WASHINGTON — Reversing its longstanding resistance, the Biden administration plans to send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, in what would be a major step in arming Kyiv in its efforts to seize back its territory from Russia.
The White House is expected to announce a decision as early as Wednesday, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. One official said the number of Abrams tanks could be about 30.
Over the past month, Pentagon officials had expressed misgivings about sending the Abrams, citing concerns about how Ukraine would maintain the advanced tanks, which require extensive training and servicing. And officials said it could take years for them to actually reach any Ukrainian battlefields.
But Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has now come around to the view that committing to sending American tanks is necessary to spur Germany to follow with its coveted Leopard 2 tanks. Officials at the State Department and the White House argued that giving Germany the political cover it sought to send its own tanks outweighed the Defense Department reluctance, the officials said.
The movement toward sending the Abrams tanks, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, follows a testy confrontation last week during a NATO defense chiefs meeting over the refusal by Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to send the Leopards, which many military experts believe could be a critical weapon in Ukrainian hands.
German officials privately insisted that they would send the tanks, among the most advanced in the world, only if the United States agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks.
Anticipation for a German announcement was high, as various German news outlets reported on Tuesday that Mr. Scholz had decided to send the tanks. Much of the attention focused on an expected address by the chancellor to Parliament on Wednesday.
Many European countries use German-built Leopards, which number about 2,000 across the continent, and Ukraine has pleaded for tanks in recent weeks, describing them as necessary to counter Russia’s advantages in arms and men. Western tanks are the latest barrier to fall as Ukraine’s allies supply it with weapons systems they had previously resisted sending; earlier this month, while debates over the Leopard and the Abrams wore on, Britain said it would give some of its Challenger 2 tanks.
On Tuesday, Poland’s defense minister said his country had formally requested Germany’s permission to send Ukraine Leopard tanks from its own stocks, and other countries have indicated they would do the same if Germany agreed.
In Kyiv on Tuesday, Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, told reporters at a news conference that he had discussed the supply of Western tanks to Ukraine with President Zelensky, saying the country was considering various options for its participation.
Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Lauren McCarthy and John Ismay contributed reporting.
KYIV, Ukraine — Several top Ukrainian officials were fired on Tuesday amid a ballooning corruption scandal, in the biggest upheaval in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago.
Ukraine’s cabinet ministry, which announced the firings on the Telegram social messaging app, provided no details about the reason, but they followed a number of allegations of government corruption — including reports that Ukraine’s military had agreed to pay inflated prices for food meant for its troops — and general bad behavior.
A deputy defense minister was among those removed from their posts, as was a deputy prosecutor general who caused a scandal by taking a wartime vacation to Spain. And a senior official in Mr. Zelensky’s office tendered his resignation after coming under withering criticism for zipping around in an SUV that General Motors donated for humanitarian missions.
There was no sign that the army procurement scandal involved the misappropriation of Western military assistance or would affect Ukraine’s ability to fight the Russian invasion. But the removal of the officials, coming amid almost daily pleas from Ukraine for more Western support, suggested an effort by Mr. Zelensky to clean house and to try to reassure Ukraine’s allies that his government would show zero tolerance for graft.
As the war nears the one-year mark, no issue is more critical for Ukraine’s continued survival that the billions of dollars and advanced weaponry provided by Western allies. Russia is gearing up for a new offensive expected in the spring or earlier, and the Ukrainians are counting on Challenger 2 tanks promised by Britain and Bradley Fighting Vehicles pledged by the United States to counter Moscow and launch their own offensives.
But even a whiff of malfeasance could be enough to slow what has been essentially an open spigot of aid. Few are more sensitive to this than Mr. Zelensky, who appears almost daily on video calls with foreign leaders and legislatures dressed in a drab green military shirt always asking for the same thing: more weapons.
In recent days Mr. Zelensky had alluded to the corruption investigations and a coming shake-up in his government. In his nightly address on Sunday, he said he hoped that punishment would be taken as a “signal to all those whose actions or behavior violate the principle of justice,” and added: “There will be no return to what used to be in the past.”
