Astounding increases in the danger of nuclear weapons have paralleled provocative foreign policy decisions that needlessly incite tensions between Washington and Moscow.
“Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War,” warns William Perry, “and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”
After the Cold War ended, many of the safeguards preventing war between Russia and the West have been allowed to lapse. “Aggressive,” “revanchist,” “swaggering”: These are just some of the adjectives the mainstream press and leading U.S. and European political figures are routinely inserting before the words “Russia,” or “Vladimir Putin.” It is a vocabulary most Americans have not seen or heard since the height of the Cold War.
Experts typically classify nuclear and radiological terrorism into four threat categories. First, a non-state actor such as a terrorist or criminal or a group of terrorists or criminals could acquire a nuclear weapon from an arsenal of a nuclear-armed state. The acquisition could occur through theft because the weapon was unsecured or through a gift because a custodian wants the non-state actor to have the weapon, or one or more officials of that state wants to transfer one or more weapons to the non-state actor. Conceivably, the non-state actor could blackmail nuclear custodians by making credible threats to the custodians themselves or their loved ones.
Hundreds of millions of Americans took in, as gospel truth, the heavily edited stories about the end of the war. To the average American, the war’s end was such a relief that there was no questioning. For the soldiers who were particularly war-weary, no moral questions were raised regarding the justification of their use.
The last U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe may be on their way home, ending more than 50 years of their deployment abroad. A new report on the future of these weapons shows that 24 NATO members seek to end deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe or will not block a NATO consensus decision to remove them. Only three countries are holding out, and only one is actively trying to break the emerging consensus. The coming months will be decisive for the future of the 200 or so U.S. nukes in Europe.
With little notice from most press outlets, NATO recently developed contingency plans to defend its Central and Eastern European member states against potential Russian aggression. This move follows the disclosure in January that the alliance would create such plans for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.