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Conditional: 2 of Russia, US, China detonate

Flourishing Futures Nuclear Risk Tournament


Different nuclear conflict scenarios would differ hugely in how harmful they'd be in the near-term and in how much existential risk they create. In particular, scenarios involving Russia-US, Russia-China, or US-China nuclear conflict may be especially worth prioritizing, as those three states have the largest nuclear forces and relations between them (especially US-China) also seem important for other issues.

It therefore seems important to have a clearer sense of how likely it is that conflicts that do not start between those states would escalate to involve them. The more likely such escalation is, the more it would be worth also prioritizing reducing the chance of those other scenarios or of an escalation from them to a scenario involving Russia-US, Russia-China, or US-China conflicts.

If there's a nuclear conflict by 2024 that doesn't start between 2 of Russia, the US, and China, will 2 of those countries offensively detonate nuclear weapons by 2024?

This question will resolve conditionally on an offensive nuclear detonation occurring between October 1, 2021 and January 1, 2024 and the first such detonation not being (a) of a weapon owned by Russia, the US, or China, and (b) on or over the territory of one of the others of those states. For example, this condition would be met if an Indian nuclear weapon is offensively detonated over Pakistani territory or if a Chinese nuclear weapon is detonated over Japanese territory. If this condition isn't met, the question resolves ambiguously.

This question resolves positively if that condition is met and, also by 2024, at least two of the three countries Russia, the US, or China have offensively detonated at least one nuclear weapon each. Those detonations can include, but don't have to include, the detonation that met the previously specified condition. (For example, this question would resolve positively if by 2024 China offensively detonates against Japan and then the US offensively detonates against China, or if India offensively detonates against anyone and then both China and the US offensively detonate against anyone.)

For the purposes of this question, offensive nuclear detonations include deliberate, inadvertent, or accidental/unauthorised detonations (see the fine print for definitions).

Related Questions

Detonations must occur less than 20 kilometers above the surface of the Earth in order to count as being on or over a point that is within the territory of a country.

The military significance or stated purpose of the strike is not taken into consideration for this question (except that detonations for testing purposes and peaceful nuclear explosions are not counted towards positive resolution). Test detonations and peaceful nuclear explosions are defined as detonations which are claimed as being a test or a peaceful nuclear explosion by an official government communication within 30 days of the event, without this being disputed by reliable media, state reports, or multinational reports. If information is unclear, then resolution will be left up to Metaculus admins.

In a deliberate detonation, the attacking nation decides to launch one or more nuclear weapons either in response to a genuine nuclear attack or without believing that it is under nuclear attack. “In an inadvertent detonation, the attacking nation mistakenly concludes that it is under nuclear attack and launches one or more nuclear weapons in what it believes is a counterattack” (Barrett et al., 2013). “In an accidental or unauthorized launch or detonation, system safeguards or procedures to maintain control over nuclear weapons fail in such a way that a nuclear weapon or missile launches or explodes without direction from leaders” (Barrett et al., 2013).

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