tv Washington Journal Joe Cirincione CSPAN March 7, 2022 4:30pm-5:16pm EST
what is it into what do you do within it? guest: it is a think tank, more like an action tank. i'm a nonresident fellow, i am not there or. . . i'm a distinguished fellow. this is a think tank that seeks to promote a policy of restraint in u.s. foreign relations, to end a cycle of endless wars the u.s. has been on for the last 20 years, and to put diplomacy first in our international relations. host: one thing apollo is nuclear power, especially nuclear weapons. what is the ability now as far as the use of those weapons, particularly by about american? -- particular by vladimir putin? guest: there are still barriers, i do not want to alarm anybody. i think the use of nuclear weapons is quite low, but that
is not zero. we have not been in armed conflict with russian forces in in a sustained way ever, ever. so, and the reason is not really nato rules or whether we can come to the aid of a country outside of nato, it's that russia has 6000 nuclear weapons and we have almost of that number. and any armed conflict is very likely to quickly escalate to nuclear levels. so that is what is staying our hand. for years, we thought of nuclear weapons as our ultimate protector, but here we see that they are actually a shield for vladimir putin, allowing him to conduct a brutal invasion and stopping us from an intervention that we otherwise would have. host: one of the stories on ukraine is not only about the attack, one nuclear power plant,
but others within the country, can you paint that into the picture of what the expectations are as far as nuclear power is concerned? guest:guest: that is another dimension of nuclear risk. and this has never happened before. no country, no group has ever attacked a nuclear power plant anywhere, no country or group has ever seized a nuclear power plant, and no group or country has ever forced the operators of that plant to operate at gunpoint under duress, cut off from outside communication, but that is what is going on today in ukraine. the risks are manifold. one is in attacking the plant, and they are on their way to attacking the second largest nuclear facility as we speak, and attacking with mortar rounds, which we damaged the heavy concrete structures that contain the nuclear reactors. these are powerful structures. no structure in the world is
designed to withstand an artillery assault or tank assault. or that in the process they may cut off the electricity to the plant, and back up electric supply, which would damage in the plumbing and prevent the flow of coolant into the reactors and without that the nuclear fuel rods would heat to super hot temperatures and you would get a nuclear meltdown, like we had in fukushima when the electricity went off. that would release high volumes of radioactive activity into the ground, into the groundwater supply and if it happened, especially if it was in a damaging way, it could result in the build up of hydrogen gas which could explode at the facility input radioactive particulates into the air into the could travel for hundreds of thousands of kilometers. those are the most serious risks we face.
one moore, we have never had a situation where nuclear plant operators who are operating at gunpoint at the facility. these are highly skilled scientists, but now they are operating under duress. it is tricky operating a reactor at normal times, but at gunpoint, no shift changes -- i'm afraid this is a catastrophe waiting to happen. host: our guest will be with us until 8:45 a.m., if you want to ask questions about nuclear capability, 202-748-8000 for democrats. 202-748-8001 for republicans. independents, 202-748-8002. text at 202-748-8003. back to the weapons, particularly from russia, we saw putin put these things on alert. what does that mean? guest: it is not clear. when he announced he was putting nuclear weapons into special
combat readiness, that is not a phrase we are familiar with. there are four standard levels of status and we believe the nuclear weapons are at the constant level, the base level. what we think this may mean is that he has not changed the operational position of the weapons, we have not seen icb's, mobile trucks or trains, no subs have gone to sea, but we think he changed the communication structure, meaning in the day to day operations the communication structure is actually blocked from transmitting a launch port, a safety mechanism to make sure that one is not transmitted by accident or in confusion. what he has done is unblock the system, he has taken the safety off the nuclear gun, and that raises to intermediate risk. in the heat of battle committee
could get an accidental launch order. many times this has come close to this in the cold war. the second is he would actually do it. the fair is if vladimir putin is losing this war, and he might, something unimaginable a week ago. if you were losing the war he may resort to the use of nuclear weapons and russian military doctrine outlines exactly that kind of procedure to prevent what they call a serious security threat to the state. putin may feel that way. then what would nato do? what would the u.s. do? all bets are off. host: the eastern central time zones, 202-748-8000. mountain and pacific time zones, 202-748-8001. the question comes, you probably heard this in various forms, is vladimir putin willing to go that far? guest: you may be. he's really gambled on this
invasion and the is losing right now. and like a card player at the table who is losing, he might think that one more bet will in the hand. that it is time to bet the house on winning. and russia and the united states have developed more usable nuclear weapons, weapons of smaller in explosive force than the thermonuclear bomb that makes up most of our arsenal. weapons of smaller than the bomb that hit hiroshima, maybe a 10th of the size, and he may feel like that is calibrated, that he is sending a signal to the west to back off. that could be the signal that he intends to send, but we may see it as another atrocity that threatens more nuclear use. and feel at that point we have to respond in kind.
