A regional war in the Baltic between NATO and Russia using only 20 nuclear weapons risks leaving nearly 1 million dead with long-lasting impacts on the region’s environment, economies, and health, a new report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center finds. The report “Reducing the Risk of Nuclear War in the Nordic/Baltic Region,” examines two hypothetical military scenarios between NATO and Russia in the Baltic region that escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. It finds that while the likelihood of a nuclear conflict is small, two policies would reduce risk further: Strengthening NATO’s conventional military capabilities to deter and, if necessary, defeat any Russian incursion into the Baltic region and a diplomatic dialogue on a Baltic Nuclear Weapon Free Zone led by the neutral states in the region. The report release comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today during a time of heightened political tensions, military incidents, and nuclear rhetoric between East and West.
“A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone encompassing all nations bordering the Baltic Sea, including Kaliningrad, would be a pragmatic step to further reduce the risk of nuclear war,” said report co-author Laicie Heeley, a Fellow for Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense at Stimson. “While such a step may not be politically viable today, beginning a diplomatic dialogue about the creation of such a zone could help to deescalate tensions, offsetting the current trend of inflammatory nuclear rhetoric in the region.”
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