NATO should thwart Russian use of nuclear weapons by threatening certain retaliation.
About this episode
The danger of nuclear war in Europe is greater than it has been since the Cold War—and growing. A sputtering economy dragged down by low energy prices impedes Russia from competing with the West in advanced technology and conventional military capabilities. Yet, under Vladimir Putin, Russia is menacing its neighbors, including NATO’s Baltic members, and diverting attention from its domestic woes. As a result, Russia is increasing its reliance on nuclear weapons and the threat to use them first, and it is pursuing an advantage in nuclear forces in Europe. In the face of this challenge, NATO’s stated nuclear strategy is too stale, vague, and timid to ensure deterrence. This episode offers an alternative strategy to reduce the danger of nuclear war in Europe.
Watch the video
- 2:17: David explains the reasons why Russia is more reliant on using nuclear weapons first in the event of an attack and what makes the situation now more dangerous than it was in the ’80s and ’90s
- 4:47: David discusses what would happen if Russia attacked a NATO member and vice versa
- 5:56: Hans adds why he thinks the risk of potential nuclear war is greater today than it has been in the past
- 8:04: Hans and David share their thoughts on what NATO needs to do to prevent additional risks that could arise because Russia has more nuclear warheads that NATO member states do
- 12:54: David assesses NATO’s current nuclear strategy and explains how Russia interprets it
- 15:30: Hans and David talk about why there is no consensus on the use of nuclear weapons inside the Alliance
- 21:51: David and Hans talk about why Russia would doubt NATO’s resolve in using nuclear weapons to retaliate
- 25:37: David discusses the ongoing debate over reviving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that expired in 2019
- 32:47: David and Hans talk about the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that expires this February and the Treaty’s challenging verification regime
- 35:33: Hans explains why strategic stability between the US and Russia must be rebuilt to have meaningful strategic arms control
- 36:55: David and Hans discuss the reasons why China would likely not agree to be a part of any arms control agreement and the consequences of this inaction
- 40:07: David and Hans close by sharing their thoughts on why they think NATO should take the lead in the debate on first use of nuclear weapons
Read the essay
Explore the podcast series
Related NATO 20/2020 essays
Wed, Oct 14, 2020
In an era where the distinction between peace and conflict is increasingly complex, NATO should retain its competitive advantage by using synthetic environments and virtual worlds to support rapid, efficient, and effective strategic decision making.
NATO 20/2020 by AM Sir Christopher Harper, KBE, RAF (Ret.)
The Transatlantic Security Initiative shapes and influences the debate on the greatest security challenges facing the North Atlantic Alliance and its key partners.