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Home Articles Flashpoints NOTE ON NUCLEAR WAR THREATS


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President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus

President Vladimir Putin of Russia

President Andrei Duda of Poland


President Zelensky

President Biden

President Macron

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Helmut Scholz


Now is not the time to trade threat for threat, or to – explicitly or implicitly – threaten the use of nuclear weapons.


With tensions in Eastern Europe and on the Polish-Belorussian border, and the border between Baltic states and Belarus, seemingly spiraling, it is rather a time for all concerned, whether Poland, or Belarus or Russia itself, to step back, take a (literal or metaphorical) deep breath, and ask what can be done to make conflict less, rather than more, likely, and in particular to make a Nuclear conflict less likely.


Whatever the provocations might be, whatever the geopolitical stakes, no one is going to 'win' a nuclear war. Reagan and Gorbachev back in the 1980s agreed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. 40 years on this remains objectively true. Most humans will die either immediately or freeze in the ensuing nuclear twilight. No geopolitical aims justify that.


The G7 most recently in Capri, and prior to that in Bali and Delhi agreed that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is 'inadmissible'.


Tit for tat statements about who might or might not 'win' a conventional conflict especially between Russia/Belarus and NATO do nothing to make such a conflict less likely. Given the likelihood of escalation to nuclear, 'winning' is anyway a hardly meaningful idea.


Explicit threats to unleash a nuclear 'apocalypse' (or merely dark hints that one might be just around the corner), do nothing to lessen the probability of one and much to make one more likely, putting military forces on a hair trigger and making each side more and more suspicious – and frightened – of what the other might do, and hence more and more likely to act pre-emptively or pre-pre-emptively.


Please, please, think twice before making such statements.


What is required are both words and actions designed to take the tension OUT of the air. Troop movements that are designed NOT to threaten the 'other side'. Statements designed to reassure rather than warn.


When each side wishes to know the red lines of the other merely in order to be sure to violate them, setting out red lines is profitless and inadvisable. Warnings not to undertake a given action, especially backed by threats are more likely to provoke than to prevent that very action.


President Duda of Poland, in a recent statement, said that Poland had no enemies, and he hoped to improve relationships with its partner and neighbor, Russia, in spite of differences. In words at least this was dignified, balanced, and sought peace. All should come from such a mindset.


Other statements coming from his ministers have been much more confrontational. However one may feel 'provoked' by the statements and actions of another, however keenly one may feel an existential threat, upping the ante merely provokes the other party to do the same. When President Duda declared that Poland has no enemies, this was/is a wiser approach.


Words and actions from whatever quarter that are dignified, balanced and visibly seek peace – such as moving troops AWAY from borders – will still do much to move Eastern Europe back from the brink.


The moment is perilous. All parties are urged to act with care and wisdom.


(Institutional affiliations for identification purpose only – sent in individual capacity)


John Hallam


Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project



Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group



No First Use Global Steering Committee


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