Nuclear weapons: Who has them? How did they get them?

The lame stream media wants to portray President Trump as too dangerous to have his finger in the “nuclear trigger.” But all seem to admit that the North Korean nuclear threat has been brewing and mismanaged long before January 20, 2017. How did we get from “there” to “here?”

Who has nuclear weapons? Why did former administrations “allow” these nations to “become nuclear threats?” Let’s take a walk down memory lane with Victor Davis Hanson.

[Source: Who Gets to Have Nuclear Weapons and Why? By Victor Davis Hanson: How many nukes would it take to render Earth uninhabitable, by Ryan Rastegar]

I do not mean to be cavalier about this issue. I grew up in the Cold War when the United States constantly had nuclear armed B52s and ICBMs at the ready to strike the USSR. When I was stationed at March Air Force Base (15th Air Force Strategic Air Command) in the early 1970s there were B52s with nuclear weapons aboard constantly positioned ON THE RUNWAY ready for takeoff. If the DEFCON number was critical enough, they sat on the runway with their engines running.

Today’s Millennials have no experiences like that. So when a lunatic (Kim Jung Un) could potentially have deliverable nuclear bombs what should any president do and what have previous president’s done?

[From the Davis Hanson article] In the free-for-all environment of the 1940s and 1950s, the original nuclear club included only those countries with the technological know-how, size and money to build nukes. Those realities meant that up until the early 1960s, only Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States had nuclear capabilities.

Members of this small club did not worry that many other nations would make such weapons because it seemed far too expensive and difficult for most.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States adhered to an unspoken rule that their losing Axis enemies of World War II — Germany, Italy and Japan — should not have nuclear weapons. Despite their financial and scientific ability to obtain them, all three former Axis powers had too much recent historical baggage to be allowed weapons of mass destruction. That tacit agreement apparently still remains.

The Soviet Union and the United States also informally agreed during the Cold War that their own dependent allies who had the ability to go nuclear — including Eastern Bloc nations, most Western European countries, Australia and Canada — would not. Instead, they would depend on their superpower patrons for nuclear deterrence.

By the 1970s, realities had changed again. Large and/or scientifically sophisticated nations such as China (1964), Israel (1967) and India (1974) went nuclear. Often, such countries did so with the help of pro-Western or pro-Soviet patrons and sponsors. The rest of the world apparently shrugged, believing it was inevitable that such nations would obtain nuclear weapons.

The next round of expansion of the nuclear club, however, was far sloppier and more dangerous. Proliferation hinged on whether poorer and more unstable nations could get away enriching uranium or acquiring plutonium in secret.

Some nations let on that they were developing nuclear weapons and were stopped by preemptive military strikes, such as Iraq and Syria. Others, including South Africa, Ukraine and Libya, were persuaded to halt their nuclear projects.

Pakistan was the rare rogue that managed to hide its nuclear enrichment, shocking the world by testing a bomb in 1998. Pakistan rightly assumed that once a nation proves its nuclear capability, it is deemed too dangerous to walk it back through disarmament.

Nonetheless, until the official nuclearization of North Korea in 2006, the nuclear club remained small (eight nations) and was thought to be manageable. Why?

First, those nuclear countries that were relatively transparent and democratic (Britain, France, India, Israel and the United States) were deemed unlikely to start a nuclear war.

Second, the advanced but autocratic nuclear nations (China and Russia) were thought to have too much at stake in globalized trade and national prosperity ever to start/lose nuclear war.

Third, any unstable rogue nuclear nation (Pakistan) was assumed to be deterred and held in check by a nearby nuclear rival (India).

The nuclear capability of dictatorial North Korea (and likely soon, theocratic Iran) poses novel dangers far beyond the simple arithmetic of “the more nuclear nations, the more likely a nuclear war.”

Neither North Korea nor Iran is democratic. Neither is a stable country.

Neither has an immediate nuclear rival that can deter and persuade it not to dare use a nuclear weapon. Both started nuclear programs in secret. Both hate the United States and its allies.

More importantly, their flagrant violations of nonproliferation accords and their perceived aggressiveness will prompt relatively powerful regional neighbors such as Egypt, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan to consider developing nuclear capability.

The nuclear club could get very big very quickly. Because those nations are “pro-American” does not mean that they do not have their own ambitions and perceived “enemies.” The United Nations may have good intentions, but clearly has been impotent to change the tide of development. The nuclear poker game, sadly, has become much more dangerous.

There are currently more than 20,000 nuclear weapons – more than sufficient to end life on Planet Earth. But what about smaller nuclear conflicts of a regional nature, say Pakistan and India. What might such a conflict wreak? A 2014 report published in the journal Earth’s Future found that even a regional war of 100 nuclear detonations would produce 5 teragrams of black soot (that’s 5,000,000,000 kg!) that would rise up to Earth’s stratosphere and block sunlight. This would produce a sudden drop in global temperatures that could last longer than 25 years and billions could die.

With that happy thought, enjoy your day.

Roy Filly



About Roy Filly

Please read my first blog in which I describe myself and my goals.
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3 Responses to Nuclear weapons: Who has them? How did they get them?

  1. Starchild says:

    The possibility of nuclear war remains the most dangerous threat in the world. Getting those warhead numbers down should definitely be a priority, especially for Russia and the United States. Thanks for writing about this important issue Roy.

    • WRONG — the USA should KEEP ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS in order to deter Russia and China with mutually assured destruction (neither of them wants to die, so they will never nuke us as long as they know we will nuke them back), and concentrate on KEEPING IRAN FROM GETTING NUKES — even by carrying out a preemptive nuclear first strike on Iran if need be! And, we should seriously consider using nuclear weapons against the Islamic world — this may be the only way to exterminate terrorists!

      • Starchild says:

        I can’t think of anything more likely to inspire sympathy for groups like Daesh, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Boko Haram, not to mention hatred for the United States, than the U.S. government’s first use of nuclear weapons against people in Muslim countries. So I’m sure the groups mentioned above approve of your genocidal, bloodthirsty, insane message!

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