IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Taking nuclear vulnerabilities seriously

6th August, 2020 Editorial


  • While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been the last two cities to be destroyed by nuclear weapons, we cannot be sure that they will be the last.
  • Since 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that have much more destructive power in comparison to those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Damage and vulnerability

  • Over 1, 26,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age. Over 2,000 of them have been used in nuclear tests.
  • An appreciation of the scale of the potential damage and a realisation that nuclear weapons could be launched at any moment against any target around the world should instill a sense of vulnerability in all of us.
  • There is no realistic way to protect ourselves against nuclear weapons, whether they are used deliberately, inadvertently or accidentally.
  • The invention of ballistic missiles at the end of the 1950s, with their great speed of delivery, has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched.


The problems of deterrence

  • Nuclear weapons are so destructive that no country would use them, because such use would invite retaliation in kind, and no political leader would be willing to risk the possible death of millions of their citizens.
  • Deterrence enthusiasts claim that nuclear weapons do not just protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others, but even prevent war and promote stability. These claims do not hold up to evidence.
  • Nuclear threats have not always produced fear and, in turn, fear has not always induced caution. To the contrary, nuclear threats in some cases have produced anger, and anger can trigger a drive to escalate, as was the case with Fidel Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis.