As long as the pandemic rages, the world’s leaders are understandably preoccupied with the threat of disease. But there are other dangers to humanity that demand attention. One of the most frightening is nuclear war. Unfortunately, the risk of that happening keeps rising.
The headline numbers are misleading. Yes, the global stockpile of nuclear warheads decreased slightly last year, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. But that’s only because the U.S. and Russia, the two countries that still account for more than 90% of global nuclear stocks, dismantled some of their obsolescent warheads.
Meanwhile, all nine countries with nukes are modernizing their other warheads and delivery systems. In a test just last week, France successfully fired, from a submarine, a nuclear missile that can travel between continents at 20 times the speed of sound. Other countries, most notably China, are adding to their nuclear stashes as fast as they can.
Even more worryingly, states are reviewing their strategies for using these weapons. Gone is the amoral but logical stability of the Cold War, when two superpowers kept each other and the world in check with a credible threat of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD).