With the Doomsday Clock now set at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest it has ever been to marking imminent global catastrophe—the collapsing global nuclear order presents a dire challenge.
“The current nuclear landscape presents different challenges for nuclear stability than during the Cold War—and policymakers and analysts alike are unprepared for it,” said Giles David Arceneaux, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado.
Among growing nuclear risks, Russia’s persistent threats throughout its war in Ukraine have increased the likelihood of nuclear use and thus threatened to undermine the long-standing tradition of the non-use of nuclear weapons.
For its part, North Korea—which tested more missiles in 2022 than in any other year on record—promulgated a new nuclear doctrine that explicitly allows for the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.
In The Fragile Balance of Terror, the foremost experts on nuclear policy suggest that some new nuclear powers suffer domestic instability, while others are led by pathological personalist dictators, and many are situated in highly unstable regions of the world.
None of the experts expressed confidence about such volatile circumstances.
About 90 percent of all nuclear warheads are owned by Russia and the United States, each of which have around 4,000 warheads in their military stockpiles although no other nuclear-armed state sees a need for more than a few hundred such weapons for national security.
About one year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia’s nuclear forces had been placed on a “special regime of combat duty” in response to what he called “illegitimate sanctions” from Western countries in response to his invasion of Ukraine.
Since Putin’s military launched its invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden said the world is closer to a nuclear conflagration than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Now, a midair collision or other such mishap has caused a $32 million US drone to fall out of the sky and into the Black Sea, and as world leaders squabble over the incident, fears grow about the possibility of an escalation.
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