It is sometimes assumed that the absence of nuclear war since World War II proves that nuclear weapons are not relevant for national security, will never be used in conflict, or that a taboo against nuclear weapons will deter their use in the future.
The Nuclear Taboo Exists, But it Can Be Broken
It is sometimes argued that a normative basis of restraint, a «nuclear taboo,» is responsible for the lack of inter-state nuclear conflict.
While such a taboo almost certainly exists, it is unlikely to prevent states from using nuclear weapons on its own.
This is not to say the nuclear taboo has no effect on policy.
The taboo, combined with the mindset that the weapons would not be necessary for victory, contributed to President Harry Truman’s decision to not use nuclear weapons in the early days of the Korean War, and prevented Gen.
Arms control agreements, for their part, have reinforced the nuclear taboo by seeking to control potential escalation, provide transparency, and minimize the situations where it would be advantageous to use nuclear weapons.
Countries — specifically Russia and the United States — have pursued arms control agreements as a means of furthering competition and offsetting an adversary’s advantages in specific sectors.
Russia began violating the treaty decades later when the strategic calculus changed, in the face of a proliferating Chinese intermediate-range missile force.
In the case of a crisis with a nuclear state like Russia or China, the potential for escalation to the nuclear level always exists.
Russia, with its aggressive nuclear posture, massive arsenal, and recent expansionist actions in Ukraine is another alarming case.
If Russia can annex territory in Ukraine, it can conceivably do the same in the Baltics.
A 2016 RAND study argued that Russian forces can rapidly move through and capture one or all of the Baltic states quicker than NATO would be able to effectively respond.
Additionally, the Russian territory of Kaliningrad and its anti-access/area-denial capabilities provide an effective means of defending against NATO intervention.
Countering such an offensive would almost certainly require strikes against Russian territory, which could trigger a nuclear response from Moscow.
Russia is well practiced in utilizing the fear of further escalation and uncertainty to its advantage; limited nuclear strikes, or a nuclear demonstration in key areas, could be used to create uncertainty and fear of conflict escalating to a larger scale, deterring conflict at a lower level of escalation.
If push came to shove, would NATO be willing to risk nuclear conflict for a small state in Russia’s backyard?
The United States and Russia are unlikely to target each other in nuclear conflict — it is too risky.
Considerations of nuclear warfare have become taboo, which has contributed, in part, to the non-use of nuclear weapons for so long.
But the taboo does not guarantee that nuclear weapons will not be used in the future, and history shows us that taboos are often broken.
Recent evidence suggests that the nuclear taboo may not be as robust as many assume.
The unfortunate reality is that the nuclear taboo is falling apart.
Mr Nyusi chose Russia’s Wagner Group, which vowed to make short work of the rebels.
But nowadays Russia is seen as the leading country egging on mercenaries to help it wield influence.
In Guinea, where Rusal, a Russian aluminium giant, has a big stake, Wagner has cosied up to President Alpha Condé, who has bloodily faced down protests against a new constitution that lets him have a third term in office.
On May 26th America’s military command for Africa said Russia had flown modern fighter jets to Libya to give air support to Wagner.
Using them, a government such as Russia’s can sponsor military action abroad while pretending not to.
The brave new rebrand of Essity’s Bodyform range
It allows me to get in touch with so many different cultures and countries – our business is spread from Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, all the way to China and Malaysia, and from Sweden, Russia and France to South Africa.
So we looked into understanding consumers and we found out what is really holding women back, and it’s all the taboos linked to periods, menstruation and the vagina.
Do you know where the origin of the word «taboo» comes from? It actually comes from the Polynesian word «tapua» – and that means menstruation.
So it shows how deeply linked our category is with taboos.
And because it’s deeply linked with taboos it’s very much rooted in values.
And that makes it very interesting because our job goes beyond just selling products – we can really impact girls’ and womens’ lives by helping to remove those taboos that hold them back.
We went to France and China and Russia, and we had stakeholder interviews with everybody and people told us what we should keep from their regional brands and what we were allowed to change – and everyone said not to ever touch the logo.
