In the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy was more candid. Speaking at American University, he said: “A single nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War.” Kennedy also noted, “The deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.” Finally, he added, “All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours.”
Kennedy was no dove. He affirmed willingness to use nuclear weapons. But his speech offered some essential honesty about nuclear war — and the need to seriously negotiate with the Kremlin in the interests of averting planetary incineration — an approach sorely lacking from the United States government today.
At the time of Kennedy’s presidency, nuclear war would have been indescribably catastrophic. Now — with large arsenals of hydrogen bombs and what scientists know about “nuclear winter” — experts have concluded that a nuclear war would virtually end agriculture and amount to omnicide (the destruction of human life on earth).
What I discovered — to my horror, I have to say — is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplated causing with our own first strike 600 million deaths, including 100 million in our own allies. Now, that was an underestimate even then because they weren’t including fire, which they found was too incalculable in its effects. And of course, fire is the greatest casualty-producing effect of thermonuclear weapons. So the real effect would’ve been over a billion — not 600 million — about a third of the Earth’s population then at that time.
What turned out to be the case 20 years later in 1983 and confirmed in the last 10 years very thoroughly by climate scientists and environmental scientists is that that high ceiling of a billion or so was wrong. Firing weapons over the cities, even if you call them military targets, would cause firestorms in those cities like the one in Tokyo in March of 1945, which would loft into the stratosphere many millions of tons of soot and black smoke from the burning cities. It wouldn’t be rained out in the stratosphere. It would go around the globe very quickly and reduce sunlight by as much as 70 percent, causing temperatures like that of the Little Ice Age, killing harvests worldwide and starving to death nearly everyone on Earth. It probably wouldn’t cause extinction. We’re so adaptable. Maybe 1 percent of our current population of 7.4 billion could survive, but 98 or 99 percent would not.
Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine four months ago, the risks of global nuclear annihilation were at a peak. In January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock at a mere 100 seconds from apocalyptic Midnight, compared to six minutes a decade ago. As Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine has persisted and the U.S. government has bypassed diplomacy in favor of massive arms shipments, the hazards of a nuclear war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers have increased.
But the Biden administration has not only remained mum about current nuclear war dangers; it’s actively exacerbating them. Those at the helm of U.S. foreign policy now are ignoring the profound lessons that President Kennedy drew from the October 1962 confrontation with Russia over its nuclear missiles in Cuba. “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war,” Kennedy said. “To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy — or of a collective death-wish for the world.”
As scholar Alfred McCoy just wrote, “With the specter of mass starvation looming for some 270 million people and, as the [United Nations] recently warned, political instability growing in those volatile regions, the West will, sooner or later, have to reach some understanding with Russia.” Only diplomacy can halt the carnage in Ukraine and save the lives of millions now at risk of starvation. And the dangers of nuclear war can be reduced by rejecting the fantasy of a military solution to the Ukraine conflict.
In recent months, the Russian government has made thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been shipping huge quantities of weapons to Ukraine, while Washington has participated in escalating the dangerous rhetoric. President Biden doubled down on conveying that he seeks regime change in Moscow, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has declared that the U.S. wants the Russian military “weakened” — an approach that is opposite from Kennedy’s warning against “confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”
We’d be gravely mistaken to wait for Washington’s officialdom to level with us about nuclear war dangers, much less take steps to mitigate them. The power corridors along Pennsylvania Avenue won’t initiate the needed changes. The initiatives and the necessary political pressure must come from grassroots organizing.
A new “Defuse Nuclear War” coalition of about 90 national and regional organizations (which I’m helping to coordinate) launched in mid-June with a livestream video featuring an array of activists and other eloquent speakers, drawn together by the imperative of preventing nuclear war. (They included antiwar activists, organizers, scholars and writers Daniel Ellsberg, Mandy Carter, David Swanson, Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, Pastor Michael McBride, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Hanieh Jodat Barnes, Judith Ehrlich, Khury Petersen-Smith, India Walton, Emma Claire Foley, retired Army Col. Ann Wright and former California Gov. Jerry Brown.)
The U.S. government’s willingness to boost the odds of nuclear war is essentially a political problem. It pits the interests of the people of the world — in desperate need of devoting adequate resources to human needs and protection of the environment — against the rapacious greed of military contractors intertwined with the unhinged priorities of top elected officials.
With Russia, China and North Korea developing their own hypersonic missile capabilities, with some being able to carry nuclear warheads, the Pentagon is feeling the pressure.
A flight test of a new US hypersonic missile system in Hawaii, named “Conventional Prompt Strike,” failed, most likely due to a problem that took place after ignition, the US Department of Defense said in a statement.
“Program officials have initiated a review to determine the cause to inform future tests,” he said. “While the Department was unable to collect data on the entirety of the planned flight profile, the information gathered from this event will provide vital insights.”
“While the Department was unable to collect data on the entirety of the planned flight profile, the information gathered from this event will provide vital insights.”Pentagon spokesman Navy Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman
The recent failure marks the second unsuccessful test flight of the prototype weapon, in October 2021, a booster malfunction, which prevented the missile from leaving the launch pad, rendered the weapon system’s first test flight a failure as well.
The Conventional Prompt Strike weapon system is expected to be installed on Zumwalt destroyers and Virginia-class submarines.
With Russia, China and North Korea developing their own hypersonic missile capabilities, with some being able to carry nuclear warheads, the Pentagon is feeling pressure to deploy the newly developed weapon system as soon as possible.
The Chinese military believes hypersonic weapons will change the nature of the battle and is investing heavily to advance their capabilities.
“China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise,” according to the Financial Times.
China has been working on these missiles for decades, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency’s 2019 China Military Power Report, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “is developing a range of technologies to counter US and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems, including maneuverable reentry vehicles (MARVs), MIRVs [multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles], decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and hypersonic glide vehicles.”
On 1 October 2019, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, in a parade that reviewed the PLA’s troops and weapon systems, the PLA revealed a new hypersonic missile, the Dong Feng (DF) 17.
A PRC blog devoted to military affairs described the DF-17 as a “combat-ready hypersonic weapon.”
China is investing heavily in heat-seeking hypersonic weapons, claiming that they “will be able to hit a moving car at five times the speed of sound,” with a new system that is set to deploy by 2025, according to scientists involved in the project.
The research team, led by Yang Xiaogang from the PLA Rocket Force University of Engineering in Xian, said “important progress” had been made towards solving the main problem of how to pinpoint a moving target at extreme speeds.
Over distance, the infrared signature of a small moving target “constitutes just a few pixels without detailed information such as shape, texture and structure,” making identification and tracking “extremely difficult”, they explained in a paper published in the Chinese peer-reviewed journal Infrared and Laser Engineering.
The hypersonic heat-seeker would also be able to go after a target in the air, according to a separate paper in the series by Qin Hanlin from the school of optoelectronic engineering at Xidian University.
