Should the DEFCON level have been raised during the recent tension between Russia and Ukraine?

Should the DEFCON level have been raised during the recent tension between Russia and Ukraine?

  • Yes - DEFCON underreacted to the tensions in the area.

    Votes: 5 25.0%
  • No - The situation was not as bad as people made it out to be.

    Votes: 14 70.0%
  • Don't know

    Votes: 1 5.0%

  • Total voters
    20

DEFCON Warning System

Director
Staff member
Now that it is over (for the most part) and Russia has pulled back troops (but not equipment) from the Ukraine border, we can look back with 20/20 hindsight.

During the rising tension, many people expressed concern (great concern!) that the crisis would blow up into actual conflict, one pretender even claiming "Defcon 3!" which lit up a firestorm in certain circles.

During all this time, however, The DEFCON Warning System held the DEFCON level at 5 (Green), stating that all signs pointed to no NATO involvement if anything did indeed happen. There were many(!) complaints about that position.

Looking back now, knowing what we know and seeing how it all turned out, do you think it was right to hold the DEFCON level at 5, or do you think it should have been raised?
 

RiffRaff

Deputy Director
Staff member
You know I could (and did) make an argument for either DEFCON 5 or DEFCON 4, but certainly not DEFCON 3. I think staying at DEFCON 5 was justified and we need people to take us seriously by not overreacting. On the flip side, if we are *always* at DEFCON 5 during a crisis like this one, it might backfire and people won't take us seriously for the opposite reason. I think maybe we should examine our threshold for DEFCON 4, but leave the other three levels alone.

By the way, I don't think the Ukraine crisis is over by a long shot. I think it's just in a lull at the moment.
 

Roostah

Member
I believe Blue should have been considered closely as several Russian nuclear capable platforms were deployed during this time of uncertainty. These included the Iskander, Tochka, Msta, SU-24, and SU-34. It is a five level system, and I think OSINT fatigue is dangerous. Thank you and much respect to the community.
 

CreepyMonkey

Active member
Of course its easy to vote now when vision is 20/20. But I held the position and always will that the Director and crew are doing a great job and frankly it isn't "our" DEFCON status. It is this site's DEFCON status and shouldn't be used exclusively to base your judgements off of anyway. So relax and don't tell people when the DEFCON level should change.
 

bartok

Member
If Defcon level was intended to evaluate the risk of a war in a region, it could be 3. But considered that the Defcon level is intended to evaluate the risk of a nuclear war, even a level of 4 it would have been too much! Level 4 meens that a nuclear war is considered possible and both NATO and Russia are preparing to that. Only a direct NATO engagement, or evident, ufficial, credible ultimatums can justify a level 4. For example, IF Russia had established a No Fly Zone over Ukraine and IF NATO had clearly said that Russian fighter-bombers will be shooted-down, IF Russia had said that an aerial shooting by NATO will be considered as an act of war certainly subject to strong retaliation and IF Russia had actually invaded Ukraine and IF a fighter-bomber was actually shooted-down by NATO and IF Russia had responded striking, for example, the NATO position that has shooted to the fighter-bomber... THEN Defcon level would have been 4, considered that just a figher-bomber crashed and a simmetrical retaliation is no sufficient in ordert to consider that a nuclear war is on the verge start.
IF NATO was 100% determinated to not lose Ukraine and started the use of tactical nuke, THEN Defcon level could have been 3, that meens that a nuclear war is likely to start. But in order to have a level 2, it is necessary that the things goes a "littele beyond", for example IF Russia said that the use of tactical nuke could bring to a retaliation on USA territory.
 

RiffRaff

Deputy Director
Staff member
No because at no stage was or has America been at threat.
Our mission statement has recently changed and our DEFCON levels now apply globally, even if the US is not threatened directly. An example of this would be if India and Pakistan exchanged nuclear weapons and no one else got involved, our DEFCON level would go to level 1 during that exchange.
 

Yingyang

Well-known member
Our mission statement has recently changed and our DEFCON levels now apply globally, even if the US is not threatened directly. An example of this would be if India and Pakistan exchanged nuclear weapons and no one else got involved, our DEFCON level would go to level 1 during that exchange.
Oh thankyou for that ,I wasn't aware . Good to know. Still can't see nuclear exchange between those two countries. Unless Europe and or America intervention. Anyway thanks RiffRaff.
 

