Earlier this week, it emerged that Russian state television aired a simulation of a nuclear attack on Ireland and the UK. The brazen broadcast has raised the stakes for nuclear attacks should the situation in Ukraine escalate out of control.
Dmitry Kiselyov, a pro-Kremlin presenter on Channel One known as “Vladimir Putin’s mouthpiece”, showed a simulation of a hypothetical attack by the unmanned underwater vehicle Poseidon off the north coast of Northern Ireland and west coast of Scotland.
The host claimed: “There’s no way of stopping this underwater drone. The warhead on it has a yield of up to 100 megatonnes.
“The explosion of this thermonuclear torpedo by Britain’s coastline will cause a giant tsunami wave up to 500m high. Such a barrage alone also carries extreme doses of radiation.”
He added that a strike would turn the UK into a “radioactive desert, unfit for anything for a long time.”
Russia has a long history of using nuclear brinkmanship as a method of preventing western powers like NATO from pursuing security policies that it disagrees with.
For their part, Western officials have dismissed Russia’s “bravado” and “dangerous” nuclear war rhetoric, with the UK calling on Western allies to “double down” on their support for Ukraine.
But unsurprisingly the footage has caused concern and outrage in Ireland, which is militarily neutral, and in the UK – as well as across the globe.
As echoes of the Cold War emerge, how would the USA respond to an attack? Express.co.uk takes a look at the potential reaction.
Could the USA stop a nuclear attack from Russia?
NATO’s treaty stipulates that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all 30 members – meaning an attack on the UK would draw Russia almost immediately into a world war that would include the USA.
Russia has a vast selection of nuclear warheads – bigger than the USA. But the combined capability of NATO would outmatch Russia, according to Liviu Horovitz, a nuclear policy researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
He said: “Both the United States and Western European governments have repeatedly said that they have no interest in escalating this conflict beyond Ukraine, and I don’t see anything suggesting that NATO troops will be fighting in Ukraine anytime soon.”
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Russia has 6,255 nuclear warheads, according to Statista, with the USA behind on 5,550.
But other NATO members, the UK and France, also have their own nuclear weapons.
What’s more, the USA has spent more than $200 billion since 1983 on defence systems.
But a recent study found that in a hypothetical scenario in which North Korea, another nuclear state but with only 20 nuclear warheads, attacked the USA, the country’s “current capabilities are low and will likely continue to be low for the next 15 years”.
The Pentagon blew off the findings, saying its most recent tests show the system can handle a nuclear attack from North Korea.
Laura Grego, a fellow at MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy who co-chaired the study, said: “This idea of an impenetrable shield against an enormous arsenal of Russian missiles is just a fantasy.”
By this logic, any American ‘defence’ against a strike from Russia would rely on the Cold War relic of MAD – mutually assured destruction, where the USA would launch a counter attack on Russia, resulting in the devastation of both countries.
America’s nuclear plans are kept under wraps for intelligence reasons, so it’s impossible to predict whether the USA would have a plan in the event of a Russian attack on the USA or NATO.