering its belligerent rhetoric and actions, North Korea appears to be preparing for such an eventuality—after having conducted five successful nuclear tests between 2006 and September 2016.

The country’s central news agency Rodong Sinmun declared on May 2, 2017, that the state will launch a devastating strike to “reduce the whole of the U.S. mainland to ruins.” An American expert, highly knowledgeable about the menace posed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons, suggests this threat should not be taken lightly.

The number of operational plutonium-based nuclear weapons possessed by North Korea is estimated at 10 to 30. “Unless something changes, North Korea’s arsenal may well hit 50 weapons by the end of [President Donald] Trump’s term. American officials say the North already knows how to shrink those weapons so they can fit atop one of its short- to medium-range missiles—putting South Korea and Japan, and the thousands of American troops deployed in those two nations, within range” (David Sanger and William Broad, “As North Korea Speeds Its Nuclear Program, U.S. Fears Time Will Run Out,” The New York Times, April 24, 2017, emphasis added throughout).

Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in late April: “North Korea vigorously pursued a strategic strike capability in 2016. Kim’s strategic capabilities are not yet an existential threat to the U.S., but if left unchecked, he will gain the capability to match his rhetoric” (“Hawaii Threatened by North Korea Now, U.S. Commander Tells Congress,” McClatchy DC Bureau, April 26, 2017).

On June 3, at an international security conference in Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared North Korea’s push to acquire nuclear-armed missiles a “clear and present danger,” an “urgent military threat” and “a threat to all” (quoted by Robert Burns, “Mattis: North Korea a ‘Clear and Present Danger’ to World, ABC News website, June 3, 2017).

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to work with the international community to try to achieve a peaceful solution to the North Korea nuclear threat. China has since suspended some imports of North Korean coal, consistent with UN sanctions, and began urging Kim Jong un to stop nuclear and missile activities.

President Trump’s approach is to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs by instituting robust economic sanctions and taking stronger diplomatic actions.

After an April 26, 2017, White House briefing to U.S. senators regarding North Korea’s progress in nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of Intelligence Dan Coats said in a joint statement: “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”

In an interview following that briefing, U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware commented on the nuclear threat posed by North Korea by stating, “This is a very dangerous circumstance.”

Nuclear weapons threat: Iran

A third potential nuclear weapons danger to the United States and its allies arises from Iran. For more than six decades Iran had been engaged in efforts to develop nuclear energy technology. However it has always declared that all its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.

Various authorities have disagreed with that claim and some have reported on evidence of Iran’s efforts to acquire the capacity and expertise to build nuclear weapons. In a report from Nov. 25, 2015, the United Nations atomic agency assessed “that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place up to 2009” (George Jahn, “UN Atomic Agency Believes Iran Conducted Experiments Meant to Develop Nuclear Weapons,” US News & World Report, Dec. 2, 2015.

On July 14, 2015, Iran and six world powers—China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—reached an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. These negotiations left ambiguity as to whether Iran would build nuclear weapons. But as noted above, Iran had previously developed the technologies needed to accomplish this in a relatively short period.

Added to its previous work on nuclear weapons science, Iran is formulating advanced missile delivery capability. “Tehran is developing increasingly sophisticated missiles and improving the range and accuracy of its other missile systems” (Anthony Cordesman, “Iran, Missiles, and Nuclear Weapons,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dec. 9, 2015).

An Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a severe threat to the security of the United States and its allies, along with the world at large. Consider the danger in these circumstances:

• A nuclear-armed Iran, coupled with the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads so as to be mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles, would create an existential threat.

• America’s Arab allies, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—which are anxious about Iran’s provocative regional actions—would feel significantly more vulnerable and threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran.

• If Iran develops nuclear weapons, it would likely trigger nuclear proliferation to other countries in the Middle East—such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia—which would lead to even greater regional instability.

• Iran could share its nuclear weapons technology and proficiency with extremist groups such as Hezbollah, which is virulently hostile to Israel and the United States.

These are some of the reasons why the development of nuclear weapons capability by Iran is unacceptable to the United States and its allies.

What does the future hold?

But beyond the present dangers and threats posed by Russia, North Korea and Iran, what lies ahead for the United States and its allies? Will they end up locked in armed conflict? The immediate answer for the short term is that no one really knows. Nevertheless, the Bible is very clear regarding trends and events that will take place in what it describes as “the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9).

The downfall of the United States, Britain and other descendants of ancient Israel will occur because they have turned away from God in reckless disobedience and lost His protection.

That future period will be incredibly dangerous and disastrous. As Jesus Christ Himself foretold: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).

