Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Tobin Harshaw

Nuclear Weapons: What Are They Good For?

China and Russia are reviving one of the most heated debates of the Cold War. That’s not a bad thing.

Who’s building hypersonic missiles?

Who’s building hypersonic missiles?

Photographer: Tyrone Siu/AFP/Getty Images

With both China and Russia now threatening U.S. global primacy, the world has entered a new era of great-power competition. The struggle is playing out in diplomacy, trade, and politics, of course. But some of its gravest implications are military.

Ukraine and the South China Sea are only the most obvious hot spots. The three countries are vying for influence from East Africa to Latin America to the ever-melting Arctic. And as President Donald Trump made clear with his recent decision to withdraw from America’s 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty with Russia, the threat of nuclear conflict may be rising again to Cold War levels.