This article summarises the key insights from the briefing paper, shedding light on the nation’s nuclear posture, disarmament stance, and ongoing modernisation efforts.
The UK’s nuclear policy focuses on minimal credible nuclear deterrence, with resources dedicated to NATO defence. The briefing paper points out that “The UK does not have a policy of ‘no-first use’.”
This means the UK reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear threats.
Post-Cold War, the UK has taken disarmament steps in line with the NPT. The 2010 SDSR anticipated a 65% reduction in the nuclear stockpile by the mid-2020s.
However, the 2021 Integrated Review stated that “2010 commitments could no longer be met due to the current security environment.”
Consequently, the cap on the nuclear stockpile has been raised, raising concerns about the UK Government’s disarmament commitment.
Capabilities and Infrastructure
The UK’s nuclear stockpile cap, as per the briefing paper, is “no more than 260 warheads.” The nation operates a continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD) and is the only recognised nuclear state with a single deterrent system.
The deterrent is based at HM Naval Base Clyde in western Scotland. Submarines are stationed at Faslane, and warheads are stored at Coulport. Maintenance for the Vanguard class is conducted at Faslane, while deep maintenance and refit take place at HM Naval Base Devonport in Plymouth.
Both HMNB Clyde and Devonport dockyard are managed by Babcock International. A 15-year contract with the ABL Alliance supports the Trident strategic weapon system at Coulport and Faslane.
The UK’s nuclear warheads are manufactured and maintained at two AWE sites in Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire. In November 2020, the MOD announced that AWE would return to direct Government ownership.
Modernisation: Dreadnought Programme
The Dreadnought programme aims to replace the UK’s Vanguard class submarines with a new Dreadnought class by the early 2030s. A Common Missile Compartment (CMC) for the SSBN is being developed in partnership with the US.
The briefing paper estimates the cost for designing and manufacturing four SSBNs at £31 billion, with a £10 billion contingency. The UK is also participating in the US service-life extension programme for the Trident II D5 missile.
In February 2020, the UK Government confirmed a programme to replace the Mk4 nuclear warhead.
The infrastructure supporting the UK’s nuclear weapons underscores the extensive network enabling the UK’s nuclear capabilities. The House of Commons Library briefing paper offers valuable insights into the complexities and challenges surrounding the UK’s nuclear landscape.
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A tornado struck Missouri on Wednesday morning, causing an unknown number of injuries, as severe thunderstorms packing the threat of more hail and tornadoes were forecast across parts of the Midwest and South.
The storms threatened a region that includes portions of the country still reeling from deadly weekend weather. The Storm Prediction Center said up to 40 million people from Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit to Memphis, Tennessee, were at risk for storms later Wednesday, with the greatest threat from lower Michigan, across the middle to lower Ohio River valley and into the mid-South.
Storms were moving Wednesday morning across the Ozarks in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, prompting tornado warnings. The National Weather Service said a tornado struck in Bollinger County in southeastern Missouri on Wednesday morning, causing an unknown number of injuries.
“A tornado definitely touched down, there is damage to homes, we know that, there have been people injured, we don’t know the extent” or if there are fatalities, said meteorologist Justin Gibbs with the weather service in Paducah, Kentucky.
Gibbs said it appears initially that the tornado was on the ground for 15-20 miles in the area about 90 miles south of St. Louis. He said the weather service will send a survey team to the area later Wednesday to assess the damage and determine the strength of the tornado.Play Video
Video above: How to prepare for a tornado
The Missouri State Highway Patrol had earlier reported suspected tornado damage with a widespread debris field and some injuries in Bolinger County in the state’s southeast near the communities of Grassy and Marble Hill. Sgt. Clark Parrott of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told KFVS-TV it was not immediately clear how many were injured.
Messages seeking more details on the overnight damage were left by The Associated Press with Missouri Highway Patrol and Bollinger County Sheriff’s office Wednesday morning.
The storms come after severe weather and possibly dozens of tornadoes killed at least 32 people days ago, meaning more potential misery for those whose homes were destroyed in Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois.
The fierce storms started last Friday and continued into the weekend spawned deadly tornadoes in 11 states as the system plodded through Arkansas and onto the South, Midwest and Northeast.