wargames show once you cross the nuclear barrier, it's very difficult to contain the escalation. things tend to spiral out of control. each side things one more move may be an increased nuclear strike that would settle the issue and it really does. -- and it rarely does. host: when it comes to russia, about 1400 plus warheads on 527 icb's, strategic bombers, 4400 plus nuclear warheads stockpiled, 1700 plus additional retired warheads. do those sound right? guest: it is an enormous arsenal, way down from where it was during the cold war, but still more than enough explosive force to end human life on the planet and that is only russia's arsenal, we have a matching arsenal. i have seen articles that say we should be building more tactical nuclear weapons like russia has, they have a couple thousand and
we have hundreds, but when you're at that level the numbers do not matter. there is no numerical security or superiority that will give you a strategic advantage. one nuclear weapon would be a catastrophe, 10 would be a level of destruction beyond human history. and 100 nuclear weapons is really unthinkable, both the u.s. and russia have about five or 6000 nuclear weapons. host: john in pennsylvania for our guest, joe cirincione of the quincy institute. caller: good morning. i appreciate you taking my call. it's an honor to speak to you. this is something i have been reading about and thinking about for 15 years, this precise situation. i appreciate if you give me the opportunity to express myself. it seems that the solution was to avoid this was just so self-evident, as professor marcia reimer -- the realist
foreign policy analyst, his youtube videos -- guest: at the university of chicago, yes. caller: he is a realist and foreign policy analyst. in any event, isn't it obvious the neutrality in ukraine would've been the best solution for all concerned? certainly for the ukrainian people, we see what is happening. and certainly for -- russia has been pleading for it. last -- putin made an ultimatum last november and we had to give a written guarantees that he was suspicious of. willing to do negotiations, but the washington post said that we
were moving massive javelin and shells fired at antiaircraft missiles to ukraine as we were sensibly negotiating with russia. host: for the interest of time, what would you like the guest to address? caller: that this was a set up. guest: meaning is putin trying to goad us into war? i understand. when it comes to explaining russia's behavior, there are basically two schools of thought. one is the aggressive school, meaning that putin is trying to rebuild the soviet empire and he is on a campaign of territorial expansion and ukraine is the first of many territories he wants to reconquer. the other is the defensive school, this is where john comes out saying when nato expanded and moved a military alliance
based on its opposition to the soviet union, moved it to russia's border, what did you expect them to do? in a great feel threatened. -- any great power would feel threatened. we did not take concerns into consideration. i tend to be in the middle. i think that putin is aggressive, that he is moving, that this is an unjust invasion. yes, we should not have expanded nato that fast and we should have listened to russia and we should've gotten rid of the 6000 nuclear weapons when we had the chance and we will have a time to reconsider those policies after this war, but right now there is no justification for what putin is doing. was there a neutral option here? i think there was, maybe ukraine should have pursued that more. many people are suggesting that this is the diplomatic path out of this, that this is what
ukraine will have to agree to in order to get putin to withdraw. right now it is hard to see how that diplomacy would work. i do not see ukraine agreeing to any territorial concessions, any armed neutrality or finland like status. as we talk about the finland option, finland is starting to discuss with nato if it should also joined the alliance. putin has pushed eastern europe and all of europe into and much more hostile relationship with russia, when i am afraid is warranted by putin's actions. host: alice in connecticut. caller: i have been worried about the nuclear power plants from the moment they occupied chernobyl, because my thought was, why would you take a radioactive don't? -- dump? guest: me too. of all the places you would want
to avoid, turn number would be at the top of the list. caller: then going after the largest nuclear power plant. if they do happen, the russians will try to use as a weapon against the west with saboteurs or something like that as a justification for further aggression summer. -- somewhere. this is horrible. we can talk we should have done that, where we could have done that at that point in time, but the thing is, what are we dealing with right now? how do we prevent future repercussions. that is my question -- future repercussions? that is my question. guest: we could allow the director general of the iaea, who is trying to negotiate a deal to restore restraints on
the iranian program -- half of what they do concerns nuclear energy. they are pro-nuclear energy, but he is extremely concerned about the severe risks presented by the attack and occupation of this power plant. let him in. on the nuclear front, the u.s. and nato could declare that they have no intention of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict with russia and they should urge russia to make a similar pledge. there are things we could do to declare our own intentions and demand that russia take at least verbal assurances it will not use nuclear weapons and it will allow the international atomic agency into these plants and allow relief of the workers. there are things we could do, whether russia will let us do them we do not know. host: char in texas.
