Ukraine: Former British soldiers fly out to defend country
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The world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe after Russia’s “dangerous” attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, it has been claimed. An attack on the southeastern city of Enerhodar and its Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which sparked a fire, drew global condemnation due to the severity of the potential consequences. Luckily, the UN’s atomic watchdog said no radioactive material was released after data was extracted from the area. Just a week before, the world watched in horror after Vladimir Putin put his nuclear deterrent forces on “special alert”.
The Russian President has dealt a series of thinly-veiled threats to the West regarding his country’s nuclear arsenal, including a chilling warning that any country that tried to attack Russia in retaliation for its Ukraine invasion would face a response “never seen in history”.
He stopped short of directly saying nuclear weapons would be deployed, but many experts said it was clear to see by reading between the lines.
In a fierce reminder of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, he warned “no one should have any doubt that a direct attack on our country will lead to destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor”.
In the last decade Putin has carried out various war game simulations in preparation for any conflict with the West.
One of these came to light in 2016, after Dr Andrew Foxall, director of Russian Studies at the Henry Jackson Society, told the Daily Star that Russia had already simulated nuclear attacks on NATO members.
He said: “Somewhat alarmingly, in 2008, a Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bomber carried out a dummy nuclear attack on northern England.”
He explained Moscow had funded a “massive strategic modernisation” of the Russian nuclear weapons programme.
Dr Foxall said: “Crucially, Russia retains battlefield nuclear weapons, which could be key at deciding the outcome of any potential local and regional war.”
The Kremlin has carried out a number of similar nuclear strikes on NATO members, according to a 2015 NATO report.
The report reads: “As part of its overall military build-up, the pace of Russia’s military manoeuvres and drills have reached levels unseen since the height of the Cold War.
“Over the past three years, Russia has conducted at least 18 large-scale snap exercises, some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops.
“These exercises include simulated nuclear attacks on NATO allies (eg ZAPAD) and on partners (eg March 2013 simulated attacks on Sweden), and have been used to mask massive movements of military forces (February 2014 prior to the illegal annexation of Crimea) and to menace Russia’s neighbours.”
Academics have long warned Downing Street that contingency plans ought to be put in place in the event of a nuclear attack on Britain.
Paul Ingram, a researcher at Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, told The Telegraph that planning needs to include food provision, shelter, drinking water and energy.
Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world with some 6,200 weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
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Around 1,600 of these are ready to fire at any moment, and could reach UK shores within minutes because the UK is within range of a strike from all major Russian bases.
The potential consequences of a nuclear war would be devastating, and means the impact of using them would not be confined solely to the battlefield.
At the height of the Cold War, US President Ronald Reagan warned: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
“The only value in our two nations [USA and USSR at the time] possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.
“But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”
Nuclear war poses two enormous risks: nuclear fallout and the dreaded ‘nuclear winter’.
Nuclear fallout is the radioactive dust from the detonating weapon that rises up into the atmosphere, spreading out across large areas and causes potentially deadly radiation levels.
Nuclear winter, meanwhile, is the more serious consequence of nuclear warfare.
A 2014 study published in Advancing Earth and Space Science suggested even a limited nuclear war would emit enough smoke to block sunlight for the Earth to experience the coldest temperatures since the last Ice Age.
Surface temperatures, according to the study’s models, could stay low for circa 25 years.
Though a nuclear war has never happened before, the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption in Indonesia triggered the ‘Year Without A Summer’ in the Northern Hemisphere, which resulted in famine and economic collapse across many parts of the world.
The study estimates a nuclear war could cause between five and ten ‘Years Without A Summer’ and would see more than a decade of reduced crop yields.
Fortunately, the prospect of Putin using such nuclear weapons remains low at present.
Mr Ingram told The Telegraph he estimates the risk of Russia’s invasion resulting in nuclear conflict is roughly one-in-80 at the moment.
Likewise, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last week that nuclear war threats are merely “distraction” tactics from the Russian President amid an invasion that is not quite going to plan.
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