Nuclear war is something that destroys not countries but mankind itself.
Naoto Kan, former prime minister of Japan
Nuclear weapons have not been used in war since 1945, and the political conditions that drove their development – initially World War II, then the Cold War – no longer exist. But the threat of nuclear war has not gone away, and may now be increasing.
There are other weapons of mass destruction. For example, the allied firebombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945 killed between 80,000 and 130,000 Japanese civilians, and Russia has now developed a conventional non-nuclear bomb which, it is claimed, will have an effect similar to a small nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons are uniquely destructive because of their power, the dangers of radioactive contamination, and the risk that even a limited nuclear exchange could precipitate a nuclear winter that would exterminate most of humanity. The threat will remain for as long as nuclear weapons are regarded as legitimate instruments of state ‘security’.