September 22, 2022

LISTEN, SUG: DON’T FORGET TO SAY YOUR PRAYERS*. Time to Dust Off the Old Nuclear War-Fighting Playbook?

Unpalatable as it is, the world may be forced to dust off the old Cold War-era playbooks that kept everyone’s missiles peacefully interred in their silos. Indeed, it’s vital that Western decision-makers reacquaint themselves with the lessons of the past, and soon. The present conversation around deterring or responding to a Russian use of nonconventional weapons is downright terrifying.

Some believe that NATO nations should broadcast their potential response to Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon. Sagamore Institute senior fellow Jerry Hendrix advocates the establishment of a red line, the crossing of which would trigger a Western no-fly zone over Ukraine and NATO soldiers on the ground, the sinking of Russian naval assets in the Black and Baltic seas, and the neutralization of Russian military targets outside Russia’s borders. Lacking the capacity to respond conventionally, Moscow might be forced to respond unconventionally. “To be sure, this will result in the loss of lives and the destruction of great cities,” Hendrix writes. “This is immeasurably sorrowful and regrettable, but the responsibility will not be on the West.” True enough, but that’s cold comfort.

Sam Nunn, a former lawmaker and the co-author of a program that deactivated thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons, “favors some sort of horizontal escalation” to avoid a nuclear response to a Russian attack. For example, destroying the platform that delivers a nuclear weapon. The West could also mount non-kinetic responses, including crippling cyberattacks on Russian command and control and civilian infrastructure. And the Russians must be made aware that these consequences would inevitably follow the use of an unconventional weapon.

* And don’t forget to wear your mask when you’re in the fallout shelter:

Flashback: The Unexpected Return of Duck and Cover.

(Classical allusion in headline.)

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