Schools in Little Rock canceled Wednesday’s classes because the storms were expected to move through the metro during morning rush hour, KFVS-TV reported.Play Video
Video above: Eyewitness captures the moment Illinois tornado surrounded their house
At least two tornadoes were confirmed Tuesday in Illinois as storms targeted the state and eastern Iowa and southwest Wisconsin before nightfall.
The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in Iowa and Illinois on Tuesday evening and said a confirmed twister was spotted southwest of Chicago near Bryant, Illinois. Officials said another tornado touched down Tuesday morning in the western Illinois community of Colona. Local news reports showed wind damage to some businesses there.
Earlier Tuesday, strong thunderstorms swept through the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois with winds up to 90 mph and baseball-size hail. No injuries were reported, but trees were downed and some businesses were damaged in Moline, Illinois.
Northern Illinois, from Moline to Chicago, saw 75-80 mph winds and hail 2 to 3 inches in diameter Tuesday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Baker said. The agency received reports of semi trucks tipped over by winds in Lee County, about 95 miles west of Chicago.
The same conditions that fueled those storms – an area of low pressure combined with strong southerly winds – were setting up the severe weather Tuesday into early Wednesday, said Ryan Bunker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Those conditions, which typically include dry air from the West going up over the Rockies and crashing into warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, are what make the U.S. so prone to tornadoes and other severe storms.
Dramatic temperature changes were taking place, with Tuesday highs of 74 F in Des Moines and 86 F in Kansas City plunging overnight to 40 F or colder overnight. In Little Rock, Arkansas, Tuesday’s high of 89 F tied the record for the date set in 1880.
Associated Press writers Trisha Ahmed in St. Paul, Minnesota; Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; Claire Savage in Chicago; Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington; and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow may respond to sanctions by cutting diplomatic ties with the West and freezing personal assets.
Published On 26 Feb 202226 Feb 2022
Moscow may respond to Western sanctions by opting out of the last nuclear arms deal with the United States, cutting diplomatic ties with Western nations, and freezing their assets, a senior Russian official warned.
Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, also warned Moscow could restore the death penalty after Russia was removed from Europe’s top rights group – a chilling statement that shocked human rights activists in a country that has not had capital punishment for a quarter-century.
In sarcastic comments posted on a Russian social platform, Medvedev dismissed the sanctions as a show of Western “political impotence” that will only consolidate the Russian leadership and foment anti-Western feelings.
“We are being driven out of everywhere, punished and threatened, but we don’t feel scared,” he said, mocking the sanctions imposed by the US and its allies as an attempt to vindicate their past “shameful decisions, like a cowardly retreat from Afghanistan”.
Medvedev was placeholder president in 2008-2012 when Putin had to shift into the prime minister’s seat because of term limits. He then let Putin reclaim the presidency and served as his prime minister for eight years.
During his tenure as president, Medvedev was widely seen as more liberal compared with Putin, but on Saturday, he made a series of threats that even the most hawkish Kremlin figures have not mentioned to date.
The treaty, which Medvedev signed in 2010 with then-US President Barack Obama, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
The pact – the last remaining US-Russian nuclear arms control agreement – had been set to expire in February 2021 but Moscow and Washington extended it for another five years.
If Russia opts out of the agreement now, it will remove any checks on US and Russian nuclear forces and raise new threats to global security.
‘Binoculars and gunsights’
Medvedev also raised the prospect of cutting diplomatic ties with Western countries, saying “there is no particular need in maintaining diplomatic relations” and adding, “We may look at each other in binoculars and gunsights.”
Referring to Western threats to freeze the assets of Russian companies and individuals, Medvedev warned said Moscow would not hesitate to do the same.
“We would need to respond in kind by freezing the assets of foreigners and foreign companies in Russia … and possibly by nationalising the assets of those who come from unfriendly jurisdictions,” he said. “The most interesting things are only starting now.”
‘Return to the Middle Ages’
Commenting on the Council of Europe’s move on Friday to suspend Russia’s representation in Europe’s leading human rights organisation, Medvedev described it as one of the “useless nursing homes” that Russia mistakenly joined.
He added it offers “a good opportunity” to restore the death penalty for grave crimes, noting the US and China have never stopped using it.
Moscow has maintained a moratorium on capital punishment since August 1996 as part of the obligations it accepted when it joined the Council of Europe.
