“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

This precisely worded phrase, one to which Western governments regularly appeal, did not come about by accident. During the early years of the Reagan administration when, following a Carter-era nuclear posture review, American war planners began to recognize that Soviet leadership viewed a nuclear exchange as a survivable event. “Should nuclear attack nonetheless occur,” the Nuclear Security Decision Directive 13 read, “the United States and its Allies must prevail.”

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