The corruption allegations have also unsettled many Ukrainians, for whom any hint that top officials might be undermining the country’s collective struggle against Russia for their own gain is galling, especially if the corruption involves the military.
Over the weekend, a Ukrainian newspaper reported that the Ministry of Defense had purchased food at inflated prices, including eggs at three times their cost. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov called the allegations “absolute nonsense” and the product of “distorted information.”
But on Tuesday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said that Viacheslav Shapovalov, a deputy minister, had “asked to be fired” following the reports. The ministry said in a statement that while the accusations “are unfounded and baseless,” relieving Mr. Shapovalov of his duties would “preserve the trust” of Ukrainians and the country’s international partners.
Still, that it took three days for Mr. Shapovalov to step down raises serious questions about the Ministry of Defense’s commitment to rooting out corruption, said Vitaliy Shabunin, the director of operations for the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Kyiv-based nongovernmental organization.
Also among those dismissed on Tuesday were five governors from regions that have at various points seen intense fighting, including Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The governor of Kyiv was also dismissed but then reassigned to a position within the presidential administration.
The deputy head of Mr. Zelensky’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, resigned amid criticism of his use of the donated G.M. SUV. Mr. Tymoshenko was well known domestically and internationally, often tasked with providing updates on the war. But Ukrainian journalists had raised questions about his lavish lifestyle and use of government resources.
The shake-up began over the weekend, when Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau detained a deputy infrastructure minister who was caught receiving a $400,000 bribe from a company seeking a government contract to provide generators and other equipment.
The State of the War
- In the East: Russian forces are wrestling for control of villages near the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, which has become a flashpoint in a battle that Moscow views as crucial for its push to seize the Donbas region.
- In Kharkiv: Residents have slowly trickled back into Ukraine’s second-largest city after Ukrainian forces expelled the Russian military. But signs of the war — and the chance that it might return — are everywhere.
- Military Aid: After weeks of tense negotiations, Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine. But the tanks won’t be the silver bullet that allows Kyiv to win the war.
- Corruption Scandal: Amid allegations of government corruption, several top Ukrainian officials were fired. The ouster has renewed questions about how Ukraine’s leaders are addressing concerns over aid.
The corruption accusations that led to a shake-up in Ukraine’s government in recent days do not appear to have involved billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid supplied by the United States, a State Department spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Biden administration is “not aware that any U.S. assistance was involved,” the spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters at a daily briefing.
Among those removed from their posts were a deputy defense minister and a deputy prosecutor general. In addition, a senior official in Mr. Zelensky’s office resigned.
Longstanding concerns about political corruption in Ukraine have contributed to calls in Congress for restricting American aid to Ukraine, but Mr. Price insisted that American supplies and funds were subject to careful oversight.
“We take extraordinarily seriously our responsibility to ensure appropriate oversight of all forms of U.S. assistance that we’re delivering to Ukraine,” Mr. Price said. He did not provide details on the nature of those efforts, about which U.S. officials have said little.
Even so, Mr. Price acknowledged that devastation caused by the invasion has complicated efforts to track the billions of dollars in weapons, along with economic and humanitarian aid, that Washington has shipped to Kyiv.
“There are challenges associated with the current environment, in which our Ukrainian partners are in the midst of a brutal attack by the Russian Federation,” Mr. Price said. “But we take this commitment seriously nonetheless, and we’re still able to take steps to ensure that accountability.”
Mr. Price noted that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had campaigned in part on an anticorruption platform that drew strong public support in his country. He said the United States welcomed Mr. Zelensky’s “quick and decisive actions” and broader efforts to counter corruption and hold officials accountable when they “fail to meet the obligations and the responsibilities that are entrusted to them.”
Before the outbreak of the war, some analysts and U.S. officials complained that Mr. Zelensky was not moving more aggressively on his agenda to root out corruption.
“We will continue to stand with Ukraine as it works to implement these important anticorruption reforms,” Mr. Price said.
The dismissals of several top Ukrainian officials on Tuesday came hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky said that government officials would be prohibited from traveling abroad for vacation or any other unofficial purpose, a move intended to show that corruption would not be allowed to undermine the country’s war effort.
Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address that he had signed a decree approving the decision to restrict travel, which was made by the country’s National Security and Defense Council after a deputy minister was dismissed over the weekend over accusations of embezzlement. The president said a border-crossing procedure for officials at all levels of government would be developed within days.
Mr. Zelensky also signaled that there would be a shake-up in his government, saying he had “made personnel decisions” involving ministries, regional governments, law enforcement agencies and other departments.
A senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Twitter that those moves show that the Ukrainian president “directly responds to a key public demand — justice for all.”
Zelenskyy’s personnel decisions testify to the key priorities of the state... No "blind eyes". During the war, everyone should understand their responsibility. The President sees and hears society. And he directly responds to a key public demand – justice for all...— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) January 24, 2023
Corruption plagued Ukraine long before Russia launched its full-scale invasion 11 months ago, and rooting out corruption has remained a priority both for Kyiv and its allies. Weapons and aid worth billions of dollars have been flooding into the country from Western allies, and the price tag for reconstruction efforts is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Ukraine is also gearing up to fight a possible Russian offensive this spring, and allies are preparing to send Kyiv billions of dollars of additional matériel, including some of their most advanced weaponry.
The European Union has tied Ukraine’s candidate status to overhauls concerning the rule of law, justice and corruption. In addition to expressing worries about the risk of corruption tainting postwar reconstruction efforts, some U.S. officials have voiced concerns that American weapons given to Ukraine could be diverted or stolen for resale.
Turkey has indefinitely postponed a meeting with Finland and Sweden to discuss their bid to join NATO, Turkish state media reported on Tuesday, amid Turkish anger over recent protests in Stockholm that included the burning of a Quran.
The meeting had been scheduled to take place in Brussels in February.
Before that announcement, Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said that tensions caused by the protests were further delaying Ankara’s approval of NATO membership for his country and for Sweden.
Mr. Haavisto said that the Quran burning by a far-right activist outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm had shaken officials in Ankara, stalling the NATO approval process by “at least weeks.”
Mr. Haavisto raised some eyebrows by suggesting to the broadcaster YLE on Tuesday that Finland might consider seeking membership without Sweden, given Turkey’s objections, but he later clarified his remarks and said the two were in the process together.
“Despite all these complications, Finland’s and Sweden’s joint NATO process will continue,” Mr. Haavisto told a news conference on Tuesday. “We strive to promote it together, to act together so that both countries can have their memberships ratified and we become members at the same time.”
His remarks came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said that Sweden should not count on Turkey’s support for its NATO bid if it did not “show respect to the religious beliefs” of Muslims.
“Those who caused such a disgrace in front of our embassy should not expect any benevolence from us regarding their NATO membership applications,” Mr. Erdogan said on Monday, according to TRT, the Turkish state broadcaster.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine prompted Sweden and Finland to seek membership in NATO, which would grant them alliance protection in the event of a Russian attack.
But joining NATO requires approval by all members, and Turkey has made extensive demands that it says must be met before it will support the inclusion of Sweden and Finland. These include tightening antiterrorism laws and extraditing people Turkey considers to be criminals, mainly Kurdish militants.
While the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that Finland and Sweden had fulfilled the demands outlined by Turkey, a top aide to Mr. Erdogan suggested earlier this month that it could take more than six months for Sweden to do what is necessary to win the country’s support for its bid to join NATO.
Mr. Erdogan is in a difficult re-election campaign, with a vote expected on May 14. Turkey’s vote on approval is likely to come after its presidential and parliamentary elections; NATO allies have expressed hope that it will be done by the next summit meeting of the alliance in July.
Two British citizens, Andrew Bagshaw and Chris Parry, departed from the city of Kramatorsk at 8 a.m. on Jan. 6 and headed east toward the front lines of Ukraine’s war with Russia, Ukrainian police said.
Their mission, according to an aid worker familiar with the matter, was to evacuate an elderly woman in Soledar, a small town where Russian and Ukrainian forces were waging a vicious fight.