Medvedev’s statement terrified Russia’s human rights activists who warned the prospect of reinstatement of the death penalty is particularly ominous in Russia because of its flawed judicial system.
Eva Merkacheva, a member of the Kremlin human rights council, deplored it as a “catastrophe” and a “return to the Middle Ages”.
“Given the very low quality of criminal investigation, any person could be convicted and executed,” she said. “To say that I’m horrified is to say nothing.”
As part of efforts to stifle dissenting voices, Russia’s state communications watchdog issued notices to top independent media outlets, warning they will face closure if they continue to distribute information about the fighting that deviates from the official line.
On Friday, the watchdog also announced “partial restrictions” on access to Facebook in response to the platform limiting the accounts of several Kremlin-backed media. It did not say what exactly its restrictions implied.
Such signs used to adorn tens of thousands of buildings around the US, a legacy of President John F. Kennedy’s effort during the height of the Cold War to identify structures that could plausibly provide some protection from the radioactive fallout of a nuclear strike.
These spaces were eventually meant to be equipped with essentials like water and medical kits designed to last two weeks, by which time it was hoped that the worst of the radioactivity would have dispersed and survivors could emerge to whatever was left.
But most of the equipment was never moved into place, and by the early 1970s funding for the program had dried up, leaving little more than the signs as a reminder of a period when the threat of nuclear holocaust was real enough to prepare for — however futile those preparations would have been.
The end of the long peace
Those abandoned fallout shelters were on my mind on Wednesday night as I watched Russia overturn decades of seemingly settled international policy with an invasion of Ukraine that was as premeditated as it was shocking. What sets this action apart from the countless conflicts, large and small, that have unfolded over recent decades, is the specter of nuclear weapons.
The irony is that one of the reasons Ukraine was vulnerable to a Russian invasion is that it does not possess nuclear weapons. It agreed in 1994 to give up Soviet nukes that had been left in its territory after the USSR’s breakup in exchange for an agreement that the US, the UK, and Russia would guarantee its security. And one of the reasons that Putin could invade knowing that international opposition would be largely limited to diplomatic and financial tools was that Russia still possesses the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.
As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp writes, what we’re seeing is an illustration of the “stability-instability paradox” of nuclear weapons. As the chance of nuclear conflict declines, the theory holds, the risk of conventional war increases, and as the likelihood of nuclear conflict increases, the risk of conventional war declines. That in turn helps explain another paradox: why the decades following the introduction of nuclear weapons — weapons that, in their most maximalist effect, could conceivably bring an end to human civilization — also saw a historic fall in the number of war-related deaths around the world.
These ranged from large conflicts like America’s decade in Vietnam and the 1980s Iran-Iraq war to countless small skirmishes, often conflicts within countries, that barely penetrated the international media. But compared to the blood-stained decades that marked the first half of the 20th century — which saw more than 100 million deaths in World Wars I and II combined — let alone humanity’s tremendously violent past, these years have indeed been a holiday from history.
When Future Perfect was launched in 2018, Vox’s Dylan Matthews laid out a founding question: “What topics would we write about if our only instruction was to write about the most important stuff in the world?”
That progress, I would argue, depends on peace. Unchecked war is the great destroyer of human value. One estimate from 2019 put the economic impact of violence and conflict at $14.4 trillion that year, equivalent to more than 10 percent of gross global GDP.
Understanding the value of peace doesn’t mean the world should do nothing as Russian troops and arms pour into Ukraine — far from it. A Russian takeover of Ukraine at the point of a gun doesn’t merely destabilize its European neighbors; it potentially opens the door for other increasingly authoritarian countries to take what they can by force. Today Kyiv, tomorrow Taipei.
At Future Perfect, we pride ourselves on covering the issues that will truly matter for humanity’s long term, not just the news of the day. But this is a rare moment when the news of the day may well prove decisive for just what shape that long term will take.
The decision to disarm was portrayed at the time as a means of ensuring Ukraine’s security through agreements with the international community — which was exerting pressure over the issue — rather than through the more economically and politically costly path of maintaining its own nuclear program. Today, with Ukraine being swarmed by heavily armed invading Russian troops bristling with weaponry and little prospect of defense from its erstwhile friends abroad, that decision is looking like a bad one.
