Princeton University’s Science and Global Security Lab published a study in response to the Pentagon’s recent Nuclear Operations report in which they indicated their belief that the use of “tactical” or “limited” nuclear weapons could be effectively used to the U.S.’s benefit in a military conflict. The report was later removed from the U.S. government’s website, but had been saved by a member of the Federation of American Scientists and posted on their website.
The Princeton study revealed that the use of nuclear weapons – even “limited” use – would most likely lead to escalation in short order, causing close to 100 million immediate casualties and rendering swathes of the planet destroyed. This would also lead to nuclear winter and starvation. The study was accompanied by a video illustrating the probable escalation, with a conflict between Russia and NATO as the initiating event.
The week after the Princeton study was released, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported on a poll in which 66 percent of Americans across the country supported extension of the New START Treaty which expires in 2021:
Of course, it is no wonder that New START is popular; it has been indisputably effective at reducing US and Russian nuclear forces, improving transparency, and reducing nuclear risk. What’s more, both sides have faithfully complied with the treaty. In the Data for Progress press release, Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, wrote that a treaty extension—which Russian President Putin has indicated he supports and which US President Trump could sign without congressional involvement—is a “no-brainer.”
Ahead of the UN General Assembly’s meeting last week, a group of 100 plus European leaders in the areas of politics, military and diplomacy released a statement under the umbrella of the European Leadership Network calling on the world body to “address rising nuclear risk, and renew commitments to international nuclear diplomacy and arms control.”
An excerpt of the statement reads as follows:
As world leaders prepare to meet this month at the United Nations in New York, we call on them to take urgent steps to reduce the risks of nuclear confrontation. We join a growing number of international leaders in raising the alarm over new nuclear dangers.
Last month we witnessed the end of the landmark US-Russia Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Today, there are grave doubts over the future of the only remaining agreement that limits and regulates Washington and Moscow’s strategic nuclear weapons, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). And new challenges confront the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Stability is eroding and risks are rising. North Korea has grown its nuclear weapon stockpile, tests missiles, and continues to feel threatened. The fate of inter-Korean and US-DPRK dialogue remains uncertain. Tensions are flaring between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. And, following Washington’s unilateral breach and resumed sanctions, Iran may walk away from the nuclear deal that constrains its ability to develop nuclear weapons.
Moreover, new military technologies threaten to destabilise global and regional nuclear confrontations. These technologies are rapidly evolving and entirely uncontrolled.
The risks of nuclear accident, misjudgement or miscalculation have not been higher since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Complacency should not be an option. It is not only European security at stake.