They never returned.
Questions lingered about their fate until Tuesday, when Mr. Parry’s family confirmed in a statement released through the British foreign ministry that “our beloved Chrissy” and Mr. Bagshaw had been killed “whilst attempting a humanitarian evacuation from Soledar.”
“His selfless determination in helping the old, young and disadvantaged there has made us and his larger family extremely proud,” the statement said.
The men’s vehicle is believed to have been hit by an artillery shell, though investigations were underway, Mr. Bagshaw’s parents said at a news conference. They had feared such an outcome, they said, but were “very, very proud” of his work.
Mr. Bagshaw, 47, and Mr. Parry, 28, were part of an ad hoc cohort of foreigners with little to no combat experience who helped evacuate civilians from the front lines, acquaintances said. Several of Mr. Parry’s and Mr. Bagshaw’s evacuations were documented by journalists, including Arnaud De Decker, who shared footage of Mr. Parry in Bakhmut days before he went missing.
Their deaths were a stark reminder of the danger facing those whose work has become a lifeline in the Donbas, where many Ukrainians are trapped in some of the worst war zones Europe has seen since the Second World War.
On Jan. 6, the two men “went to some really dangerous address,” said Grzegorz Rybak, a fellow foreign volunteer who worked with both men and lived with Mr. Bagshaw in Kramatorsk for two weeks. “And they did not come back.”
PMC Wagner, a notorious mercenary group fighting on behalf of Russia, claimed a week after their disappearance to have found one of the men’s bodies. The group posted photos on Telegram of what appeared to be their passports, along with a certificate identifying Mr. Parry as a volunteer with the Pavlo Vyshniakov Foundation, a Kyiv-based charity that sends resources including food and medical supplies to civilians, hospitals and military groups. The foundation declined to comment.
Wagner’s claim could not be verified at the time, and Russian state media has since claimed, without evidence, that the men were mercenaries.
The war in Ukraine is a humanitarian quandary. Conditions in some areas are too perilous for residents to stay put, or for many international organizations to allow their staff to venture in, said Abby Stoddard, a humanitarian policy analyst.
So some of the riskiest evacuations are being carried out by independent volunteers — “in other words, the ones who have the least amount of resources to keep people safe,” Ms. Stoddard said.
Bryan Stern, a U.S. veteran who co-founded a humanitarian rescue operation, described front line evacuation efforts in Ukraine as a “free-for-all.” While foreign volunteers came to Ukraine with good intentions, he said, most have “no idea what they’re doing.”
“This is really why this is a sad story,” he said.
Mr. Parry was a software engineer who wanted to travel the world, his family said.
In early January, he told the local BBC station in Cornwall, where he grew up, that he “knew nothing” about Ukraine before the invasion but “became obsessed” with helping. He intended to enlist with foreign fighters, but, having no combat experience, instead bought a van and began working as an evacuation driver last March.
In an Instagram post made days after his arrival, Mr. Parry wrote that he felt apprehensive about a planned journey to Kharkiv because “everyone I have spoken to about it believes there’s a very strong chance of me dying.”
Mr. Bagshaw was a British genetics researcher who was between jobs last spring in Christchurch, New Zealand, when he decided to go to Ukraine, a photojournalist who met him wrote in the New Zealand Herald in October. His family told reporters that he believed “it to be the morally right thing to do.”
Mr. Rybak, who translated for the volunteers, said their ad hoc operation was largely carried out by a small community of English-speakers in Kramatorsk. Neither Mr. Parry nor Mr. Bagshaw spoke Ukrainian or Russian, he said.
Mr. Rybak said Ukrainians would contact local aid workers about relatives near Bakhmut, and their addresses would be relayed to the volunteers, who would drive into the conflict zone to evacuate them, often in donated or crowd-funded vehicles. The trips were unpredictable, Mr. Rybak said, with addresses sometimes vacant or residents resisting evacuation.
The men had plans for after the war. Mr. Parry had a partner he wanted to marry, Mr. Rybak recalled, and Mr. Bagshaw wanted to carry on with his scientific career.
“They wanted to live,” he said.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.