The tragedy now unfolding in Ukraine is underlining a broader principle clearly seen around the world: Nations that sacrifice their nuclear deterrents in exchange for promises of international goodwill are often signing their own death warrants. In a world bristling with weapons with the potential to end human civilization, nonproliferation itself is a morally worthwhile and even necessary goal. But the experience of countries that actually have disarmed is likely to lead more of them to conclude otherwise in future.
The betrayal of Ukrainians in particular cannot be understated. In 1994, the Ukrainian government signed a memorandum that brought its country into the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while formally relinquishing its status as a nuclear state. The text of that agreement stated that in exchange for the step, the “Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s territorial integrity has not been much respected since. After the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea by Russia — which brought no serious international response — Ukrainian leaders had already begun to think twice about the virtues of the agreement they had signed just two decades earlier. Today they sound positively bitter about it.
“We gave away the capability for nothing,” Andriy Zahorodniuk, a former defense minister of Ukraine, said this month about his nation’s former nuclear weapons. “Now, every time somebody offers us to sign a strip of paper, the response is, ‘Thank you very much. We already had one of those some time ago.’”
Ukrainians are not the only ones who have come to regret signing away their nuclear weapons. In 2003, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi made a surprise announcement that his nation would abandon its nuclear program and chemical weapons in exchange for normalization with the West.
“Libya stands as one of the few countries to have voluntarily abandoned its WMD programs,” wrote Judith Miller a few years later in an article about the decision headlined “Gadhafi’s Leap of Faith.” Miller, then just out of the New York Times, added that the White House had opted “to make Libya a true model for the region” by helping encourage other states with nuclear programs to follow Gaddafi’s example.
Libya kept moving forward. It signed on to an additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency allowing for extensive international monitoring of nuclear reserves. In return, sanctions against the country were lifted and relations between Washington and Tripoli, severed during the Cold War, were reestablished. Gaddafi and his family spent a few years building ties with Western elites, and all seemed to be going well for the Libyan dictator.
Then came the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Gaddafi found that the same world leaders who had ostensibly become his economic partners and diplomatic allies were suddenly providing decisive military aid to his opposition — even cheering on his own death.
Promises, betrayals, aggression: It’s a pattern that extends even to countries that have merely considered foreclosing their avenues to a nuclear deterrent.
Missile silos abandoned by the Gaddafi regime are left in the desert at a military base in Lona, Libya, on Sept. 29, 2011.
Photo: John Cantlie/Getty Images
Take Iran: In 2015, the Islamic Republic signed a comprehensive nuclear deal with the U.S. that limited its possible breakout capacity toward building a nuclear weapon and provided extensive monitoring of its civilian nuclear program. Not long afterward, the agreement was violated by the Trump administration, despite the country’s own continued compliance. Since 2016, when Trump left the deal, Iran has been hit with crushing international sanctions that have devastated its economy and been subjected to a campaign of assassination targeting its senior military leadership.
The nuclear deal was characterized at the time as the first step toward a broader set of talks over regional disputes between Iranian and U.S. leaders, who had been alienated since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Instead, the deal marked another bitter chapter in the long-troubled relationship between the two countries.
To date, no nuclear-armed state has ever faced a full-scale invasion by a foreign power, regardless of its own actions. North Korea has managed to keep its hermetic political system intact for decades despite tensions with the international community. North Korean officials have even cited the example of Libya in discussing their own weapons. In 2011, as bombs rained down on Gaddafi’s government, a North Korean foreign ministry official said, “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson.” That official went on to refer to giving up weapons in signed agreements as “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”
Perhaps the starkest contrast to the treatment of Ukraine, Libya, and Iran, however, is Pakistan, which developed nuclear weapons decades ago in defiance of the United States. Despite being criticized at the time for contributing to nuclear proliferation and facing periodic sanctions, Pakistan has managed to insulate itself from attack or even serious ostracism by the U.S. despite several flagrant provocations in the decades since. Today Pakistan even remains a security partner of the U.S., having received billions of dollars of military aid over the past several decades.
Given the mortal hazards that nuclear weapons pose to life on Earth, nonproliferation remains a worthwhile collective goal. Humanity will not benefit from a renewal of the nuclear arms race, and the ideals behind a U.S.-backed rules-based liberal order are morally attractive. A world in which they were truly applied would probably be a fairer and more peaceful one than what has existed in the past, yet we must also recognize that the liberal order can and will fail. That lesson is especially true for small nations outmatched by great powers.
