COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMD are nasty things – everyone knows that. But here are 7 facts about WMD you probably didn’t know.
1. Colonel Gaddafi Surrendered His Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2003.
Weeks before the U.S. lead the invasion of Iraq, Libya’s leader Colonel Gaddafi promised to surrender his stockpile of WMD – the existence of which was then unknown to the world. Perhaps the biggest non-proliferation victory ever, Colonel Gaddafi made a “wise and reasonable choice” according to then President Bush.
U.K. officials had suspected Gaddafi had been close to obtaining nuclear capabilities in the months leading up to the surrender. Libya had always rejected these suspicions, claiming the suspicious facilities were only for pharmaceutical or agricultural research.
2. Nuclear Black Markets Exist.
The surrender of Gaddafi’s stockpile exposed the black market network where the WMD were being sourced. In 2004, Pakistani nuclear weapons scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was put under house arrest for providing nuclear technology, expertise and designs to countries including Libya, Iran and North Korea. The black market network known as the A. Q. Kahn network was shut down, but its existence confirmed the fear that nuclear technology was no longer limited to industrially advanced countries. These weapons could now be purchased and sold under the radar on the black market.
Kahn was released by Pakistani authorities in 2009; the U.S warns that he remains a “serious proliferation risk.”
3. Saddam Hussain’s Obsession With WMD
According to U.N. inspectors, Saddam Hussain’s Iraq spent $10 billion in the 1980s to enrich uranium and build a nuclear weapon. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report shows that Hussain began a crash-program in attempting to build a nuclear bomb following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which if uninterrupted by the war, would have been ready by 1992.
IAEA inspectors uncovered seven nuclear-related sites in Iraq. Although no WMD were found after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussain had still retained the expertise and some infrastructure to build one in the future.
4. U.K. Nuclear Weapons have an Uncertain Future
The U.K.’s nuclear weapons system is called Trident and consists of four submarines each capable of carrying 16 missiles. Its future is uncertain as huge cuts are being made to government spending and the defence budget.
The government coalition partners, The Liberal Democrats, are open for scrapping the Trident Missile Project.
5. No WMD for Scotland
Independent Scotland is set to remove all nuclear weapons from its territory. The vote for independence is set for September with the Yes campaign committed to removing nuclear weapons if they win. Trident nuclear submarines would leave the Faslane naval base outside Glasgow, which will become the country’s main naval base and joint headquarters for the Scottish armed forces.
6. Lingering WMD
Twenty years since the Cold War, the BBC estimates there are still 20,000 known nuclear weapons on earth today. Exact numbers are kept a secret but it is believed that Russia has over 10,000 warheads. The U.S. is thought to have 8,500 while China has 240 and the U.K. has 225.
7. U.S. missiles in Europe
U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed across Europe for the use of all NATO allies.
Russia mistrusts the cooperation between Europe and the U.S. Many point to the alliance, of which Russia is not part, as a strong factor explaining President Vladimir Putin’s continued attempts to control events in Ukraine. Putin has openly expressed his desire for a “Greater Europe” and many critics believe Putin wishes to dismantle the European project.
– Charles Bell
Sources: BBC News 1, PBS Frontline, The Telegraph, BBC News 2, The Economist, Yes Scotland
Photo: NATO Review