The environmental global warming climate change crisis appears to have eclipsed the nuclear war apocalypse as the greatest threat to the human race. Nevertheless, the dangers of nuclear war has never disappeared and has, in fact, returned to its old Cold War sabre-rattling. Nuclear weapons remain the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people and cause catastrophic and long-term damage to the environment. The use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would be cataclysmic, severely disrupting the global climate and causing widespread famine.
Today, Monday 27 March, UN talks will begin on a global nuclear ban treaty in the forlorn hope to prohibit nuclear weapons. and it will most likely fair no better than all the previous nuclear disarmament conferences. Well-intentioned reformers believe that it is time to negotiate a treaty, in line with other treaties that prohibit chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions that would prohibit the use, possession, production and transfer of nuclear weapons, given their indiscriminate nature. No state, including permanent members of the UN Security Council, should possess nuclear weapons.
Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are estimated to exist in the world with the U.S. and Russia owning approximately 93% of those. The remaining 7% is owned by six other countries: France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, and Israel.
Both America, Russia and China are engaged in modernisation programmes to upgrade their existing nuclear weapons, risking a new arms race. The Americans have budgeted for one trillion dollars over the next thirty years. A recent report from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists details how the US massively upgraded the lethality of its submarine-based nuclear missiles resulting in their destructive potential being tripled, according to the report. This is important because US military planners previously only relied on submarine-launched missiles to strike soft targets like military bases. Now these missiles could be used to wipe out Russia's nukes buried deep underground. Also Russian defence officials would have less than 15 minutes to decide if an incoming object was legitimate, where it was coming from, and how they should respond. This places a whole lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Russian military officials. This alarming short warning time will create a deeply dangerous situation.
Escalation is the process by which relatively minor conflicts develop into major conflicts, because of the ever-increasing force which each side finds it necessary to bring into the field to equal and overcome the other. It is a pity people can’t take their realisation of escalation a stage further and see that it is present at the very genesis of war. Military conflict is an escalation from economic conflict. War, it has been said, is fought for vital interests. The trouble is that the same thing is likely to be a vital interest to more than one nation at a time. It is rather naive in these circumstances to discover which nation actually possesses the particular interest (i.e. which nation managed to steal it first) and label the other nation the “aggressor.”