Given the tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine today — where, despite its past assurances, the international community has remained a passive observer — leaders of small countries must be forgiven for thinking twice before sacrificing their deterrent, regardless of what the leaders of great powers already armed with nuclear weaponry may say.
Second time: As Axios notes, this is the second time Putin has rattled his nuclear sword amid the conflict. When he first sent troops over the border, he reminded the world that Russia was a leading nuclear power and warned that any nation interfering would face “consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
Elaborating: “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said Sunday.
Not to worry?Last week, Vox spoke to three analysts who said the chances Putin would go nuclear were slim to none. “I think there is virtually no chance nuclear weapons are going to be used in the Ukraine situation,” says Matthew Bunn of Harvard Kennedy School. That’s the gist of the piece, though Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, adds, “I’m more worried than I was a week ago.”
Then again: Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, didn’t exactly set people’s mind at ease about the Russian leader’s state of mind with this tweet on Friday night: “I wish I could share more, but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with #Putin,” he wrote. “He has always been a killer, but his problem now is different & significant … It would be a mistake to assume this Putin would react the same way he would have 5 years ago.”
The threat of nuclear war has been considered by world leaders and civilians alike, despite Russia, the United States and UK all having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and therefore, on paper, agreeing to nuclear peace.
So how real is the risk that nuclear arms could be used? And what systems are in place to minimise that risk?
He added: “To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All the relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on French television channel TF1 that this message was understood to be a threat of using nuclear weapons.
Has Nato responded?
Le Drian countered with his own mention of nuclear capabilities, however. He added: “I think Vladimir Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance (Nato) is a nuclear alliance. That is all I will say about this.”
Nato itself does not own any nuclear weapons but some United States-owned missiles are reportedly kept at six airbases across five European countries.
Another part of his speech seemed to make his meaning clear. “Today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states,” Putin said. As justification for the invasion, Putin also made unfounded claims that Ukraine was on a path to build its own nuclear arsenal. “There’s no evidence of that at all,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
The Russian invasion has relied entirely on conventional weapons — tanks rattling down highways, bombers flying overhead, ships landing in the port city of Odesa — and experts told Vox that in the absence of a shocking escalation, that isn’t likely to change.
Still, Putin’s remarks were a stark reminder that nuclear weapons aren’t just the boogeymen of a bygone age, but remain a key part of the security order that emerged after the end of World War II. By Kristensen’s count, Russia has about 6,000 nuclear weapons and the United States has about 5,500. Either nuclear arsenal is large enough to kill billions of people — but also to serve as a deterrent against attack.
In recent decades, the so-called nuclear order has remained fairly stable. The seven other countries known to have nuclear weapons have much smaller arsenals. Most countries in the world have signed onto the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which limits the development of nuclear weapons. We asked three researchers of nuclear arms control about the risks the world faces now and what we might be able to do about them.
While Putin’s remarks are certainly cause for concern — especially since they introduced the largest military operation in Europe since the Second World War — the scholars who spoke to Vox said a nuclear strike is still unlikely. “I think there is virtually no chance nuclear weapons are going to be used in the Ukraine situation,” said Matthew Bunn, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and former adviser to President Bill Clinton’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The main reason, Bunn said, is that the United States and its NATO allies have made it clear that they will not send troops to Ukraine. Without the threat of military intervention, Putin has little reason to use his nuclear weapons, especially since Russia has a staggering numbers advantage over the Ukrainian military.
“His objective is not to bring the world to nuclear war,” said Paul Hare, senior lecturer in global studies at Boston University. “His objective is to simply swallow Ukraine — and restore not just the [power of the] Soviet Union, but the Tsarist empire.”
What does Russia’s nuclear arsenal look like? How does it compare to others in the world?
Russia’s roughly 6,000 warheads make it the country with the largest nuclear arsenal. Kristensen said most of those warheads are in reserves, with only about 1,600 deployed as land, sea, and air-based weapons, such as missiles in silos or bombs dropped by planes. (When the USSR fell apart at the end of the Cold War, there were nuclear weapons left behind on Ukrainian soil, but Ukraine returnedthem to Russia.)
