Scientists simulated a Russian strike with 300 nuclear missiles on the United States

Deputy Secretary of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev has once again threatened to use nuclear weapons to prevent Russia’s defeat in the war with Ukraine. “The loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the start of a nuclear war,” he wrote on his Telegram channel. Shortly after him, Patriarch Kirill announced “disastrous forebodings for the world”.

Earlier, Medvedev and Vladimir Putin had already brandished a nuclear baton several times, with the president saying that he was “not bluffing.” By the end of the year, the aggressive rhetoric subsided after the leaders of China and India voiced dissatisfaction with it.

The US also warned Moscow about the consequences of a nuclear escalation.

Western experts take Russian threats seriously. At the International Conference on Nuclear Policy organized by the Carnegie Endowment in Washington in late 2022, which brought together the world’s leading experts on national security, one participant insisted that Ukraine would almost certainly win the war and liberate all its territories, including Crimea. According to another, says the Financial Times, Putin will perceive such a humiliating defeat as an existential threat, if not to Russia, then to his regime; in this situation, one can imagine that he would resort to nuclear weapons.

The participants of the conference could feel themselves in the place of the US President, who needs to make a decision in a situation where Russia has fired 300 nuclear missiles at all American ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile systems. The US will not be able to shoot them all, which means the death of 2 million Americans.

The virtual reality experiment was conducted by Sharon Weiner and Moritz Kutt, national security experts at Princeton University. The editor of the FT describes his participation as follows:

Just a few minutes ago, I took the oath of office as President of the United States, and now I’m sitting in the Oval Office watching reports of the escalating conflict in Europe. A Secret Service agent bursts in and tells me to leave the office immediately. I take the elevator down to the crisis center under the White House, known as the Operations Room, where top national security advisers brief me on missile launches. I have 15 minutes to make a response. While the clock is ticking, I have to choose one of three options: all of them involve a retaliatory strike against Russia, which will result in the deaths of 4 million to 45 million people. What will i do?

I have to make the most difficult decision that a person can be forced to make in the entire history of mankind. The sense of responsibility is simply overwhelming. The National Security Adviser’s words ring in your ears: “If you don’t answer and the attack turns out to be real, what will you say to the American people then?”

There are several channels of communication between Moscow and Washington that work even during the current confrontation in Ukraine. In particular, between the leaders of the CIA and the SVR, William Burns and Sergei Naryshkin – to manage risks, especially nuclear ones, Elizabeth Rood, US Chargé d’Affaires in Russia, spoke at the end of November. But when, during the experiment, “I ask why we haven’t contacted the Russians yet, I’m told they haven’t returned our calls,” writes the FT editor.

The experiment is based on a real algorithm of actions prescribed in the US instructions on the reaction to the use of nuclear weapons, the content of which has not changed much since the Cold War. Its purpose is to look at how people behave in a situation of enormous pressure, when they have to make a vital decision with a lack of information.

Of the 79 participants, 90% resorted to a retaliatory nuclear strike.

“Credibility is achieved by the atmosphere of stress and complexity created by having multiple decision makers in the room,” Weiner explains. They all act with the best of intentions, but they have different priorities, different emotional baggage, they react differently to stress. “If the president does not manage this whole process, the crisis grows on its own,” she says.

Some experts propose to revise the algorithm of actions in a situation of nuclear escalation. Among them is a specialist in cognitive neuroscience, an expert in decision making, Moran Cerf from Northwestern University. Over the past year and a half, he has interviewed dozens of nuclear weapons experts, military and politicians, crisis management specialists from around the world, including nine countries with nuclear weapons (USA, Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea). ).

Cerf, in particular, proposes to cancel the 15-minute interval during which the US president must decide to launch missiles after receiving a nuclear strike warning: even if the US loses all land-based missiles, they will still have enough sea- and air-based missiles. It is also necessary to constantly conduct exercises and analyze the mistakes made; formulate the worst case scenario, and then “rewind” to understand how it can be avoided.

Other experts also believe that changes are needed. The Union of Concerned Scientists (a non-profit organization fighting for a safer world) proposed in November that two high-ranking officials from among the US president’s successors give permission to launch nuclear missiles. This will avoid “dependence on the whims and questionable judgments of one person,” their letter says.

The US could first convince its NATO allies to make changes, and then countries like India and Pakistan, Cerf said. After speaking with politicians from Russia and China, he believes that even they could agree to switch to a safer regime.

The FT, however, does not write when Cerf spoke with representatives of Russia – before the war or after its leaders began to scare the world with the use of nuclear weapons. But the editor of the newspaper followed his advice: he did not make a hasty decision in a situation of stress (since the United States has enough nuclear missiles in the sea and air) and did not authorize a retaliatory strike.

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