caller: thank you for taking my call, you guys are doing a great job to allow the voices to be heard. thank you everyone for their support of the ukrainians, because it could be us. i think that putin is a bully. the ones we speak of when we say we want to stop kids in school from being bullied, this is what he has been doing. he has been a big bully. where are the people who are not thinking so smart and educated is the question i have for joseph? why don't we talk to the real street people in order to get education on how to handle a thug like putin. you were saying that we do not know what he means when he says this. we have four different levels we are using, but he is not using those words.
ne-ne and kanye will speak his language and and then he will back down from everyone and weakening gain our power -- from everyone and then we can gain our power. guest: i hear what you are saying. i think that the actual military equivalent of doing that is kind of what we are doing right now, which we are streaming defensive weapons into ukraine. i saw a figure today that there were 14,000 antitank weapons and antiaircraft weapons that have been streamed into ukraine over the last week. we are trying to give the ukrainian fighters the tools they need to defeat russian thugs. host: talk about the current arms-control deals and arrangements we have and how it factors into potential conflict. guest: we were very successful working with the soviets and it
then with the russians and european partners to build up nuclear guard rails, things that would not necessarily eliminate the weapons, but stockpile to establish the rules of the road, allow for verifications, limits on these weapons. unfortunately, over the last 20 years, we have seen the u.s. and russia take down these guardrails. it started with george w. bush in 2022, when he -- 2002, when he pulled the u.s. out of the antimissile treaty. putin said if you do this, i will build offense of weapons to overcome your system, which is what he did. so we have seen a russian build up. same with the chinese. they are responding to what they think is our threat to them. donald trump pulled out of the intermediate nuclear forces treaty, that limited the range of u.s. and russian weapons. i wish we had that back. he pulled us out of the open skies treaty, that allowed for
surveillance flights over russian territory to watch their military maneuvers. it would be nice to have that back. we have not seen the nuclear reduction treaty since 2010. so, basically the nuclear arms race is back, the guardrails are coming down, the gloves are off and we made a mistake in rejecting the policies of that had worked to reduce the number of weapons and prevent other countries from getting those weapons. we are now an unchartered territory with fewer guardrails to help us. host: last month you wrote in the washington post about president biden promising nuclear policy reform. the headline saying he is not delivering. can you elaborate? guest: in the beginning of every presidency a president does a layout of policy for those weapons. when barack obama came in, he had one that pulled back on nuclear weapons, reducing the
weapons in our strategy. when donald trump came, he did when the increased of the role of nuclear weapons, gave them more military missions and he started developing new kinds of weapons, some that are called more usable weapons to be used in a conflict like this. what is joe biden going to do? what we know is very little. he's going to tweak these, may be eliminate one or two smaller weapons or change their strategy a little bit, but nothing like what we need to get back to the policies of ronald reagan, for example, where we said we must eliminate these weapons from the face of the earth. now in the face of this war, you hear many politicians on capitol hill saying we need more nuclear weapons. we need to spend more on the military, even though we are spending more in the military than we have since world war ii. this is our highest pentagon budget ever, last year, and it
might go up. when americans feel threatened, they attended by guns individually and collectively. we are seeing that push now and it raises the stakes and risk of nuclear weapons using -- being used by madness or miscalculation. host: the congressional budget office last year calculated a cost of nuclear forces, saying if everything stayed the same $634 billion from 2021-2030 used for the defense department and for nuclear weapons laboratories i in the energyn -- in the energy department. guest: that is right, $634 billion, way more than the domestic programs that were so hotly debated in biden's program. a new program, which i think we should cancel, we do not need ic bm's at all, we have plenty of
sea based weapons, it is that one weapon that will cost $234 billion. that's for one weapons system. it's an enormous amount of money and risk. host: jeff in california. caller: good morning. i have a question and a couple of comments. in regards to the budget allocations for reiki on and the comparison to her state department, i do not know what those figures are, but i think that they are probably, um, more towards rakeon than simply are state department and that is just one incorporation -- on corporation -- one corporation. i would like to know if you have those numbers. my comment, i think we have a
battle of values going on. and it will be a long battle, as it has been. in regards to the value of education, a little arts education is this ongoing battle with our universities, colleges in regards to stem programs in the united states. we see this -- monitoring that is getting us to buy more weapons and more technology to protect us. when the liberal arts education is being forgotten in so many things from the greeks and some of the ideas of freedom and justice are being lost and forgotten. host: we got your point, thank you for the call. guest: i understand your point. what really makes america
