Until recently, I thought that the risk of a nuclear war in the 21st century, while not zero, was nevertheless very low and the marginal bit of effort spent reducing it further was probably not a good use of resources. But in the past two weeks, a series of articles on Vox.com have led me to rethink that view. The most detailed of them is worth reading for full context, but I think the key points are these:
- Some experts are starting to worry that recent events in eastern Europe have raised the risk of a NATO-Russia nuclear war.
- This is because Putin is feeling vulnerable and threatened, and is using nuclear saber-rattling to compensate, doing some things even Cold War-era Soviet leaders avoided (because they felt more secure in their position).
- While nobody wants an all-out nuclear war, a particularly worrisome scenario is that Putin does something which, he expects, will scare NATO into backing off, but instead leads to a spiral of escalation.