This time of “great tribulation”—described also as “a time of trouble” and “Jacob’s trouble” (Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:5-7)—will be so fearsome that if Jesus Christ doesn’t return to earth to end it, the entire human race will face extinction. When warfare, which includes the use of nuclear weapons, is combined with immensely destructive natural and supernatural forces, the future period of savagery and upheaval will make all previous periods of war seem tame by comparison.

The coming great tribulation will strike principally, but not be limited to, the modern-day descendants of ancient Israel. This includes the United States, Britain, other British-descended peoples and the present-day Jewish state of Israel. As Bible prophecy indicates, these nations will be attacked and plundered by malicious enemies at that time.

There is no indication in prophecy of a nation like the United States standing as a world superpower at the time of Christ’s return, giving further reason to understand that America will have collapsed sometime prior. (Other prophecies do reveal the United States as an end-time superpower, but the time frame is well before the final events yet to come.)

The downfall of the United States, Britain and other modern descendants of ancient Israel will occur because their citizens will have largely turned away from God in reckless disobedience and lost His divine protection. Previous to that coming destruction, they will have been the recipients of abundant blessings and great prominence in the world. (To learn more, download or request our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)

It’s important to note that Bible prophecy often has dual application and fulfillment—in both ancient times and the end time. The prophet Isaiah described both the people of ancient Israel and their contemporary descendants: “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us’” (Isaiah 30:9-11).

Not only have many people in these nations abandoned God, they have also disregarded or spitefully despised His laws. This includes disgracing the sacred marriage relationship through rampant divorce and pervasive sexual immorality as well as the horrific murder of multiple millions of children through abortion.

During ancient Israel’s time, God admonished His chosen people repeatedly to forsake their lawlessness (Ezekiel 14:6; Jeremiah 8:6). But because they refused, God told them they would be punished (Amos 3:2; Leviticus 26:19). Through His prophet Ezekiel, God said: “Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, and spend My anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations . . . Then you shall know that I am the Lord who strikes . . . The vision concerns the whole multitude, and it shall not turn back; no one will strengthen himself who lives in iniquity” (Ezekiel 7:8-9; Ezekiel 7:13). 

What should you do to prepare?

While God sent His prophets to warn the people in those earlier days, what about His message to the nations today? God’s Church is now commissioned with the vital responsibility to proclaim to the modern-day descendants of ancient Israel—and indeed to all nations—God’s warnings in Scripture about the consequences of sin and the need to turn from disobedience (Isaiah 58:1; Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel (or good news) that Jesus gave His Church to proclaim includes the vital message of repentance and salvation through Him, as well as His impending return to earth as humanity’s only hope of survival!

But sadly, as the end of this age draws near, the Bible explains that men, women and even children will become increasingly selfish, corrupt and intractable. The apostle Paul describes vividly their attitude and temperament:

“And know this: in the last days, times will be hard. You see, the world will be filled with narcissistic, money-grubbing, pretentious, arrogant, and abusive people. They will rebel against their parents and will be ungrateful, unholy, uncaring, coldhearted, accusing, without restraint, savage, and haters of anything good. Expect them to be treacherous, reckless, swollen with self-importance, and given to loving pleasure more than they love God. Even though they may look or act like godly people, they’re not. They deny His power. I tell you: stay away from the likes of these” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, The Voice).

Because the vast majority of people today don’t know God or His Word, the Bible, they will be blind to danger signs increasing throughout society. As a result they will be shocked and frightened by numerous terrible conditions and events that will transpire (Matthew 24:37-39).

But what about you and me? Are we disregarding God, or are we willing to change our ways and sincerely obey His Word? And are we preparing for what the Scriptures tell us will occur in the coming days? 

Those who know and understand the truth are admonished to recognize clearly “the signs of the times” and to especially be spiritually awake and alert (Matthew 24:3; Luke 12:40; 1 Thessalonians 5:4). “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

Be ready all the time

To accomplish this we need to study the Bible diligently, apply its instructions faithfully and build a strong, close and enduring relationship with God. We also need to carry out unwaveringly our duty to preach and publish the gospel, even if people ignore or oppose it.

Those who refuse to follow God’s instructions to be obedient, watchful and prayerful will find themselves spiritually unprepared and then suffer the consequences of their neglect (Matthew 25:1-13). “Constantly be on your guard so that your hearts will not be loaded down with self-indulgence, drunkenness, and the worries of this life, or that day will take you by surprise like a trap, because it will come on everyone who lives on the face of the earth” (Luke 21:34-35, International Standard Version). 