From the beginning there was this idea about confidence and the V. It was so strong, it kicked out everything else. » So, it was very clear in which direction we would go. » The only question was, do we dare to make such a big move? Out of all the design routes, this was the one that was probably the most revolutionary We had more evolutionary routes. » But this one was the clear winner, no matter how many tests we did, it just got better and better. » The idea was so powerful and so spot on that no matter if we were a challenger brand or a undisputed market leader, and no matter if it was a country, where its society is more open and progressive, like in Sweden, or more conservative, like in Jordan or Russia, it worked effectively. »
We had a very clear brief of what we wanted to get out of it. » And we had very clear boundaries. » And these boundaries were that we could not lose what our brand stands for today. » Our blue rhomboid was remembered by every second or third person even though it had been around for centuries. » And we’ve been associated as a brand that is pink. » So we knew we shouldn’t lose our blue rhomboids and we knew we couldn’t lose pink. » And we knew that in some parts of the world, we already were associated with being a bit taboo-breaking. » And those were the three elements that I said we must not ever touch, but everything else was open. »
Certainly, a key factor in preventing further use of nuclear weapons has been credible deterrent strategies and the maintenance of survivable nuclear deterrent capabilities. » But a degree of luck, too, has contributed to establishing a norm of non-use of nuclear weapons. » It also helps that the major powers have all been rational actors—mutual self-interest in avoiding mutual self-annihilation has been a powerful motivation against using nuclear weapons. » That’s generated a taboo against use of nuclear weapons, which, as Nina Tannenwald argued, ‘has stigmatised nuclear weapons as unacceptable—«weapons of mass destruction»’. »
In considering the prospect of a more dangerous and contested future, the key questions are whether our luck will hold, whether deterrence will continue to work or remain relevant, and whether that taboo is real enough to enable us to avoid nuclear-weapon use in the future. »
The end of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, and now the likely prospect that the 2010 New START agreement on strategic nuclear forces won’t be extended by the February 2021 deadline, increase the risk that the undeclared rules for major-power behaviour will fray. » The lapse of New START would essentially see the end of meaningful arms control between the US and Russia. »
This is occurring at the same time as both Russia and China are modernising their nuclear forces, with the US is set to follow suit in updating its increasingly ageing nuclear capabilities and infrastructure. » The absence of arms control and the strategic dialogue that went with it would take US–Russia relations back to the tense times of the 1950s and potentially see rapidly escalating numbers of warheads and delivery systems being acquired in an action–reaction cycle driven by rising security dilemmas. »
That sounds bad enough, but in the 21st century it’s a far more complex strategic picture, and that complexity could erode the efficacy of nuclear deterrence overall. » Although the People’s Republic of China has had nuclear weapons since 1964, the central strategic deterrence dynamic that shaped stability and arms control engagement through the Cold War was always between Moscow and Washington. » In 2020 and beyond, the US must contend not only with Russia deploying new types of nuclear capabilities but also China modernising its nuclear delivery systems. »
But what about the nuclear taboo? It’s impossible to really know whether the likes of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, or military decision-makers in Pakistan, see nuclear weapons as non-usable in a crisis. » The issue of Russia’s integration of non-nuclear and non-strategic nuclear weapons and the debate over ‘escalate to de-escalate’ in Russian nuclear doctrine have generated uncertainty over whether Russia would use nuclear weapons pre-emptively in a local crisis. » China maintains a ‘no first use’ posture, but concerns are growing that it could seek to race to nuclear parity, which could see that commitment erode. »
