Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons can pack the same punch as the atomic bombs dropped on Japan

In a speech last week, he warned that “in the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and the defense of Russia and our people, we will certainly use all weapons systems available to us. This is not a trick.”

Russian weapons systems include 4,477 deployed and stockpiled nuclear warheads, of which about 1,900 are “non-strategic” warheads, also known as tactical nuclear weapons, According to the Federation of American Scientists.

But what is a tactical nuclear weapon and how does it differ from a regular nuclear weapon?

Here’s what you need to know.

Tactical vs Strategic

Tactical warhead Indicate those designed for use on a limited battlefield, for example to destroy a column of tanks or a battle group of aircraft carriers if used at sea. Such warheads with an explosive yield of 10 to 100 kilotons of dynamite are also called “low yield”.

In contrast, Russia’s most powerful “strategic” nuclear warhead has an explosive yield of 500-800 kilotons and is designed to destroy entire cities – and then some.

The reference to the “low yield” of tactical weapons is somewhat misleading as the explosive yields of 10 to 100 kilotons of dynamite are still enough to cause great devastation – as the world discovered in 1945 when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

Those bombs were equivalent to about 15 and 21 kilotons of dynamite, respectively – within the ballpark of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons.

The initial explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed about 70,35,000 people instantly, and tens of thousands later died from the emitted radiation, according to US government archives.

Alex Wellerstein, director of science and technology studies at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, says the real difference in nuclear weapons really lies not in what their detonation is but in what their targets are.

“The atomic bombings in Japan were ‘strategic’ attacks aimed primarily at destroying morale and terrorizing the Japanese high command into surrender. This made 15 kilotons of ‘strategic’ yield dependent on where the target was.” Willerstein wrote on Outrider Security Blog earlier this year.

Others, including former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, say there is no difference at all.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘tactical nuclear weapon.’ Any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer,” he added.

What would happen if Russia published one?

Russia (and the Soviet Union before it) built and maintained a large stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons.

The initial thinking was that using a nuclear weapon on the battlefield would give commanders an option to conduct a decisive strike that could avoid defeat without resorting to the use of their largest nuclear weapon, which after a counterattack would result in a “civilization-ending nuclear exchange,” according to Union of Concerned Scientists.

On its website, the organization described this thinking as “flawed and dangerous”.

“Tactical nuclear weapons … cause more uncertainty, and increase the likelihood that a country will think it can escape a limited attack,” the organization said.

some The analysis supports this theory.

A commentary published over the summer by Siddharth Kaushal and Sam Crane Evans at the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) says the use of tactical nuclear weapons against command posts or air bases in Europe could limit civilian casualties in surrounding areas.

for example, RUSI . Report He says the use of a tactical nuclear weapon on the Sulawaki Gap, the land border between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania that separates Russia’s Kaliningrad from its neighbor Belarus, could only cause hundreds of civilian casualties.

The reality is likely far from that.

“US war games predict that a conflict involving the use of tactical nuclear weapons will quickly spiral out of control,” the Union of Concerned Scientists blog said.

“Princeton University’s simulation of a US-Russia conflict that begins with the use of a tactical nuclear weapon predicts a rapid escalation that would leave more than 90 million dead and wounded,” the statement said.

In response to Putin’s threat last week, the The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) says Europe sees 2022 as a more dangerous place to use nuclear weapons than Japan in 1945, which had a smaller population and were relatively isolated.

“A single nuclear explosion in Europe today would likely kill hundreds of thousands of civilians and injure many more; radioactive fallout could contaminate large areas in several countries,” ICANN said on its website.

“Emergency services will not be able to respond effectively and widespread panic would lead to mass movements of people and severe economic disruption. Multiple explosions would of course be much worse,” he added.

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