In this article, I present a view on the future of nuclear war which takes into account the expected technological progress as well as global political changes.
There are three main directions in which technological progress in nuclear weapons may happen:
a) Many gigaton scale weapons.
b) Cheaper nuclear bombs which are based on the use of the reactor-grade plutonium, laser isotope separation or are hypothetical pure fusion weapons. Also, advanced nanotechnology will provide the ability to quickly build large nuclear arsenals and AI could be used in designing, manufacturing and nuclear strategy planning.
c) Specialized nukes like nuclear-powered space lasers, hafnium bombs and nuclear-powered space ships as kinetic weapons.
Meanwhile, the nuclear war strategy also has changed as the bipolar world has ended and as new types of weapons are becoming available.
The first strategy change is that Doomsday weapons for blackmail will become attractive for weaker countries which can’t use ICBM to penetrate the anti-missile defense of the enemies.
Secondly, the cheaper nukes will become available to smaller actors, who may be involved in “worldwide guerilla”. Cheaper nukes and a larger number of actors also encourage nuclear terrorism and anonymous or false-flag warfare. This will result in the normalization of the use of nuclear weapons in war and growing nuclear arsenals, now distributed between many countries.
The third change of the strategy is the use of nukes not against primary military targets but on other objects, which could increase their effects: nuclear power plants, supervolcanos, EMP, tsunamis, taiga fires for global cooling, and even more hypothetical things like asteroid deflection to Earth.
All these unconventional means and strategies of nuclear war could become available somewhere in the 21st century and may cause or contribute to the civilizational collapse and even human extinction.