The US, UK and French nuclear arsenals remain configured for traditional deterrence roles, but the US arms control community has raised concerns that new W76-2 low-yield warheads for the US Trident D-5 missile and a nuclear-armed submarine-launched cruise missile could lower the US nuclear threshold. » New technologies such as hypersonics and advanced autonomous systems add to a more uncertain and complex future for the stability of nuclear deterrence and the efficacy of a nuclear taboo, and it would be a brave assumption to suggest that nuclear weapons will never be used again. »
«If the U.S. decides to field space-based interceptors, it will upset the status quo by breaking with the taboo of weaponizing space,» International Institute for Strategic Studies analysts Michael Elleman and Gentoku Toyoma said recently in a policy paper. » «Such moves could provide a rationale for other actors to exploit this domain, creating an arms-race dynamic among major space powers». »
Frank Rose, a senior fellow for security and strategy at the Brookings Institution, said Russia and China see space-based missile defenses as an existential threat. »
«To ensure the credibility of their nuclear deterrents, Russia and China would likely respond by building additional and new types of long-range ballistic missiles as well as missiles that fly on non-ballistic trajectories,» he said in an email. »
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been touting his country’s development of new long-range, highly maneuverable nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles that can fly at speeds of Mach 5 or faster while staying inside the atmosphere. » China is also aggressively pursuing hypersonic weapons, Pentagon officials have noted. »
«From a Russian or Chinese perspective, even if our system is really only intended to counter North Korea or Iran, they may look at it and say, ‘Hey, it could be against some of our missiles. » ’ And then we would argue back and say, ‘Oh, but it would not be able to intercept the vast majority of your missiles. ’ And both sides would have a point,» said Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. »
President Donald Trump recently stated that the overarching U.S. » goal for missile defense is to be able to destroy any missile launched against the United States «anywhere, anytime, anyplace» — a comment that is unlikely to reassure Russia and China that a space-based interceptor layer would be limited and not directed against them. »
Thomas Roberts, a missile defense expert and program manager at CSIS, said because of orbital requirements and physics, it’s impossible to design an architecture that would protect against a North Korean attack but not pass over China or the southern regions of Russia. »
Reif said Russia and China could take steps to improve their ability to destroy such U.S. » interceptors, thereby greatly increasing the threat to the nation’s space assets. »
Pentagon officials have already identified space as a warfighting domain on par with land, air, sea and cyber. » The 2019 Missile Defense Review noted that China and Russia are already developing new types of offensive missiles as well as counter-space capabilities such as ground-launched missiles and «experimental» satellites that could potentially be used to attack other nations’ spacecraft. »
While countries like China or Russia may take countermeasures if the United States deploys a robust space-based interceptor layer, Harrison does not expect them to develop a similar system because of the cost burden and other challenges. » «I don’t know why they would because if it’s not a good idea for us, I don’t think it’s a good idea for them either,» he said. »
Last week, sitting front row at the Math Studios F/W 19-20 presentation during Futurum Moscow—an event part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia that features the collections of emerging designers—I watched as a sea of men descended down the runway decked out in rather typical menswear items; there were navy bomber jackets, royal blue trench coats, and lots of black slacks. » Not much was out of the ordinary until my eyes settled on the models’ feet as they glided across the runway, decked out in white socks with black thong flip-flops. » There was only one question on my mind: why?
Ilkin Bakhshiev, @Math_Studios. » ’ designer, told me, «Our clothes are rather strict and we wanted to bring some easiness and playfulness…Flip flops and socks are always bad taste in Russia and we wanted to modify and change this stereotype a little». »
In Russia, Bakhshiev claims that the wearing of socks and sandals likely stems from the post-Soviet era, when men had certain prejudices about the legs. » «Firstly, bare feet and shoes are not hygenic.
