Nuclear Threat is Once Again on the Rise

Are we once again on the cusp of nuclear catastrophe? It’s a concern that hung over the entire world like the “Sword of Damocles” for half a century. At the peak in 1980, there were more than 61,000 nuclear weapons in the world.

Former US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev recognized the threat two powerful nations on hair trigger alert posed. Between them they had enough stored energy to destroy the world. In October 1986, in Reykjavik, Iceland, they began talks that have led to a series of arms reduction agreements.

The latest, the “New Start” agreement, will expire in February of 2021. Despite the reduction in nuclear arms – the explosive potential – in the hands of eight nations that control just shy of 15,000 nukes, is deadly.

Bruce Blair, of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs says, “There are two elements that make the current situation so dangerous: 1. Almost no one is paying attention and 2. Russia and the USA maintain a rapid response protocol.”

During the Cold War, the launch protocol was never fully activated. Over the past 10 years, however, Blair says, “On multiple occasions, there have been ambiguous ballistic threats that rose to the level of presidential participation and under Presidents Bush and Obama, the launch protocol was activated.” In each case, cooler heads prevailed and what was believed to be imminent danger turned out to be a false alarm.

We invited research scholar Bruce Blair to join us for a Conversation That Matters about the rising risk nuclear weapons and response protocols pose.


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Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue presents Conversations That Matter. Join veteran Broadcaster Stuart McNish each week for an important and engaging Conversation about the issues shaping our future

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