Risk of nuclear war at its greatest since the Cuban Missile Crisis

Risk of nuclear war at its greatest since the Cuban Missile Crisis

Matthew Bunn writes:

Dark clouds loom on the nuclear horizon, with threats from all directions: Russia’s nuclear bombast in its war on Ukraine, China’s construction of hundreds of nuclear missile silos, North Korea’s missile testing, India and Pakistan’s ongoing nuclear competition, and Iran’s push toward nuclear weapons capability. In response, US policy-makers are discussing whether a further American nuclear arms buildup is needed. At the same time, evolving technologies, from hypersonic missiles to artificial intelligence, are straining military balances and may be making them more unstable. The risk of nuclear war has not been so high since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

These are the kinds of danger that accords for nuclear restraint were meant to mitigate by providing predictability and transparency while moderating worst-case analysis on all sides. But these agreements have been gravely weakened. After multiple Russian violations and American withdrawals, the 2010 New START Treaty is the last remaining pact limiting US and Russian nuclear forces (still over 80% of the world’s total)—but it expires in February 2026 and Russia is blocking inspections that the treaty requires. No talks on arms restraints are underway. The world could soon face an unrestrained arms competition for the first time in over five decades—and a more complex one involving more countries and more technologies.

But it is worth remembering that the 1983 Soviet arms control walkout—which seemed that it might be the end of such efforts—was followed 4 years later by the first treaty with real reductions and on-site inspections. Opportunities can arise unexpectedly—especially if people of good will work behind the scenes to create them. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.