If you want to have your sleep disturbed tonight, take a look at “ Plan A ”. Developed by the science and global security programme at Princeton University, the computer simulation projects how a single tactical nuclear strike with limited yield from one side is enough to trigger a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and the United States – and global Armageddon. Its realism is based on the current US and Russian “force postures, nuclear war plans, and nuclear weapons targets”. Thanks to Vladimir Putin, nuclear war is back on the global agenda. For people of my generation who grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation only to live to see its end, its return is most unwelcome, and frankly more than a little disturbing. If you wonder why US President Joe Biden and his White House lieutenants have been busy in the past two days backtracking – while denying he is doing so – over his apparently unscripted comments about removing Putin from power, Plan A is the ultimate reason. “I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward this man,” Biden told a group of reporters while rejecting criticism that he misspoke. But he said no one should interpret his “personal” remarks as calling for Putin’s ouster as that is not official US policy, which has remained unchanged, whatever it is. That’s a lot of verbal contortion from the 79-year-old. China hammers home its message of US blame for Ukraine war If Russia didn’t have a nuclear arsenal, you can be sure Washington would now be busy engineering Putin’s ouster, just as it did with Saddam Hussein (successfully) and Bashar al-Assad (unsuccessfully). But then, if he didn’t have nukes, it’s doubtful Putin would have dared to launch his invasion of Ukraine. For then, Nato and American forces would have been much less reticent about intervening directly. So, I take it back (from a previous column); and other critics of US foreign policy should too, at least in this instance. Instead of blaming American “hypocrisy” for urging the Ukrainians to fight while refusing to commit its own troops, perhaps the world should thank it. You don’t want to corner someone with his finger on the nuclear button. Morality aside, it’s a fact of international politics that a nuclear-capable power – Russia – can launch a conventional war against a non-nuclear country without fear of intervention by other nuclear peers friendly with the country under attack. Likewise, a nuclear-capable power – North Korea – is secure against invasion and regime change, however underdeveloped, poor and repressive in every other respect. That’s why Kim Jong-un most probably sleeps much more soundly at night than Assad. It has been one of history’s ironies that Ukraine secured US support and achieved independence after the Cold War by agreeing to hand over its entire Soviet nuclear arsenal to post-Soviet Russia. If Washington had allowed it to retain a few nukes, as was briefly considered, Putin would never have dared to invade today. ‘Example to the world’: Taiwan prepares to host global democracy meeting So, what of mainland China and Taiwan? I wish Princeton’s security programme would develop another computer simulation, this time between China and the US. People need to be shaken out of their complacency and self-righteousness. Given the nuclear capabilities of the mainland, the island of Taiwan should never assume that the US will come to its rescue militarily. A self-declared independent but non-nuclear Taiwan is a sitting duck despite all the military might of the US. All the current “salami-slicing” between Washington and Taipei towards the island’s independence is getting too obvious – and threatening to Beijing. All the “unity” of the West, now supposedly on display with the war in Ukraine, will not help Taiwan. When it comes to nukes, neither Europe nor Asia, especially Japan, would want to get involved. That just leaves the US. Every Taiwanese needs to ask: how far do you want to place your life and your children’s lives in the hands of Americans? Beijing has offered, and will continue to offer, plenty of carrots. So far as Taiwan is concerned, let’s show some finesse and diplomacy across the Strait – for your own sake and the sake of world peace. Let’s not follow the Bear-poking Volodymyr Zelensky and needlessly provoke the Panda.