"Either it's the end of nuclear weapons, or ours," wrote 16 Nobel Peace Laureates in March in an open letter, which has since collected over a million signatures. Decades have passed since the end of the Cold War and months since the last pronouncement of the US, Russia and other members of the UN Security Council: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought", they agreed. Yet the specter of a nuclear apocalypse has never been so concrete.
Even closer than it was last February, when Vladimir Putin's response to the Western reaction following the intervention in Ukraine was icy. "Western powers contemplating intervention in the war in Ukraine," said the Russian president, "must know that Russia will respond immediately and the consequences will be like they have never seen in their entire history."
Threats of nuclear retaliation, alerting nuclear forces, all part of a terrible "ceremonial", but predictable in these contexts. And now?
Because the situation has worsened
The only treaty binding the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States will expire in less than four years, in 2026. I doubt the two sides will resume negotiating to reduce the mutual threat, but things could go wrong even sooner.
If the prospect of nuclear war doesn't terrify you, it should. According to a 2019 study from Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security (I link it here), the use of short-range "tactical" nuclear weapons in a European conflict could quickly escalate into a thermonuclear war that would kill or maim more than 90 million people in hours.
In the simulation, the first attack would take place in the Kaliningrad area ... does the name tell you anything? This area, also known as the Suwalki Corridor, has for years been considered NATO's Achilles heel in the Baltic in the event of Russian aggression, as it is not considered to be defensible. And "does it happen" that Lithuania (with the blessing of Brussels?) Has just started the gradual blockade of Kalingrad, launching the game of escalation that can create the basis for the classic self-fulfilling prophecy.
Nuclear war, the world hanging on the thread of a treaty
in 1962 The US and the USSR narrowly avoided World War III (which would have been a nuclear war) after the deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. Since then, control of these weapons has become a necessity: within the next ten years, the two countries they signed the first treaty, ABM, which began to limit them. A subsequent agreement in 1987 it banned intermediate-range nuclear weapons, and the START treaty in 1991 significantly reduced the arsenals of the two countries.
This was a blessing.
Neither of these two superpowers could launch a nuclear war without being aware of facing mutual annihilation. Nevertheless, in 2002 the US withdrew from the ABM treaty, starting to build a missile defense system. Since then, a new arms race has started. in 2019instead, President Donald Trump went further also withdrawing the US from the 1987 treaty.
This was a curse.
We are hanging by a thread: that of the new START treaty, signed by former presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. Today it is practically the only constraint on the increase of nuclear weapons. Talks on the renewal and possible extension of this treaty should have started this year. As you can imagine, they are suspended. And if START II lapses, the race for nuclear weapons (including hypersonic e autonomous, already employed in Ukraine) will be out of control, with unimaginable consequences.
What can we hope for?
First of all, a fact: a large part of the planet firmly pursues the control of nuclear weapons. in 1975 e in 1997 almost all countries in the world have signed multilateral conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, while the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons has entered into force right in 2021.
Who signed it? All non-nuclear states. The US and Russia, signatories to the first such treaty in 1970, pledged to provide peaceful nuclear technology to these states in exchange for a mutual promise. Basically: the nuclear countries would have undertaken to reduce these weapons and eliminate them in the long term, the non-nuclear ones would have undertaken not to acquire them.
What about those promises?
They dance on a taut thread. And below there is an abyss. As impossible as it seems today, anyone with gray matter must shout loudly about the need for the US and Russia to open negotiations to reduce the danger of a nuclear war.
The alternative to Peace, in this case, is annihilation.