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Imagine a Russian Colonel receiving an order from Moscow to deploy a tactical nuclear weapon (TNW) on the Ukrainian frontline. His next order – “Nuke ‘em” – rapidly changes the battlespace and in fact, the world. Since the inception of nuclear weapons in 1945, the threat of nuclear war has loomed over the globe. J. R. Oppenheimer, after the first successful test of an atomic bomb, recalled the Hindi scripture Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." The power of nuclear weapons, along with the possibility of their use has only escalated since then. Starting in 1947, the threat of nuclear annihilation has been measured in part by the renowned “Doomsday Clock.” Today, the clock reads the closest to global catastrophe than at any other time in its history. As the war in Ukraine drags on, and the frontlines stagnate, global decision makers fear that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia may look to turn the tide or gain a domestic win by making good on his threats to use nuclear weapons. In 2022, Putin made it clear that, “To defend Russia and our people, we doubtlessly will use all weapons [and] resources at our disposal...This is not a bluff.”

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GNSI Decision Brief: Nuclear Weapons on the Battlefield: Arriving sooner rather than later?