Is the threat of nuclear escalation in the world real?

What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon

Is the threat of nuclear escalation in the world real?

Is the threat of nuclear escalation real in the world?

Experts – on the likelihood of nuclear escalation amid political tensions, the growth of new technologies and the weakening of the arms control treaty system

Termination of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) between the United States and Russia and uncertainty over the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3) return the issue of nuclear deterrence to the agenda of world politics.

Experts are concerned not only with the growing tensions between the nuclear powers and uncertainty over future plans for arms control, but also with the rapid development of conventional military technologies in the world. Experts note the increased danger of blurring the boundaries between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, as well as the threats associated with the development of new technologies – cyber attacks, artificial intelligence, which, in the event of an incorrect assessment of information, can affect the control and command systems of nuclear weapons..

On the eve of the beginning of the UN General Assembly session, which opened on Tuesday, September 17, more than a hundred politicians, military and diplomats signed an appeal to world leaders attending the session to take the lead on nuclear arms control.

“Since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the risk of a nuclear incident, miscalculation or miscalculation has never been higher,” the letter writes, urging leaders at the UN General Assembly “to embark on a new joint nuclear risk mitigation project that is in the common interest and the interests of all nations. ” This initiative was coordinated by the think tank European Leadership Network, led by former UK Secretary of Defense Des Brown..

On the risks of nuclear escalation and the future of arms control, the VOA Russian Service spoke with leading military experts who took part in a discussion organized by the Carnegie Endowment in Washington on New Technologies and Nuclear Risk. In order to avoid nuclear escalation, as experts emphasize, first of all, trust between countries and the presence of political will to solve the problem are necessary..

Director of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program, Royal Joint Institute for Defense Research Tom Plant (Tom Plant, RUSI) notes that the risks associated with the nuclear threat have become much more complex today, and new approaches must be sought to address them.

“Fundamental concepts of strategic nuclear deterrence have not developed at the same pace as the technological and political environment. They are based on the concept of two nuclear powers – Russia and the United States – and the relationship between them, says Tom Plant. “Today we see that with the development of new technologies, not only are the relations between these two powers becoming more complicated, but also the participation of other countries in the“ nuclear game ”is growing. And we do not fully understand how this ‘game’ can develop “.

Among a number of technological risks that today can also come from countries that are not nuclear powers, the expert, first of all, notes various kinds of cyberattacks on command and control systems, as well as the spread of false information..

“It can also be measures designed to change the information environment around a high-ranking person who must make decisions in a crisis situation,” says the expert..

“We’re also talking about the ability to trust our own system and defend ourselves against more and more capable enemy systems,” adds Tom Plant..

With regard to how it is possible to reduce the risks of nuclear escalation in the context of the uncertainty of agreements on arms control, the expert notes that today it is very difficult to imagine the conclusion of new treaties that would limit these threats. According to the expert, understanding technological risks and the availability of mutual transparency measures remain important components for reducing the level of threats, but achieving political understanding remains key..

“The collapse of arms control systems itself is not the cause of this problem, but a sign of a deep difference in the understanding of how global security should look today,” the expert notes..

Senior Research Fellow, RAND Research Corporation Samuel Charap (Samuel Charap) notes that not only the latest technology, but also conventional weapons, such as high-precision missiles in the possession of a number of countries, can threaten regional and global stability.

“For example, Finland and Poland have air-launched cruise missiles. And if they use them in the context of a potential conflict with Russia, it can lead to a broader conflict, “the expert notes..

As for the risks of nuclear escalation in the context of collapsing arms control systems, according to the expert, first of all, it is necessary to extend the START-3 Treaty. However, for this, as well as for reaching other agreements in the field of arms control, political will is necessary, he emphasizes..

“The first thing to do is to extend START-3. It could be the basis, but we need comprehensive negotiations, the development of new approaches and the political will to see it through to the end. But at the moment all three components are missing – there are no negotiations, new approaches are not being developed and there is no political will, ”says Samuel Charap.

Senior Research Fellow, Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Program at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Peter Topychkanov (Petr Topychkanov, SIPRI) believes that, although the risks of nuclear escalation have increased recently, they are still much lower than during the Cold War.

Is the threat of nuclear escalation in the world real?

“Still, in those years it was a rivalry between the two systems, and people, both decision-makers and ordinary people, lived in an understanding that a war could happen at any moment,” the expert recalls. – Now such thoughts visit only the biggest alarmists. And in general, when economies are interdependent, any escalation of nuclear war will have consequences for the entire population. I think that there are no such hotheads who would think differently “.

Nevertheless, as the expert notes, there are risks associated with new technologies and the use of artificial intelligence in the military sphere..

“We have already realized the promise of using artificial intelligence and machine learning,” says Pyotr Topychkanov. – They, in fact, permeate all systems, say, like electricity, which helps to achieve new possibilities in the use of systems. But the risks are associated with the fact that we do not fully understand the boundaries between an autonomous system and a human-controlled system. We cannot fully ensure human control over the system “.

To reduce the risks of nuclear escalation, as noted by Pyotr Topychkanov, the general principles of nuclear arms control should remain a priority for both nuclear powers and countries that do not have such an arsenal..

“At the international level, it is important for non-nuclear countries to show convincingly to the nuclear powers that nuclear arms control is not just a nuclear issue. This is a question of a common future and common security, – says the expert. – Therefore, this pressure should be “.

“It is also very important to establish a dialogue,” adds Pyotr Topychkanov. – Unfortunately, in recent years, the level of understanding between the parties has decreased and confidence in each other has dropped. Not only between Russia and the United States, but also, for example, between the United States and China, between NATO countries and Russia, between India and Pakistan, India and China. This is happening everywhere and everywhere. Therefore, of course, the establishment of a dialogue, including a formalized one, including a dialogue between the five nuclear powers, both on nuclear doctrines and on the use of new technologies in strategic systems is important “.

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics


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