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The deteriorating nuclear order

We’re returning to a time when nuclear threats were the norm — and the world flirted with Armageddon.

Politico, BY IVO DAALDER, June 15, 2022

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

So said the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States for the very first time, just five months ago. Today, however, the prospect of nuclear weapons use is perhaps greater than any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Just weeks after co-signing the joint statement on preventing nuclear war, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war of aggression against a neighbor that had given up its nuclear weapons in return for Russia’s explicit assurance “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine [and] refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine.”

At the onset of war, Putin made an explicit threat to “those who stand in our way,” saying that the “consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.” And just three days later, he said he’d raise the alert level of its nuclear forces — though there are no indications that he did.

Russia has sought to enhance the threat of using nuclear weapons for years now. 

Realizing its conventional capabilities were no longer a match for the U.S. and NATO, some time ago, Moscow adopted a military doctrine in which its use of so-called tactical weapons might persuade an adversary to back down. And with progress in its war against Ukraine stymied by determined Ukrainian forces backed with sophisticated Western weapons, the possibility that Putin might decide to “escalate to deescalate” has become especially alarming.

But it’s not just Russian behavior and threats that are lowering the nuclear threshold. There are an increasing number of other worrying developments on the nuclear front, starting with actions taken by other established nuclear powers.

For one, the U.S. is in the midst of a massive nuclear modernization program, costing upward of $1 trillion and including new land-based missiles, a new strategic bomber and new missile-carrying nuclear submarines. It’s also deployed low-yield nuclear warheads to give Washington the capability to respond to any limited nuclear use by Russia — though few believe a nuclear exchange is or can remain limited.

China’s also modernizing and expanding its nuclear forces at a fast clip. It’s been digging new missile silos in the Gobi Desert, and the Pentagon estimates that it will deploy 1,000 nuclear warheads by the end of the decade — effectively ending its long-standing policy of relying on a minimal deterrent.

Britain, too, has announced that it’s increasing its nuclear capabilities, boosting its possible future sea-launched warhead numbers by 40 percent. And France has embarked on a major new modernization program of nuclear missiles and submarines.

But it’s not only the established nuclear powers that are expanding capabilities — newer and aspirant powers are as well.

Pakistan and India have growing nuclear arsenals that, in a few years, may equal those of France or Britain. North Korea not only has resumed nuclear material production but has also expanded the mission of its growing nuclear forces from deterring attack to advancing its national interests. And Iran now possesses enough material for a nuclear bomb as prospects of returning to the nuclear deal restraining it have all but vanished.

This increasing nuclearization around the world is putting new pressure on the nonproliferation regime.

The more countries look to the nuclear option to ensure security, the more the incentive for other countries to follow. For example, Iran’s emergence as a nuclear threshold state increases the pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to reconsider their non-nuclear status…………………..

Pakistan and India have growing nuclear arsenals that, in a few years, may equal those of France or Britain. North Korea not only has resumed nuclear material production but has also expanded the mission of its growing nuclear forces from deterring attack to advancing its national interests. And Iran now possesses enough material for a nuclear bomb as prospects of returning to the nuclear deal restraining it have all but vanished.

This increasing nuclearization around the world is putting new pressure on the nonproliferation regime.

The more countries look to the nuclear option to ensure security, the more the incentive for other countries to follow. For example, Iran’s emergence as a nuclear threshold state increases the pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to reconsider their non-nuclear status.  https://www.politico.eu/article/nuclear-weapons-russia-war-ukraine-united-states-china/

June 16, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war

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