by UnHerd Staff
Friday, 20
May 2022
Video
16:57

Dr. Pavel Podvig: How likely is a nuclear war?

Freddie Sayers discusses the risk of nuclear war with Russia expert Dr. Pavel Podvig
by UnHerd Staff

Since the invasion of Ukraine, the outcome that nobody has wanted to contemplate is that of Russian nuclear escalation. Threats that “mirror moves” would be made by the Kremlin if NATO expanded, as we heard in last week’s interview with UN representative for Russia Dmitry Polyanskiy, suggest that a strike might not be out of the question. With Finland and Sweden seeking to join NATO, is nuclear war more likely now that it was three months ago? By trying to push Vladimir Putin to the brink, is the West actually increasing the chance of a nuclear incident? What actually is the sequence of events that would lead to nuclear conflict? 

These feel like questions we should probably know more about than we do.

To help us think through this difficult topic, UnHerd invited Dr. Pavel Podvig to the studio. Podvig is a senior researcher in the WMD programme at the Institute for Disarmament Research and a researcher with the programme on science and global security at Princeton University. He runs the world’s premier website dedicated to analysing Putin’s nuclear capability and edited the definitive encyclopaedia of Russian nuclear forces. 

Dr. Podvig joined Freddie Sayers live from his office in Geneva. 

 

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Graham Willis
Graham Willis
2 months ago

Thank you, an important interview bringing some clarity to the question. It has left me feeling neither alarmed nor comfortable.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Willis

It has left me feeling neither alarmed nor comfortable.
Agreed although the phrase “existential threat” is still hanging there. The speaker might be correct that there is no real military reason for Putin to use a tactical nuke, but if he feels his losses and humiliation might be too great he might use a battlefield nuke to prevent a complete rout or force a negotiated settlement.
Given his willingness to pound Ukrainian cities to rubble with conventional munitions I doubt the possibility of heavy civilian casualties would deter him from using a nuke.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Willis

me too… comfortably numb

Priscilla Seidler
Priscilla Seidler
2 months ago

Thank you, Freddie, for asking this question (about the use of nuclear), which, I agree, no one seems to be talking about and is vitally important. However, it isn’t all down to Putin. How about we allow Ukraine to negotiate with Russia, as it has tried to do at least twice (if not more) without then bribing them away from the agreements they make by offering them billions of pounds (or is it euros or dollars) worth of arms? How about the West, instead of continuing to use Ukraine as its proxy in this war (to Ukraine’s great detriment – they are the meat in the sandwich!), stops its aggressive tactics towards Russia (eg persuading Finland and Sweden into NATO – more red rags to a bull)? I agree about ‘hope’ but, for me, that’s in God alone. Hope can’t be one-sided, ie that Putin will behave in what we consider a responsible fashion (personally I believe that he would, since he generally supports orthodox Christian values, unlike most of the Western governments); we need also to hope that the West will also behave more responsibly and stop its aggression towards Russia. Unfortunately, this latter hope seems a forlorn one to me. From what I have seen, Putin has been behaving in a far less aggressive manner than the West, despite his so-called ‘invasion’ of Ukraine, which, whatever anyone says, has been restrained and was mainly to rescue the ethnic Russian population of the Donbas. Historians such as John Mearsheimer (and others) have always said that NATO incursion into Ukraine would prompt the scenario that has now evolved. Long before (perhaps for ten years or so) the Russians crossed the frontier, US/UK arms training teams were ensconced with the Ukrainian armed forces.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
2 months ago

So that’s what you’ve been doing since Big Billy Goat Gruff knocked you off the bridge.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 months ago

….a “so-called invasion” and a “restrained one” too….? Wow comrade!

martin logan
martin logan
2 months ago

Those training teams were there because Putin had invaded Ukraine in 2014, after his failed attempt to use proxies in Slavyansk.
And if those training teams had not been there, Putin would be well on his way to taking back Poland and the Baltics.
We are here because of Putin’s incompetence. After Maidan, he idiotically tried to start an insurrection in Donbas. It was doomed to fail, so he then had to send in the Russian army.
If he had simply done what he always did: play Russophones off against Ukrophones, the country would have probably remained neutral. He drove all Ukrainians into the arms of the West.
A Russian Own Goal.
So what is your point?