Qin and his team demonstrated a technology that would allow a hypersonic ground-to-air missile to hit a target as small as a commercial drone. The missile could identify the drone hanging low over buildings or trees with nearly 90 percent accuracy, they said.
The PLA’s hypersonic program employs about 3,000 scientists, 50 percent more than those working on traditional weapons, according to a study published in January by the Chinese peer-reviewed journal Tactical Missile Technology.
In March 2022, the Russian navy conducted a test of a prospective hypersonic missile, the ‘Zircon,’ in a demonstration of the military’s long-range strike capability amid the fighting in Ukraine.
The Admiral Gorshkov frigate of the Northern Fleet in the White Sea launched the Zircon cruise missile in the Barents Sea, successfully hitting a practice target in the White Sea about 1,000 kilometers away, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry.
Zircon is intended to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines and could be used against both enemy ships and ground targets. It is one of several hypersonic missiles under development in Russia.
Russian officials have boasted about Zircon’s capability, claiming that it’s impossible to intercept with existing anti-missile systems.
Earlier, in 2018, a demonstration of the ‘Avangard’ hypersonic missile proved successful, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.
After separating from its carrier in the stratosphere, the HGV maneuvered 6000 kilometers across Siberia at a searing Mach 27, according to Russian officials, then hit a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
VLADIMIR Putin will not launch a nuclear missile as if it does Russia itself would risk being wiped off the map, a military expert has said.
Russia’s ‘brandishing of nuclear sword’ discussed by expert
Mark Voyger, Senior Fellow of the Centre of European Analysis, has dismissed Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as “unthinkable” as Russia would also disappear from the map if it were to execute its threat. Putin has reportedly told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko the Kremlin will hand over nuclear-capable missile systems to Belarus in the coming months. Putin’s latest announcement follows a series of veiled nuclear threats against the West and Ukrainein its more than 100-day war against its neighbour.
Mr Voyger argues Russia is again bluffing and attempting to intimidate.
When asked about the potential for Russian response to the Kaliningrad blockade, Mr Voyger said: “For as long as the Russian army, especially the majority of the ground forces, are bogged down in Ukraine with no easy end, with no easy victory, they won’t. They won’t be able to.
On the type of response he would expect, he said: “I would expect some hybrid actions, maybe pressure of course along the borders, maybe subversive moves, cyber pressure, potentially the threat of tactical nukes.
“That’s the most probable in terms of military action Russia would use. But they’re not in a position to fight NATO, especially with an additional 300,000 troops on the eastern flank. That’s unthinkable.”
According to a Kremlin readout, Putin told Lukashensko the short-range ballistic missiles systems with a range of up to 310 miles “can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions.”
Some military analysts fear the humiliation for Putin will lead Russia to deploy chemical or nuclear weapons. As a result, several world leaders have suggested offering him a way out such as giving up parts of Ukraine’s territory.
Upon announcing its deployment, Putin added: “This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.”
(Washington) Spending by nuclear powers to modernize their atomic arsenals rose nearly 9% in 2021 to $82.4 billion, according to a report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Posted at 7:45 a.m.
The United States alone spent $44.2 billion on its nuclear program last year, 12.7% more than the previous year, and China spent $11.7 billion (+10 .4%), according to this report published on Tuesday.
Pakistan spent 1.1 billion dollars on its nuclear armament, against 1 billion the previous year, while India reduced its expenditure in this sector to 2.3 billion (against 2.5 in 2020), according to The report.
Israel, which has never officially acknowledged having the nuclear bomb, has allocated 1.2 billion to it, as the previous year, according to the ICAN which estimates the budget that North Korea has allocated in 2021 at 642 million dollars. to its nuclear program compared to 700 million in 2020.
Taxpayer money allowed new contracts to be awarded to private companies (30.2 billion in total) to modernize the nuclear arsenals of the great powers, and these private companies in turn bought the services of centers of reflection and pressure groups to defend the usefulness of nuclear weapons, adds the NGO, which denounces a pronuclear vicious circle.
“This report shows that nuclear weapons are useless,” commented Alicia Sanders-Zakre, research coordinator at ICAN. “Nuclear-armed countries spent $6.5 billion more in 2021 and they weren’t able to stop a nuclear power from starting a war in Europe,” she said. reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This is why we need multilateral nuclear disarmament more than ever,” she added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s weekend pledge to transfer nuclear-capable missile systems to Belarus is being viewed by U.S. officials as “cavalier” and “irresponsible” language, a senior U.S. defense official said Monday.
“Certainly, any time anybody uses the word nuclear you have concerns. Quite honestly it seems pretty irresponsible of a national leader to talk about the employment of nuclear weapons and to do so in a generally cavalier fashion,” the defense official told reporters in an on-background briefing.
Putin on Saturday told Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that the Kremlin will transfer Russian-made Iskander-M missile systems to Belarus “in the next few months.”
The U.S. defense official said Washington takes such threatening language seriously and has “from the very beginning” of Russia’s attack on Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“The way that statement read from Putin was, ‘Hey we’re going to give them Iskanders, and oh, by the way, they can hold nuclear weapons.’ And everybody takes that very seriously when you use that language,” the official said.
“Our strategic forces are always monitoring things in that regard,” they added.
Putin has several times referred to nuclear weapons since his country invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what the West has seen as a warning not to intervene.
Russia will supply Belarus with missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads after the president complained about nuclear-armed NATO flights coming close to the Belarusian border.
President Vladimir Putin made the announcement on Saturday as he received Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow.
“In the coming months, we will transfer to Belarus Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use ballistic or cruise missiles, in their conventional and nuclear versions,” Putin said in a broadcast on Russian television at the start of his meeting with Lukashenko in St Petersburg.
06:58, Thu, Jun 23, 2022 | UPDATED: 06:59, Thu, Jun 23, 2022
Putin is getting ‘madder by the moment’ says David Mellor
The Russian President was branded a “madman” by former Conservative MP David Mellor. Mr Mellor, who served as chief secretary to the Treasury under former Prime Minister John Major, suggested Vladimir Putinhad been corrupted by his own desire for “absolute power.” His analysis comes as the Kremlin has renewed threats of nuclear strikesagainst international allies of Ukraine, including the UK among other European nations. Increased anxiety has been felt among military analysts as President Putin’s war in Ukraine rages on and Moscow’s threats of aggression against global nations continue to grow more severe.
“I think he really is a mad man and getting madder by the moment.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
“If you ever want a good example of that, step forward Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”
The former politician suggested President Putin’s sanity had rapidly deteriorated as the Kremlin leader has aimed to expand his power by capturing Ukraine.
Mr Mellor also claimed that the Russian President’s renewed focus on nuclear threats could be linked to reports that Putin’s physical health is in serious decline.
He said: “If he really is dying of various diseases that have lined up to get him, would he like to take the rest of us with him?”
