Consequences of nuclear weapon proliferation

The Economist draws attention to the risk of nuclear war:

New actors with more versatile weapons have turned nuclear doctrine into guesswork. Even during the cold war, despite all that game theory and brainpower, the Soviet Union and America frequently misread what the other was up to. India and Pakistan, with little experience and less contact, have virtually nothing to guide them in a crisis but mistrust and paranoia. If weapons proliferate in the Middle East, as Iran and then Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt join Israel in the ranks of nuclear powers, each will have to manage a bewildering four-dimensional stand-off.


Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

2 thoughts on “Consequences of nuclear weapon proliferation”

  1. It is a highlight of the last seventy years that the world has avoided nuclear war, especially since before then mankind has been unable to resist the temptation to use its most powerful weaponry.

    It would be a wonderful peace dividend if we could have also avoided now and into the future the nuclear arms expenditures.

  2. Asian nuclear weapons
    What lurks beneath

    Many will be looking out for one vessel in particular: the INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear-powered submarine armed with ballistic missiles (SSBN, in military jargon). The 6,000-tonne boat will provide India with the third leg of its nuclear “triad”—it already has land- and air-launched nukes. But in doing so, it will also risk accelerating a nuclear arms race in Asia (see chart).

    India believes SSBNs are a vital part of its nuclear strategy, which forswears the first use of nuclear weapons. The Indian navy’s latest statement of maritime strategy, published in October, says the country’s nuclear-deterrence doctrine involves having a “credible minimum deterrent” that can deliver “massive nuclear retaliation designed to inflict unacceptable damage” in response to a nuclear strike against India. Because they can readily avoid detection, SSBNs can survive a surprise attack and thus ensure India’s ability to launch a retaliatory “second strike”.

    China is ahead of the game. It has a fleet of four second-generation Jin-class SSBNs and is testing JL-2 missiles to install in them. These weapons have a range of 7,400km (4,600 miles)—too short, for now, to reach the American mainland from the relative safety of the South China Sea. Pakistan, for its part, is in the early stages of a lower-cost approach. This involves arming diesel-powered subs with nuclear-armed cruise missiles with a range of 700km.

    A more immediate worry to India is Pakistan’s development and deployment of smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield. These may make it more likely that any war between India and Pakistan will go nuclear. They also increase the risk of Pakistan’s weapons being used accidentally—or falling into the hands of extremists (such weapons are under the control of lower-level commanders whose professionalism and loyalty may be dubious). Pakistan says tactical nukes are needed because of an Indian doctrine known as “cold start”. Though never formally adopted, “cold start” foresees Indian units being ready to respond to Pakistani provocation (eg, a terrorist outrage) with little or no notice, by seizing parts of Pakistani territory to use as a bargaining chip.

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