5 Times We've Been Close to a Nuclear War

A 3D rendering of nuclear war.
A 3D rendering of nuclear war.

In the event of a nuclear war, the entire world may suffer. Radioactive material will spread throughout the earth's atmosphere bringing a darkness some refer to as a "nuclear holocaust". Food is unable to grow in these conditions which makes it extremely hard for people to survive in the aftermath. The damaging blasts from a nuclear war would also destroy parts of the ozone layer which would let harmful UV rays penetrate the earth.

5. 1956 - Suez Crisis

In early 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, a man-made passage of water that linked the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and provided a vital shipping route for oil. The nationalization of the canal worried western nations France and the United Kingdom, as they technically owned the waterway and any disruption to shipping could be of great consequence to their respective economies. President Nasser wanted to collect the shipping tolls along this route in order to construct the Aswan Dam, a dam which would regulate the flow of the Nile river as well as provide electricity. Israel, France, and the United Kingdom conspired to invade Egypt and to regain control of the Suez Canal. After diplomatic efforts failed, Israeli troops invaded Egypt on October 29, 1956. France and the United Kingdom ordered both parties to retreat, while knowing full-well they were preparing for a bigger military operation against Egypt. October 31, 1956 saw France and the United Kingdom commence military operations against Egypt, bombing the country until invading paratroopers landed in Egypt. This conflict had the potential to ignite a nuclear driven World War 3 as Egypt was aligned with the Soviet Union who had threatened to launch missiles against France, Israel, and the United Kingdom for their aggression in Egypt. The United States did not want the United Kingdom to provoke the Soviet Union into a conflict with NATO allies, as the United States would be forced to intervene, escalating any violence and potentially leading to nuclear conflict. The crisis was over by the ceasefire of November 6, 1956 and the Suez Canal resumed normal operations on 24 April, 1957.

4. 2017 - North Korea and United States

This conflict continues to rapidly evolve every day. Strong rhetoric and threats from the United States President Donald Trump have lead to an emboldening of North Korean President Kim Jong-un, who feels nuclear weapons are the only deterrent against foreign invaders. North Korea is an extremely isolated country, even more so since testing its first nuclear weapons in 2006. Kim Jong-un is somewhat unpredictable as a young leader, and has threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the United States several times. China will play a very important role in this situation, and the Trump Administration is trying to cooperate with the Chinese in order to diffuse tensions. The United States has made it clear that if Chinese mediation fails, then no options are off the table. This conflict has real potential to escalate into a nuclear war.

3. 1999 Kargil War

India and Pakistan are two nuclear powers that have had a history of conflict with one another. Between May and July of 1999, these nations were involved in a border conflict that had the potential to escalate into nuclear war. The root of this conflict was the disputed area of Kashmir, which serves as a border between the countries, and is controlled by India. Kashmir militants and Pakistani military made their way into Indian territory, capturing a few strategic posts within the area. After news had spread of these incursions, India launched a major military response, capturing all of the territory back from the invading forces. Pakistan initially denied involvement, but Pakistani military documents found in Kashmir told a different story. This is one of the few times in human history that two nuclear powers have engaged in a traditional war and this conflict was worrisome to the entire world. Pakistan was heavily blamed, even by some of its closest allies. No territory changed hands and India regained control of all areas it had previously held.

2. 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident

On September 26, 1983, Soviet warning systems detected nuclear weapons launched by the United States, heading to destroy the USSR. During this time, relations between the two countries were extremely strained - some would even argue they were at their worst point in history. In the event of a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union or the United States, a retaliatory nuclear strike would commence, ensuring mutual destruction of both countries. When these "nuclear missiles" had been detected on radar, it was Stanislav Petrov's job to report it up the chain of command in order to commence a Soviet nuclear weapons response. Petrov saw these warnings and dismissed them as a false alarm, which was later confirmed by the lack of nuclear annihilation. It was determined that the cause of these false radar readings was a rare combination of sunlight reflecting off high cloud. In the event Petrov reported this incident to his superiors, the world would have fallen into a vicious nuclear war, provoked by false data.

1. Cuban missle crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis, or October Crisis, was a 13 day stand off between the Soviet Union and the United States of America that took place from October 16th to 28th, 1962. The reason behind this stand off was the fact that Soviet nuclear missiles were being placed on the island of Cuba. The reason behind the missiles being placed in Cuba was that the United States had launched a failed invasion in 1961 (The Bay of Pigs) and Cuba's government (who was already allied with Russia) felt the need for protection, or deterrent from future aggression. Soviet missiles were discovered by an American spy-plane which was photographing the island nation. At only 90 miles away from the mainland United States, these missiles made American citizens and politicians very uncomfortable. Subsequently, United States ships established a military blockade to prevent the tiny island from acquiring any more Soviet missiles. John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were the respective Heads of State during this point in time and their tense negotiations led to certain conditions for each nation involved. For example, The United States made a public declaration to never invade Cuba unless provoked by Cuban aggression and the Soviet Union was to dismantle any offensive weapons that had been stationed in Cuba. These negotiations led to the realization that communications between Washington and Moscow were paramount in order to avoid this ever happening again. Consequently the Moscow-Washington hotline was established, which lead to increased communications, some would argue the Cuban Missile Crisis led to a softening of policy on both sides of The Cold War. This stand off is considered the closest the world ever came to an all out nuclear war.


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