strong? what do we really need to compete in this modern world? i understand where you're coming from, i am with you. we have plenty of weapons. we have an enormous budget. where we are lacking is in education and correcting -- correcting the racial injustice in this country. we need to be stronger as a democracy, that is where we should be spending our money. i do not know how much rakeon makes, there's five large defense corporations that dominate the military budget and they are one of them, but my friend, william, has a wonderful piece at the quincy upson to website, a new report on what is happening with those budgets. he has all of the figures, how much companies expend all lobbying. we think of nuclear weapons as necessary to protect us, but they are also a product.
we spend $50 billion a year on nuclear weapons and related programs like missile defense. that is a a lot of money, so corporations making money from the product work hard to make sure that their contracts keep going and they tend to dominate the process, they tended to dominate not only the pentagon with justifications for these weapons, but congress, where the armed services committee approves these contracts. and almost all of the members get heavy political contributions from defense contractors, lobbied by defense contractors. so it is very difficult to resist this marketing push. it is not only patriotism, or certainly military necessity that results in these high budgets, it is corporate lobbying. host: alan in wisconsin. caller: a couple things. i do not know how many times we
have to destroy the world and why we are spending all of this money on doing it. another thing i find funny is in congress and in the senate, there's no working together. we are not helping a nation that wants to be left alone, but now republicans are on for more spending and giving. i want somebody to explain to the viewers the keystone pipeline, that it was not finished, you cannot flip the switch and we will not get more oil out of this. it would not even be complete until 2023. that's all i got. guest: the pipeline, i cannot help you there. the number of weapons to destroy the world. i was on stephen colbert when he was running that show, and he was arguing with me that i wanted to eliminate nuclear
weapons, he suggested a compromise and a said, let's compromise on how many weapons it would take to destroy the world once. i thought, maybe two or 300 would do the job. 13,000 nuclear weapons are in the world, so we could go way down. you do not have to agree with me that we should eliminate the weapons, you do not have to agree with the pope who says these weapons are immoral and nobody should have them. you could decide you want nuclear weapons for security, but we could go down to much lower levels and still not make any compromise whatsoever in nuclear security and national security. host: as this is going on, there is still questions and answers going back and forth between nations on iran and their nuclear program, should it continue? guest: yes, i was on the advisory board for hillary clinton and john kerry, when we
were negotiating the deal in the first place with russia, china, europe and iran, and that this is when putin invaded crimea the first time. much to our surprise, they were very cooperative in that arena. in general, russia is still cooperating in those negotiations. they may conclude within days, we could be close to restoring the steel. the only arrangement -- this deal. the only arrangement we have found where we can put cameras and inspectors on site and reduce the risk iran will get nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting sanctions -- i think we will get that deal. they were in iran over the weekend negotiating the inspections part of that. it looks close to completion perhaps in the next couple days. host: one question is about how
much of they are revealing about their various programs. guest: we know a lot about their current program. our intelligence is excellent, we have deeply penetrated the system, there are no surprises or secret facilities we do not know about, but there are questions about what happened in the past, in the 1990's, before 2003 when our intelligence says they ended their nuclear weapons program. they are not secretly building a bomb. what they are building a facility to make nuclear fuel. and it's the same facility where you can enrich it to high levels for bombs. that is the program we are trying to control. but we have legitimate questions about things that happened when they did have a weapons program, and that is what we are working on, to get the truth. they do not want to give us the truth because they insist they
never had a weapons program, and if they told us the truth they would be acknowledging that they did. we are trying to find a mechanism to find out as much as possible without pushing them into an embarrassing admission that they will not make. it's really an historic question, it really does not impact what they are doing now. we have near-perfect information about what they are doing now. host: dorothy in north carolina, hello. caller: good morning. please let me make three comments, then i will ask a question about the nuclear weapons. i want to let everybody know that russia is getting crushed by corporations. i want to read who is cutting ties with them -- bp, boeing, airbnb, ford, harley davidson, mercedes-benz, toyota -- host: we get the point. move on.