The countries known to have nuclear weapons are Russia, the US, China, France, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. That includes every permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, which have been working to modernize their nuclear weapons over the past few decades, and three members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The total number of weaponshas dropped by about 80 percent since the end of the Cold War, from an estimated 70,300 in 1986 to 12,700 in early 2022.
That’s still a lot of nukes. “There has been much discussion about whether that means Russia has a sort of trigger-happy nuclear posture,” Kristensen said. “It’s hard to pin down. if Russian officials were asked to sit down around a table and entirely consider how many tactical nuclear weapons were needed, purely based on real, strategic rationales, I suspect that number would quickly drop to a lot less [than what it is today].”
Does Putin have a reason to consider using nuclear weapons?
From a strategic standpoint, the experts said, there’s no reason for Russia to use nuclear weapons. But they said Putin himself was the biggest source of uncertainty. “The element of emotion and anger that’s crept into Putin’s statements in particular is striking,” said Hare. “Normally we’ve associated Russia’s diplomatic style with a kind of laconic, almost sarcastic manner.”
It’s worth remembering, Kristensen added, that Putin often makes allusions to Russia’s nuclear arsenal as a show of strength. In 2015, he said in a Russian state TV documentary that he had considered putting Russian nuclear forces on alert during the Russian annexation of Crimea a year prior.
This could be a sign that Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is more bark than bite, but Kristensen wasn’t ready to say that for sure. “He lives in a very small bubble, and he’s deeply paranoid,” Kristensen said. “He’s willing to do really not very rational things.”
Is the fear of a nuclear war enough to stop countries from using nuclear weapons?
“The physical fact of a nuclear weapon’s destructive power absolutely creates fear,” said Bunn. Nuclear deterrence — the idea that one country wouldn’t dare attack another for fear of a nuclear strike — was the major security policy of the Cold War period, and experts say it remains very much alive today. As my colleague Zack Beauchamp recently wrote, the threat of nuclear weapons is the reason the US won’t send troops to Ukraine.
But nuclear deterrence clearly didn’t end all wars. The existence of nuclear weapons “didn’t help us in Vietnam, they didn’t help us in Iraq, they didn’t help us in Afghanistan,” Bunn said. “Nuclear weapons aren’t useful for the majority of the security and well-being challenges that the United States faces.”
Since the Cold War, it’s been widely accepted that nuclear deterrence would help ensure that the borders of Europe would not be challenged. The Ukraine crisis, said Hare, is casting some doubt on that idea. “The credibility of deterrence hasn’t been tested for decades,” Hare said. “The whole international order is sort of being thrown up in the air. Is the Ukraine attack going to be a prelude to an attack on, say, the Baltic states that are even more vulnerable, or is Putin going to be satisfied with Ukraine?”
The answer, Hare said, will shape how the United States and its NATO allies decide to deploy their forces — conventional and nuclear — around the world. “We’re starting to see large powers begin to sort of entertain the thought of limited tactical nuclear weapons use scenarios, in a way that they didn’t spend very much time thinking about 10 years ago,” said Kristensen. These are the sorts of unlikely scenarios that have been tossed around in war games as contingencies since the Cold War, and could entail strikes on isolated military targets that are far from population centers, for example.
“The theory is very much like it was during the Cold War,” Kristensen explained. “You just sort of have some smaller nukes that you can pop off here and there, to force an adversary to take an off-ramp during a conflict.”
Is the world doing a good job keeping nuclear weapons under control?
For the most part, global efforts to prevent nuclear weapons from spreading, like theNon-Proliferation Treaty, have been strikingly successful. But these efforts need constant attention and maintenance.“Globally, the nuclear order is in pretty bad shape,” said Bunn. North Korea continues to build up its nuclear arsenal, India and Pakistan appear to be engaging in an arms race to build up short-range tactical nuclear weapons, and hostility is ratcheting up between the US, Russia, and China.
“People should pay attention,” said Kristensen. “They have to be vigilant about holding their governments accountable, and make sure that the policies that are in place and the way they’re implemented are constructive, that they actually lead to improving the situation rather than making it worse.” A key US-Russia agreement to limit nuclear-armed missiles, known as the New START Treaty, is set to expire in February 2026, and the degraded relations between the United States and Russia will make negotiating a renewal much harder.
