By Bulletin Science and Security Board | March 7, 2022
In January 2022 the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight. At that time, we called out Ukraine as a potential flashpoint in an increasingly tense international security landscape. For many years, we and others have warned that the most likely way nuclear weapons might be used is through an unwanted or unintended escalation from a conventional conflict. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought this nightmare scenario to life, with Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening to elevate nuclear alert levels and even first use of nuclear weapons if NATO steps in to help Ukraine. This is what 100 seconds to midnight looks like.
The Science and Security Board condemns the illegal and dangerous invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We call on all countries to denounce Russia’s actions and Putin’s outrageous threats of nuclear use, and for Russia to withdraw its forces and live up to its 1994 pledge—made as part of the successful process of ensuring Ukraine did not gain control over the 1,900 nuclear weapons left on its territory when the Soviet Union dissolved—to fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Anything less is an affront to the rule of law and the principle of national self-determination. Anything less risks global catastrophe.
In the commentaries and analyses below, Bulletin Science and Security Board members bring their expertise to bear on aspects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that they find especially concerning or insufficiently explained elsewhere. The goal, as always and especially in these fraught times, is to minimize the threat of global apocalypse in the short run, and then make it ever less likely to occur over time.
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Keywords: 100 seconds to midnight, Doomsday Clock, NATO, Russia, Science and Security Board, Ukraine, nuclear weapons
Topics: Announcement, Doomsday Clock, Nuclear Risk
I am a physicist. A high energy particle experimental physicist. I’ve worked at Fermilab and CERN, and had an office once at the U of C looking out on the Moore sculpture. I have followed the BAS for years, and The Clock. What on earth are you thinking? 100 seconds? Are you kidding? We are in the midst of the greatest post-WW II invasion, and the only reason we are not directly supporting Ukraine is the threat of global nuclear annihilation. The ONLY reason. There is a man in control of Russia who will NOT stop, even after destroying Ukraine,… Read more »
Just a regular person who has been following the clock for decades. Came here today knowing they were going to look at the time setting again this week. No change?! We’re as safe as we were in Jan? I don’t think so. Even if they are being political and don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ by changing the Clock to 2 seconds to midnight; it should have changed to reflect the new danger that happened when Russia (a ☢️ power) invaded a sovereign country in Europe. Ultimately, the Clock shouldn’t be political.
The latest step toward midnight is Putin’s warning that Russia may target arms deliveries on the way to Ukraine, presumably even while they are still on the territory of a NATO member state. That would generate a direct military clash between NATO and Russia. The nuclear forces of both sides would then be on a hair-trigger… Ten seconds to midnight?
I have to agree with most of the comments on here. I do have Ukrainian heritage but what I write is purely my own thoughts, and are not influenced by either side in this conflict. It is influenced by solid factual evidence, the many videos showing places such as Mariupol, Russian soldiers, and even observing Russian citizens in Russia. But I can say this. Putin knows no bounds, nor are all of his desires fully revealed by the Kremlin. The more the West corner him, the more he is likely to lash out, and let’s not be fooled by all… Read more »
I have to agree with the rest of the people here. I cannot accept that our security level from 2020 and 2021 is on the same level as March 2022. War IS happening and the threat of nuclear destruction is imminent.
On The Beach by Nevil Shute
See you in Australia before the radiation gets there…
He who ignores the mistakes of the past is condemned to repeat them…Santayana
I’m going to go against the above commenters and say if Russia planned on using Nukes, he would’ve brought them closer. Or had them in more recent training exercises. I think Putin knows if he even reaches his fingers on the nuke trigger his nation is going to get pounded. Added to that he may also lose support of China and the other Eastern Bloc nations. No, I think Nukes are old hat, and are likely to rot in their place or disassembled over time. I fear the modern weapons of chemical and bio weapons are more insidious, and more… Read more »
You may believe nuclear weapons aren’t part of the equation in this, however you’re overlooking the newer, smaller and more tactical nuclear weapons that have been developed. These aren’t covered by any of the treaties signed by anyone regarding use of nuclear weapons. Putin has never been secretive about his desire to reunify the USSR. He pretty much walked right into Crimea without so much as a whimper from the world. His invasion of Ukraine didn’t go as easily as he thought. Make no mistake though, he’s already put his nuclear abilities on high alert in Belarus and Russia and… Read more »
I think you’re right. He is cornered militarily, by his failed attempts in the past and age. He only has one more invasion in him. I’m just worried he wants to take the world with him.
Uh oh. I think your clock might be broken. Maybe it’s time to exchange the batteries.
Really, it should have ticked at least a couple seconds forwards in last few weeks.
Not sure if it’s political or a desire to avoid alarming the masses, but I sure would love to hear the rationale behind not moving the clock since we may well have just seen the start of the third world war.
I have to agree with the majority of commenters here, the Clock should regrettably advance. I’m remaining optimistic but there are warning signs everywhere that Putin is unstable. There is a real possibility that he instructs his Air Force to arm a Hypersonic missile with a nuclear warhead and enter Kiev into its GPS coordinates. More dust needs to be kicked up now before we have a clearer resolve.
100 seconds is still a scary number. I would speculate that if they move the clock ahead that might instigate a bigger anxiety attack for the public than we are already having which could lead to a nuclear event. I actually think it’s smart to leave it where it is. Those of us on this site already know the danger we may be in and that Putin appears unstable, but NATO has rules about taking out world leaders.
NATO is a nuclear power that is encroaching on Russia. Over the decades, NATO’s military operations have wreaked havoc on infrastructure, combatants, and civilians (e.g. in Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan…). To assume that NATO is not part of the problem is a mistake.
