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Can One Person Destroy The World? von The Infographics Show   8 months ago

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Can just one person destroy the whole world?
Always accompanying the US and Russian presidents is the fabled nuclear football. Carrying nuclear launch codes and a satellite communications suite, this small briefcase puts these two men in constant contact with their alert nuclear forces, and one command from either could unleash a nuclear armageddon. Hello and welcome to another episode of The Infographics Show- today we're asking, can one man destroy the world?

Nuclear deterrence is the peacekeeping mission of ensuring a potential rival doesn't try to eliminate you with a nuclear first strike by ensuring that you could do the same. It's a mind-boggling and criminally insane concept to consider, and yet it's likely the only thing that kept the peace between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Without the threat of any conflict turning nuclear, it's likely that these two superpowers would have turned any of their various scruples into all-out war, repeating the conflicts that has plagued most of European history. Yet deterrence doesn't work unless the threat of retaliation is ever-present and serious, and for that each nation with nuclear weapons needs a streamlined and easy to implement nuclear command and control system.

For the US and Russia that system places the President in complete command of their nation's nuclear forces. In the event of war, or perhaps after a particularly bad Twitter-fight, either of these two men could immediately order a nuclear attack on any enemy, anywhere on earth. Unlike declaring a normal war, there needs to be no congressional approval, and once a nuclear attack order is delivered by the President, there needs to be no consensus from anyone beneath them- the order is simply executed. Certainly a flawed system, as the mental stability of some Presidents may come into question, but it is designed this way for a reason: in the event of nuclear war, the first warheads will reach their targets in about 15 minutes. This means that a response needs to be immediate- there can be no time for deliberation. One hopes that each nation thus elects competent and moral men to their highest office, though judging by the current state of affairs in both nations that's probably more hope than reality at the moment.

The world possesses 15,000 nuclear warheads, with over 90% belonging to the US and Russia. The US fields 6,550 nukes, with Russia having 6,850 nukes. Yet most of these warheads are awaiting decommissioning, a positive note for the continued survival of our species, with 2,500 retired by Russia and 2,550 retired by the US. In their active inventory, Russia has 1,444 weapons ready to deploy, and the US has 1,350. Russia keeps 4,350 weapons stockpiled and ready for future assignment to delivery platforms, and the US has 4,000.


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