As explained by Mr Mellor, the only real defence against a nuclear attack from Russia is the promise of mutually assured destruction, meaning the UK would launch a nuclear counterattack on Moscow.
In the event of a nuclear launch, the defence of mutually assured destruction would effectively eradicate civilisation as we know it, creating a devastating loss on a global scale.
Mr Mellor suggested President Putin’s bold discussion of nuclear weapons is a signal of the Russian leader’s ill-health as he is acting with little consideration for his own wellbeing.
Analysts have suggested that Vladimir Putin could be suffering from some form of terminal health condition, evidenced by several symptoms observed during his recent public appearances.
President Putin has appeared pale and unbalanced, even shown to be walking with a limp during some official events, fuelling rumours that his physical health is not as strong as the Kremlin suggests it to be.
The grim and transformational impact of nuclear weapons was clear and immediate; J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, remarked after the first bomb was successfully detonated that “we knew the world would not be the same” adding that it brought to mind words from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita “now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.
And destroyers of the world nuclear weapons certainly became! Albert Einstein famously stated that “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Our accumulated knowledge since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than seven decades ago, only confirms and magnifies the horrifying impact of nuclear weapons on us and our planet. In the words of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “nuclear weapons are the most terrifying weapon ever invented. They are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, and in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time. They threaten irreversible harm to the environment and to future generations. Indeed, they threaten the very survival of humanity”.
For those who believe that it is possible to have a limited nuclear war, President Obama had the answer: “one nuclear weapon exploded in one city … no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences may be… ultimately for our survival”. These are words we have to weigh very carefully when we hear now the loose talk and reckless rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons in whatever context or scenario.
Unfortunately, and sadly this kind of talk has shifted the possible use of nuclear weapons from an unthinkable nightmare to a terrifying prospect. If anything, it puts an added responsibility on all of us who believe in the absolute necessity of eliminating these weapons, to exert every effort in spreading information and raising awareness on the horror of these weapons and their impact which “could dwarf any catastrophe that has befallen man in his more than million years on earth” in the words of former US secretary of defence Robert McNamara in 1967.
And for those who believe that the nuclear risk can be contained while these weapons exist, again Robert McNamara was emphatic later in life: “the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations”. The conclusion therefore is clear: “the only way to eliminate the risk is to eliminate nuclear weapons”.
The nuclear risk has loomed on more than one occasion in the past. Former US Secretary of defence Bill Perry in 2011 mentioned three false alarms he knows of, in which Soviet missiles were thought to be screaming towards the US. He stated that “To this day I believe that we avoided nuclear catastrophe as much by good luck as by good management”.
And for all those who believe that amassing more weapons is the answer or that nuclear disarmament is too risky, listen to President Kennedy’s 1961 address to the UN general assembly: “In a spiralling arms race, a nation’s security may well be shrinking even as its arms increase” and what is more is that “the risks inherent in disarmament pale in comparison to the risks inherent in an unlimited arms race.”
In light of all this I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to urgently revisit the doctrine of “Mutual Assured Destruction”. This is not an abstract doctrine but one that is intimately linked to our fate and the fate of our planet. It is a doctrine aptly described in 1988 by India’s prime minister Rajiv Gandhi as the “ultimate expression of the philosophy of terrorism, holding humanity hostage to the presumed security needs of a few.”
The argument that nuclear weapons kept the peace does not really withstand scrutiny. It is a peace based on the colonial premise that “some are more equal than others”, “my security is more important than yours”, and on “do as I say not as I do.” It is not only unjust but more importantly unsustainable. That some countries possess them, or are protected by them within alliances, while asking others not to have them, is an oxymoron in the long term.
The prohibition of the possession of nuclear weapons and their elimination from the face of the Earth is a moral duty, before being a solemn legal obligation. I earnestly hope that the nuclear-armed states, all nine of them, would initiate without further delay and pre-conditions the necessary negotiations and concurrently adopt the necessary measures that would lay the groundwork for the elimination of nuclear weapons forever. Humanity deserves no less.
* Dr ElBaradei was Director-General of the IAEA from 1997 to 2009 and directed the Agency’s nuclear verification activities globally including in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria. He is the author of,The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.
Photo: Dr ElBaradei. Credit: Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
Nuclear weapons are currently an international security issue. Lessons learned from past events have contributed to a global fear of such weapons. Simultaneously current events are indicating a global trend in nuclear proliferation, especially among powerful actors. States in possession of nuclear weapons are focusing on developing their nuclear capabilities and expanding their programs. Why is that so? Why are states still building nuclear weapons? Are these states conscious of the dangerous consequences involved? Are we experiencing the threat of a nuclear war?
In this paper, we will first define the term nuclear proliferation since it is key to understanding the different aspects of international security. Next, we will look at the different existing models explaining the current trend of nuclear proliferation and link these models to past events. Eventually, we will try to understand the recent developments in the field of international insecurity and analyze whether there is currently an international source of a nuclear threat.
It is important to understand the term nuclear proliferation. To do so, we need to define “proliferation”. The Cambridge Dictionary offers the following definition: “the fact of something increasing a lot and suddenly in number or amount“ (Cambridge Dictionary 2022). To simplify this definition, proliferation can be understood as “growth and propagation” (Rizky 2022).
So, what is nuclear proliferation? Nuclear proliferation is “a spectrum of possible activities related to the exploration, pursuit, or acquisition of nuclear weapons by states” (Rizky 2022). Therefore, it refers to the sudden rise in the number of weapons in circulation. Indeed, powerful states are focusing on developing their nuclear capabilities by building new weapons, perfecting their capability to build such weapons as well as investing financially in nuclear technology and its sophistication.
The main actors currently owning nuclear weapons are Russia, the United States, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, France, and the United Kingdom (SIPRI 2021). However, not all of them are taking part in this pursuit of nuclear proliferation.
Reasons for the proliferation of nuclear weapons
Now that the meaning of nuclear proliferation is clear, another question emerges. Why do states still build nuclear weapons? International relations studies often offer an “obvious answer” to this question. Namely the idea of national security. States justify the building of nuclear weapons to ensure their national security in case of an external military threat. It is assumed that no alternative can guarantee their national security like nuclear weapons do (Sagan 1996).
However, this is an important question regarding the current global events and needs a more precise explanation. It is necessary to have a wide range of possible answers to envision the future of international security and its potential nuclear threat.
The answers can be divided into four different categories, respectively models. Namely the Security Model, which refers to the simple and basic answer found in most studies. The second one is the Norms Model, followed by the Domestic Politics Model and finally the Model we will be referring to as the Technological Race Model (Sagan 1996).
In Sagan’s article “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?” (Sagan 1996), he explains the three first models mentioned above. The first model refers to a state’s response to an external threat. States that have the financial resources, build nuclear weapons because it seems to be the safest option to ensure their national security. Weak states, however, states that could not invest in such expensive weapons, have the option to join alliances, such as an alliance with a nuclear power that would become an ally in case of a nuclear threat (Sagan 1996).
