Remember fear of nuclear war? It used to be part of everyday life, but it ended with the Cold War. Now, the US in defensive mode is putting the world back on notice: the bomb can still drop. How has the world reacted?
The US has enough warheads to kill everyone, and so does Russia
The United States has about 12,000 nuclear warheads. Russia has some 28,000. They have enough to really blow up the Earth, or at least the bits of it where people live.
Yet the justified paranoia of nuclear devastation that once gripped the world has faded since the end of Soviet rule in 1991. It faded, that is, until this weekend.
Revelations in the Los Angeles Times that US President George W. Bush has ordered new contigency plans for nuclear strikes have sent shockwaves around the globe, and after weekend acknowledgements of the order in Washington, first reactions started streaming in Monday.
On the Times reported list of possible targets are China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria.
US President George W. Bush
"Deep shock" was the reaction from China's Foreign Ministry, reported Spiegel Online.
"This is the policy of the big stick, a nuclear stick intended to intimidate us and put us in our place," said Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's parliament.
A key aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the US plans more evidence of a "policy of intimidation", spearheaded by the widespread presence of American and allied troops around the world, Reuters reported.
Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of North Korea's ruling party, warned that "the US strategic purpose is to turn the (Korean) peninsula into a springboard from which to dominate the Asia-Pacific region."
Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, said though that for the Pentagon to review its nuclear options is nothing more than "sound, military, conceptual planning."
European leaders kept quiet, perhaps consulting first on secure diplomatic levels.