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Russia continues to strike large parts of Ukraine, with yesterday’s attacks show a clear escalation in violence because of the frustrations aroused by the determination of the Ukrainian people.
Earlier this week we covered the chances of an all-out nuclear war. While various experts have said that remains unlikely, the caveat of an unpredictable Vladimir Putin has been mentioned several times.
If Vlad were to go rogue, and given the size of the stockpile of nuclear weapons at his disposal compared to the rest of the world, things could get messy.
The BBC reports that Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads (the devices that trigger a nuclear explosion):
…this includes about 1,500 that are retired and need to be dismantled.
Of the remaining roughly 4,500, most are considered strategic nuclear weapons – ballistic missiles or rockets, which can be targeted from long distances. These are the weapons generally associated with nuclear warfare.
The others are smaller, less destructive nuclear weapons intended for short-range use on the battlefield or at sea.
Of these 4,500, an estimated 1,500 are currently deployed at sites where they can be used.
Comparing Russia’s reserve with the rest of the world illustrates why world leaders are nervous:
The magnitude of damage that a single nuclear weapon can cause should not be underestimated.
For example, the infamous Hiroshima bomb dropped during World War II killed an estimated 146,000 people and weighed 15 kilotons.
Today, nuclear warheads can weigh over 1,000 kilotons.
Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in Russian possession are believed to have the ability to reach cities like London or Washington.
An ICBM fired from Russia could reach the UK in just 20 minutes.
Defenses against such attacks are in place, reports the Wall Street Journal, but they are not infallible:
The United States has invested heavily in the capability to shoot down ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads, although it has no effective defense against Russian nuclear forces and has no intention of developing such a capacity.
The limited anti-missile system available to the United States targets a North Korean threat. US systems had a mixed success rate in testing.
Another disturbing piece of information concerns Ukrainian nuclear sites – in total there are 15 reactors spread over four sites.
Fighting in and around these sites could trigger a radioactive emergency, similar to Chernobyl.
On Monday evening, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, said Russia had started using infamous vacuum bombs during the invasion.
Below via Politico:
A vacuum bomb, also called a thermobaric weapon, works by absorbing oxygen to create powerful high temperature explosions. If used in a civilian setting, such an attack could constitute a war crime…
The shockwave can last much longer than a conventional explosive and is capable of vaporizing human bodies.
Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and CIA officer, said the bombs “suck oxygen out of the air and from the lungs of people nearby. It’s horrible.
A senior US defense official confirmed the use of vacuum bombs yesterday.
You can follow live updates from Ukraine via CNN and BBC.