Out of 50,000 mercenaries — many of them prison inmates — recruited by the private paramilitary group Wagner to fight alongside regular Russian troops in Ukraine, only about 10,000 remain actively serving, according to a new estimate by Russia Behind Bars, a prisoner rights organization.
The organization’s founder, Olga Romanova, said in an interview on Monday with TV Rain, an independent Russian broadcaster based in the Netherlands, that according to her organization’s data, the other 40,000 recruits have either deserted or surrendered, or been injured or killed.
Wagner’s mercenaries have played a large role in the battle for eastern Ukraine and have also carried out military operations in Africa and elsewhere. Human rights groups have said that the Kremlin is relying on the extralegal use of prisoners to replenish its decimated military.
In September, a visual investigation by The Times revealed footage that appeared to be Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the Russian businessman and close associate of President Vladimir V. Putin who founded Wagner, promising convicts release from prison in return for a six-month combat tour in Russia’s war against Ukraine. In the video, he also warns that any who sign up and try to desert will be shot.
The estimates by Russia Behind Bars could not be independently verified, but the overall number of fighters roughly aligns with a late December assessment shared by John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council. Mr. Kirby said Wagner had about 50,000 people fighting in Ukraine at that time, including 10,000 contractors and about 40,000 inmates recruited from Russian prisons.
In a statement earlier this month, the British Defense Ministry said that Russia was “highly likely resorting” to convict labor in an effort to meet wartime production demands.
On Friday, the White House said the United States was designating the paramilitary group as a significant transnational criminal organization, a move that will expand the number of nations and institutions that can be prevented from doing business with the company.
At a news briefing, Mr. Kirby told reporters, “Our message to any company that is considering providing support to Wagner is simply this: Wagner is a criminal organization that is committing widespread human rights abuses.”
Killings of journalists and news media workers were up almost 50 percent in 2022, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists published on Tuesday, making it the deadliest year for the press since 2018.
At least 67 members of the press were killed last year, the organization found, an increase driven by the war in Ukraine and an uptick in killings in Latin America.
The committee said 15 journalists were killed in Ukraine in 2022, during the months that followed Russia’s invasion of the country in late February. Of those, 13 journalists were killed while engaged in news gathering and reporting, the report said, and the organization is investigating the two other deaths.
In Mexico, the deadliest country in the world for journalists in recent years, 13 were killed in 2022, the second-highest toll.
The findings are lower than figures released this month by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, which said that 86 journalists and media workers were killed globally last year — at an average of one journalist killed every four days.
“After several years of consecutive declines, the steep rise in the number of journalists killed in 2022 is alarming,” the director-general of UNESCO said in a statement. “Authorities must step up their efforts to stop these crimes and ensure their perpetrators are punished, because indifference is a major factor in this climate of violence.”
Most journalist deaths in Ukraine came in the early stages of the war, the Committee to Protect Journalists said, and the group has not documented any work-related killings in the country since the death of a French cameraman, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, in late May.
Speaking to reporters in Kyiv at the time, France’s foreign minister noted that Mr. Leclerc-Imhoff “was doing his job,” calling his death “a tragedy that in reality is a crime.”
The situation on the ground in Ukraine remains perilous for journalists, the report said. Members of the media are frequently at risk while covering the conflict, some have been injured by shelling and others say that they have been targeted by Russian forces.
KYIV, Ukraine — Among the éclairs and macarons at the pastry counter in Honey cafe in Kyiv are small, glazed cakes with candy lettering on top spelling out “ZSU,” the letters that denote the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Part of the proceeds from every cake sold at the cafe goes to the Ukrainian Army. It is just one tiny contribution, which is part of a widespread trend in Ukraine that sees businesses and individuals donating to the army.
Western governments have provided air defense systems and precision and long-range artillery that have helped the Ukrainian military to shift the tide on the battlefield.
At home, Ukrainians fund the military through taxes, with about 50 percent of the budget now allocated for defense. On top of that, individual donations are another source, and one that has swelled over the past year.