What else are we advised to do? We must be spiritually prepared and ever vigilant. “You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:44, New Living Translation). “Be ready” includes maintaining zeal for God and His Work on earth while preparing energetically for Christ’s second coming (Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 21:36; Revelation 3:3).

We need to make every effort, with God’s help, to abound with love, joy and faith through His divine Spirit, while jettisoning all spiritual weariness and lethargy (Philippians 1:11; Acts 13:52; Galatians 6:9; Revelation 3:14-17). As we’ve seen, the Bible gives us ample instruction as to what we need to do in preparation for God’s coming, righteous Kingdom.

Finally, although we should certainly be mindful about the current nuclear peril posed by Russia, North Korea and Iran, let’s realize that times will grow increasingly worse prior to Jesus’ return to earth. To survive and even thrive through that future catastrophic period, let’s make sure our full attention and concentration is on developing our spiritual condition and relationship with God. This is what is most important and what He would have us do right now. Is it what you are doing?


Terrorism & EMP Weapons

Death and destruction due to terrorism is a pervasive element of today’s society. The potential of this despicable evil frightens citizens of many countries. Among nations and groups promoting and executing these malevolent acts are Iran and North Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis described Iran as the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism.”

Daniel Byman, a professor and senior associate dean at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “Iran’s leaders have used terrorism since they took power in 1979. Over 35 years later, Iran continues to use terrorism and to work with an array of violent substate groups that use terrorism among other tactics” (“State Sponsor of Terror: The Global Threat of Iran,” Feb. 11, 2015, Brookings Institution).

In October 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in the expectation that it would agree to halt its nuclear weapons development program. The strategy didn’t work. “Several shipments of arms have been intercepted on their way from North Korea to Iran and its terrorist proxies. North Korea has certainly provided material support for terrorists and terrorist organizations” (Ethan Epstein, “North Korea Is Definitely a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” The Weekly Standard, March 6, 2017).

A single nuclear missile launched from a ship off the U.S. coast and detonated in the atmosphere could destroy America’s electrical infrastructure.

In addition to countless terrorist bombings and assassinations that both Iran and North Korea have helped perpetuate, these nations are researching means of developing and employing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) nuclear weapons.

“An EMP attack on the United States could materialize in two forms: nuclear and non-nuclear. The most devastating form, and most difficult to achieve, is an EMP that results from a nuclear weapon. This form destroys any ‘unhardened’ electronic equipment and electric power system which means virtually any civilian infrastructure in the United States” (Jena Baker McNeill and Richard Weitz, “Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: A Preventable Homeland Security Catastrophe,” The Heritage Foundation, Oct. 20, 2008).

While Iranian missiles cannot yet reach America, a potential nuclear weapons capability could still directly threaten the U.S. homeland. Many national security experts are worried about the possibility of a nuclear weapon arriving in a cargo container at a major U.S. port. In addition, there is great concern that a single missile containing a nuclear warhead launched from a ship or submarine off the U.S. coast and detonated in the atmosphere could destroy America’s electrical infrastructure.

“Suspected for years of plotting to dismantle the U.S. electric grid, American officials have confirmed that Iranian military brass have endorsed a nuclear electromagnetic pulse explosion that would attack the country’s power system. American defense experts made the discovery while translating a secret Iranian military handbook. A knowledgeable source said that the textbook discusses an EMP attack on America in 20 different places” (Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, March 19, 2015).

Furthermore, North Korea launched missiles into space in April 2012 and February 2016 and now has two earth-observation satellites in low orbit. Michael Maloof, a former U.S. Defense Department security policy analyst, explained their deadly significance: “North Korea could orbit a satellite which would be the size of a nuclear bomb and detonate it upwards of 300 miles above Earth, on command, making North Korea a threat to any country as a result” (“Expert: North Korea Has EMP Attack Capability,”, April 25, 2017).

Contrary to conventional thought, North Korea does not actually need a missile capable of reaching the United States mainland to create damage and havoc. This is because a satellite-based nuclear weapon could accomplish a crippling EMP attack that could effectively bring down the U.S. power grid.

Furthermore, a high-yield megaton-class (1,000-kiloton) nuclear weapon is not required for an effective EMP strike, according to Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission. He stated: “I am looking at an unclassified U.S. Government chart that shows [that] a 10-kiloton warhead (the power of the Hiroshima A-Bomb) detonated at an altitude of 70 kilometers will generate an EMP field inflicting upset and damage on unprotected electronics” (“Time to Take NKorea Nuke Threats Seriously,” Newsmax, May 4, 2017).

By some estimates, as few as three EMP detonations properly placed above the United States could lead to the deaths of 90 percent of the U.S. population within a year from starvation and disease. The danger is real and growing.