Symbolic Targets

ABC’s Martha Raddatz interviews Adm. Michael Mullen, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, about the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Mullen explains that Vladimir Putin “… could pick a symbolic target. He could pick Zelynsky’s home town for instance,” referring to Russia’s choice to deploy nuclear weapons on the battlefield.

There’s an important catch left undiscussed. The losing political leadership may hold out, reluctant to meet its fate. If World War II (Sept 1, 1939 – Sept 2, 1945) is examined, the only time nuclear weapons have been detonated on human populations thus far, two targets are necessary. The cities of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki three days later were both destroyed instantly, killing between 129,000 and 226,000 people.

Just how destructive is a tactical nuclear weapon? How much destruction is necessary? 16 kilotons is a Hiroshima-sized weapon. By one definition, low-yield nuclear warheads range in size between 10 and 100 kiltons.