RiffRaff

Deputy Director
Staff member
Oh thankyou for that ,I wasn't aware . Good to know. Still can't see nuclear exchange between those two countries. Unless Europe and or America intervention. Anyway thanks RiffRaff.
No problem. We might need to issue a reminder statement because you're not the only one who has said they weren't aware of the change.
 

bartok

Member
No problem. We might need to issue a reminder statement because you're not the only one who has said they weren't aware of the change.
Why this change? I am not sure to agree... Defcon is a USA classification of risk for USA territory. Considering that is unlikey that US starts a nuclear war against Mexico, Defcon level is actually focused to the risk of war with Russia, so the level is important for each NATO meber, as to say Europe. But I don't think that Indians look at this site in order to have a refence. And I nuclear war between India and Pakistan is likely to remain local.
 
O

OneConcernedDude

Guest
Why this change? I am not sure to agree... Defcon is a USA classification of risk for USA territory. Considering that is unlikey that US starts a nuclear war against Mexico, Defcon level is actually focused to the risk of war with Russia, so the level is important for each NATO meber, as to say Europe. But I don't think that Indians look at this site in order to have a refence. And I nuclear war between India and Pakistan is likely to remain local.

Fallout would hit neighbooring countries and, along with economic shockwave, cause a lot of trouble for the entire world.

Just because the am*ricans wouldn't get hit does not mean they'd be safe from the consequences.
 

Obreid

Power Poster
Why this change? I am not sure to agree... Defcon is a USA classification of risk for USA territory. Considering that is unlikey that US starts a nuclear war against Mexico, Defcon level is actually focused to the risk of war with Russia, so the level is important for each NATO meber, as to say Europe. But I don't think that Indians look at this site in order to have a refence. And I nuclear war between India and Pakistan is likely to remain local.
Your probably right that a nuclear war with India and Pakistan will likely remain local.
I fear though that almost any nuclear exchange between almost any nation in the club will threaten the risk of escalation amongst them all.
The two previous WW’s spooled up conventionally through regional aggression and capitulation.

There will likely be nothing gradual about any future nuclear exchange. Nations are left with minuets or at most a few hours to assess the attack and respond.
Who, How, Why, More coming, How to respond?
The old Cold War paradigm of this is outdated. It’s not just Russia and America with Europe thrown in as a battle ground.

We’re approaching a dozen countries who have, will soon have or actively pursuing nuclear weapons. As delivery systems improve, well there you go.

If a nuke goes off at Incirlik AirForce base in Turkey.
The US will have almost no time to determine who where how.
Was it a straight on attack from Russia in a plelinanary move in the Mideast or NATO.?
Was it Iranian proxies facilitated by Iran who in turn were facilitated by Russia or China or Was it DPRK.
What’s Erdogan thinking, was this a Zionist attack by Israel, who knows.
The old assumptions of nuclear war calculus are insufficient. Dozens of nations are able to launch devastating non nuclear attacks at distance today rapidly. Where as in the past most nations couldn’t even launch a quick response to defend their boarders let alone strike at another in any significant manner.
That’s what made the whole Russia and NATO going to war over Ukraine so woefully dated.
Russia was never going to war and risk involving greater Europe. Europe is the primary market for their largest export.

In my mind the inclusion of any threat of nuclear exchange world wide was prudent.
India and Pakistan excluded. Unless you include Chines ambitions/embarrassment in Central Asia. Would China jump in and attack India to secure their power in the entirety of the Asian Plateau and Himalayan range. Would India strike at China forces first in Western Asia to insure China didn’t.

In after though the assassination of the archduke was a stupid reason to start a war. But at the time it made complete sense to someone who mattered and so on and so on.
 

RiffRaff

Deputy Director
Staff member
Please keep in mind that in the event of any issuance of DEFCON 3 or higher, we would clearly state in the alert message what countries are at risk, and specifically whether the US might be affected or not. If the only threat appears to be India/Pakistan, for example, we would state repeatedly that there is no imminent threat of nuclear attack against the United States. One of the options we discussed was having two separate DEFCON levels - one for the United States and one for the rest of the world - but we decided that would cause more confusion than the method we are currently using.

The director is correct that we now have a global audience, and that was the motivating factor when we decided to make the change. This organization must evolve to reflect the needs of those who rely on our analysis during a nuclear crisis, and that is no longer limited to just Americans.
 

