The tripolar nuclear age could put human survival at risk. But some experts cite a number of three-body lessons from nature — starting with Newton’s — that illuminate the issue and suggest possible ways forward.
Physicists have long explored how phenomena in groups of three can sow chaos. A new three-body problem, they warn, could lead to not only global races for new armaments but also thermonuclear war. . If achieved, the rise would represent a fivefold increase from the “minimum deterrent” that Beijing possessed for more than a half-century and would make it a nuclear peer of Moscow and Washington.
Dr. Newman calls the tripolar state “much less resilient” than the bipolar standoff. Even so, three-body theorists see a number of ways that the unthinkable might be avoided.
For instance, Dr. Krepinevich, in a Foreign Affairs article last year, argued that Moscow could fade into economic and strategic insignificance, leaving a strong Beijing and Washington to “navigate their way to a new bipolar equilibrium.” The armed revolt over the weekend in Russia drives home not only Moscow’s weakness but the threat of new instability in an atomic superpower.
On a different note, Siegfried S. Hecker , a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, argued that Washington should aim to deal with the rival superpowers as separate entities.
“I don’t see Russia and China getting together” on atomic strategies, he said. “I see it as two bipolars.” As the Ukraine war rages and Washington has little interaction with Moscow…