Since 1945, a combination of prudent leadership, military professionalism, good luck, and divine providence has enabled humanity to avoid using nuclear weapons. But the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine elevates such risks dramatically, the latest reminder of how a nuclear catastrophe can quickly rise to the surface in the “fog of war.”
Today, serving and former political and security leaders from across the Euro-Atlantic region, including Russia and the US, warn that more must be done to build on the principle “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”. Nuclear-armed states must conduct “fail safe” reviews and strengthen safeguards to avoid potential unauthorised, inadvertent, or accidental nuclear weapon use. Without practical steps to reduce nuclear risks, conflict leading to nuclear catastrophe becomes an ever-higher possibility.
The need for urgent action is clear: Each nation with nuclear arms has a responsibility to reduce the risk of nuclear blunder, and nations must work together to eliminate nuclear risks and threats and avoid any military clash of nuclear powers.
Without practical steps to reduce nuclear risks, conflict leading to nuclear catastrophe becomes an ever-higher possibility.
Risk reduction also demands cooperative measures, and a dialogue on these issues between nuclear-weapons states must be restored irrespective of current circumstances. This includes the bilateral strategic stability dialogue agreed to by the United States and Russia in June 2021, including their commitment to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures. In parallel with such dialogue, internal fail-safe reviews could lead to proposals for bilateral and multilateral cooperative risk reduction measures that could be taken by nuclear-weapons states, including steps to increase warning and decision times for leaders.
Action must be taken now to prevent a mistake or blunder from turning into a catastrophe beyond imagination.
The opinions articulated above represent the views of the signatories and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or its members. The ELN aims to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.