In recent months, North Korea’s efforts to build and arm a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile have garnered significant attention, but it’s important to remember that Kim Jong-un isn’t the only nuclear player on the block. Another nation the United States has found itself butting heads with increasing frequency already possesses a massive nuclear stockpile (the largest in the world, in fact) and announced plans last year to begin fielding a more modern ICBM of their own: Russia. Worse still, if you remove the United States from the list of countries that have their own nuclear arsenals, the U.S. currently has strained, or worse, relations with half of them.
America’s growing emphasis on reliable missile defense systems, then, makes perfect sense, but the ability to shoot down an offensive nuclear launch is only half of America’s deterrent strategy. The other half, which dates back decades, is the concept of mutually assured destruction, or the promise that any nuclear attack would be met with an equivalent one, ensuring the utter destruction of all nations involved in a nuclear war.
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