Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran Want to Use Nuclear Weapons Offensively

CommentaryRussia, China, North Korea, and Iran are toying with the offensive use of nuclear weapons rather than seeing them as a defensive deterrent. The American allies they target, including Ukraine, Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel, should strengthen their nuclear defenses in response. On May 1, Russia’s state media threatened the United Kingdom with a literal nuclear tidal wave. One could be created, according to Russian anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, by exploding a nuclear bomb delivered by an underwater drone just off the west coast of Britain. The explosion would create a 500-meter tsunami, turning the British Isles into “a radioactive wasteland.” Russia is trying to use a nuclear doomsday scenario to scare Britain into ceasing its military support to Ukraine. Britain reacted to the invasion quickly with the provision of materiel to Kyiv, which used Western aid generally, including from the United States and Germany, to roll back the Russian invasion from the capital to the Eastern outskirts of the country. Ultimately, Ukraine could continue its roll, pushing Russian troops from territory occupied since the 2014 invasion, including Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbass. But Ukraine and its allies must constantly think of one major risk: winning the conventional war against Russia would provoke Vladimir Putin into using his nuclear weapons against Ukraine, Britain, or even the United States. In this way, the threat of nuclear escalation helps Putin’s offensive in Ukraine by paralyzing the defense. For years, China and North Korea have made similar, though lower-profile, offensive use of their nuclear weapons. In 2016, China’s People’s Liberation Army flew a nuclear-capable H-6K bomber over Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The flight came days after an international court ruling that recognized Philippine fishing rights around the tiny island, also within Beijing’s illegal nine-dash line claim to almost the entire South China Sea. With the H-6K flight, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to scare the Philippines, and its ally, the United States, into backing away from internationally-recognized Philippine claims to the island and surrounding resources, which in the South China Sea more broadly includes up to $60 trillion in oil and gas. Since at least 2017, the Beijing regime has used similar nuclear-capable flights near Taiwan. to scare the country into “reunification” with the mainland. Its nuclear saber-rattling has failed so far, but the drumbeat of war from Beijing keeps getting louder. Taiwanese Air Force F-16 fighter jet flies alongside a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6K bomber in the western Pacific, one of the Chinese military aircraft that reportedly flew over Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait near Japan’s Okinawa island chain on May 11, 2018. (Taiwan ROC Air Force) North Korea is learning from Putin’s invasion that it could invade South Korea and hold the latter’s allies, including the United States, at bay with the threat of nuclear escalation. “It seems that North Korea’s strategy has changed,” professor Andrei Lankov, a Korea expert, told Josh Rogin at The Washington Post. “When they started their nuclear program decades ago, they thought about deterrence and self-defense. Now they are working on a program which will one day make conquest possible—conquest of the South, of course,” Lankov said. Iran is also learning about nuclear offense from Putin. “Watching the language of Russia and North Korea is a peek into what Iran would like to do,” according to Seth J. Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post. Iran is building its own nuclear weapons despite the threat of tough international sanctions from the West. Tehran frequently threatens the destruction of Israel, but appeasing it to the point of allowing an Iranian nuclear weapon would transform the country into a major regional power. As Frantzman points out, “The goal of the appeasers is often to give the nuclear-armed power a huge sphere of influence and not ‘threaten’ or ‘provoke’ it by supporting countries or people being suppressed by the nuclear power.” Nuclear weapons would give Iran the capability to suppress its own people and neighbors with much less worry of economic or military sanctions. It could then dominate Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and more. What applies to Iran applies to the rest of the world’s dictators. Give them nuclear weapons, and they think they have rights to oppress and conquer at will. Conversely, democracies are by nature more decentralized and decentralizing in their approach to both domestic and international power. But to defend themselves from their regional adversaries, allied democracies like Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, and South Korea must massively increase their military defenses. Sole reliance on other countries’ security guarantees, as Ukraine did when it gave up its 5,000 nuclear weap

Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran Want to Use Nuclear Weapons Offensively

Commentary

Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are toying with the offensive use of nuclear weapons rather than seeing them as a defensive deterrent. The American allies they target, including Ukraine, Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel, should strengthen their nuclear defenses in response.