Under this category, I believe there is also the idea of international anarchy. A powerful state hearing about another one building a nuclear weapon might consider this as a sign of potential threat. George Shultz explains this phenomenon as “Proliferation begets proliferation” (Shultz 1984).
Indeed, the proliferation started by one state will encourage another one to do the same and therefore take part in this nuclear proliferation as well (Sagan 1996). This phenomenon can be perceived as a post-war strategic reaction. In World War II the United States launched nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events provoked the current trend of nuclear proliferation. The USSR, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan all reacted in a similar way. They invested in the development of nuclear weapons, widened their nuclear capabilities, and intensified their national research in nuclear technology (Rizky 2022).
This leads us to the next model, namely the Norms Model. Sagan explains this category as followed: “Nuclear weapons decisions are made because weapons acquisition, or restraint in weapons development, provides an important normative symbol of a state’s modernity and identity“ (Sagan 1996).
Indeed, nuclear weapons nowadays are a symbol of prestige and power. Therefore, powerful states follow this unwritten, international norm to ensure their global recognition. They take part in this nuclear proliferation race to show what they are financially and technologically capable of.
Sagan argues that the symbol of possessing nuclear weapons is similar to the symbol of a state’s Olympic team or national airline. In some states, national airlines are established more to demonstrate their technological capabilities and valuable human capital of scientists than to offer an additional domestic mode of transportation (Sagan 1996).
As we can see, this model refers to one country’s whole image as a leader in technology. But, this is only the case from a technological perspective. There exists another model from a political perspective, namely the Domestic Politics Model.
This category demonstrates nuclear proliferation as a tool to ensure domestic political interest. Not necessarily national interest, but the personal interest of at least one politician respectively, one political actor. Indeed, it could be the military influencing a political decision to get a larger national defense budget and acquire nuclear weapons. In such a case, the perception of an external threat could be worsened to promote the necessity of nuclear weapons (Sagan 1996).
For decades, the world has been focusing on disarmament and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in circulation. Especially the main actors mentioned above were dedicated to promoting different treaties to avoid the spread. However, these public announcements, coming from wealthy, powerful nations in possession of such arms are contradictory to the current trend in nuclear proliferation (Al Jazeera 2022).
Even more surprising is the fact that the idea of disarmament has suddenly disappeared after the Russian attack on Ukraine. In fact, in a matter of months, actors in possession of nuclear weapons have announced to invest in nuclear arms in order to increase, modernize and optimize their arsenal. Countries that wanted to get rid of nuclear arms are now putting strong importance on the capability of their weapons. Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine has provoked a common global reaction to get ready for potential danger (Al Jazeera 2022).
Therefore, it seems like Russia’s war has already activated a nuclear proliferation trend, stronger and faster than in the past decades. A new nuclear arms race has started, altough this time it is not about technological capability and artificial intelligence. This time it is about being prepared and ready for a potential attack from a country possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal (Hille 2022).
To conclude, the Russian attack on Ukraine has provoked large, powerful nations to rush toward the development and modernization of their nuclear arms. This reaction has not only accelerated the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also created a threatening environment.
The large nations who joined the nuclear arms race are reacting to his threats as the world expects them to. Namely, appearing to act, preparing, and making sure their arsenal could be operated at any time, even if they are not sincerely planning on doing so. Governments expect to reassure their population by taking action and guaranteeing national security.
Therefore, the reason this nuclear arms race is happening is due to Russia’s threat of nuclear attack and led to international governments taking actions such as discussed in the Domestic Politics Model.
I am a final year bachelor’s student in Asian Studies & Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz, Germany. For the past semester, I have been studying International Relations at the University of Gadjah Mada, in Indonesia, where I specialized in Peace & Conflict Studies.
onJune 17, 2022
Pakistan Army says defence budget for 2022-23 decreases from 2.8per cent of the GDP to 2.2 per cent
India showcases its defence expenditure on web sites, but, Pakistan mentions thm in one line in the demands for grants. The legislators apathetic to knowing the details. The defence officials, including the defence secretary has in the past expressed keen desire to show any detail to legislators.
The parliamentarians lack the ability to scrutinise the budget. Budgetary analysis is a technical task which could be done only by qualified people in ministries. Lt Gen Attiqur Rehman in Our Defence Cause says: “In a democracy, the defence services belong to the people through their representatives in parliament. Thus, the people have the right to know what is going on, how their money is being spent, and how the defence services are being managed and administered. In fact, they have a right to know everything, except details of the actual war plans.”
Pakistan’s defence demands undergo a rigorous scrutiny by relevant parliamentary committees and audit bodies. Legislators and MoD babus are properly briefed about need for provisions. Whenever demanded, the details of the defence budget for the current, as well as for the coming, financial year were placed before the parliament. Even the expenditure on Zarb-e-Azb appeared more than once in media.
Most legislators lack acumen to analyse numerical rigmarole. So they themselves do not wish to be bothered with the job being done by competent professionals in various ministries and parliamentary committees.
Pakistan should separate expenditure of forces to defend China Pakistan Economic Corridor and key installations including parliament from normal demands for defence grants.
A bitter lesson of history is that only such states survived as were able to strike a balance between constraints of security and welfare. Garrison or warrior states vanished as if they never existed.
Take military pensions. They are clubbed under provisions of “civil ministries”, or separately. Many provisions of quasi-military nature are excluded from the defence outlay. Examples of such provisions are border and strategic roads, public sector undertakings mentioned under the Defence ministry separately. The provisions in MoD have capital outlays. They are not classified under military expenditure of the three services. The The nuclear research (bomb making) expenditure is not treated as a military expense.
After a tiff with China, considerable money was spent on infrastructure in Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh. This expenditure is of military nature. Presenting the Union Budget 2022-23 in Parliament on February 1st, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced, among many others, an increase in allocations for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by 9.8 percent to INR 5.25 trillion (USD 70.6 billion). The near double-digit rise in the defence allocation comes amidst India’s ongoing military stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, which is yet to be diffused at the time of writing this article.
India has a vast array of para military forces like the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force. They are as good as the “regulars”. Expenditure on them is of military nature. The para-military forces spare the “regulars” for other duties.
At us prodding, India revised its maritime strategy in 2015 to “Ensuring Secure Seas”. The previous strategy was “Freedom to Use the Seas. To implement the new strategy, India built the
India took up the development of the Sittwe Port in Myanmar as part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project for building a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe. India upgraded its existing listening post in northern Madagascar. India has obtained access to the US naval base in Diego Garcia, and to the French naval bases in Mayotte and Reunion islands, besides the Australian naval base in Cocos (Keeling. Robert Kaplan, in his book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and Future of American Power, argues that the geopolitics of the twenty-first century will hinge on the Indian Ocean. Waters of the Indian Ocean reach 28 countries which together account for 35 percent of the world’s population and 19 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Sixty per cent of the world’s oil shipments from the Gulf countries to China, Japan and other Asian countries pass through these waters which host 23 of the world’s busiest ports.
