This Is How an Accidental Nuclear World War III Could Begin

It would be beyond a nightmare.

Key point: The Cold War is full of examples of near nuclear disasters and those remain a threat today.

What happens when you use the same satellites to control nuclear forces as well as conventional troops?

Accidental nuclear war, that’s what could happen.

That’s the warning by a Washington think tank, which argues that the U.S. is inviting nuclear war by using the same command and communications systems to oversee both nuclear and conventional forces. But such “dual use” systems risk an inadvertent nuclear war, because an attack on non-nuclear assets, such as satellites or radars, could be perceived as an attempt to cripple America’s nuclear deterrent.

The Trump administration’s draft nuclear policy already states that cyberattacks against America, or attacks on U.S. satellites, could constitute a strategic threat that merits a nuclear response. But this raises a problem called “nuclear entanglement,” where the traditionally bright lines between nuclear and non-nuclear systems become blurred.

In a study earlier this year, the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace pointed out that Russia and China were guilty of entanglement. For example, Russia keeps nuclear submarines and bombers at the same bases as conventional ships and planes: thus a strike by conventional U.S. forces against conventional Russian forces — the sort of operation common in World War II — could be mistaken by Russia as an American strike on its nuclear forces, triggering Russian nuclear retaliation. China plans to attack American satellites to disable U.S. command systems and smart weapons that rely on satellite guidance, because China believes this to be a part of conventional warfare — despite the Trump administration declaring otherwise.