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‘Tactical’ Nuclear Weapons Could Unleash Untold Damage, Experts Warn

By Ed Holt , BRATISLAVA, Nov 10 2022 (IPS) – Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the conflict’s potential to escalate to the use of nuclear weapons has been highlighted by political analysts and military experts alike.

Now growingly bellicose rhetoric from Russian president Vladimir Putin, particularly following the illegal annexations of four parts of Ukraine at the end of September, has raised fears he may be seriously considering using them. He has been quoted in September this year as saying that Russia would use “all available means to protect Russia and our people”, but last month said there was no need to consider the use of nuclear weapons. This week Russia ordered troops to withdraw from the Dnieper River’s west bank near the southern city of Kherson.

But while much of the media debate around this prospect has focused on the expected use of a so-called low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapon and what this might mean strategically for either side in the war, anti-nuclear campaigners say any discussion should be reframed to reflect the devastating reality of what the use of even the smallest weapons in modern nuclear arsenals would mean.

They say that even if only one such bomb was dropped, be it in Ukraine or in any other conflict, the consequences would cause a country – if not a continent-wide catastrophe, with horrific immediate and long-term health effects and a subsequent humanitarian disaster on a scale almost certainly not seen before.

Moreover, they say, a single strike would almost certainly be met with a similar response, quickly igniting a full-scale nuclear war that would threaten much of human life on earth.

“There is no conceivable reality in which a nuclear weapon is used, and life goes on as normal. It is very, very likely that there would be escalation and additional nuclear weapons used, but even the use of one nuclear weapon would break a decades-long taboo on the use of the most catastrophic, horrific weapon ever created,” Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Research, and Policy Coordinator,  at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) told IPS.

“We have already seen the global impacts of the war in Ukraine just using conventional weapons, including worldwide rising inflation, and energy and food shortages. But the use of a nuclear weapon would really have consequences beyond what any of us can imagine,” she added……………………………………………

Campaigners against nuclear weapons worry the global public is not being made properly aware of the scale of the loss of life and ecological damage which would be wrought by the use of such a weapon.

“There has been a lot of discussion about using a tactical nuclear bomb in Ukraine. But the use of the word ‘tactical’ is no more than a rebranding exercise to make a nuclear weapon sound like a conventional one,” Dr Ruth Mitchell, Board Chair of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), told IPS.

“A tactical nuclear weapon would be about the same size as the one dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we don’t need to imagine what the effects would be; we have already seen them,” she added.

The death toll itself would be massive, but authorities would also have to deal with radioactive fallout possibly contaminating large areas, while the event itself would trigger massive population dislocation.

And a report by ICAN also shows that even the most advanced healthcare systems would be unable to provide any effective response in such a situation, highlighting the likely destruction of local healthcare facilities and staff and pointing out that the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima destroyed 80% of its hospitals and killed almost all its doctors and nurses………………………….more

November 11, 2022 - Posted by | Ukraine, weapons and war

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