“The huge increase in US-Russian hostility will lead to increased risks of conflict and make it more difficult to work with Russia,” Bunn said. “Whether it’s working to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries or improving security for nuclear weapons and materials and facilities, all of that goes better if the United States and Russia are working together. And they’re not going to be doing that for some time to come.”
There is some good news, Bunn said. There are promising signs for the reinstatement of the Iran nuclear deal, which would affirm the principles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. “It’s important to remember that only 5 percent of the countries in the world have nuclear weapons,” Bunn said. “Every other state has pledged to never develop nuclear weapons.”
For decades, Bunn added, about one in every 10 US lightbulbs was powered by uranium from decommissioned Russian warheads, which was sent to American nuclear power plants — a reminder that the world actively worked together to turn a tool of destruction into a force for good. “That’s remarkable,” Bunn said. “It’s never been true before in human history that the most powerful weapon available to our species was widely forsworn.”
“We in Moscow are committed to raising the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. An opposite trend has been seen in the United States over the recent years, with the means for nuclear destruction appearing to be perceived more and more as a battlefield weapon. This is a dangerous trend,” Ryabkov said, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.
Ryabkov warned the US attitude towards nuclear weapons risks leading to an incident similar to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, something he said must not happen. Russian leaders have repeatedly warned the US against deploying missiles to Ukraine that could target Moscow and are seeking guarantees that Washington would refrain from such a provocation.
Ryabkov said Russia wants to resolve these issues through negotiations. “Today, as it seems to me, political and diplomatic tools should be used first and foremost to settle this situation,” he said. Ryabkov added that Russia outlined “how to settle” these issues in the security proposals it submitted to the US.
Like other Russian officials, Ryabkov stressed that the US must take its security proposals seriously. Also on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said talks on the proposals will begin immediately after Russia’s new year holiday season, which lasts through January 9th.
FEARS of World War 3 erupting between Russia and the US are at an all-time high as tensions between the two nuclear powers erupt over Ukraine.
In an extraordinary uptick in aggression, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Moscow would deploy intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe if NATO failed to rule out using them itself. Missiles of this nature have a top range of 3,100 miles (5,000km) and could hit numerous European capitals if deployed from Russia.
Russian military expert Colonel Konstantin Sivkov spoke of various situations around the world where tensions are high and could lead to a nuclear war on a global scale.
Speaking on Russia Today TV, the Deputy President of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences (RARAN) claimed that America recently gave Germany’s air force permission to equip its planes with American nuclear weapons, and has provided Germany with America’s nuclear battle plans.
Because of this, the US has been pushed to the brink of nuclear war over Ukraine.
According to US intelligence, Russia has stationed some 70,000 troops near the border of Ukraine and has begun planning for a possible invasion as early as next year.
Moscow has denied it is preparing for an invasion and has accused the government in Kyiv of stoking tensions in the region by deploying new weapons.
Colonel Sivkov also warned that if a nuclear conflict erupts, Russia has the capacity to turn a country like Germany into a nuclear wasteland using some of its 160 submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
He said: “The United States gave the German air force permission to equip its planes with nuclear bombs.
“By doing this, it gave the German air force the plans to use nuclear munitions in battle.
“Thus, the US has pushed the situation in Ukraine to the brink of nuclear war.
“The US needs to understand that Russia’s nuclear counterstrike would not be limited to German territory, but would also reach the soil of the country that owns these nuclear weapons – the US.
“160 [submarine-launched Russian] missiles with nuclear warheads would turn a country like Germany into a nuclear wasteland. They need to fully understand this.”
The Colonel also spoke about the conflict between Iran and Israel, and how tensions there could escalate into a nuclear war that pulls in different countries of the world.
He believed that Israel would not use nuclear weapons against Iran, because of fears that this might lead to retaliation by Russia or China.
“An Iranian attack on Israel’s nuclear plants and reactors would make life on the small land of Israel impossible.
“Iran’s [nuclear] installations are in mountainous regions and are well fortified.
“These mountainous areas can only be penetrated with nuclear bombs, and I do not think that Israel would use nuclear weapons against Iran because this might lead to retaliation by Russia or China, who would deem this measure unacceptable.”