How Worried Are You?

Apr 14, 2022

Dr. Tytti Erästö’s key assumption has long been that rational leaders would never use nuclear weapons. But now she is asking, what about irrational ones?

Dr Tytti Erästö is a Senior Researcher in SIPRI’s Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme. Her research interests include the Iran nuclear deal, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), efforts to establish a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East, United States–Russian arms control treaties, the USA/NATO–Russia missile defence dispute, and the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime more generally. Previously, she worked at the Ploughshares Fund in Washington, DC; the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School; the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation; and the Tampere Peace Research Institute in Finland. Her recent publications include (with Smith, D. and Bauer, S., ‘The Logic of Avoiding Nuclear War‘, SIPRI Commentary Feb. 2022; (with Korda, M.,) ‘Time to factor missile defence into arms control talks’, SIPRI Commentary Sep. 2021;  ‘New technologies and nuclear disarmament: Outlining a way forward’, SIPRI report, May 2021.

One of the many unintended consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the renewed discussion among politicians, as well as in the popular media, of nuclear war. President Putin may have cast the first stone, but many others have quickly followed. Would Russia have dared invade Ukraine if that latter had not traded in their stockpiles of nukes in the 90s? Would Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi still be in their palaces if they had nuclear weapons to scare off the Americans and the Europeans? Are the North Koreans simply internalizing those lessons, and why does anybody think that the Iranians have not drawn similar conclusions, especially since their arch enemy Israel crossed the nuclear threshold a long time ago?

How worried should we be about Russian or Korean or Chinese or prospectively Iranian nukes? Have we suddenly moved from a world of nonproliferation to a world of proliferation?

Dr. Tytti Erästö is an expert on nuclear weapons at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). For her, a key assumption has long been that rational leaders would never use nuclear weapons. But now she is asking, what about irrational ones?

What do you think? Comment below. 

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  1. Eustace simalumba

    Free thinking, Stop!stop! bullying smaller countries. My question is you have access to water and when I try to access the same water U sanction me? That should be insanity on the part of the bully. Destroy all nukes!


    There are no longer push over Nations in any war, and like what happened in Afghanistan, any such country so invaded could become a theatre of war …
    Russia, at this point, does not have Military nor Economic structures in Ally countries so, she can consolidate on an invasion..

    Baby Nations with Nuclear arms should be a concern to those who helped them, as this could be a Tiger’s Ride..
    As it stands now, countries must learn to have an Economic structure that can trade within Itself …

    Every nation or leaders can become irrational, depending on the National interest , if it is threatened..

    I am working on presenting a new Economic framework for Africa, because the whole threat is looking the way of Africa…
    I am not interested in military ideas, but Economic..
    Every nation on Earth is a threat to the other…

    The decesion of NATO, not to get involved in the Russian/Ukrainian war, is a wise decision, and now, whether Victory or vanquish, Russia, won’t leave Ukraine with her Peaceful reputation intact …

  3. Abdul Monir

    Yes, the consequence is very critical for humanity – how to save the mankind from the evil practice of the superpower?


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