These are dangerous times we live in. Terrorism, global warming, 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
Well, it’s been an interesting past 12 months in the funny world of international diplomacy. The global community has watched on nervously as US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un have exchanged threats to use nuclear bombs on each other.
The UK has rigidly stuck to its guns on the Brexit vote. This has led to strained relations with the European Union members and put pressure on ties with other countries that are against the decision to push on with invoking Article 50. At one point, it looked like British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a war with Spain over Gibraltar!
“Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar.” – Former Conservative Leader Michael Howard, 2nd April, 2017
Then there are the good old Russians up to their old tricks again. If Vladimir Putin’s government wasn’t being accused of poisoning ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil then Ukrainian journalist Arkady Babchenko was faking his own murder to prove the regime was assassinating those against their rule.
Oh yeah, not to mention the small issue of a second Cold War effectively re-starting. This has come from the ongoing investigation led by Robert Mueller to deduce if Russia was involved in interfering in the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Needless to say, things are a little tense on the international political front right now. A lot of words are being said by important people that are making us mortal citizens nervous. All of this doesn’t even touch the long-term issues of the Middle East. Does it all mean we are closer to World War III than ever before?
Is Nuclear Armageddon Imminent?
Right now, the biggest threat to international security appears to be coming from Russia. Oh, how the political landscape has changed. Just a few months ago, it was North Korea threatening to launch a pre-emptive missile strike on the US and South Korea with the US retaliating with threats of nuclear obliteration against the secretive state.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” – Donald Trump, 3rd January, 2018
Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and it seems Putin got jealous of all the attention Trump and Kim were getting. Kill somewhere here, invade somewhere there, and announce the construction of the 57 megaton Tsar Bomb… Bob’s your uncle, suddenly you’re the biggest megalomaniac in the world again! Well played, Vladimir!
Even though a diplomatic meeting has been agreed between Trump and Kim for later this summer it remains a fragile relationship. Talks have been on and off more than Ross and Rachel in Friends. We only seem a minute away from Donald launching a hydrogen bomb at Pyongyang whilst yelling “we were on a break!” Former Navy Admiral James Stavridis does say there is roughly a 10% chance of nuclear war occurring between the US and North Korea.
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.
Still, at least relations are calm right now and Kim hasn’t thrown his golden spoon out of his Bosintang. This does not mean we are safe. Far from it. Sometimes the biggest dangers creep up on us in the quiet of the night.
Who Else Could Trigger 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. That is slightly unnerving due to their hostile words and actions against unarmed Palestinians and the country of Iran.
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. Putin has once again warned about the consequences of provocation over Ukraine. 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”. Trump’s recent withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal caused anger within the UN.
“Israel is stronger than those against us. From here I tell the leaders of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah — do not try us.” – Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, 18th April, 2018
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.