No time to think

For decades, military planners in the United States, former Soviet Union, and the other nuclear weapons states have convinced themselves that their nuclear weapons are a deterrent. The nuclear annihilation that would follow if these weapons were used was supposed to make any enemy stop, think, and decide that war was not worth the consequences. To make sure that an enemy had no doubt about these consequences, all the nuclear weapons states created nuclear arsenals designed to fight a nuclear war. Nuclear deterrence was built on assuming that one day the simple fear of nuclear weapons would not be enough and the weapons would have to be used.

The reliance on nuclear weapons that could be used in a real war led each nuclear weapons state to live in perpetual fear of a surprise attack that would make their weapons useless. This fear was greatest during the Cold War, when each side thought the other could not be trusted. The US and Soviet Union addressed their fears by building enormously complex early warning systems that would let them know they were about to be attacked and give them time to launch their nuclear weapons before they were destroyed.

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Himal Southasian