With Afghanistan teetering and inflation roaring back to life, what other 1970s throwbacks are awaiting to make their 21st century debuts?

How about a rising possibility of nuclear combat?

A newly released Pentagon study – updated in 2020 – warns: “there is an increased potential for regional conflicts involving nuclear-armed adversaries in several parts of the world and the potential for adversary nuclear escalation in crisis or conflict.”

As Steven Aftergood writes, the report includes…

…an assessment that the threat from potential adversaries has grown even as the US nuclear posture is said to have been moderated:

“While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russia and China, have moved in the opposite direction. They have added new types of nuclear capabilities to their arsenal, increased the salience of nuclear forces in their strategies and plans, and engaged in increasingly aggressive behavior.”

“Russia’s strategic nuclear modernization has increased, and will continue to increase, its warhead delivery capability, which provides Russia with the ability to rapidly expand its deployed warhead numbers.”

“China continues to increase the number, capabilities, and protection of its nuclear forces.”

“North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities poses the most immediate and dire proliferation threat to international security and stability.”

“Iran’s development of increasingly long-range ballistic missile capabilities, and its aggressive strategy and activities to destabilize neighboring governments, raises questions about its long-term commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons capability.”

Given the mounting threat, DoD said, “Flexible and limited US nuclear response options can play an important role in restoring deterrence following limited adversary nuclear escalation.”

It’s not duck and cover time. But it is worth remembering that even as our own political class ties itself in knots over trivia and gotchas, the authoritarian regimes elsewhere are playing for keeps.