caller: and then we have been getting oil from russia hold time with president trump, obama, we never stopped getting oil from russia. we have been getting it from saudi arabia and so forth. about the nuclear, we had an agreement with iran where we could watch them, we could watch russia, too. trump pulled out of that, so we had nobody there to watch them. we had a good deal because we could watch them. another thing, and i know that he can comment on this, to the audience as well, when they say it would not happen if trump was in office, yes it would have because turkey invaded syria and took over the kurds, trump
pulled out and left our allies over there. guest: that is part of it, pulling out of treaties. it's crises like this that make you wish we had a more inspections, greater knowledge, more limitation, that we had moved faster when we had the chance. when ronald reagan was negotiating with gorbachev, the came very close to eliminating all nuclear weapons. they cut the arsenals in half. then george h w bush cut them in half again. george w. bush cut them in half again. but then we stopped, there were no more reductions. we have been stuck at this 13,000 weapon level. it makes you wish we had moved faster when we had the time to take the nuclear guns out of putin's hands. if we get a second shot at this, i hope we will move much faster
so we are never faced with these nuclear tears again. -- terrors again. host: in florida, then. -- ben. caller: you never need weapons until you need them. that's number one. two, when you are dealing with weapons as a business, the first thing we have to deal with is lobbying. we have to get rid of that. the only people who get rich are the politicians, that is why they love the club. we are going to need some nuclear weapons, but we have to be smart about it. we will need some conventional weapons, and we have to be smart about that. we are dealing with a myth as far as picking on the nuclear. we need nuclear as a deterrent. but we do not need politicians using that to embellish
themselves. that's what we have to watch. guest: ben, i think that you are exactly right. we have to understand that, especially for military commanders but also strategic theorists, they want to have multiple options, maximum flexibility. if you have 10 different types of nuclear weapons and somebody says, what about this one? this can do this particular mission. your answer is going to be yes, i want options. the trouble is when you do it, others do it too, so suddenly you have a spray of these weapons through these missions and what used to be a big fire break between conventional war and nuclear war suddenly is shrunk, even erased. both the u.s. and russia have developed theories where we combine all of our instruments, economic sanctions, conventional war, cyber war, nuclear war, all
designed to be working together and we exercise that way. putin exercises his nuclear weapons when he is doing conventional exercises. that's supposed to strengthen deterrence. unfortunately, when deterrence fails and putin starts a conventional war, the risk of that were escalating becomes much quicker. we have to get back to declaring that no country will ever use nuclear weapons first. there's no legitimate military reason. if i understand you, you want to keep the weapons but use them only for deterrence or to prevent a nuclear attack. i am with you on that, at least as a way station, then we will see if we can work towards elimination. host: what is the strength of the u.s. against a nuclear strike? guest: none. there is a new report from a premier organization of physicists in the country, you
can find it, that looked at the $350 billion of that we spent on missile defense systems over the last few decades and what we have is a very limited capability to defeat may be one or two simple icbms. missile defenses are much better at the short range, think about the iron dome against rockets that travel hundreds of miles. and patriot systems that can defeat systems that travel may be 1000 or 2000 miles. against high-speed, long-range icbms, submarine launched ballistic missiles, we do not have a system to defeat that. it is technologically much two different -- too difficult. we have interceptors in california designed to defeat a north korean threat, but even with that it cannot defend.