«Socks worn with sandals is considered a taboo in Russia, so young designers use it as a way to grab attention and go against the grain, making what once was taboo a cool trend,» said Stephan Rabimov, a fashion critic and American journalist who has been frequenting MBFW Russia for ten years. »
In recent years, the questionable fad has been debated from every angle possible. » in 2018, the Telegraph dubbed it «the final vestiary taboo» after David Beckham was spotted wearing red socks with Birkenstock-style shoes in British Vogue—but who reclaimed it first? Was it major athletes before/after playing sports? African-American men who don’t feel comfortable exposing their toes? The entire populace of the Pacific Northwest? Or maybe it’s thanks to the normcore term first used by trend forecaster group K-Hole to describe an anti-fashion attitude, which ultimately sparked a massive minimalist-meets-1990’s-dad style movement that changed the entire fabric of an industry once reliant on loud clothing, footwear, and accessories. »
And everything that was previously tabooed is now allowed». »
The common denominator among reactions to Hanoi is that disarming nuclear-armed states is extraordinarily hard—much harder, in fact, than preventing proliferation by determined states in the first place. » Indeed, South Africa is the only state to have developed and then relinquished nuclear weapons, and even then it took regime change from an apartheid government to African National Congress rule. » Ukraine inherited nuclear weapons on its territory when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but it took three years of bargaining before the government agreed to return the weapons to Russia. » Given Russia’s recent revisionist dismemberment of Ukraine, Kyiv probably wishes it had retained a deterrent capability. » This underscores the incentives for states with nuclear weapons to keep their arsenals. »
The US has abrogated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, which would have prevented Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons for at least 10-15 years; begun withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty ; and, as part of a massive nuclear force modernization program, restarted production of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles . » Due to discrimination difficulties, these LY SLBMs both raise the likelihood of nuclear first use and incentivize other states to engage in a low-yield nuclear arms race in order to match potential adversaries on the escalation ladder. » Rumblings in Washington are growing that the New START treaty—which limits deployed US and Russian nuclear warheads and strategic missile launchers, as well as establishes an inspection and monitoring regime—will not be renewed in 2021. » In sum, the Trump administration is undermining the international nonproliferation regime, arms control and the norm of nuclear non-use . » Taken together, these actions may incentivize other states to develop, acquire and/or upgrade nuclear weapons precisely when rebarbative diplomacy with Pyongyang should be an object lesson for Washington to do as much as possible to minimize incentives for nuclear proliferation and upgrading existing nuclear capabilities. »
As for Turkey and Egypt, they represent a lower proliferation threat, but, given the regional balance-of-power dynamics attendant to a nuclear Iran and Saudi Arabia, Ankara and Cairo would closely examine going nuclear. » Egypt already has some nuclear know-how from a previously abandoned nuclear weapon program, while Turkey, nominally a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the US, has decreasing trust in the US and NATO , as well as a nuclear power agreement with Russia . »
North Korea as a nuclear problem case goes beyond the fact that it possesses nuclear weapons, but rather how it plans to use them; its strategy, speaks to an important consideration about the international community’s current problem with nuclear nonproliferation, arms control and the taboo on nuclear use. » North Korea likely has developed nuclear weapons to give it greater freedom for coercive activities on and around the Korean Peninsula, and certainly for deterrence. » But as a part of that overall strategy, Pyongyang has developed a nuclear posture and doctrine that integrate nuclear weapons into warfighting plans . »
The JCPOA decision, US resumption of production of LY nuclear warheads for SLBMs, US withdrawal from the INF treaty, and the Trump administration’s likely decision to let New START expire create conditions for more North Koreas. » Perhaps the US believes the trade-offs are worth it—that the erosion of the institutional and balance-of-power bulwarks against nuclear proliferation by more states is outweighed by the perceived value of punishing Iran and fielding modernized US nuclear forces against China or Russia. » But let there be no mistake: additional proliferation will mean that we will experience the limits of coercive diplomacy more frequently in the future. »
Diet lawmaker Hodaka Maruyama was kicked out of opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai last month over remarks he made during an exchange excursion to one of the Russian-controlled islands off the coast of Hokkaido that Japan claims as its own. » Other opposition parties have demanded he resign and the ruling coalition has submitted a rebuke of his behavior to the Diet. » He has apologized but refuses to step down, claiming the right of free speech. »
Maruyama was reportedly drunk when he got into an argument with a member of a visa-free exchange group consisting of former Japanese residents or descendants of the four disputed islands. » The argument was about Japan’s and Russia’s respective claim to what the former calls the Northern Territories and the latter the Southern Kurils. » Prior to World War II, the islands had belonged to Japan. » At the end of the war, however, the Soviet Union invaded and has controlled them ever since. » Japan is still negotiating for their return, although circumstances indicate there is no way Russia will give any of them back, despite a joint 1956 declaration implying the two smaller territories might be returned after a peace treaty is signed. »
It is taboo in Japan for anyone, including media organizations, to accept the idea publicly that the islands will never revert to Japanese sovereignty. » Maruyama violated this taboo when he asked Koyata Otsuka, the elderly leader of the Japanese group, if he saw any alternative other than war with Russia for reclaiming the islands. » Any suggestion of Japan waging war is forbidden in light of the country’s pacifist Constitution and was particularly unwise given the ongoing negotiations with Russia over the territories. » Essentially Maruyama was demanding Otsuka be realistic about the chances of Kunashiri being returned by Moscow: What sort of leverage does Japan have?