Vortex

Active member
In my oppinion; If theres tensions that could lead to a war that includes more then the fighting two sides, Defcon 4 is the perfect option. Not to spread fear or doomporn, but you also get peoples attention and raise awarenes.
It's just weird and a bit reckless to keep it at 5 if there could be a full out war and tensions are quite tense.
 

RiffRaff

Deputy Director
Staff member
In my oppinion; If theres tensions that could lead to a war that includes more then the fighting two sides, Defcon 4 is the perfect option. Not to spread fear or doomporn, but you also get peoples attention and raise awarenes.
It's just weird and a bit reckless to keep it at 5 if there could be a full out war and tensions are quite tense.
Bear in mind that we would not raise the DEFCON level for a conventional war. It is only when the possibility of nuclear weapons being used in combat comes into play that we would raise the level.
 

Vortex

Active member
Bear in mind that we would not raise the DEFCON level for a conventional war. It is only when the possibility of nuclear weapons being used in combat comes into play that we would raise the level.
I am well aware about this, but how can you determine that nukes are a possibility?
Is it enough if a county has nuclear capabilitys? Or does it take more then that, like threatening of usage?
The lines would be pretty thin then.

Murica also hold some nuclear weapons, and starting wars pretty much everywhere in the middle east.
 

RiffRaff

Deputy Director
Staff member
I am well aware about this, but how can you determine that nukes are a possibility?
Is it enough if a county has nuclear capabilitys? Or does it take more then that, like threatening of usage?
The lines would be pretty thin then.

Murica also hold some nuclear weapons, and starting wars pretty much everywhere in the middle east.
Every conflict is unique and there are multiple factors in determining how high the threshold for use of nuclear weapons is in each case. A conventional war started by India/Pakistan? The threshold is much lower to go nuclear than it is for NATO/Russia/China and so we would probably be quicker on the draw. In that specific instance, the rationality of the leadership on both sides and the many decades that conflict has simmered on slow boil would be big factors.

With this last instance of NATO/Russia, we made the determination very early that Russia probably only had designs on the SE corner of Ukraine, and a full-scale invasion of Ukraine or further into the EU was not likely. Our assessment was - and still is - that as long as the US and NATO stay out of that conflict, it will remain conventional and localized to that small region. If that condition were to change, we would immediately reassess the situation and adjust the DEFCON level accordingly.

As for the Middle East, those conflicts have been raging for longer than America has been a country, so we are hardly "starting" wars over there. Are we making things worse? Yes, probably. But the history of that region has been bloody for thousands of years. The creation of the State of Israel after World War 2 did not help matters, but that was a UN decision, not solely America. With Israel being the only nuclear superpower in that region, the risk of a nuclear war is low, with the exception of Iran. The stability of Iran's leadership and the possibility that they might have secretly acquired nuclear weapons makes them a wild card.

The following is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization:
It is only a matter of time before a nuclear weapon is detonated by a hostile entity, but it most likely won't be one nation state attacking another nation state. Anybody with an Internet connection and access to the proper materials can construct a very crude single-stage low-yield nuclear device that could fit in the back of a cargo van. I'm honestly surprised it hasn't happened yet. I could easily build one in my garage and the most difficult part of the entire process would not be the construction of the device, but obtaining enough properly refined Uranium to achieve a nuclear detonation.

Indianapolis has twice been used for drills involving the detonation of a terrorist-built nuclear weapon; once in 1986, and again in 2007. I was privy to some of the information from the one in 2007, involving a police pursuit of a van suspected to be carrying a nuclear device, with the terrorist detonating the weapon on the NE side of Indianapolis near I-465 and I-69 and all the resulting blast and fallout effects. DHS considers it to be such a likely threat that it is labeled "National Response Scenario Number One" in the National Response Framework. Number 1 out of 15 most likely national emergency scenarios to impact the United States. That alone should tell you something.

So while our DEFCON levels are useful to civilians to gauge the seriousness of any conflict around the world, it is basically useless against a terrorist nuclear attack because it will happen with no warning whatsoever, probably while we are at DEFCON 5. We would go to DEFCON 1 immediately, of course, but it would be too late for the people in the targeted city or cities. This is why we repeatedly tell people that NOW is the time to prepare for a nuclear attack. Not tomorrow, not when we reach DEFCON 2, but NOW. If you wait for a warning from us to prepare, it will be too late.
 
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