“Now what is being played is a game of chess.”
No, the world is not heading for nuclear war. No, it is not heading for World War III. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought the importance of nuclear weaponry back to the forefront, and that is an issue that raises many questions. The Cold War is behind us, yes, but the confrontation between Russia and NATO leads us to analyze the role of nuclear powers in a context as complicated as the present one. Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. are the countries bearing that label.
Thus, Moscow walks ‘alone’ but relies, as recently when moving nuclear weaponry toward Belarus, on third countries. On the other side, the Atlantic Alliance adds three powers, namely the United States, France and the United Kingdom. The strict definition of a nuclear power is clear: it is any state that. has nuclear weapons and reactors in sufficient quantity and sufficiently widely dispersed. to preserve a significant portion of its force even in the event of a successful first enemy surprise attack.
Nuclear warheads are distributed among that list of countries rather unevenly, and in fact not all of them are in readiness for use. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia has 6,255 nuclear warheads.while USA totals 5,500. China has 350, to which must be added France’s 290 and the United Kingdom’s 225, while India has 156 warheads and Pakistan 165. India, for its part, has 156 warheads and Pakistan 165. The 90 warheads of Israel and the 50 or so warheads of North Korea have not been fully confirmed.
With this summary, the suspension by Russia of its participation in the START IIIthe nuclear non-proliferation agreement signed with the United States. It was initialed in April 2010, when Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the agreement. (the president Putin put in place while he played the role of prime minister). The signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague marked the end of the Cold War. The START agreements (I, II and III) have served for the two superpowers to limit their nuclear potential, but now the scenario has changed.
Luis Rodrigo de Castroprofessor of International Relations at the CEU San Pablo University, explains to 20minutos that “to talk about nuclear proliferation when there is no construction as such intended for it is a bit complicated,” he assumes, and that is why he sees the current context “as a game of chess.”. All the powers, in the end, “make use of the pieces they have” and one of those Vladimir Putin has “is Lukashenko and it is Belarus”. That is why what has happened recently “is not a novelty”.
“They are using the tools they have,” Rodrigo de Castro continues. And it is not an issue unique to Russia, far from it, because, the professor recalls, “The United States has done the same thing in some NATO countries.”. Washington and Moscow accumulate 90% of all nuclear warheads in the world. Thus, Rodrigo de Castro is clear: “The important thing is where it is: in Russia and the US”.
In any case, he believes that we have not returned to the scheme of the 1980s. “To talk about the Cold War we have to take into account a component that was not there in those years, which is. China“he says. The role of the Asian giant is a bit particular at the current juncture. “It does not have such a strong nuclear capability, but it does an economic potential that for a few years now has been leading to the foreign policy -with the Silk Road, for example-“, summarizes the analyst.
Today, seeing the world from a bipolar perspective is not entirely accurate. China has a major influence
And that’s why, he concludes, “today, to this day seeing the world from a bipolar perspective is not entirely accurate. China is very much a conditioning factor. The complete picture also includes the Atlantic Alliance. “NATO is also moving its nuclear weapons,” Rodrigo de Castro explains, although it is clear that “many times that information does not get out”. Even so, there is a quite important rhetorical part: Putin, right now, wants the West to know that he is moving, or is going to move, nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, David Gomezgeopolitical analyst at The World Order argues that it is evident that “the nuclear weapons debate is once again at the center of international security dilemmas.” because the dynamics have changed: “Agreements have been suspended and instead of reducing, production is increasing”. But the alarm bells should not be entirely set off. “We are still far from the scenario of the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, I don’t see the advantage Putin can have by using tactical nuclear weapons.”
“If that happens it’s going to have unanimous condemnation from China and It would also give a pretext for a direct NATO intervention.“Gómez, who does not see a response from the Alliance in this sense either, “especially since the US has not seen any signs of the moves announced by Putin”, comments Gómez. On the other hand, the analyst rules out the possibility of other nuclear powers such as India or Pakistan becoming more directly involved. There is also a relevant component: “If Moscow finally carries out the deployment outside its borders, something that would happen for the first time since the end of the USSR, NATO would not respond either because it would be an excessive escalation of the conflict”.