Henry D. Sokolski – Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future

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Henry D. Sokolski – Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future Released 5 May 2022. Does it matter if more countries have nuclear weapons? Will the weaponization of space make nuclear weapons less of a threat or even obsolete? In this podcast, author Henry D. Sokolski gives an overview of his monograph, Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future, and explores potential future nuclear trends. Click here to read the monograph. Keywords: strategy, nuclear energy, drones, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles Episode Transcript Stephanie Crider (Host) (Prerecorded Decisive Point intro) Welcome to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production featuring distinguished authors and contributors who get to the heart of the matter in national security affairs. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army, US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government. The guests in speaking order on this episode are: (Guest 1: Henry D. Sokolski) (Host) Decisive Point welcomes Mr. Henry D. Sokolski, author of Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future, published by the US Army War College Press in 2018. Sokolski is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, DC. He previously served in the Senate as a nuclear military legislative aide, in the Pentagon as deputy for nonproliferation policy, and as a full-time consultant on proliferation issues in the secretary of defense’s Office of Net Assessment. Welcome, Henry. Let’s dive right in. In your 2018 book Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future (Second Edition), you cover a lot of ground. Please give our listeners a brief overview of the book. (Sokolski) The reason I wrote the book was, you know, any serious social scientific field—economics, demographics, political science—they all use what they know about the past to give you a bird's-eye view of what they think the future will be. And I noticed that there was really no book that took the matter of nuclear weapons and projected into the future. The military science, if you will, of nuclear proliferation was a blank sheet. I took it upon myself to try to take a look at maybe, you know, a half-century, a little more than a half-century, and asked, you know, “What trends do we see?” And based on those trends, and assuming they continue, where are we going to be, you know, in 10 or 20 years? So, I focused on, detailed, four trends. And the trends that I found that were interesting is that the difference between the largest and smallest nuclear weapons arsenals has gotten much, much smaller. It used to be that what we had, which was at one point, during the Cuban missile crisis, 25,000 nuclear weapons, was easily an order of magnitude more than what the Russians had, which was 2,500, and what they had was again another order of magnitude more than the British had—actually two orders of magnitude. So there was, like, a thousandfold difference between the largest arsenal and the smallest at the time. Now the difference is about one order of magnitude. Russia and the United States have thousands. The smallest arsenals that we know of now are about 100 or thereabouts. Another trend is that the amount of surplus weapons and civilian materials that could be quickly converted into bombs—that's highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium—there used to be almost zero. Everything that we had and the Russians had went immediately into weapons. There was very little civilian activity in the way of power reactors. And so, there wasn't a civilian stockpile or any surpluses. Everything went into weapons. Or naval reactors. Well, that's changed. Now there's tens of thousands of bombs’ worth of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium. Not only in military stockpiles on reserve in the United States, Russia, France,

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