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Putin’s Threats: World on Edge Over Nuclear Risk

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It’s the world’s largest nuclear warhead stockpile — and Russian President Vladimir Putin is again threatening to use it.

Putin on Thursday warned Western countries they could spark a nuclear war if they sent troops to fight in Ukraine
— a move that he said could cause the “destruction of civilisation”.

It’s not the first time he’s made such a threat, and it almost certainly won’t be the last.

Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats: A recent history

When launching Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Putin warned nations who intervened they would face “consequences that you have never experienced in your history”. It was widely considered a veiled nuclear threat.

In April that year, he said a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) would “force all who are trying to threaten our country in the heat of frenzied, aggressive rhetoric to think twice”.

Early last year Putin said Russia would station some of its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, an ally, adding that 10 of its aircraft capable of carrying such weapons were there. In June, he said the move was on track for completion.
Recently, in mid-February, the White House warned allies it was taking new intelligence about Russia developing its space nuclear capabilities “very seriously”, although the exact nature of the alleged weapon was unclear.
Experts, however, weren’t as concerned over the move that the Kremlin labelled a “malicious fabrication”.

Putin’s nuclear warning on Thursday during his annual state of the nation address was prefaced with a specific reference to an idea, floated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine — a suggestion that was quickly rejected by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.

“(Western nations) must realise that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory,” Putin said. “All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilisation. Don’t they get that?!”

Inside Russia’s nuclear arsenal

It’s made up of tactical nuclear weapons, those used for specific gains on the battlefield, and strategic nuclear weapons, which have long-range capabilities.

Russia has an estimated 5,977 warheads, according to a 2022 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists report. Researchers believed that 1,588 were deployed strategic warheads, while 977 strategic and 1,912 tactical warheads were in storage. They estimated 1,500 were retired but still largely intact.

The key, though, is how to deliver the weapon — the missiles, submarines, and bombers that carry the warhead.

From Prigozhin to Navalny: The mysterious deaths of Vladimir Putin’s enemies and critics

Russia appears to have about 400 nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, which the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimate can carry up to 1,185 warheads.

It operates 10 nuclear-armed nuclear submarines which could carry a maximum of 800 warheads. It has around 60 to 70 nuclear bombers.

Meanwhile, the United States has a few hundred fewer warheads than Russia, and some 1,644 are deployed strategic nuclear warheads. Of its 200 tactical warheads, half are at bases in Europe.

In September last year, Russia announced its Sarmat missile system (dubbed Satan 2) had “assumed combat duty”. It is said to have a range of 18,000km (meaning it could easily reach the US or Australia) and can carry up to 15 nuclear warheads, though the US believes its capacity is more likely to be 10 warheads.

Russia and the US are signatories to the bilateral New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). It caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that both sides can deploy, and the deployment of land and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them. It also allows each side to inspect each other’s nuclear arsenal to ensure the pact is being followed.

But Putin said in February last year Russia would suspend its participation, although his country would continue to “strictly comply” with the treaty’s limits.

Even the use of smaller nuclear weapons would have devastating consequences, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

It says the smallest weapon in Russia’s arsenal is the size of the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 towards the end of World War Two.

Russia’s nuclear trigger

Russia’s nuclear doctrine sets out four circumstances for nuclear weapons use: imminent or actual attacks on Russia, threats to its control over its nuclear weapons, and threats to its existence.

However, classified Russian military files leaked to British newspaper the Financial Times suggested its threshold for using tactical nuclear weapons was lower than this.

There were broad triggers, like an enemy incursion onto Russian territory, to specific triggers such as if a certain number of its ballistic missile submarines were to be destroyed, the Financial Times reported.

A Putin spokesperson reportedly played down the documents, which were said to have been drawn up between 2008 and 2014, telling the Financial Times “we strongly doubt their authenticity”.

But there are no signs that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Thursday, as he criticised Putin’s latest comments.

“It is not the first time we have seen irresponsible rhetoric from Vladimir Putin. It is no way for the leader of a nuclear-armed state to speak.”

– With additional reporting by Reuters.
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China drops heavy tariffs against Australian winemakers

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China drops heavy tariffs against Australian winemakers

Most recently, China has abolished heavy tariffs against Australian wine, marking a significant step towards improved diplomatic relations and trade ties between the two nations. The Chinese government had agreed to review the wine tariffs five months ago and has gradually unwound the trade barriers since then. The Commerce Ministry in Beijing announced on Thursday that it was no longer necessary to impose anti-dumping duties and other levies on imports of Australian wine.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his gratitude for this development, stating that the re-entry of Australian bottled wine into the Chinese market will benefit both Australian producers and Chinese consumers. The removal of these tariffs comes at a critical time for the Australian wine industry, which had faced difficulties exporting to China due to the imposed trade barriers.