A poll last fall by Suspilne Media, Ukraine’s public broadcaster, found that about a quarter of all Ukrainians, or 24 percent, said they had donated money directly to the military during the war.
Over the past year, 22.3 billion hryvnia, or about $500 million, was donated directly to the army by businesses and individuals, according to Ukraine’s central bank. That far outpaced charitable contributions inside Ukraine for humanitarian assistance, which totaled 920 million hryvnia, or $20 million.
Nongovernmental groups that collect donations and buy equipment that is donated to the army, such as armored vests, night vision goggles or infrared scopes, are also a significant source of support.
One of the largest such organizations, Povernys Zhyvym, or Come Back Alive, has collected 5.3 billion hryvnia, or $132 million for the military.
Another, the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation, has raised 3.5 billion hryvnia, or $87 million. Fund-raisers like this foundation often raise money for specific purchases, such as a Bayraktar TB2 attack drone for the air force.
Several groups raise money for the military, or for weapons procurement, by selling personalized messages on bombs or artillery shells. Punisher, a company making long-range attack drones, has a website that allows people to put messages on bombs for a fee, which goes toward funding development and production of the weapons.
On the larger end of the scale of donations from individuals, the commanding general in the Ukrainian army, General Valery Zaluzhny, this month donated $1 million to the military from an inheritance he received from a Ukrainian American, Gregory Stepanets, according to the Stepanets family. The military’s press service confirmed the donation.
And on the smaller end, restaurants with electronic menus offer customers the opportunity to donate small sums to the military while paying their bills.
Yurii Shyvala contributed reporting from Lviv, Ukraine.
Humanity is closer than ever to the end of the world.
That was the dire warning this week from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which, since 1947, has been estimating how close the world is to ending by stating starkly how many “minutes to midnight” remain on its signature Doomsday Clock.
The clock on Tuesday was set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to midnight it has ever reached, according to the Bulletin, a nonprofit organization and publication.
The Doomsday Clock had been set at 100 seconds to midnight since 2020. But the clock was moved forward this year “largely but not exclusively” because of “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation,” the Bulletin said in a statement.
A number of other issues played a role in moving the Doomsday Clock forward, the Bulletin said, including the effects of climate change, “unabated” disinformation online and an ongoing threat of infectious disease outbreaks.
Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and chief executive, said in the statement that the decision to move the clock closer to midnight had not been taken lightly.
“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” Dr. Bronson said. “The U.S. government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; we urge leaders to explore all of them to their fullest ability to turn back the clock.”
The Bulletin’s science and security board meets twice a year to discuss current events and determine whether the clock needs to be reset. The board includes several scientists and experts in nuclear technology and climate science. To decide the clock’s timing, the board looks at data, such as the number of nuclear weapons in the world, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the acidity of the oceans and the rate at which sea levels are rising.
The Doomsday Clock and its annual warnings about the imminency of annihilation have generated some skepticism over the years and prompted debate over its purpose.
Brad Evans, a professor of political violence at the University of Bath in Britain, said on Tuesday that the clock is “a frighteningly symbolic image for a world that’s continued to live within the shadow of annihilation.”
“Whilst this image has come to shape our politics — we do after all live in catastrophic times where the future looks like an endemic terrain of crisis — there are a number of problems with this particularly symbolic attempt to calculate the time that remains,” Professor Evans said.
Professor Evans noted that, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, “when the world was perilously close, arguably the closest it has ever been, to extinction,” the clock did not change.
The Bulletin has said that the clock’s hands were not changed during the crisis because “too little was known at the time about the circumstances of the standoff or what the outcome would be.”
The Bulletin has said that the clock “is not a forecasting tool” and that it does not predict the future. The clock is a symbol of threats to humanity, the Bulletin said, and each second does not represent how many years or decades the world is from apocalypse.
The first Doomsday Clock was set arbitrarily. Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who was asked to create a design for the cover of the 1947 edition of the Bulletin, decided to set the original clock at seven minutes to midnight because “it looked good to my eye,” according to the Bulletin.
The farthest the clock has been set from midnight was 17 minutes, in 1991 at the end of the Cold War.