Members of the younger generations of the 21st century look back with amusement at the fears of the people who lived through the cold war and with the threat of nuclear war. Bomb shelters, air raid drills and the famous ‘duck and cover’ films shown in American schools seem funny now, but at the time, the possibility of nuclear attack seemed, and was, very real. And while we weathered those decades of fear and paranoia, the dangers presented from nuclear weapons are just as real now, though they may take a somewhat different form.
World War III:
During the cold war, the most credible scenario for nuclear disaster was a shootout between the US and the USSR, a possibility that was always described by newscasters as being ‘on the brink of becoming a reality’. However, through a lot of diplomacy and the realization that no attack could negate a devastating retaliation, we survived. But both countries still have the capacity for global thermonuclear war, something that many politicians and watchdog groups have not forgotten.
It is especially an issue as China has entered the equation and while they are a distant number 3 in the ranks of nuclear powers, this Asian powerhouse has a history of ill feelings towards both Russian and America.
Powerful, just not Super Powerful:
Countries never considered a super power before are now nuclear powers, and as such are only a button push away from leveling entire cities and regions. India and Pakistan are an area of particular concern. These bordering nations share two things. They have a long history of hatred and distrust towards each other, and they are tied for 6th place among the nuclear nations with 120 weapons a piece. It would not take much to light up that part of the world, and 240 nuclear bombs can do a lot of damage in a very short time.
Another problem is that after the breakup of the Soviet Union, many nuclear safeguards have fallen into disarray, which could lead to either an unplanned nuclear incident or, just as bad, working nuclear weapons disappearing and falling into the hands of terrorist nations around the world.
Third World War I:
While many fear the coming of World War III, where the remaining super powers will unleash their arsenals, an equally disquieting fear is that countries with a history of aggression and terrorism will obtain the essentials for creating their own nuclear bombs. And while they may not have the means to launch and target these devices, a working nuclear device could be assembled at or near a target without the need for missiles or planes. Many consider the possibility of suitcase nuke, a bomb small enough to be carried to ground zero, as credible a threat as a mass attack from an existing super power.
While total nuclear disarmament may still be a dream, the measures in place to reduce the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons will help to add stability to a dangerous situation.