In 2019, Australian wine exports to China were valued at $1.1 billion before the tariffs were implemented during the height of diplomatic tensions in 2020. The removal of these duties means that Australia will no longer pursue legal action against China at the World Trade Organisation, which had been initiated by the former coalition government.

While the Australian government’s approach is to cooperate with China when possible and engage in its national interest, some trade barriers still remain. Chinese tariffs are still in place for Australian rock lobster and beef, and in 2020, Beijing imposed trade sanctions worth $20 billion on a variety of Australian products, including coal and cotton. The tariffs on Australian wine specifically amounted to a hefty 220 per cent tax.

As South Australian Wine Industry Association president Kirsty Balnaves noted, the Chinese market has evolved since the imposition of tariffs. There is now stronger in-market competition for wine, increased choices for consumers at various price points, and a decline in alcohol consumption. Balnaves emphasized that South Australian exporters will need to invest time in assessing opportunities, creating awareness, educating consumers, and reintroducing their wines to the market.

Despite the remaining challenges, Prime Minister Albanese reaffirmed his government’s commitment to trade diversification and supporting Australian businesses in selling their products on the global stage. The removal of tariffs on Australian wine is seen as a positive step towards strengthening trade relations between Australia and China, and it is hoped that further trade impediments affecting Australian exports will be addressed in the future in the interests of both countries.

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Emma mistakenly flew with her wheelchair

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Emma mistakenly flew with her wheelchair

Many people with disabilities face challenges when it comes to air travel, and Emma Weatherley’s recent experience highlights some of these issues. Emma, who has Facioscaplohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD), a muscle-wasting condition, was left stranded when she was told her motorised wheelchair could not be transported on a recent flight.

Despite having a wheelchair that met aircraft-approved specifications and weight limits, Virgin staff prohibited Emma’s 190kg chair from boarding the Link Airways-operated flight, citing a 120kg weight limit on the plane. This left Emma, a regular traveller and mother of two, feeling frustrated and discriminated against.

Virgin Australia later admitted that allowing Emma’s wheelchair on a previous flight was a mistake due to procedural errors made by staff members. The airline issued an apology to Emma and refunded the cost of the initial flight. They also pledged to improve their service and processes for passengers with specific needs.

Emma’s ordeal sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities when it comes to air travel. Despite having her mobility information stored in the airline’s system, Emma still had to navigate through misunderstandings and a lack of awareness surrounding procedures for wheelchair transportation.

Issues like these not only impact the individual’s confidence and independence but also highlight systemic barriers faced by people with disabilities. Emma’s experience of being rerouted through another city at her own expense due to a lack of accessible flights underscores the financial burden and inconvenience faced by many in similar situations.

Furthermore, Emma’s call for financial penalties for transport services that fail to provide adequate accessibility support raises important questions about accountability and inclusivity in the transportation industry. She also advocates for increased awareness about conditions like FSHD and the need for government funding to support new treatments and clinical trials.

Emma’s story serves as a reminder of the importance of creating a more accessible and inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities, both in air travel and broader community settings. By sharing her experience and advocating for change, Emma hopes to prevent others from falling through the gaps and facing similar challenges in the future.

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Australians Doubt Labor’s Efforts to Ease Cost of Living

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There has been a dip in support for the Labor government as Australians continue to feel the burden of the high cost of living, according to the latest Newspoll.

The poll, conducted for The Australian, shows that Federal Labor’s primary vote has fallen by a point to 32 per cent, while the Coalition has gained a point, reaching 37 per cent.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers highlighted the government’s efforts to alleviate cost-of-living pressures without adding to economic inflation, stating, “Our job is to do the right thing for the right reasons and the politics will take care of themselves.”

However, opposition finance minister Jane Hume criticized the government, suggesting that they are focusing on the “wrong priorities” and are distracted by the “chaos on our borders.”

The poll also revealed that Labor’s two-party-preferred lead over the Coalition has been reduced by two points to 51-49 per cent.

With a year to go before the next federal election, Nationals leader David Littleproud emphasized the importance of addressing the cost-of-living crisis, stating that voters will support the party that can best explain how they plan to tackle this issue.

Overall, 31 per cent of voters indicated that they would not support either Labor or the Coalition, signaling a trend away from the major parties. Combined support for Labor and the Coalition stood at 69 per cent.

On the other hand, the Greens saw a one-point increase to 13 per cent, while Pauline Hanson’s One Nation also rose one point to seven per cent in the poll.

Approval ratings for both leaders, Mr. Albanese and Mr. Dutton, saw little change in the past month. Mr. Albanese’s approval rating rose to 44 per cent, while Mr. Dutton’s approval remained at 37 per cent.

In terms of the better prime minister choice, Mr. Albanese saw a one-point increase to 48 per cent, while Mr. Dutton fell one point to 34 per cent.

The Newspoll surveyed 1223 voters nationally between March 18 and 22, providing insights into the current political landscape and public sentiment amidst the ongoing cost-of-living pressures.

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