Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Rethinking the Unthinkable

Today there are major imbalances between the new and expanding nuclear weapons research and production capacities of Russia and the declining capabilities of the United States.
December 1, 2014
Rethinking the Unthinkable

By 2021, 98 percent of Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missile forces will be composed of newly designed and manufactured warheads and delivery systems. Their modernization efforts are already 50 percent complete. (Photo: Open Source)


  • Managing Editor
  • Clay Dillingham
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Russian nuclear-capable aircraft are once again probing the defenses of the United States and its allies.

The end of the Cold War brought many changes including the unification of Germany, the expansion of democracy into Eastern Europe, and the integration of Russia into the global economy. It also removed the previous five-decades-long worry about a nuclear war. “Thinking about the unthinkable,” that is, seriously contemplating nuclear war, has all but vanished from the minds of most people. 

But given Vladimir Putin’s annexing of Crimea last spring and his boast in September that he could invade five NATO capitals inside two days, a Cold War 2.0 may be just around the corner. Putin’s actions come on the heels of the modernization of Russia’s nuclear weapons program. In stark contrast, the nuclear weapons research, testing, and production infrastructures of the United States have continued their rapid erosion through elimination and restructuring of organizations and reductions of workforces and budgets. These trends must be examined and evaluated.


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