Since putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, President Vladimir Putin has been sending messages to the West about the use of nuclear weapons. Bravado or not – the truth is that it is difficult to predict how far Putin would go to emerge victorious from the conflict – a nuclear war has the potential to seriously affect almost 100 million people, in the first few hours alone. It is what shows a simulation made by researchers from the Science and Global Security Program at Princeton University in the United States.
The 2019 study states that a nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia, triggered by low-yield weapons, would result in 34.1 million deaths and 57.4 million injuries in a few hours. Together, the two countries hold more than 90% of the world’s arsenals. The death toll could be much higher, considering the medium and long-term consequences, which include radioactive fallout and global cooling.
A nuclear war between the United States and Russia would plunge the planet into a nuclear winter, according to American scientists. In 2019, Joshua Coupe, Charles G. Bardeen, Alan Robock, and Owen B. Toon published an article in the scientific journal atmospheres, warning of an average rise of around 9 degrees Celsius in global temperature. The change would be due to the lack of sunlight reaching the ground, after nuclear explosions.
The simulation model adopted by the researchers shows that around 150 tons of soot would be released if the two powers launched all their warheads into each other’s territory. That would be enough to blanket the Northern Hemisphere in a week and the entire Earth in 15 days. Surface light levels would be greatly reduced and it would take about a decade to return to normal.
“Using nuclear weapons in this way by the United States and Russia would have disastrous consequences globally,” the researchers wrote.
Radical changes in climate and atmosphere could have a ripple effect, hitting crops, which would starve billions to death. The risk of nuclear war decimating civilization was signaled nearly ten years ago by a study by Nobel Peace Prize winners International Association of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). ).
A hypothetical nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan would have the potential to severely affect more than 2.3 billion human beings through hunger and food insecurity, worldwide. This is what the authors of the survey said in 2013.
“With a great war between the United States and Russia, we are talking about the possible – not certain, but possible – extinction of the human race”, pondered at the time Ira Helfand, one of the researchers responsible for the study.
Given that modern nuclear weapons are far more powerful than the American bombs that killed more than 200,000 people in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, any nuclear war today would have “apocalyptic impact”, in Helfand’s opinion.
Russia leads possession of warheads
One ranking released by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) states that, at the beginning of 2022, nine countries had 12,700 nuclear warheads. Russia tops the list with 5,977 nuclear weapons. The US appears in second position, with 5,428. China (350), France (290), United Kingdom (225), Pakistan (165), India (160), Israel (90) and North Korea (20) follow.
The scenario is even more terrifying if you consider that, despite the fact that nuclear arsenals have been decreasing since the Cold War (in 1986, there were more than 70 thousand warheads), the current rate of reduction is lower compared to the last 30 years. . And part of that decline is a result of the United States and Russia getting rid of old weapons that have been retired. The FAS also points to the trend that countries such as China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and possibly Russia, are increasing their stocks.
Would Putin push the button?
On Tuesday (1), Russian nuclear submarines in military exercise were seen in the Barents Sea, which is in the north of the country, according to the Associated Press. The tests, justified by Russia as “maneuvering in stormy conditions”, sounded to the West as a threat from President Vladimir Putin.
The head of the European Union (EU) delegation to the Russian Federation, Markus Ederer, said on Thursday (3) that Russian authorities are discussing the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a “tactical” way, with the aim of de-escalating the conflict. caused by the invasion of Ukraine.
“In the corresponding circles there is a debate about the use of tactical nuclear weapons, it is not nuclear ‘armageddon’, but to show that if the enemy continues its advances, nuclear weapons are an option,” Ederer said during a speech to the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament. The information is from the EFE agency.
For Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, “there is a real threat of nuclear war”.
“In that TV speech (on February 24, when the invasion of Ukraine began), Putin was not acting like the owner of the Kremlin, but the owner of the planet; in the same way that the owner of a big car is showing off by turning his key ring. on his finger, Putin was spinning the nuclear bomb. He said many times: if there was no Russia, why would we need the planet? Nobody paid attention. But this is a threat that if Russia is not treated as he wants, everything will be destroyed”, analyzed Muratov, in a BBC report.
Despite having placed the country’s nuclear forces in a “special service regime”, on February 27, the Russian president had no intention of pressing “the nuclear red button”. This is what the spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Affairs, Maria Zakharova, said on Wednesday (2), according to the EFE news agency.
“We start from the point that this apocalyptic script will not be carried out under any pretext and under any conditions,” the Russian representative told Colombian broadcaster W Radio.
Under Russian nuclear deterrence doctrine, approved by Putin in 2020, which is defensive in nature, the Kremlin reserves the right to strike with nuclear weapons in the event of external aggression or a threat to the survival of the state.
Among the situations of danger foreseen by the document is the use by the enemy of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against the territory of Russia or its allies, in addition to actions against state or military installations vital to the country, which lead it to lose control over the nuclear command.
External aggression with the use of conventional weapons that threatens “the very existence of the State” would also be grounds for a nuclear response. Russia may also resort to nuclear weapons if it receives credible information about the launch of a ballistic missile against its territory or from allies.
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