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What are chemical weapons and why might they be used in the Russia-Ukraine war?

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The Russia-Ukraine war is intensifying with each passing day, and its devastating effects are unfolding on daily basis, including mass migration and civilian casualties. This is causing a great rift between the major powers and the world is at the brink of a huge catastrophe.

The possibility of a nuclear devastation is on the line.

During the past few days, there are certain terms being frequently used by the major powers against each other, i.e. accusations of using weapons of mass destruction.

Russian media accused Ukraine for building a plutonium-based “dirty bomb”, the Ukrainian ambassador to the US accused Russia for using thermobaric or “vacuum bomb”, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson accused the US for supporting a bioweapons programme in Ukraine, and Britain and the US expressed their fear that Russia could use a chemical weapon in Ukraine.

Although these terms are not new, they might be alien to many. Here’s what they mean.

Dirty Bomb

Dirty bomb, also called radiological dispersion device (RDD), is an explosive device designed to scatter radioactive material, hence the adjective dirty. Unlike an atomic bomb’s explosive power, which comes from a nuclear chain reaction, the explosive energy of the dirty bomb comes from ordinary conventional explosives such as dynamite or TNT. When the dirty bomb detonates, it scatters radioactive material that has been placed in close proximity to the explosives. (https://www.britannica.com/technology/dirty-bomb)

Security analysts believe that the comparative ease with which the components of a dirty bomb can be obtained make it an attractive option for terrorists or for countries that do not have the resources to build a nuclear weapon. There have been no recorded instances of a successful dirty bomb attack. Scattering radioactive material as a weapon was first suggested in 1941 by a committee of the US National Academy of Sciences led by physicist Arthur Holly Compton, and from 1949 to 1952 the US Army also tested explosives designed to disperse radioactive tantalum. (Ibid)

Thermobaric or “Vacuum Bomb”

“The thermobaric weapon, also known as an aerosol bomb or fuel air explosive, is a two-stage munition. The first-stage charge distributes an aerosol made up of very fine material – from a carbon-based fuel to tiny metal particles. A second charge ignites that cloud, creating a fireball, a huge shock wave, and a vacuum as it sucks up all surrounding oxygen. The blast wave can last for significantly longer than a conventional explosive and is capable of vaporising human bodies. The bombs have been used by Russian and western forces since the 1960s. The US relied on them in its attempts to eliminate Al-Qaida in the mountains in Afghanistan.” (The Guardian, 1 March 2022, “What are thermobaric weapons and how do they work?”)

Dr Marcus Hellyer, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that thermobaric weapons were effective at their ‘specific purpose’ of ‘primarily destroying defensive positions’. Whilst they would not be used to penetrate a tank, they could be a ‘very destructive weapon’ against an apartment complex or other building. 

They are not illegal even though their effects can be pretty horrific, because of that effect of creating a vacuum and sucking the air out of the lungs of defenders”, he said. (Ibid)

Biological Weapons

The World Health Organisation says biological weapons are microorganisms like virus, bacteria, fungi, or other toxins that are made and released deliberately to cause disease and death in humans, animals or plants. 

“Biological agents, like anthrax, botulinum toxin and plague can pose a difficult public health challenge causing large numbers of deaths in a short amount of time while being difficult to contain. Bioterrorism attacks could also result in an epidemic, for example if Ebola or Lassa viruses were used as the biological agents. Biological weapons is a subset of a larger class of weapons referred to as weapons of mass destruction.” (https://www.who.int/health-topics/biological-weapons#tab=tab_1)

Chemical Weapons

Modern use of chemical weapons started with World War I, when both sides used poisonous gas to inflict agonising suffering and cause significant battlefield casualties. 

They consisted of well-known commercial chemicals put into standard munitions such as grenades and artillery shells. Chlorine, phosgene (a choking agent) and mustard gas (which inflicts painful burns on the skin) were among the chemicals used. 

The UN explains on its website: “The results were indiscriminate and often devastating. Nearly 100,000 deaths resulted. Since World War I, chemical weapons have caused more than one million casualties globally. As a result of public outrage, the Geneva Protocol, which prohibited the use of chemical weapons in warfare, was signed in 1925. While a welcome step, the Protocol had a number of significant shortcomings.”“Poison gasses were used during World War II in Nazi concentration camps and in Asia, although chemical weapons were not used on European battlefields. The Cold War period saw significant development, manufacture and stockpiling of chemical weapons. By the 1970s and 80s, an estimated 25 States were developing chemical weapons capabilities. But since the end of World War II, chemical weapons have reportedly been used in only a few cases.” (https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/chemical/)

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Daily Brief

First Grain Ship Departs Ukraine After Six Months of Russian Blockade

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Odesa pristav
  • The first shipment of grain departed the port of Odesa on Monday after Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports for the last six months trapped around 20 million metric tons of wheat and corn.
  • Russia recently made a deal with Ukraine, brokered by the UN and Turkey, allowing grain exports to resume, appeasing fears of a global food supply crisis and rising prices.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba celebrated the shipment, calling it a “day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.”
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was more hesitant to celebrate the shipment, stating “it is too early to draw any conclusions and make any forecasts” and he wants to “see how the agreement works and whether security will be really guaranteed.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Concerns Rise As US Teeters on the Brink of Recession

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US Stock Market Investing in the United States
  • The US economy declines for the second quarter in a row, causing, what other countries would consider, an economic recession. 
  • The prices for groceries, gas, and other basics are rising at the fastest pace since 1981. The US Central Bank is quickly trying to raise borrowing costs in order to cool the economy and ease the prices on goods, but with the contraction, at the annual rate of 0.9% in the 3 months to July, many are still getting concerned. 
  • President Biden struggles to convince the public that the economy is sound, with the unemployment rate at a low 3.6%. But with inflation in the US hitting 9.1% in June, the fastest price appreciation in 4 months, consumer spending has slowed at an annual rate of 1%. 
  • Many other countries, such as China and the UK, have been hit harder by the surge in energy prices and the War in Ukraine, causing risks from abroad. Other countries are facing much more serious problems and once they’re hit, their problems can spill over and affect the US. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Russia cuts Germany’s Gas Supply causing Prices to Soar 

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  • Over the course of the Russian-Ukrainian War, Russia began to slowly cut off Germany’s gas supply through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. 
  • Before the war, over half of Germany’s gas came from Russia. By the end of June it was reduced to a quarter of its normal captivity, and now it operates at less than a fifth of it. 
  • Russia’s energy firm Gazprom has stated that this need to cut off Germany’s gas supply was due to maintenance work on a turbine that is needed. Critics have disagreed, claiming that Russia is using it’s gas as a ploy to cause terror to Europe. 
  • The cut of Gas supply to Germany and other central European countries has caused gas prices to rise almost 2%, causing the trade to close to a record high similar to that of when Russia invaded Ukraine. 
  • While Germany scrambles to find a solution to this, Poland states it will be fully independent from Russia by the end of the year in order to avoid blackmail from Russia.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Russia Limits Gas Supply to Germany

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Black Sea port of Theodosiya panoramio
  • Gazprom, a major Russian energy provider, has stated it will reduce the supply of gas to Germany by half via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline due to repair work. 
  • Germany has said that they see no technical reason for the decrease in gas supply. The European Union continues to accuse Russia of weaponizing energy, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stating, “This is an open gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe.”
  • Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to allow the export of grain via the Black Sea after Russia continued to block millions of tonnes from being exported. The next day, Russia struck missiles at the port, some of which hit the infrastructure of the port.
  • The US and Ukraine are optimistic that the agreement will still be implemented, with the US State Department stating, “Despite these attacks, we do understand that the parties are continuing preparations to open Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for food and fertilizer exports…we also continue to expect that the Black Sea agreement will be implemented.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Environment

‘Effects of nuclear war globally catastrophic’, new study warns.

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Impact of nuclear war on climate

A nuclear war could lead to a ‘nuclear ice age’, plummeting global temperatures, eradicating a vast proportion of sea life and largely implicating global food security, a new study indicates.

Researchers at Louisiana State University in the US conducted several computer simulations in an Earth System Model to assess the impacts of regional and global nuclear wars on oceans. The study, which examined the potential consequences of

conflicts between the US and Russia, as well as Pakistan and India, revealed that in every scenario, smoke and soot from firestorms would release into the upper atmosphere, obstructing the sun and plunging temperatures at an average of 13F (-11C) within  just one month.

Cheryl Harrison, assistant professor and lead author of the study, said the impact would be all-consuming. 

“It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom. It can be India and Pakistan or NATO and Russia. Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere it spreads globally and affects everyone,” she told Bloomberg.

“We can and must, however, do everything we can to avoid nuclear war. The effects are too likely to be globally catastrophic,” she added.

The simulations involved testing the impacts of the US and Russia bombing cities and industrial sites with 4, 400 nuclear weapons weighing 100 kilotons or Pakistan and India detonating 500 of the explosives. 

Alan Robock, Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University, said he hoped the study would “encourage” greater action to thwart the threat.

“Nuclear warfare results in dire consequences for everyone. World leaders have used our studies previously as an impetus to end the nuclear arms race in the 1980s, and five years ago to pass a treaty in the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons. We hope that this new study will encourage more nations to ratify the ban treaty.”

The research warned that a US and Russia conflict may lead to permanent increased Artic sea ice extent and volume. 

A UN report also warned of the rapid “global collapse” of civilisations, partially induced by global conflicts, unless urgent steps were taken to address the issue. 

The latest American study follows a warning to British troops by the army’s top general to prepare to “deter Russian aggression with the threat of force”. Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russia Foreign Minister, Sergie Lavrov said a Third World War would involve nuclear weapons and destruction would not be limited to Eastern Europe. 

Ocean temperatures could fall, and sea ice expand by six million square miles, affecting trading as major ports, such as Tianjin in China would be occluded.

Reversing the damage would take decades, the study warned. 

A report from the thinktank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said that the global nuclear arsenal, since the cold war, is expected to increase drastically in the next few years and reversal this amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine is unlikely.

John Erath, senior policy director for the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, warned earlier that NATO was only capable of blocking an “extremely limited attack” if Russia were to launch a ballistic missile.

As record temperatures hit the UK, scientists claim that frequent and intense heatwaves are the result of human-induced climate change. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Key Ports in Ukraine are Severely Attacked from Russian Missiles

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Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launched from Plesetsk
  • According to Ukrainian reports, the city of Odessa was severely attacked, even though Russia agreed to not target any ports with grain shipment.
  • These products are vital to fight against the global food crises and caught on fire after the attack, in which Russia claimed they had nothing to do with the attack.
  • Russia attacked a key port after the signature of the Istanbul Agreement and agreed with Ukraine to ease the exportation of grain.
  • As a result of Russia’s actions, Ukrainian forces have utilised new US missile supplies to target the Antonovsky Bridge in Kherson, which would harshly impact the Russian supply if the bridge was destroyed.

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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