On May 1, Russia’s state media threatened the United Kingdom with a literal nuclear tidal wave. One could be created, according to Russian anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, by exploding a nuclear bomb delivered by an underwater drone just off the west coast of Britain. The explosion would create a 500-meter tsunami, turning the British Isles into “a radioactive wasteland.”

Russia is trying to use a nuclear doomsday scenario to scare Britain into ceasing its military support to Ukraine. Britain reacted to the invasion quickly with the provision of materiel to Kyiv, which used Western aid generally, including from the United States and Germany, to roll back the Russian invasion from the capital to the Eastern outskirts of the country.

Ultimately, Ukraine could continue its roll, pushing Russian troops from territory occupied since the 2014 invasion, including Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbass.

But Ukraine and its allies must constantly think of one major risk: winning the conventional war against Russia would provoke Vladimir Putin into using his nuclear weapons against Ukraine, Britain, or even the United States. In this way, the threat of nuclear escalation helps Putin’s offensive in Ukraine by paralyzing the defense.

For years, China and North Korea have made similar, though lower-profile, offensive use of their nuclear weapons.

In 2016, China’s People’s Liberation Army flew a nuclear-capable H-6K bomber over Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The flight came days after an international court ruling that recognized Philippine fishing rights around the tiny island, also within Beijing’s illegal nine-dash line claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

With the H-6K flight, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to scare the Philippines, and its ally, the United States, into backing away from internationally-recognized Philippine claims to the island and surrounding resources, which in the South China Sea more broadly includes up to $60 trillion in oil and gas.

Since at least 2017, the Beijing regime has used similar nuclear-capable flights near Taiwan. to scare the country into “reunification” with the mainland. Its nuclear saber-rattling has failed so far, but the drumbeat of war from Beijing keeps getting louder.

Epoch Times Photo
Taiwanese Air Force F-16 fighter jet flies alongside a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6K bomber in the western Pacific, one of the Chinese military aircraft that reportedly flew over Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait near Japan’s Okinawa island chain on May 11, 2018. (Taiwan ROC Air Force)

North Korea is learning from Putin’s invasion that it could invade South Korea and hold the latter’s allies, including the United States, at bay with the threat of nuclear escalation.

“It seems that North Korea’s strategy has changed,” professor Andrei Lankov, a Korea expert, told Josh Rogin at The Washington Post. “When they started their nuclear program decades ago, they thought about deterrence and self-defense. Now they are working on a program which will one day make conquest possible—conquest of the South, of course,” Lankov said.

Iran is also learning about nuclear offense from Putin. “Watching the language of Russia and North Korea is a peek into what Iran would like to do,” according to Seth J. Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post.

Iran is building its own nuclear weapons despite the threat of tough international sanctions from the West. Tehran frequently threatens the destruction of Israel, but appeasing it to the point of allowing an Iranian nuclear weapon would transform the country into a major regional power.

As Frantzman points out, “The goal of the appeasers is often to give the nuclear-armed power a huge sphere of influence and not ‘threaten’ or ‘provoke’ it by supporting countries or people being suppressed by the nuclear power.”

Nuclear weapons would give Iran the capability to suppress its own people and neighbors with much less worry of economic or military sanctions. It could then dominate Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and more.

What applies to Iran applies to the rest of the world’s dictators. Give them nuclear weapons, and they think they have rights to oppress and conquer at will. Conversely, democracies are by nature more decentralized and decentralizing in their approach to both domestic and international power.

But to defend themselves from their regional adversaries, allied democracies like Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, and South Korea must massively increase their military defenses. Sole reliance on other countries’ security guarantees, as Ukraine did when it gave up its 5,000 nuclear weapons in 1994, is clearly a strategy that invites aggression.

Ukraine has a strong conventional military, but not strong enough to have stopped Russia from invading.

So America’s frontline democratic allies facing threats from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran must strengthen not only their conventional military forces, which are critical to defending space once an invasion starts, but nuclear defenses, to deter regional wars from starting in the first place.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).