unfortunately, as eisenhower pointed out, the numerical superiority is not providing protection in the nuclear age. the awful arithmetic of the atomic age makes it easier for offense to overwhelm any conceivable defense, and that remains true today. host: martin in new mexico. caller: thank you. it is important to look at the terminology. instead of deterrents, we should use -- ship. brinksmanship could -- the world closer to nuclear war. if you look at the american record it was the americans who first dropped atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki in order to warn russia, then the soviet union. and it was the u.s. that blockaded cuba and threaten to
bring the world again to nuclear conflict. so i think that that is important. we talk about our position, we need to understand that other countries, um, have a position as well in the context of the world community. and when other people take positions we do not like, it's not our position to invade them as we did in vietnam, and then turn around and, you know, accuse russia of doing something extraordinary when the borders, when their national sovereignty is threatened. guest: unfortunately, i think that we are taking steps towards the nuclear brink at this point. you have heard the word unprecedented a lot in the last 12 days. what we are facing has never happened before, this is the
closest u.s. and russian forces have come to combat. this is the biggest risk that nato has faced in its entire history, whether the war spills over directly into nato territory, requiring us to go in. you can imagine attacks on the convoys of streaming in from poland right now into ukraine. it's scary times. these are high risk. and, unfortunately, what you are getting at is there may have been things that we did that set the example for this. we invaded iraq for no good reason, claiming that they had nuclear weapons. they did not. putin claimed ukraine was building nuclear weapons, they did not. he could be thinking that big powers can invade other countries. you invaded iraq, i am going to invade ukraine. what is the difference? there's a big difference.
and if we get out of this in one piece, we have to do everything we can to restore constraints, diplomatic barriers, and ways of solving these conflicts without resorting to military force. host: one more call. bill in new york. caller: hi. i tend to over talk, so if i do just cut me off. guest: me too. caller: the problem with nuclear is you cannot put the genie back in the bottle. even if we reach an agreement, no nuclear weapons anywhere, there is no one who can enforce that. you can hide things. the other problem i see is there's lots of countries that have nuclear weapons and we cannot do anything about that. i'm thinking of north korea as a
perfect example. if they decide to nuke japan, we can decide to nuke them, but we do not want to bomb ourselves back to the stone age, which i think we are perfectly capable of doing. guest: this is not the point to talk about eliminating nuclear weapons when we have a crisis in front of us, but i disagree, i think we can do that. i think we can move to reduce these weapons. and as you get down to the lower levels, the mechanisms it would require and inspections you would need might become easier to achieve. but we could -- that issue tends to span ideological and political divides. it is amazing how much americans are coming together to face this crisis with ukraine. last week, i joined newt gingrich for his podcast to talk
about the nuclear threats and we were in remarkable agreement on this, we come at it from different perspectives but we agreed the nuclear risks are high, that we have too many nuclear weapons in the world, that whether you agree with ronald reagan or barack obama we should be moving to reduce and eliminate these weapons. host: that is joe cirincione of the quincy institute. you can visit their website to check out his work. th >> the house of representatives is back in session at 6:30 p.m. eastern. to vote on three bills dealing with homeland security and cyber security. late they are week, members will consider a spending package to avert a government shutdown friday night. the measure will include $10 billion in aid for ukraine. also on the agenda, a resolution condemning violence against historically black colleges and universities and another measure condemning the january attack on
a synagogue in texas. when the house is back in session at 6:30 eastern, you can find live coverage here on c-span. >> i'm pleased to nominate judge jackson who brings extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect and a rigorous traditional record to the court. >> i am truly humbled by the extraordinary honor of this nomination. and i am especially grateful for the care that you have taken in discharging your constitutional duty in the service of our democracy with all that is going on in the world today. >> president biden nominates ketanji brown jackson from the u.s. court of appeals to the u.s. supreme court to replace retiring justice stephen briere on the -- breyer on the u.s. supreme court. follow this historic process.
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