Maruyama’s question, or at least some form of it, should have been asked by the media a long time ago, and what’s interesting about his faux pas is what it revealed, albeit indirectly, of the futility of Japan’s decades-old scheme to get Russia to capitulate. »
Most of these revelations came out in reporting by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, which went into detail about what happened the night of May 11 when Maruyama made his fateful remark. » The argument took place at the House of Friendship, a two-story prefab structure more casually referred to as Muneo House, after disgraced Hokkaido politician Muneo Suzuki, who helped build it for the exchange program. » The former residents’ group, which was participating in a four-day intergovernmental program to visit graves of ancestors and interact with local Russians, was confined to the building for the night. » Maruyama was one of two national politicians accompanying them. »
Members of some media outlets were also there, but not Shukan Bunshun, which recreated events based on interviews with witnesses. » Some members of the group had already been drinking that day since Russian hosts often offer vodka to their guests, and they continued imbibing with alcohol brought from Japan. » Maruyama joined the revelry — uninvited, according to Shukan Bunshun — and became rowdy, making off-color comments that offended many in the room. » At about 8 p.m., he crashed a media interview with Otsuka and made the war remark. »
However, according to Shukan Bunshun, the trouble didn’t stop there. » Maruyama became more obnoxious, saying he was going to go outside and «buy a woman.» Exchange staff became anxious because Japanese visitors are prohibited from going anywhere on the island without express permission from Russian authorities. » The staff had to physically prevent Maruyama from leaving, according to Shukan Bunshun. » He objected, arguing that as a Diet member he had immunity and, since Kunashiri is «Japanese territory,» he should be able to go wherever he pleased. » A government official told Shukan Bunshun that the staff had to watch him all night. »
Former Foreign Ministry official Masaru Sato told the magazine that had Maruyama gone out and solicited a woman for sex, he would have been taken into custody by Russian police, which would have caused grave problems for the Japanese government, since Japan doesn’t formally recognize Russia’s legal jurisdiction. » This would have led to a diplomatic row adversely affecting the negotiations. » The organizers of the exchange told Shukan Bunshun that Maruyama had ruined the visit, which cost the central and Hokkaido governments about ¥27 million. »
However, this potential disaster pointed to a deeper miscalculation on the part of the Japanese government. » In a report published last June by the Mainichi Shimbun, a former Japanese resident from another disputed island in the Northern Territories, said that over the years the attitude of Russian residents to his chaperoned visits have changed from resentment to one of warm welcome because they no longer see former residents as a threat to their existence. »
In related articles that appeared in December and April, the Asahi Shimbun explained the enormous amount of investment Japan has made in the territories in order to curry favor with the Russians. » In recent years, however, the Russian government has dramatically increased its own investment in infrastructure and social security for Russian residents, thus demonstrating that they are serious about getting more Russians to move there. » At the same time, Russia restricts Japanese access. » Outside of the exchange program, it is almost impossible for Japanese to visit the islands. » Even the Asahi Shimbun, which has a bureau in Vladivostok, said it dispatched a «temporary» Russian assistant to carry out newsgathering on the islands, implying it couldn’t send its Japanese correspondent. »
It’s not clear how much the exchange program costs, but professor Masanobu Furuya, who was studying the program, estimated in 2013 the total budget at the time to be around ¥2 billion a year. » This figure includes the cost of trips by Russians to Japan — it isn’t called an exchange program for nothing — which is also paid for by Japan. » No wonder Maruyama was frustrated. »
The text of this article was generated by the Breaking The Silence system that collected 8 news articles posted on the web from January 2019 to September 2020 and clustered for the taboo subjects related to Russia