Pushing the figurative “nuclear button” is often used to describe the decision by a leader to launch a nuclear attack. Then, all hell would break loose, with nuclear powers attacking and counterattacking targets and cities to complete world annihilation — at least according to Hollywood movies. No doubt, should the world’s nuclear powers decide to engage in an all-out nuclear war, a huge part of the world’s population would be wiped out and the consequences would be far reaching for decades if not longer. (This is what would happen in a nuclear winter.)
The risk of a nuclear attack has increased because of tensions among Russia and NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin would have the West believe that he might use nuclear weapons if his invasion of Ukraine continues to go poorly. He could also use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. Those are much smaller in destructiveness than ICBMs but would up the ante when it comes to nuclear conflict.
The dangers do not end with Russia, China, and the U.S. North Korea has tested ICBM-type rockets, even sending them over Japan. North Korea’s capacity to launch a nuclear attack outside its borders continues to grow.
The two most dangerous nuclear arsenals are the ones controlled by the U.S. and Russia. Most of the nuclear warheads in the world are controlled by these two nations.
Based on the size of the Russian arsenal, Putin represents a threat to the peace and safety of most of the human race, if not most of the living things on Earth. But so does President Joe Biden, who is followed everywhere by an aide carrying the nuclear “football” that can facilitate launching a nuclear attack whether the president is in a command center or away from one. Putin also has an aide carrying a nuclear briefcase, the “Cheget.”
Using data from the 2022 Status of World Nuclear Forces, a report by the nonprofit global policy think tank Federation of American Scientists, 24/7 Wall St. identified the nine people who lead the world’s nuclear-armed states.
Nuclear weapons are considered – both by countries pursuing them and those possessing them – as a deterrent to would-be aggressors. The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States would not likely have remained cold had it not been for mutual assured destruction – a defense principle warning that a nuclear strike by one power would be met with a devastating counterattack by the other and result in the annihilation of both belligerents. (This is what a nuclear attack would do to 23 capitals cities around the world.)
A nuclear explosion can drive ground temperatures up to over 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit and create destructive shockwaves, potentially killing millions in densely-populated cities. But the devastation can also extend far beyond the immediate blast radius. Multiple nuclear explosions could send millions of tons of black smoke into the stratosphere, reducing sunlight and lowering global temperatures, resulting in lower crop yields and mass famine, to name but a few of the consequences.
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