What about “nuclear deterrence” theory? Do nuclear weapons help keep the peace?


Nuclear deterrence doesn’t work. Here’s why.

  1. We aren’t rational and we can’t read minds. For nuclear deterrence to work, all stakeholders must be perceived to act “rationally” and “predictably” but we know that’s not how people work - particularly in the fog of war.  

  2. Nuclear weapons don’t keep the peace. History shows that the existence of nuclear weapons has done nothing to prevent the many terrible conflicts since 1945, including acts of aggression against countries with nuclear weapons. In reality, nuclear weapons haven’t been used due solely to good luck – which cannot be expected to last forever.

  3. Nuclear weapons make conflicts worse. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine highlights how any of the 9 nuclear-armed states can threaten or use nuclear weapons to limit the capacity of other states to respond. 

  4. Nuclear deterrence makes nuclear use more likely because the threat of use of nuclear weapons must be credible, and so the nuclear armed states are always poised to launch nuclear weapons.

  5. Nuclear weapons are useless for today’s threats. Nuclear weapons are strategically useless to address the actual security threats facing nations in the 21st century, including climate change, terrorism and cyber attacks.