A US proxy
India is emerging as the US proxy against rising China, which is determined to surpass the USA in GDP by 2027. India is opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Besides, it uses its aid, trade and border contiguity to obstruct Chinese influence in Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
At India’s bidding, those countries toe the Indian line in SAARC and other international forums like G-20. In 2005, Washington expressed its intention to help India become a major world power in the 21st century (according to K. Alan Kronsstadt, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 13 February 2007). It was later re-affirmed by Ambassador David Mulford in a US Embassy press in 2005. The USA’s resolve later translated into modification of domestic laws to facilitate export of sensitive military technology to India. The Nuclear Supplier Group also relaxed its controls to begin exports to India’s civilian nuclear reactor (enabling India to divert resources to military use).
Raj Mohan, Shyam Saran and several others point out that India follows Kautliya’s mandala (concentric, asymptotic and intersecting circles, inter-relationships) doctrine in foreign policy. It is akin to Henry Kissinger’s `spheres of influence’. According to this doctrine ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’. However, short-run policy should be based on common volatile, dynamic, mercurial interests, like the intersection of two sets.
Former Indian foreign secretary, Shyam Saran in his book How India Sees the World says, ‘Kautliyan [Chanakyan] template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.). It appears that Kautliya’s and Saran’s last-advised option is India’s first option, with regard to China and Pakistan, nowadays.
Raj Mohan elucidates India’s ambition, in terms of Kauliya’s mandala (inter-relationships), to emerge as South Asian hegemon in following words:
‘India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers. In the second who encompasses the so-called extended neighbourhood, stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great power, a key player in international peace and security. (C. Raja Mohan, India and the Balance of Power, Foreign Affairs July-August 2006).
Henry Kissinger views Indian ambitions in the following words: ‘Just as the early American leaders developed in the Monroe Doctrine concept for America’s special role in the Western Hemisphere, so India has established in practice a special positioning of the Indian Ocean region between the East Indies and the horn of Africa. Like Britain with respect to Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India strives to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in this vast portion of the globe. Just as early American leaders did not seek approval of the countries of the Western Hemisphere with respect to the Monroe Doctrine, so Indian in the region of its special strategic interests conducts its policy on the basis of its own definition of a South Asian order’ (World Order, New York, Penguin Press, 2014).
ZbigniewBrzeszinsky takes note of India’s ambition to rival China thus: ‘Indian strategies speak openly of greater India exercising a dominant position in an area ranging from Iran to Thailand. India is also position itself to control the Indian Ocean militarily, its naval and air power programs point clearly in that direction as do politically guided efforts to establish for Indi strong positions, with geostrategic implications in adjoining Bangladesh and Burma (Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).
With tacit US support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau near the Nathula Pass on the Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations. China later developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate the Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount a magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 055-class under-construction missile destroyer 055.
The Indian navy wants a 200-ship strong fleet by 2027. The Navy wants to procure six new conventional submarines and 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace the vintage fleet of Chetaks. The IAF wants to procure 114 new fighters besides the 36 Rafales ordered in 2015, still in process
Social cost of military spending: Back in 1996-97, British Labour Party Defence Study Group tried to highlight defence burden on public exchequer. In that report, they drew comparisons between the defence and social costs. For instance, £ 7,000 million cost of the Tornado multi-role combat aircraft project was more than the total cost of Britain’s health and personal social services projects for 1976-77. £ 16 million price of the Frigate Ambuscade could provide a new 50S-bed hospital in Bangor. The submarine Superb was more expensive than building 4,000 new homes.
Colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by a nuclear power is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb. India should carry out a similar cost-benefit study of its military expenditure.
Social cost of military expenditure: Miserable lifestyle
During COVID 19 surge people dumped the dead bodies of their kith and kin in rivers. They could not afford to buy costly wood to arrange a decent cremation.
Nearly half of India’s 1.2 billion people have no toilet at home. Yet more people own a mobile phone, according to the latest census data. Only 46.9 percent of the 246.6 million households have lavatories while 49.8% defecate in the open.
Most Indians don’t use toilet paper and consider it cleaner to use other materials to wipe their bottom, such as newspapers, leaves and sand.Modi’s Clean India (Swach Bharat) remained a tall claim as most toilets disintegrated due to disuse or substandard quality. According to the health ministry’s 2012 Survey, of the 97.3 million toilets `built’, the ministry’s 2012 survey suggests that at least 27.64 million toilets are defunct.
According to India’s census of household amenities and assets, the majority of Indians have a miserable lifestyle. The survey indicated that the Indian government’s priorities for ameliorating lot of the common man were wrong. For instance, the government keeps fuming and fretting about the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) subsidy. But, only about 18 percent of fortunate families use LPG as fuel in their everyday life. Majority of the surveyed families used dung cakes, or firewood to cook. Only six per cent of the families have a car, with or without the LPG facility.
The survey further indicated: (a) Majority of the people are shelter-less and without any public-health cover. About six people live in one house. There are 179 million residential houses. Interestingly, `house’ means one room for about 40 per cent of Indian families. As such, about 40 percent of married people do not enjoy the luxury of an independent sleeping room. (b) Most `houses’, so called, are without toilets. (c) Only half the population (52%) lives in `houses’ with walls and roofs. The rest live shelter-less in the open air. (d) Only 56 per cent of the `houses’ are blessed with electricity. Even in the prosperous Punjab, four lakh households are without electricity. The survey negated the common impression that 100% households in Punjab had electricity. Not a single state provides electricity to 100 per cent of its households. The situation in Bihar is the most miserable. There, only 10 per cent of Bihar state’s 14 million households get electricity, and the 90 per cent remain without it.
The survey found that only 38% families have water. The tapped water supply, besides being erratic, is generally unhygienic. Water is supplied for only a few hours, four hours at the most. About 62 per cent of the families, that is 118 million households; do not have access to drinking water at home. In rural areas, about five million families still fetch drinking water from nearby ponds, tanks, rivers and springs.
One starling finding of the Survey was that the development expenditures were oriented towards the rich (urban areas). This trend has perpetuated the rural urban divide. The urban-rural divide is most pronounced when it comes to electricity supply. About 88 per cent families in urban areas vis-à-vis 44 per cent in rural areas have access to electricity. Almost half of the rural `houses’ are still lit with kerosene.
Urban areas are better in fuel consumption also. Over 22 million Indian families (12 per cent households) still cook under the sky. But, 76 percent of urban households have separate kitchens in their homes. Whether or not there is a kitchen, firewood is still the most widely used fuel with over 52.5 per cent Indians depending on it.
Surprisingly, even 23 per cent urban families use firewood for cooking. About 10 per cent rural households use crop residue as fuel. Besides, cow- dung cake as fuel is used by 9.8 per cent (The meager use of biogas, even in villages, reflects failure of the Indian government to promote biogas in villages).
