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Amid swiftly escalating tensions between Russia and the United States over the deteriorating situation in Syria and the South China Sea, the Pentagon announced this week it had tested two 700-pound dummy nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert.

Apparently conducted “earlier this month,” according to a press release from the National Nuclear Security Administration, the tests involved two U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers — the same jets it recently deployed to the South China Sea — dropping two ‘variants’ of the B61 without active nuclear warheads.

According to Defense One, the B61 is “a nuclear bomb that has been in the U.S. arsenal since the 1960s. One was an ‘earth penetrator’ made to strike underground targets, the other a tactical version of the B61. Neither carried an actual warhead.”

States the NNSA October 6 press release: “The primary objective of flight testing is to obtain reliability, accuracy, and performance data under operationally representative conditions. Such testing is part of the qualification process of current alterations and life extension programs for weapon systems.”

While the Obama administration has, indeed, allocated some $1 trillion to revamping and modernizing the U.S.’ nuclear weapons cache — providing a convenient and putatively innocuous reason for the tests — the complex military entanglement in Syria and heated standoff with China over territorial seas would appear a frighteningly more likely motive.

In fact, even the overhaul of the nuclear arsenal, itself, set off alarm bells and suspicions of a new Cold War upon the announcement — particularly as the 2017 budget explicitly cites (nonexistent) Russian aggression as cause to modernize the aging nukes:

“We are countering Russia’s aggressive policies through investments in a broad range of capabilities … [including] our nuclear arsenal.”

To cite Russia as an aggressor — a characterization the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, among many others, has deemed ridiculously unfounded — does more to prove the U.S. government is the obstinate aggressor than paint Putin in the negative light it has so propagandized.

Russia and the U.S. have undertaken nuclear arsenal modernization programs in what experts characterize as the new arms race.

“Both Russia and the United States are now officially and publicly using the other side as a justification for nuclear weapons modernization programs,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, told the Intercept in a statement in February.

It is indeed possible this new amassing and revamping of nuclear weapons had been President Obama’s plan from the time he took office. Democracy Now!noted in April this year a statement the president delivered in his first address on the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal in Prague on April 5, 2009, with — considering current events — rather eerie foreshadowing:

“Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black-market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound.”

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Obama has repeatedly vowed to work toward nuclear disarmament — and has heralded and championed the idea in other nations — but, as with countless other presidential promises, the calls ring hollow when the U.S. acts exactly in contradiction to its words.

State University of New York at Albany Professor Emeritus Dr. Lawrence Wittner pointed out that, in addition to the hypocrisy of a nuclear arsenal overhaul and the trillion-dollar budget potential to bankrupt the nation,

“This nuclear ‘modernization’ plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the US government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world.”

But none of this even touches on the needless chest-puffing the U.S. is currently — dangerously — displaying about the intricate conflict taking place in Syria and Asia-Pacific theater.

After an impotent attempt at a ceasefire arrangement with Russia in Syria, including the cessation of all contact on the matter, the U.S. — rather than parsing out its own means to de-escalate — heightened its obstinate posturing by announcing it is considering direct strikes on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed troops.

Russia countered that aggressive stance in an announcement it would not hesitate to shoot down errant American jets should the need arise — and any “unidentified” aircraft would not necessitate communications with the U.S. military to confirm identification before doing so.

On Friday, the situation further degraded with the announcement the United States government “officially” blamed the Russian government for hacks of the Democratic National Committee leaked earlier this year, accusing the country of attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.

This ‘official’ claim provides the U.S. with grounds to consider Russia a literal terrorist threat, since Obama declared hacking the nation’s biggest threat and likened it to cyberterrorism two years ago.

Although some analysts believe Russia unlikely to strike first, particularly in a nuclear capacity, the volleying of veiled and overt threats between Putin and Washington do nothing to quell the distinct possibility of all-out war — even involving nuclear strikes.

Indeed the (not-at-all) coincidental timing of the Nevada tests of dummy nukes further evidences the reckless bullheadedness by hardened ideologues in Washington and its military could put the world on the irreversible path to nuclear war.

One year after the United States unleashed horror from above and decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Albert Einstein — whose theories helped birth the atomic bomb — admonished the dark path ahead should humanity not reverse course:

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Perhaps it isn’t yet too late to heed that critical warning.