What are the risks of nuclear sharing?


The US & Russia deploying nuclear weapons in other countries poses a threat to the entire world. The more countries that deploy nuclear weapons, the greater the risk of their use - whether intentional or by accident. Nuclear sharing further complicates decision-making and increases the risk of miscalculation, miscommunication and potentially catastrophic accidents. 

Models developed by Princeton’s Science and Global Security Program show that a nuclear conflict between Russia and the United States, even triggered by a single low-yield nuclear weapon, would rapidly escalate into nuclear war and lead to 91.5 million casualties within the first few hours.  Given the locations “hosting” nuclear weapons and the range of the aircraft that would use them, these weapons are a particular risk for Europe, where they  would be used.  Nuclear weapons in Europe make Europe the target of any potential nuclear escalation.

Nuclear sharing also increases the risk of nuclear proliferation.  Following Russia’s decision to station nuclear weapons in Belarus, there have been increased calls by prominent European politicians  for Germany and/or the EU to acquire nuclear weapons, or for more US nuclear weapons to be stationed in Europe, particularly in Poland. Yet, to actually do so would be dangerous, irresponsible and illegal; it would undermine the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), perhaps fatally if a country like Germany were to leave it and go nuclear; and vastly increase the risk of nuclear conflict - which is already at its highest since the Cold War.

Russia, the United States, and the host states all claim that the reason for having these weapons stationed abroad is one of deterrence. But the deterrence doctrine is an unproven theory, based on flawed assumptions about human behaviour that, the history of the Cold War shows , makes nuclear conflict more, rather than less likely. Deterrence doctrine is also inadequate for evolving security challenges such as terrorism, emerging and disruptive technologies, cyber, hybrid, and “grey zone” warfare.