Hiroshima Day— Threat of Actual Use of Nuclear Weapons, Accidental or Intended, is Increasing

Nuclear Hiroshima
Photo credit: The Nation: Hiroshima – It’s time to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons

This year has been extremely threatening in terms of the rise of big power rivalry and tensions. First, the escalation of the Ukraine crisis with Ukraine becoming a proxy country in the real conflict between the USA and Russia has led to tensions worsening steadily. What is most worrying is that unlike in the case of most recent wars, no credible, hope giving peace processes appears to be at work after more than five months of highly damaging war. Then more recently, tensions between the USA and China have also escalated over Taiwan which runs the risk of becoming another proxy country in big power rivalry for dominance.

The most frightening aspect of the present threatening situation, which was not relevant before the start of the two world wars, is that all the three involved countries have the biggest stocks of nuclear weapons. In addition six other countries also have nuclear weapons.

Eric Schlosser, a widely acclaimed writer on nuclear weapons, has spoken at length to top officials and commanders at various stages of planning and control of nuclear weapons. In addition he has close contacts with peace movements struggling for a world free from nuclear weapons. He has written that these very different persons all share a very strong and sincere desire to avoid actual use of nuclear weapons. The reason why both these sections share this strong belief is that both groups are well-informed about what actual use of nuclear weapons means.

Schlosser has written, “The latest studies suggest that a relatively small nuclear exchange (relative to the total number of nuclear weapons that exist in world) would have long-term effects across the globe. A war between India and Pakistan, involving a hundred atomic bombs like the kind dropped in Hiroshima, could send five million tons of dust into the atmosphere, shrink the ozone layer by as much as fifty per cent, drop worldwide temperatures to their lowest point in a thousand years, create worldwide famines and cause more than a billion casualties.”

While this has been written in the context of the use of 100 nuclear weapons of roughly the destructiveness of Hiroshima weapon, the total number of nuclear weapons in the world is over 13,000 and the destructive capacity of many such weapons is much higher than the bomb used on the people of Hiroshima.

It is clear that apart from killing millions of people immediately, exchange of nuclear weapons can lead to unprecedented environmental catastrophe which can kill an even larger number of people while also destroying other life-forms like never before. If the nuclear weapon exchange is between two countries alone, people particularly of neighboring countries will also suffer very serious consequences without being involved in any dispute at all.

Some strategists have argued that there can be a less catastrophic role for nuclear weapons in the form of tactical nuclear weapons. As not just peace movements but several independent experts have pointed out, this is a highly flawed and mistaken view. A nuclear war started with tactical weapons can easily spill into a full-blown nuclear war if the opposing side also has nuclear weapons. Secondly, use of even tactical nuclear weapons can be very destructive, even for the using country!

Pakistan in particular has been keen to develop tactical nuclear weapons in recent times as it feels that this can be one way of checking and defeating an invasion by a country with superior conventional war capability and bigger economic resources. However saner scientific voices in Pakistan have warned that if Pakistan uses tactical weapons against an invading army on its land, its own military and civilian losses can be very high due to the highly destructive impacts of these weapons.

In the much earlier days of the cold war the NATO had stocked a lot of tactical nuclear weapons in West Germany to check a possible Soviet invasion. A war game Carte Blanche was played out to see the possible impacts in case of a Soviet invasion. It was realized only then that German civilian deaths from the use of tactical nuclear weapons on its own land can be higher than total German civilian deaths in the Second World War! Such is the destructive power of these weapons.

Moreover when tactical nuclear weapons have to be prepared for use then control has to be more dispersed and scattered. This increases the possibility that persons with fanatic or fundamentalist leanings can also gain access to this control.

Hence the possibilities of terrorists gaining access to such control also increase at least to some extent.

It is therefore not at all proper to be under the false impression that tactical weapons provide some form of safer nuclear weapons. Let no one create such a false impression as such a delusion can be extremely catastrophic for millions and millions of people.

Let us face the reality. All evidence points to the fact that nuclear weapons should never be used. In fact even accidental use of nuclear weapons or accidents relating to nuclear weapons can be very destructive. Hence ultimately the only safe option if we care for life on earth is to give up all nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction once and for all. The more you study and explore this issue, no matter which side  you belong to, the only honest conclusion can be that tomorrow if not today we have to do away with nuclear weapons if we want to save life on earth; so why not make a beginning today itself.

The only safe world is a world which is entirely free of nuclear weapons as well as all weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately instead of at least moving to some extent in this direction the world has been moving in the opposite direction in recent times and this year 2022 appears so far to have been the worst in this context. Disarmament talks are lagging far behind than earlier expectations while tensions over Ukraine and Taiwan are escalating faster than ever before. Clearly this is a very dangerous situation and all peace loving forces of world should cooperate to soon move out of this dangerous situation.

Bharat Dogra is Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Earth Without Borders and Protecting Earth for Children.

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