Russia and the U.S. are aggressively upgrading their nuclear arsenal as tensions between the two countries continue to mount. Washington is sending hundreds of howitzers, tanks and other lethal weapons to Eastern Europe amid Russia’s ‘nuclear rhetoric.” It has fueled worries that even an accidental escalation could lead to a nuclear war.
Only 2% probability of a nuclear war between Russia and the U.S.
A Gallup poll conducted last year found that 50% Americans believe the country was headed back to Cold War. While the mainstream public opinion is highly pessimistic, there is very little chance of a nuclear war between the two powers. Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov recently told Vox that “a war is not something that’s impossible anymore.” Even if the two countries engage in a conflict, could it lead to a nuclear war?
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Political analyst Jay Ulfelder, who runs the Dart-Throwing Chimp blog, conducted a survey. He asked people on the online political science expert communities two questions: What are the odds of a Russia vs U.S. war before 2020; and if such a conflict occurred, whether it would turn into a nuclear war. He collected responses and ran them through statistical analysis.
Ulfelder found that only 11% people said there was a probability of war between the two countries. Conditional on war, there was 18% probability that one or both sides will resort to nuclear weapons. Ulfelder translated these figures into a single number: 2% probability of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.
Difference between mainstream public and expert opinion
The results of his survey are in line with that of a survey by Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP). TRIP asked scholars, “How likely is a war between the United States and Russia over the next decade? Please use the 0–10 scale with 10 indicating that war will definitely occur.” They received responses from 2,040 scholars. On a scale of 0-10, the average perceived risk of war with Russia was 2.55. Their opinions were dramatically different from the mainstream public opinion.
On the occasion of the U.S. Independence Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a message of greetings to President Obama that even though some disagreements exist between the U.S. and Russia, they could peacefully resolve the issues through dialogue. Putin said relations between Moscow and Washington were “a crucial factor for international stability.”