About 23% urban families have phones as compared to only 4% rural families. Cars are, practically, an anathema for the rural population. As for urban families, only six per cent of the overall households surveyed have a car. But, 13% of the Delhi-resident families have cars (highest average among the cities).
Majority of the Indians live in a Sahara of subhuman conditions. There are oases of affluence, unnoticed and un-taxed by the government’s policy makers. For instance, 11 per cent of Delhi’s 3.3 million houses are vacant. Gujarat has 14 per cent houses vacant.
For about a third of even urban Indian families, a house does not include a kitchen, a bathroom, and a toilet. And, in many cases, no power and water supply(Indian expressdated February 9, 2004 .Figuring India Shining India?)
Take a look at these figures and feel not-so-good”) published the following pathetic profile of true India: “260 million people below poverty line,60 million of under four-year-olds are moderately or severely malnourished, 87 % women are anaemic,60 % children are anaemic,25 million are without shelter,171 million have no access to safe drinking water, 290 million adults are illiterate, 53 % of below five-year-olds are underweight, 4.4 doctors per 10,000 people (Source: Planning Commission)”.
Way out: Peace with neighbours: Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah cherished the desire for lasting Indo-Pak peace even before creation of Pakistan. During his last days, The Quaid was perturbed at the Cold War rivalry emerging between the USA and the USSR.
The Quaid keenly desired that the subcontinent and all of South Asia should remain aloof from the rivalry. Therefore, he proposed a joint defence pact with India. Had India accepted his idea, the two countries would not have been at daggers drawn after independence.
Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, he sent a message to the Indian government, “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi “the poison has been removed from the body of India. As for the Muslims, they have their roots, their sacred places and their centres here. I do not know what they can possibly do in Pakistan. It will not be long before they return to us.”
Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rant against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14). Will India stop its worldwide defence purchases to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan?
India’s rising defence outlays ratchet up Pak defence allocations. Let India lower her expenditure first! It should be a leader to compel Pakistan to follow suit. It must shun hegemonic designs.
Any analysis of India’s military expenditure should be based on actual Demands for Grants coupled with Explanatory Memoranda. The allocations concealed under civil ministries outlays should be ferreted out and added to military allocations. The successive increases are revised and then actual budget estimates should be taken into account.
The colossal increase in big brother’s military budget is untenable in light of its teeming millions living below the poverty line.
U.S & UK Announce Aim to Create New Anti-Russia Military Alliance
Published3 days ago
onJune 16, 2022
Because of their unexpected difficulties in getting Ukraine and Finland into their existing anti-Russia military alliance, NATO; both the U.S. and the UK Governments are now trying to create a new anti-Russian military alliance consisting of only themselves plus nations that border on Russia, so that U.S. & UK nuclear missiles can become posted onto Russia’s border a mere five-minutes-flying-time away from their blitz-nuclear-annihilating Moscow — too short a time for Russia to be able to launch its retaliatory weapons. The goal is to conquer Russia in such a fast manner that Russia won’t be able to retaliate to a sudden U.S. and UK nuclear attack. Ever since at least 2006, the goal has been to do this (it’s called “Nuclear Primacy” — the ability for the U.S. to win a nuclear war against Russia). However, obtaining this result from NATO is turning out to be too slow, if it will be able to be achieved, at all. And, therefore, the U.S. and UK Governments have designed an alternative method, which might be quicker.
So far as is yet publicly known, this plan originated not in Washington but in London; however, the “Special Relationship” that exists between those two Governments is so intimate so that a proposal of this type would almost certainly have been worked out carefully between those two Governments before anything became publicly known about it. Furthermore, the core military nature of this alliance has been carefully hidden in the publicly available verbiage regarding it, so that it is publicly known as being an alternative to the EU, not to NATO — the military alliance, which it clearly is, and has been motivated as being.
On May 26th, Federico Fubini, of the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, headlined “Boris Johnson’s secret plan to divide Ukraine from Russia and the EU: the European Commonwealth” (“Il piano segreto di Boris Johnson per dividere l’Ucraina da Russia e Ue: il Commonwealth europeo”), and he reported that ever since Johnson’s surprise visit to Kiev on April 9th, Johnson has been hoping to create an “alternative to the European Union” but which would really be more of an alternative to NATO, and it wouldn’t allow in any countries that aren’t rabidly hostile toward Russia (such as Turkey or Hungary) any power to veto its actions (actions such as to station U.S and/or UK troops and missiles in Ukraine or Finland on or near Russia’s border and close especially to Moscow — Russia’s central command).
Johnson’s plan is that if, when the European Summit convenes on June 23rd, Zelensky turns out to be dissatisfied with the assurances that he will be receiving from the EU regarding Ukraine’s becoming an EU member (which would be a necessary prelude to NATO membership), then “Zelensky would take Boris Johnson’s alternative offer more seriously.”
On June 15th, Russia’s RT News bannered “US backs idea of another military bloc: Washington would support a possible security alliance between the UK, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic States, the US envoy to NATO says”, and reported that: “The US Permanent Representative to NATO, Julianne Smith, said on Tuesday that Washington would ‘want to support’ the idea of a new security alliance, which could reportedly include Ukraine, the UK, Poland, the Baltic States, and possibly Turkey.” Turkey is part of this plan because its two straits, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, control access to and exit from the Black Sea — Russia’s main coast-line — and thus U.S. Navy access to possibly decimating Russia’s navy in Crimea, which would be an important part of conquering Russia. If Turkey won’t join this new alliance, then the U.S. Government will presumably attempt another coup to replace Turkey’s government.
These would be the U.S. and UK “Plan b” in case NATO turns out to be insufficiently united to terminate Russia’s independence.
More Action; Fewer Words: Pakistan’s Military Diplomacy
Published4 days ago
onJune 15, 2022
The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) entitles Pakistan’s military diplomacy as “more action, fewer words”. Defence Diplomacy, usually termed as Military Diplomacy has been in vogue for quite some time now. In today’s modern world, this has become even more crucial when you have to achieve national objectives like economy, diplomacy and security. These three strands have become interchangeable today because economy, diplomacy and security all depend on each other to achieve “soft power” goals of the state. The role of militaries then extends beyond the conventional hard power domain and puts them in supplementing national efforts as well to achieve national policy objectives. While considering the state of Pakistan and its geopolitical importance, Military diplomacy formula has played a pivotal role in fortifying our relations with foreign countries. The combined and bilateral military exercises with many countries such as US, Russia, China, Turkiye, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries have paved the way for achievement of economic, military and diplomatic objectives of the country, with an overall improvement in the bilateral relations. The Army leadership’s visits to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, China and many other countries have supplemented the achievement of prime national objectives.
