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Cold War 2: Don’t let it cause a nuclear arms race

Cold War 2: Don’t let it cause a nuclear arms race

The deadly stockpiles of nuclear weapons built up by Cold War adversaries, Russia and the US, gave the ‘MAD’ doctrine of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ a literal ring. With thousands of nuclear weapons each, they both had enough to destroy the planet many times over. Could the current geopolitical divide between a Chinese-led bloc and the US-led West endanger the world with a new arms race pushed beyond the bounds of reason by the force of rivalry?

The deadly stockpiles of nuclear weapons built up by Cold War adversaries, Russia and the US, gave the ‘MAD’ doctrine of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ a literal ring. With thousands of nuclear weapons each, they both had enough to destroy the planet many times over. Could the current geopolitical divide between a Chinese-led bloc and the US-led West endanger the world with a new arms race pushed beyond the bounds of reason by the force of rivalry?

According to the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a think tank, all nine nuclear-armed countries – the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – have modernized their arsenals. in 2023, while some deploy new weapon systems. According to SIPRI’s 2024 estimates, as of January, about 9,585 of the world’s 12,121 nuclear warheads are in military arsenals, of which about 3,904 are mounted on vans.

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According to the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a think tank, all nine nuclear-armed countries – the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – have modernized their arsenals. in 2023, while some deploy new weapon systems. According to SIPRI’s 2024 estimates, as of January, about 9,585 of the world’s 12,121 nuclear warheads are in military arsenals, of which about 3,904 are mounted on vans.

Worryingly, the number of nuclear weapons ‘deployed’ is sixty more than last January. Russia is believed to have increased its stake by 36 to 1,710, just 60 less than the latest US figure. But this year’s expansion story was China’s. Its number of warheads has risen to 500 from 410 in early 2023. Moreover, as many as 24 of its warheads are now believed to have been deployed, although no other Asian country has any deployments, according to SIPRI’s analysis.

Why is China expanding its nuclear arsenal so quickly? The size of its stockpile was already more than double that of India, its major regional rival. Analysts view Beijing’s moves in the context of its push for long-range hypersonic missiles and the ability to also project power across the Western Hemisphere.

Concerns about China’s alliance with Moscow have increased. Over the weekend, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO allies could for the first time face a nuclear threat on two fronts, Russia and China, which could require an expansion of deployable nuclear warheads to to act as a deterrent. In this formulation, Moscow and Beijing’s “no borders” partnership justifies weighing their collective capacity for nuclear destruction against their own.

Stoltenberg’s statement drew criticism from the Kremlin, whose spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it an “escalation of tension.” is reassuring.

What’s especially troubling is the stock-to-stock dynamic, as if a nuclear shield requires a balance of explosive power between opposing opponents. According to SIPRI data, Pakistan has 170 nuclear warheads compared to India’s 172. This also seems to fit into the same framework. But given how easily the game of “strategic equality” can degenerate into an expensive race for more, all nuclear-weapon states must exercise self-restraint.

All that is really needed is minimum credible deterrence (MCD), which can be achieved even with a small arsenal, supported by sharp deterrents. As the Second Cold War worsens, this fact must be remembered worldwide. Nuclear proliferation was absurd at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and remains so today. The global imperative right now is to make the world a less dangerous place.

To that end, a no-first-use treaty signed by all nuclear-weapon states would be worth pursuing. If this doesn’t work—for example, if countries with weaker conventional defenses insist that they see value in rattling nuclear weapons—then we should all at least agree to limit our arsenals at the MCD level. There is no point in a nuclear race.

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