Nato is absolutely necessary in allowing many countries in eastern europe to not live under a dictator disrespectful of human rights like Putin is. You would like to live under Putin rule where journalists and critics are assassinated? No? Then Nato expansion is a necessary existential right of people leaving in many countries. Nato and Russia are not similar in how they treat their “zones of influence”
To assume that Vladimir Putin has no agenda of being the aggressor, taking over more countries and then even more is a foolhardy position. After all, his rise to power came with the second war with Chechnya. He rose quickly to power and has been in charge of Russia for 22 years. His goal was always to reunify the USSR and then gain more territory. The issue is the utilization of nuclear weapons. Will Putin use them or not? It’s quite possible..He’s a man isolated and not getting his way. This makes him all the more dangerous in his decision… Read more »
I agree that the West is not blameless but let’s assume NATO never existed or that it was disbanded after 1989-91. Do you honestly think Russia would not have tried to subjugate a westernising Ukraine (or Belarus) if it didn’t submit to its will “peacefully”? Russia doesn’t need NATO to justify its imperial attitude towards neighboring states. Focusing on blaming the war on NATO means negating the will of post-soviet states’ peoples to exist as sovereign nations.
This is why the famous quote will always ring true: A symbolic clock face is as nourishing to the intellect as a photo of oxygen is to a drowning man.
What’s the point of having the clock if you don’t take it seriously?
I agree with most said before. Current ongoing war has already touched Chernobyl and Zaporozia atomic station where army opened fire on the station. Staff lost control due to Russian army attacking them, purposely with the goal to use the stations as a tool for control manipulation and threat. Most military personnel that were on the territory of Chernobyl did not know about the radiation of the area and especially Red Forest (most radiated area) and they were digging into that soil. Of course they ended up to be heavily radiated and ended up leaving the area after developing symptoms.… Read more »
We are no longer isolated nations but a worldwide community. What if the doomsday clock was reset to 100 seconds past midnight and renamed the Peace Clock as the first step towards peace? Subsequent steps are strategic planning worldwide towards collaboration and unity to not only create peace but to protect the planet.
Wishful thinking, I’m sorry to have to say. History teaches us that there has never been a weapon developed by mankind that was not later used in warfare. To that point: the thermonuclear bomb has not been used yet in aggression (unlike it’s atomic forebearer) and awaits its’ maiden deployment. And the attraction to this weapon for those who hold it in their arsenal will increase in those times where they feel threatened and pressured to secure “victory” (whatever that looks like to them). Ultimately, should the pressure on Putin increase enough and he feel threatened enough, the lure of… Read more »
The clock should be moved up based on Crazy Putin threat to nuke the world!
I have been in the nuclear weapon enterprise for 20+ years and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has deteriorated to a farce. 100 seconds to midninght? What a joke!
Dom, I was a school child in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The duck-and-cover drills during school were useless, but not a joke. This is not a joke, today. You must be awfully young, and ‘compartmentalized’ to even think so.
The Doomsday Clock is only adjusted in January. At the time that most of these comments were made, the full scale escalation of the war in Ukraine was just starting. Seven months later, we are standing at the edge of tomorrow; Vladimir Putin is about to announce formally the annexation of four additional territories of Ukraine. Numerous nuclear threats have been made by Russia. The United States has indicated that there will be a measured response for the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, who maintains that it is the United States who is using nuclear blackmail. At this point,… Read more »
To all you naysayers critiquing the lack of recent movement, I’m no scientist, but it seems pretty clear that the 100 seconds figure is a good marker. The point of the clock is to scare people or why start out with a paltry seven minutes? The problem is there’s not a lot of room to adjust things! It’s really just a metaphor to give people pause. But note, this is no mere artsy metaphor; you are scientists and this is a scientific metaphor! Still you are kind of short on flexibility if things continue to get incrementally worse without something… Read more »
That to me seems part of the problem – the point of the clock is to scare people. If you want to scare people, you have to tell them that the present is the most dangerous, otherwise they might say “we’ve been here before, and made it out alive, no need to panic”. And while it should be clear that the situation has worsened between January and March, I think we are still some way off the Cuban missile crisis. So for me the problem is not so much that the clock hasn’t advanced this year, but that it was… Read more »
I have to concur with most of the comments here. If you add up Putin’s ambition + being banged and humiliated in Ukraine + his “macho” mindset + what’s going on with nature (floods, droughts) + hard right wing (populist) rising leaders + inflation… and remember that all these things are happening together, at the same time… well, we are really close to that 12-hours deadline
I am 7 months late to this thread, And I can see the logic which BAS were exercising, ie they saw this coming and have accounted for it. But I think there is something very much missing in this post; The breakdown in cooperation leaves mankind much less able to deal with all the other issues/threats that we need to deal with. We have slipped a lot closer to doomsday over the last few years, with or without nuclear annihilation. We can’t just point the finger at Putin, when the west has clearly decided to draw a red line, which… Read more »
We were the first to use Nukes.
In fact, we did it twice.
I see this site and many of its commenters only see one side of the coin. We are seconds away from midnight but to just pin this tense situation on Russia and Putin is laughable. It’s not as if Putin just woke up one day and decided to invade Ukraine. A peaceful resolution will require mutual accord and that requires understanding of the situation from both perspectives — not just the West’s.
Re: the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, I’d never discount the possibility that Putin will use them, in which case the end could be very near indeed. But Russia has other options for subduing Ukraine. They’ve been practicing hacking Ukraine’s electric grid for years. They can inflict remarkable damage by cutting power (literally) to Ukrainian residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional targets. Consider the disruptions and hardship it would cause this winter. Obviously the grid wouldn’t be Putin’s sole target, but I’d be very surprised if it didn’t play a role in this or future conflicts. Nuclear weapons are as… Read more »