The recent visit of senior military officials headed by Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff and delegation containing officers from all three services, as part of the Pakistan China Joint Military Cooperation Committee (PCJMCC) is a testimony to the military diplomacy of the current leadership. According to the statement issued by the military’s media wing on the visit “Pakistan and China reaffirmed their strategic partnership in challenging times and agreed to continue regular exchange of perspectives on issues of mutual interest. Both sides also vowed to enhance their training, technology and counterterrorism cooperation at tri service level.” This is all due to the Military to Military Cooperation that spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang said in an official statement “General Bajwa is an extraordinary leader of Pakistan Army. He is old friend of Chinese government and the Chinese army. He made positive contributions for further development of China-Pakistan relations.” Military diplomacy with China took a new leap when General Bajwa after assuming command, visited China on an official invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is to be remembered that the 94th anniversary of the founding of Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) was commemorated at GHQ which was also an unprecedented event. However, the relations with China were being perceived to be turning a bit cold in the past government’s tenure because of the slow progress of work on CPEC Projects but this high level military delegation has also paved the way for a futuristic strategic partnership with China. In the evolving security milieu, the Pakistan-China strategic soft power partnership has become increasingly important for regional peace and stability and the big credit in building this soft power influence goes to General Bajwa’s doctrine of Military diplomacy.
Defense diplomacy in Pakistan has predominantly complimented the state institutions in achieving national objectives by providing economic anchorage. The war against terrorism in Pakistan and the overall improvement of the internal security paradigm are success stories that have created a safe environment for foreign investment. Undoubtedly, a safe environment gives investors’ confidence and boosts the tourism industry. With the development of very low cost and highly needed dams through the Frontier Works Organization (FWO), providing security to the Chamalang Coals mines, raising special wings to protect CPEC routes and developing CPEC road infrastructure, it gave the government the coveted economic leverage. The construction work on CPEC may also be accredited to military diplomacy. FWO developed the Kartarpur Corridor connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan and Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in India and continued to be the main organization for the construction of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. This led to better relationships with the Sikh community, improving image of Pakistan as a safe place for other religions, and also promoting the religious tourism in the process.
Despite all security efforts to create a stable peaceful environment in Pakistan, it seemed that international cricket would never resume in the country. Inviting military teams from Australia, England and Sri Lanka to play cricket, thus changed international perception and provided confidence to the international teams. This soft prong of Proactive Defence diplomacy paved the way for the return of international cricket in the country. Pakistan’s military diplomacy has been acknowledged closer to home as well. Peace in Afghanistan is always relevant to the stability inside Pakistan. The role of Pakistan’s military in aiding the Afghan Peace Process has been widely recognized by the Western dignitaries. Zalmay Khalilzaad, US Special peace envoy to Afghanistan, gave his acknowledgments to Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff.
Defence diplomacy in Pakistan is thus more relevant than ever as these soft power tactics by the Pakistani military are contributing much in the national discourse
Senior Research Fellow, Center for National Defense
Peter researches and develops Heritage’s policy on weapons of mass destruction and counter proliferation.Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the State Awarding Ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace, June,12,2022, in Moscow, Russia.Contributor / Getty Images
Russia has nearly a 10:1 advantage over the United States and NATO in non-strategic (i.e., low-yield and short-range) nuclear weapons (NSNWs).
The United States and NATO must consider Russia’s use of tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine crisis a real possibility.
With Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, now is a good time to take note of a little-spoken-of, but glaring, imbalance between America’s and Russia’s nuclear arsenals—and how it could affect stability in Europe and the interests of the United States and those of its European allies and partners.
If asked, many Americans and Europeans probably believe that the United States and Russia are pretty evenly matched in terms of the number of nuclear weapons both sides have in their arsenals. While their beliefs are entirely understandable, they are not completely correct.
Under the 2010 bilateral New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty—also known as New START—the United States and Russia have a similar number of deployed strategic (i.e., high-yield and long-range) nuclear weapons: 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each. But not all of Washington’s or Moscow’s nuclear weapons are covered by New START.
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Indeed, Russia has nearly a 10:1 advantage over the United States and NATO in non-strategic (i.e., low-yield and short-range) nuclear weapons (NSNWs).
While capable of significant destruction, these tactical nuclear weapons are lower in yield—or explosive power—and are meant for use on the battlefield against military installations or troop and equipment concentrations as opposed for use against counterforce or countervalue targets such as ICBM missile fields, command and control nodes, and or population centers (e.g., cities).
It is believed that Russia can deploy these weapons on multiple tactical systems including dual-capable short-range or theater ballistic missiles, torpedoes, and anti-ship missiles. Indeed, it is expected that Russia’s new hypersonic weapons may be dual-capable (i.e., conventional or nuclear armed) as well.
Major nuclear weapons states, including Russia, have said that a nuclear war could never be won and therefore should never be fought. However, there are deep concerns among policy makers and security analysts outside Russia about whether Moscow fully embraces that idea or if it is just convenient diplomatic rhetoric.
Also of increasing concern is a Russian military doctrine associated with battlefield nuclear weapons known as “escalate to deescalate.” This topic is of particularly interest right now with the war in Ukraine ongoing since late February 2022. According to the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR):
“Russia considers the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to be the principal threats to its contemporary geopolitical ambitions. Russian strategy and doctrine emphasize the potential coercive and military uses of nuclear weapons. It mistakenly assesses that the threat of nuclear escalation or actual first use of nuclear weapons would serve to “de-escalate” a conflict on terms favorable to Russia. These mistaken perceptions increase the prospect for dangerous miscalculation and escalation.”
The NPR further asserts that:
“Moscow threatens and exercises limited nuclear first use, suggesting a mistaken expectation that coercive nuclear threats or limited first use could paralyze the United States and NATO and thereby end a conflict on terms favorable to Russia. Some in the United States refer to this as Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine. “Deescalation” in this sense follows from Moscow’s mistaken assumption of Western capitulation on terms favorable to Moscow.”
Though the Russians seemingly refute the existence of this doctrine by its American name at least, some sources assert that the policy may actually have been developed in the late 1990s, when now-Russian President Vladimir Putin was chairman of the Russian National Security Council under President Boris Yeltsin.
The idea behind escalate to deescalate is that Russia might employ one tactical nuclear weapon (or more) during a conventional conflict with NATO forces for the purposes of preventing a defeat, consolidating territorial gains, or even freezing a conflict in place without the prospect of further fighting.
Indeed, because of the large, nearly 10:1 disparity between the number of Russian and U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, Moscow may think a nuclear response from NATO is not a credible threat due to Russia’s asymmetric advantage. Other factors may also play a role in Russian calculations, including a perception that NATO’s large membership would have difficulty finding a political-military consensus on an appropriate response, including a nuclear option.
An example of the potential use of this Russian nuclear doctrine in a hypothetical scenario might be helpful here:
Moscow attacks one—or all—of the Baltic States with its conventional forces to establish control over some, or all, of these nations’ territory, returning them to Russia’s control as they were in the Soviet era. Invoking Article V, NATO responds with conventional forces to protect and restore the sovereignty of these three allied states.
