Nuclear Threat With Russia at ‘Dangerous Levels,’ Nunn Says

(Bloomberg) -- The potential for cyber interference is raising the threat of a nuclear war between Russia and the U.S. to ‘dangerous levels,’ according to former Senator Sam Nunn, a longtime national-security specialist.

A false warning stemming from cyber interference from another country or sophisticated hackers heightens the prospect of nuclear attack, Nunn said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s David Westin and with reporters in the Atlanta bureau.

“A blunder is much more likely than a premeditated, calculated attack," said Nunn, noting that 90 percent of nuclear weapons are in the hands of the U.S. and Russia. “We have had false warnings before and so have the Russians, and by the grace of God have avoided having a nuclear response to what people thought for a while was a real warning. But cyber makes it much harder."

Nunn, who co-chairs the non-profit Nuclear Threat Initiative which works to prevent catastrophic attacks, also called it a “bad mistake" to let the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty expire. That could lead to Russia putting missiles “all over Europe," he said. A U.S. official said Monday that the U.S. plans to suspend its obligations under the treaty after a deadline passes this weekend and the Trump administration inches closer to full withdrawal from that pillar of Cold War diplomacy.

Given the tensions between the U.S. and Russia stemming from the Mueller investigation into interference in the 2016 presidential election, Nunn said Congress needs to take the lead “and create some political space for a dialogue to take place, particularly military-to-military. We’re not talking to Russia like we did even during the Cold War and into the 1990s.”

"We’re in a race between cooperation and catastrophe," Nunn said.

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