A recent study by Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security (SGS) developed a simulation of an escalating war between the United States and Russia. SGS, founded in 1974, conducts scientific, technical and policy research, analysis and outreach to advance national and international policies for a safer and more peaceful world.
The simulation is based on realistic nuclear force postures, targets and fatality estimates. According to their estimates, more than 90 million people would be killed or injured within the first few hours of the conflict. The study comes in the wake of what SGS considers a growing risk of nuclear conflict following the abandonment of nuclear agreements The SGS assessment was illustrated by a four-minute video depicting a conflict that escalates from a conventional confrontation to a full-on nuclear war.
The study, based on estimates of existing nuclear capabilities and protocols, set the immediate casualties at 90 million but noted that the figure would probably grow significantly.
In the opening stages, the SGS suggests a scenario in which North American Treaty Alliance (NATO) troops threaten Russia which responds with a nuclear “warning shot.” NATO retaliates with a single tactical airstrike. Russia responds by sending 300 nuclear warheads via aircrat and short-range missiles targeting NATO bases and troops. NATO retaliates with 180 warheads in similar strikes against Russia. SGS estimates some 2.6 million dead in the first three hours of the conflict.
“With Europe destroyed NATO launches a strategic nuclear strike of 600 warheads from U.S. land and submarine-based missiles aimed at Russian nuclear forces,” SGS wrote. “Before losing its weapons systems, Russia launches on warning, responding with missies launched from silos, road-mobile vehicles, and submarines.”
SGS predicts another 3.4 million dead over the next 45 minutes of confrontation.
In the next stage, Russia and NATO will target the 30 most populous enemy cities and key economic centers. Each target will be assigned 5-10 nuclear warheads. Over the next 45 minutes, SGS estimates 85.3 million people will become casualties.
The final tally is set at 91.5 million casualties: 34.1 million deaths within the first few hours and 57.4 million wounded.
“All fatality estimates are limited to acute deaths from nuclear explosions and would be significantly increased by deaths occurring from nuclear fallout and other long-term effects,” the study noted.
The simulation is based on Nukemap, a website that can simulate different types of nuclear strikes anywhere in the world and estimate the resulting casualties.
As disturbing as the SGS simulation is, it may be considered as an accurate depiction of the pre-Messiah war of Gog and Magog. The War of Gog and Magog is described in prophecy as being an unusually short war. A tradition from the Vilna Gaon (a prominent 18th century Torah authority) teaches that the war of Gog and Magog will last 12 minutes.
This 18th-century prophecy of a 12-minute war was surprising, as it came several hundred years before the advent of nuclear weapons. Conventional wars necessarily last much longer and such a quick war was inconceivable at the time. Nonetheless, such a short war, possibly a nuclear exchange, may have been hinted at in the Bible.
At eventide behold terror; and before the morning they are not. Isaiah 17:14
The prophecy hints at a swift and all-encompassing catastrophe similar to nuclear war. Nuclear scenarios of the magnitude suggested by the SGS simulation are hinted at in Biblical prophecy, most notably in Isaiah. His description of bomb shelters is clear.
And men shall go into the caves of the rocks, and into the holes of the earth, from before the terror of Hashem, and from the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake mightily the earth. Isaiah 2:19
The prophet describes with disturbing accuracy nuclear winter, a period of abnormal cold and darkness following a nuclear war, caused by a layer of smoke and dust in the atmosphere blocking the sun’s rays.
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. Isaiah 13:10
The last chapter of Isaiah describes nuclear war in spiritual terms.
For by fire will Hashem contend, and by His sword with all flesh; and the slain of Hashem shall be many. Isaiah 66:16
Governments of all the major countries actively considered these scenarios during the Cold War era that lasted from the period of post World War II Soviet expansionism in 1947 until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It was referred to as the Cold War since the Soviet Union and U.S. never really waged combat but more than half a century was characterized by huge military expenditures and proxy wars around the world. Underlying the non-war was a philosophy of mutually assured destruction referred to by the apt acronym MAD.
During much of the Cold War, the United States’ nuclear plan was known as the SIOP, or the Single Integrated Operating Plan. According to the SIOP produced in 1962, a nuclear attack at that time would have resulted in 335 million Chinese and Russian dead within the first seventy-two hours. A 1978 report prepared for the Pentagon’s Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), “The Effects of Nuclear War,” estimated that a relatively modest and somewhat restrain Soviet attack could be estimated to kill between sixty and eighty-eight million Americans, or roughly one third of the U.S. population at that time. It was conjectured that long-term problems might kill more people than the attack itself.
This horrifying possibility of one-third of the population being wiped out in a nuclear was is mild compared to the scale of the Gog and Magog War described in the Book of Zechariah. The prophet states that fully two-thirds of Israel will die in the War of Gog and Magog.
Throughout the land —declares Hashem— Two-thirds shall perish, shall die, And one-third of it shall survive. That third I will put into the fire, And I will smelt them as one smelts silver And test them as one tests gold. They will invoke Me by name, And I will respond to them. I will declare, “You are My people,” And they will declare, “Hashem is our God!” Zechariah 13:8-9
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, put this into perspective.
“According to the midrash, the birds of the world will be feasting on the bodies of those killed in Gog and Magog for 12 years,” Rabbi Berger said. “The prophet came to warn Israel but just as every person in the world was affected by World War II, no one, Jew or non-Jew, will be able to avoid the horror of Gog and Magog.”
“According to Jewish law, a person can not be determined to be guilty until after he has been warned,” Rabbi Berger explained. “When the prophets described Gog and Magog, they were telling the Nation of Israel what would surely happen if they did not do tshuva (repent). But this is not an individual repentance. This includes the entire community. So one holy man will protect the entire city, like what might have happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. In a larger sense, the non-Jews can earn merit by clinging to the righteous among the Jews.”
“Gog and Magog will be fought mostly by those who hate Israel,” Rabbi Berger said. “They will all be wiped out and only those who love Israel, the Bible, and Hashem will remain.”