These are dangerous times we live in. Terrorism, global warning, disease, poverty and nuclear war are all threats that hang over our heads on a daily basis. But is the risk of a disaster like a nuclear apocalypse actually a realistic possibility in this day and age? Let’s take a look at the odds of the end.
War of Words
No doubt you will be aware that there has been an ongoing and escalating war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un. The US has taken exception to North Korea’s accelerated nuclear research that led to the country testing weapons of mass destruction and firing missiles over the air space of neighbouring Japan.
It’s a scary time to be a citizen.
When individuals in such powerful positions use such aggressive rhetoric it can push brinkmanship to the next horrific level.
Are Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un the only big risk for causing nuclear war though?
Is Nuclear Armageddon Imminent?
Right now, the most obvious candidates to start a nuclear war are the US and North Korea leaders.
That said, the reality of a nuclear war coming from this prolonged dispute between the US and North Korea is fairly low. Former Navy Admiral James Stavridis stated that there is roughly a 10% chance of nuclear war being triggered between the US and North Korea. So, that’s reassuring…kind of.
Despite all the threats and strong language, a nuclear attack would ultimately benefit neither country.
If the US launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike against North Korea then it would technically sacrifice the lives of millions in surrounding nations such as South Korea and Japan, through a retaliatory response by North Korea.
If North Korea launched the pre-emptive nuclear strike then it would effectively signal the end of the North Korean regime with an international response likely to be backed.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power slashed the odds on the world ending before 2018 from 500/1 to 100/1 when the war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-Un started. However, the bookmaker is still offering odds on Kim Jong-Un remaining as North Korean Supreme Leader beyond 2031 at 4/7.
Who Else Could Trigger Nuclear War?
The US and North Korea are not the only nations that could potentially trigger a nuclear war. Eight sovereign states have developed nuclear weapons. Five of those sovereign states have entered into the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The US, UK, France, Russia, and China signed up for the treaty.
North Korea, Pakistan, and India are not included in the treaty. It is speculated that Israel also has access to nuclear weapons through its alliance with the US but that has never been confirmed.
Worryingly, a number of these nations are currently involved in conflicts or tense diplomatic relations with other nations. There has not been an obvious sign that the nations have threatened to use nuclear weapons to resolve the issues but the option is there.
Russia is considered a potential candidate for launching a pre-meditated nuclear strike.
Vladimir Putin has a track record of showing ruthlessness when needed. The Russian conflict with Ukraine led to strained tensions in the Balkans and across the EU too. There is perhaps a 5% to 10% chance of nuclear weapons being used in this conflict. However, it is unlikely to happen unless Russia feels its security is threatened more directly by a greater power.
Pakistan and India is the one conflict that is showing no sign of dying down. Analysts suggest that there is approximately a 10% chance of nuclear war occurring between these two nations.
The dispute over the Kashmir territory has raged on for decades without either nation resorting to nuclear warfare. So, it seems the odds of it happening in the future are low. Still, it only takes the word of one leader to press that red button and the political landscape changes forever.
The Middle East is also a cause for concern. No countries within the region officially possess nuclear weapons at the moment although Iran is seeking to pursue peaceful nuclear research to harness the technology for power.
The US is keen to restrict this due to Iran’s previous rhetoric of threatening to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”.
There is no doubt that the US would arm Israel with nuclear warheads if the country came under attack. The knock-on effect of such a conflict is remote now but could alter in the future.
Is the End Really Nigh?
Ultimately, nobody benefits from nuclear war. World leaders, hopefully, know this. The term “mutually-assured destruction” has been used often enough to describe why nations in possession of nuclear weapons have not used them since the Second World War.
We do live in a crazy world. It only takes one bomb to get into the wrong hands and the world can change in an instant. Despite what the media tells us, we are actually living in the most secure age in the history of mankind. Humanity has never had it better.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Will nuclear war be that end? Not for now but maybe in the future.