By James Bickerton On 10/18/22 at 11:51 AM EDT
Online betting sites are offering odds on Russia carrying out a nuclear attack this year, as Ukraine continues to resist Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
As Russia has suffered battlefield reverses, such as being almost completely forced out of the northern Kharkiv province last month, some of the country’s top figures have responded with implicit or explicit threats of nuclear weapon use.
In September, while announcing a partial mobilization to boost his forces, Putin threatened to use “all defense methods at our disposal” to protect Russian “territorial integrity.”
Just days later he formally annexed four Ukrainian provinces, which are partially occupied by Russian forces, placing them under this umbrella.
On October 1 Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Putin strongman who runs Russia’s Chechen Republic, called for “low-yield nuclear weapons” to be used against Ukraine.
Polymarket, a cryptocurrency betting site, is currently taking bets on “Will Russia use a nuclear weapon before 2023?”
The current odds are being offered on the use of an “offensive” nuclear weapon are 1-20. This means, if you correctly bet nuclear weapons will be used, you stand to collect $18.97 from a $1 bet after site fees are processed.
Conversely, if you rightly guess they won’t be used you will win $1.04, for the same $1 stake.
Explaining the technicalities Polymarket says: “This market will resolve to ‘Yes’ if the Russian Federation detonates a nuclear device in an offensive capacity by December 31, 2022, 11:59:59 PM ET. Otherwise, this market will resolve to ‘No.’
“To satisfy a ‘Yes’ resolution, the detonation of a nuclear device must be in an offensive capacity (whether deliberate or accidental), must not be a test, and must be either claimed by the Russian Federation or considered by a preponderance of credible reporting and/or information from credible sources to be from the Russian Federation.
“For the purpose of this market’s resolution, determination as to whether a detonation was nuclear will be made by a preponderance of credible reporting.”
Those wishing to bet can transfer crypto into Polymarket “outcome shares,” which can be redeemed in dollars if your bet is successful.
Polymarket argued it is providing a “public good” by providing odds on Russian use of offensive nuclear weapons.
The site read: “A prediction market on whether Russia will use nuclear weapons has been requested many times recently by esteemed academics and thought leaders from across the world, and it is strongly within the public’s interest to have accurate price discovery and realtime forecasts on such a topic.
“Existing prediction markets on this subject lack functional price discovery mechanisms, and thus are misleading the people; therefore it was deemed necessary to support this market as a public good, in order to provide clarity to society on one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.”
According to a recent study by the American Physical Society, the probability of the U.S. successfully intercepting an incoming North Korean nuclear missile is “low.”
Considering how many more missiles Russia has the “idea of an impenetrable shield” against them is “just a fantasy,” according to Laura Grego, an MIT academic who co-chaired the report writing team.
Polymarket has been contacted for comment.