Does nuclear equilibrium constrain the nuclear weapons of Russia and the United States?
Since the outbreak of the war in
Ukraine, the Western alliance has imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia in scope
that has far exceeded Russian President Vladimir Putin's expectations.
With the intention to show that
he is still in charge of great power, Putin has ordered Russian nuclear
deterrence forces on high alert. In fact, on the same day when Russia's
invasion of Ukraine began, Putin delivered a warning, " whoever tries to
stand in our way or create threats for our country and people should know
Russia's response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you
have never faced in your history."
Recently, Putin signaled the use of nuclear deterrence again to
demonstrate that he is ready to protect Russia's "territorial integrity" by
using nuclear weapons. Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CBS
News that he doesn't think Vladimir Putin is bluffing over nuclear threats and
a nuclear war "could be a reality". In the past, Zelenskyy often said
that when Russia threatened to use nuclear bombs to intimidate the world, it is
a mere bluff. Therefore, Zelenskyy's uncharacteristic speech this time has made
many feel that a nuclear war is imminent.
Will the Russia-Ukraine conflict really turn into a nuclear war?
Chan Kung, the founder of ANBOUND think tank, made a clear judgment on this in
early March this year: a nuclear war will not happen at all. Building upon the
nuclear deterrence theory, he proposed the concept of "nuclear
equilibrium" and believed that such an equilibrium actually restricts the
possibility of future nuclear wars.
In the nuclear warfare theory, " nuclear deterrence"
means that the enormous power of nuclear weapons is used as a factor to prevent
their actual use, i.e., a basis for bargaining. In the actual application of
nuclear deterrence, leaders who are well-prepared in their strategy would be
less likely to intimidate others with nuclear weapons. However, Chan Kung
believes that this theory is now outdated. The nuclear deterrence theory was
very popular after the birth of nuclear weapons. It is generally believed that
deterrence is achieved mainly through two aspects, i.e., "
punishment" and " denial".
Since the beginning of the new century, with the development of
nuclear technology and the popularization of nuclear weapons in the world, more
and more countries have begun to possess nuclear weapons, which makes one
question and challenge the value of nuclear deterrence theory.
Chan Kung proposed the theory of "nuclear
equilibrium". This theory mainly includes two points: First, it is the
nuclear equilibrium that prevents nuclear war, not any nuclear weapons
agreement nor the humanitarian motive of the weapon-possessing nations. It is
the fear of the mutual-destruction that creates the equilibrium, and this has
been the case for decades. Second, nuclear equilibrium emphasizes the balance
of power. Second, nuclear equilibrium emphasizes the balance of power. It is
only when different countries own similar amounts of nuclear weapons that the
equilibrium could exist. As for those countries with only dozens or hundreds of
nuclear weapons, it is practically not much of use, and they can be destroyed
at any time.
As Chan Kung pointed
out that during the early stage of the war in March, Putin's actions are neither
"nuclear deterrence" nor "nuclear intimidation", but
"nuclear propaganda". The target audience of this act by the Russian
President was not the outside world, but to impress the Russian public.
Therefore, it is a form of propaganda to project his image as a strong man. To
be specific, he wanted to ensure the legitimacy of his political power.
Is there no risk of human beings encountering a nuclear war at
On a possible Russian nuclear attack against Ukraine, Polish
Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau recently said in an interview with Polish radio
RMF FM that NATO would have a conventional response. Asked whether NATO troops
would enter Ukraine, Rau said he does not rule out that possibility. However,
he added that NATO may strike Russia with aircraft and missiles, but not necessarily
launch them from Ukraine. At the same time, a retired U.S. general who still
maintains close ties with the military also stated a few days ago that the
West's response to Russia's use of tactical nuclear weapons may include NATO's
war intervention, such as the establishment of a no-fly zone in the Baltic Sea.
For Chan Kung, the responses from the West are neither strong nor
rational enough to prevent the outbreak of a nuclear war. On the contrary, they
might stimulate the actual outbreak of it. In fact, Chan Kung has criticized
'responses regarding the nuclear war from the cowardly and ignorant Western and
American politicians as well as amateur strategists. Recently, U.S. National
Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned Putin of 'catastrophic' consequences if
he uses nuclear weapons. But Sullivan did not describe the nature of the
planned U.S. response. This kind of intimidating language, which is strong on
the outside but weak on the inside, is probably very difficult for a seasoned
geo-politician like Putin to take it seriously. In Chan Kung's view, these
Western politicians are trapped in the challenges at hand, and they recklessly
change the rules of the nuclear war casino. They promote the generalization of
the use of nuclear weapons and try to reduce the "price" of atomic
chips so that more nations dare to do nuclear gambling. This will inevitably
bring our world into an unprecedented and extremely dangerous state.
Chan Kung points out that what the United States can do now is
to act according to the theory of "nuclear equilibrium". To prevent
Putin from taking desperate risks, the United States must convince him that it
will not tolerate Russia if he pushes the nuclear war button. According to the
nuclear equilibrium theory, whoever triggers a nuclear war first must take sole
responsibility, because that results in the imbalance of nuclear power. Thus,
the United States will have no choice if Russia starts a nuclear war. The
counterattack will be overwhelming, and entire Russia can be destroyed. When
Russia is erased from the planet, the denuclearization of the world will be
restored, and the state of nuclear equilibrium is achieved again. The United States
tried to "eliminate" Russia, or to be more correct, the Soviet Union
before. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States almost launched
nuclear missiles and deployed nuclear submarines and militia nuclear missiles,
which was the moment when Washington and Moscow came closest to nuclear
conflict. We human beings are never far from nuclear war and may be destroyed
at any time.
The world is now at a critical geopolitical moment,
which is a technical decision-making one. If the politicians and relevant
actors of nuclear powers do not have the courage to make professional responses
to nuclear threats, it will only encourage the proliferation of nuclear war in
this world. Only by understanding the use of a powerful security mechanism such
as "nuclear equilibrium" can we guarantee that the risk of a nuclear
war is "controllable" if not truly "safe".