Concerned about the inferiority of its conventional forces in this fight against the allied powers, Moscow then contemplates exploding a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon somewhere in theater as a warning of Russia’s potential escalation from the conventional to the nuclear domain of warfare, including the potential future use of high-yield, strategic nuclear weapons.
Indeed, Moscow may misperceive that if NATO does not have sufficient tactical nuclear weapon capabilities to respond in kind, it would be inclined to seek de-escalation rather than launch a strategic nuclear weapon at Russia and risk moving further up the escalation ladder—a response that could lead to all-out nuclear war.
Using its tactical nuclear weapon advantage over NATO and having strategic nuclear parity with Washington, Moscow could threaten additional low-yield nuclear strikes unless fighting ends on Russia’s terms. Ideally for Moscow, NATO might decide that there is no good option available to respond and chooses to cease hostilities, locking in Moscow’s ill-gotten gains in the Baltics.
With these political-military calculations in mind, Russia takes a chance on the expected NATO response and explodes a 10-kiloton tactical nuclear weapon near or in the European theater. As a result, nuclear deterrence fails for the first time in history not due to the use of strategic nuclear weapons that so many people are aware of, but the imbalance of battlefield nuclear weapons between NATO and Russia.
While the preceding example addresses a potential attack on NATO, these NSNWs also could play a role in the ongoing war on Ukraine.
Russian forces continue to face incredible resistance from the Ukrainian government, military, and people. Military and other aid from NATO nations and others continue to pour into Ukraine. The Russian military is struggling and taking far greater losses than they likely anticipated. Observers are increasingly concerned that the Kremlin may escalate the war with the use of weapons of mass destruction, including tactical nuclear weapons.
Moscow could certainly decide to move the war in Ukraine from the conventional level to the nuclear level at any time. But under what circumstances might Russia use a tactical nuclear weapon directly against Ukraine—or as part of the conflict—in an effort to determine the outcome of the war in Moscow’s favor?
In late March 2022, shortly after Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and current deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, outlined Moscow’s policy on using nuclear weapons. According to a press account, Medvedev said:
“We have a special document on nuclear deterrence. This document clearly indicates the grounds on which the Russian Federation is entitled to use nuclear weapons. There are a few of them, let me remind them to you: number one is the situation, when Russia is struck by a nuclear missile. The second case is any use of other nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies. The third is an attack on a critical infrastructure that will have paralyzed our nuclear deterrent forces. And the fourth case is when an act of aggression is committed against Russia and its allies, which jeopardized the existence of the country itself, even without the use of nuclear weapons, that is, with the use of conventional weapons.”
Medvedev’s explanation on Russian nuclear doctrine is relatively clear, but he failed to note the escalate-to-deescalate doctrine. And that doctrine arguably is what creates the most likely scenario in which Moscow resorts to the use of nuclear weapons in the near future.
The war in Ukraine has not gone well for Russian President Vladimir Putin. What the Kremlin thought would be a fast assault on the capital, Kyiv, followed by the fall of the Ukrainian government, has turned into a difficult situation, which has seen Russian forces losing general officers, troops, and equipment at an alarming rate.
The outcome—once thought to overwhelmingly favor Moscow—remains inconclusive.
This state of affairs does not bode well for the Kremlin. Even authoritarian leaders such as Putin care about public opinion at home and the effect it might have on the regime’s control over the country. Russia needs to achieve some sort of “victory” to justify its military adventurism in Ukraine, especially among the Russian elite and national security establishment.
Losing the war in Ukraine would have repercussions on Russia internationally, too, including significant reputational costs, strained diplomatic relations and likely pariah status in international organizations, economic costs based on a variety of punitive sanctions, and a demoralized, depleted Russian military that may not be able to effectively project power abroad.
In other words, losing the war in Ukraine has the potential to be painful for Putin, Russia, and the Russian people – and this is when, unfortunately, the use of nuclear weapons potentially comes into play for Moscow.
Indeed, Putin might decide to use a NSNW (or more than one) in this yet unproven escalate-to-deescalate plan to advance Russia’s unjust goals of politically subjugating the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people and disarming the Ukrainian military.
There is robust debate about the efficiency and effectiveness of using a NSNW on the Ukrainian battlefield to advance Russian goals. There are, however, other options. For example, Russia could explode a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon for political effect over an unpopulated area, including the waters of the Arctic Ocean.
The point of the use of the NSNW, regardless of where it is exploded, would be to send a clear signal to the United States, NATO, and others who are supporting the Ukrainian political and military resistance that their generous backing must end—immediately.
If these supporters choose otherwise, the risk would be that Moscow might escalate from a single, low-yield nuclear “warning shot” on the battlefield or into an unpopulated area to using low-yield or high-yield theater or intercontinental-range strategic nuclear weapons, targeting populated areas in countries that back Ukraine, especially those that are part of NATO.
The Kremlin might calculate that Ukraine’s main supporters (e.g., the United States and NATO) do not have the political will to risk a wider conventional conflict with Russia or chance the possibility of a move up the nuclear-escalation ladder with Moscow that could result in all-out nuclear war and unspeakable carnage.
Ukraine’s backers—and Ukraine itself— would also have to make some fateful choices on its response.
Using the escalate-to-deescalate nuclear stratagem, Moscow potentially could force any number of advantageous political and military outcomes to the war in Ukraine, including a victory that avoids the deep unpleasantries of a defeat and all that a loss would incur for Moscow domestically and internationally.
Of course, the use of any nuclear weapon— strategic or tactical—in war for the first time since World War II is a troubling idea to contemplate, even one over an unpopulated area for the purposes of political-military signaling. But policymakers, analysts, and observers must understand that Russian political and military policy includes options for the possible use of the 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons in its nuclear arsenal.
Consequently, the United States and NATO must consider Russia’s use of tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine crisis a real possibility, especially as the length of the war increases. At this point, the possible use of battlefield nuclear weapons by Russia is arguably a “low risk,” but it is not a “no risk” scenario. It could happen.
As such, the United States and NATO must take the threat of Russian battlefield nuclear weapons very seriously, surveil the movement of Russian nuclear forces intensely, and prepare at the policy and military level for the possibility of a nuclear event, including the making of tough choices that a Russian nuclear event in Ukraine would bring.
Beyond the Ukraine crisis, the United States, NATO, and other European partners must be thinking about Moscow’s advantage in NSNWs and its “escalate to deescalate” doctrine. The significant imbalance and potential willingness to use these weapons could encourage greater Russian risk-taking now and in the future, deeply undermining European security and U.S. and NATO interests.
As we have seen repeatedly—from disinformation campaigns to cyberattacks to military operations overseas (e.g., Syria)—Russia will use every instrument of its national power to achieve its geopolitical goals. This state of affairs means that Russia’s small nukes are a potentially big problem for the United States, NATO, and its partners in Europe.