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A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

So said Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan at a time of heightened fears of nuclear escalation.

While I was in Vienna last week, a speaker from Chatham House recounted a story from the 1980s when a young Soviet officer was faced with an extraordinary choice.

Data clearly indicated an imminent US nuclear attack. Protocol required him to escalate this to his superiors but he decided not to based on his experience and judgment. In this way, a first nuclear strike since Nagasaki was averted.

Her point was that we avoided nuclear war not because of nuclear weapons but because of sheer luck. There were other examples. In this day and age, you could argue that such potential calamities would never happen but what about the enormous amount of fake news in circulation. This must create a serious risk of an accidental escalation.

Or consider the case of Boris Bondarev who resigned from the Russian mission in Geneva in May complaining about how casual his Russian colleagues had become about making nuclear threats.

arms means Putin knows he can get away with it

He knows that the US will not risk escalation and possible nuclear confrontation. If Russia didn’t have nuclear weapons, the Ukraine war would be over.

There is a growing sense of the innate wrongness of nuclear weapons.

The stigma against their use is clearly eroded. Sergei Kisilev made that clear on state TV showing how Russia could obliterate the UK and Ireland.

Putin threatened “consequences such as you have never seen in your entire history”. Trump had threatened North Korea with fire and fury like they had never seen, after the testing of an ICBM that could reach the US. Veiled nuclear threats have been made by Pakistan and India.

Earlier today we heard from Chatham House how many near misses we have had over the years.

The Russians (Poseidon), China and North Korea have all developed more nuclear capacity. The only non-proliferation agreement JCPOA. The NATO powers also refuse to pursue disarmament and so the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is going nowhere. Virtually brain dead and actually does more harm than good.

The Ukraine war has had an impact on the nuclear order. France is afraid of escalation - other EU countries think this is exaggerated.

We must repeat what Thatcher and Reagan said - a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

There is an international code against the use of chemical weapons but not nuclear weapons. Tyrants have got away with using chemical weapons.

There is a diminished sense of the reality of nuclear war in populations according to surveys in the US, UK, France and Israel.

Weapons experts talk about low yield tactical nuclear weapons.

Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for assurances from NATO and Russia.

Is NPT brain dead

What can we do

We should look at the investment environment around nuclear proliferation - banks and insurance in particular.

Conscious of the prevailing public mood which is against proliferation although the idea of strategic use of limited nuclear response has become more acceptable.

Possible INI in the DEVE committee on humanitarian aspects of nuclear weapons.

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