The world had held its breath on numerous occasions during the Cold War when the Soviet Union and the United States have pulled back from the brink of destruction. The fear of Mutually Assured Destruction had put fear into the heart of both sides and spared the planet from turning into a wasteland. But for the first time after Hiroshima-Nagasaki, the world is faced with a nuclear strike from the two superpowers.
Even as Russia finds itself facing the grim prospect of being bogged down in a long war, the status quo that held over 7 decades comes within sight of being threatened. The Americans contend that the Russian President is despairing for a fix on the battleground even as his secretary did not rule out a nuclear strike in the face of what it considers an existential threat.
Moving To A Stage Where A Nuclear Strike Is No More Unthinkable
For those who still consider that disaster doesn’t seem imminent at this stage, the recent moves are a grim reminder that it does appear disturbingly possible.
We have moved beyond that chilling stage between rung 8 and rung 9 of the escalation ladder detailing the likely consequences of a nuclear strike as devised by Herman Kahn, the prominent military strategist and systems theorist. We moving from ‘dramatic military confrontation’ to ‘provocative breaking off of diplomatic relations.’ In fact, we have moved to rung 12 and are in the midst of an enormous conventional war.
We are way past the threshold at which nuclear war seems unthinkable and moves to within the realm of possibility. Some of the terrible possibilities in the immediate future are the ‘limited’ use of ‘tactical nuclear weapons.’
With rhetoric within hailing distance of turning into a reality, how does the west respond if Vladimir Putin does the unthinkable and goes for a nuclear strike, and responds without moving on to Armageddon? It is worth remembering that the smallest so-called tactical weapon is utterly capable of a scale of destruction that is far worse than the one that Hiroshima-Nagasaki faced.