Small scale nuclear wars that could have happened?

What were some times when a small scale nuclear war could have taken place not one that ends the world but just one that affects some region or nation? To me the main thing that comes to mind is India and Pakistan but North Korea might also be a possibility.
 
North Korea has very few nuclear weapons relatively. But the weapons it possesses, if used, can cause terrible devastation. It is highly unlikely there can be a scenario where even a small nuclear power like North Korea would use them on a "small scale". Because the response is not going to be. It would mean the end of North Korea, probably South Korea as well.

It also depends on the following attitude towards nuclear weapons by the othernuclear powers after they have actually been used between nuclear powers. Are they more willing or less?
 
Pakistan and India have had a few disagreements that if they had gone horribly wrong. could have seen a Nuclear war.

The Mad man in North Korea could i suppose have tossed a Nuke.

And at the outermost limits China and the USSR could have escalated to nukes in the late 60s, but i am jot sure how many nukes china hadcby then? Much less how they could have delivered them.

The truth is that the bigger powers Such as England France the USSR and the US and China in the last few decades, cant toss nukes at each other without it going all the way, because it is all but impossible to stop lobbing them in a horrid game of tit for tat. Unless one side runs out or one sides gets smashed amd stops fighting. Do you need a small nuclear power with few bombs.
 
Small list off the top of my head (they might have already been mentioned by other users):
  • 1950-1953: The Korean War goes hot, and US nukes are used against China.
  • 1956: Suez Crisis
  • 1958: Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
  • 1969: Sino-Soviet border conflict escalates into a full-blown nuclear war between the USSR and the PRC
  • 1973: Yom Kippur War
  • 1991: Gulf War (Israel v. Iraq to be exact)
  • 1985-1992: South Africa, the fall of Apartheid is violent, and SA uses its small nuclear weapon stockpile as a last-ditch desperation move
  • 1994: North Korean nuclear crisis
  • 2013-2017: North Korea or someone else does something stupid in the Korean Peninsula
  • 2000-present (risking going into current politics territory): Israel vs. Iran proxy conflict goes hot.
 
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I think if the US had used a few Nuclear weapons during the Korean War, its likelier that they would be used again in a future conflict between a superpower and a lesser nation.

I'm thinking Vietnam and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.
Is it true that the notion that nuclear weapons are apocalyptic devices with almost supernatural/religious powers didn't become mainstream in popular imagination until the 1970s?, before that, the nuclear superpowers just saw nukes as very big bombs, and in a TL like this, they would surely be used very liberally, and would not be seen as a "do not use at any cost or this will cause human extinction".

I am not downplaying the devastation of nuclear war, just pointing out that some of the fears about it and the way of how fiction portrays nuclear wars are cultural views that change and evolve as the decades go by, same with how nuclear winter is a pseudo-scientific myth that is still popular til this day.
 
Is it true that the notion that nuclear weapons are apocalyptic devices with almost supernatural/religious powers didn't become mainstream in popular imagination until the 1970s?, before that, the nuclear superpowers just saw nukes as very big bombs, and in a TL like this, they would surely be used very liberally, and would not be seen as a "do not use at any cost or this will cause human extinction".

I am not downplaying the devastation of nuclear war, just pointing out that some of the fears about it and the way of how fiction portrays nuclear wars are cultural views that change and evolve as the decades go by, same with how nuclear winter is a pseudo-scientific myth that is still popular til this day.
Agreed it’s always considered a all or nothing weapon
In effect that makes them incredibly impotent weapons but very potent bargaining tools
 
Taiwan's nuke program in the 1980s goes uncovered and they manage to squeeze out several gravity bombs by the early 1990s.

The Mainland panics (it was Taipei's policy to plan to restart the Chinese Civil War, and in very recent memory if that policy had been discontinued in the 1990s) and since the only way the PLA in the early 1990s could every hope to touch Taiwan was to use nukes...
 
The Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis break the blockade by use of their nuclear torpedoes. One or two to make a point, afterwards each other threatens nuclear war but eventually cooler heads prevail and the blockade fails. (The US at that time still believed in a Soviet nuclear supremacy)
 
Taiwan's nuke program in the 1980s goes uncovered and they manage to squeeze out several gravity bombs by the early 1990s.

The Mainland panics (it was Taipei's policy to plan to restart the Chinese Civil War, and in very recent memory if that policy had been discontinued in the 1990s) and since the only way the PLA in the early 1990s could every hope to touch Taiwan was to use nukes...

Wait. is Taiwan believed to have nuclear weapons?
 
I'm surprised no one has speculated on South Africa's nuclear weapons. Although it's hard to see a realistic scenario where they do South Africa any good.

I recall that in the 70s, both Brazil and Argentina had nuclear weapons programs. Both were abandoned. But I could potentially imagine Argentina risking a nuclear weapon against a British naval target in the Falklands War. Or say a hypothetical Argentina-Chilean war which goes horribly wrong - not impossible given the incompetence of the Argentine military.
 
I'm surprised no one has speculated on South Africa's nuclear weapons. Although it's hard to see a realistic scenario where they do South Africa any good.

I recall that in the 70s, both Brazil and Argentina had nuclear weapons programs. Both were abandoned. But I could potentially imagine Argentina risking a nuclear weapon against a British naval target in the Falklands War. Or say a hypothetical Argentina-Chilean war which goes horribly wrong - not impossible given the incompetence of the Argentine military.
Or an Argentinian Brazilian nuclear war.
 
A nuclear country vs a non nuclear country is alwas possible as the nuclear side can use as many or as few as they want and not get an end of world kind of things and as was pointed outcthis is the only way they have ever been used .. The US had them and Japan didnt.

But a few thoughts.
1) if the US used Nukes in Korea then i agree we are MUCH more likely to see them used this way again latter with a nuclear piwer using them on non nuclear powers.

2) I a nuclear torpedo is used off Cuba we are 99.9% likly to get a full WW3 exchange. That situation was way way to tense to avoid it and the fisrt Nuke is goingvto start the dominos falling and way to fast for anyone to stop.

3) The idea that Nukes were something beyond just big bombs was alwas there otherwise the US would have stopped China with them in Korea in the 50s. The advent of Hydrogen Bombs and the large increase in power reinforced that these were something other then big bombs and where a separate category. a true WMD. Where as it was possible with to equal the destruction of the A-Bomb with enough conventions bombs dropped from a huge number of bombers the H-Bomb was such that no practical number of bombers could drop enough bombs to equal it,
But it was the combination of every more powerful bombs, ICBM and MIRV warheads that turned them into the ultimate weapon. Then it was the realization of how many Nuclear ICBMs the world had that Started the whole “world ending” fear. Nukes had been feared for what they could do for a long time. But it was the “Nuclear Winter” that started the whole, it will kill every human on the planet bit. This was in fact a bit exaggerated. Nukes are not THAT powerful and Nuclear winter was a bit exaggerated. But they can and will destroy/kill most modern countries as they can easily break the various chains needed to keep high teck going and most folks alive, I think Covid showed us all jow easy it is to mess up say the food delivery or any production chain. So a full nuclear exchange is going to see millions if not Billions die when food stops showing up at the local grocery store and medice stops showing up at the pharmacy and hospitals. And Advanced production will die as it is to spread out so the production of any given thing will fail when one part in the supply chain is destroyed, And this will snowball until you cant build anything with any technology. So the world was we know it ending fear from the 1970s is both right and wrong. It is wrong becaues it was based on Nuckear winter making it inpossible for humans to live anywhere on earth. And that wont happen. But it was right in that any modern country will lose most its population and all its technology as it will be to damaged and everything is interconected.
 
One (IMVHO disturbingly possible) option:
A smaller nation chooses to use biowar, gas, or even a dirty bomb on a nuclear power, and is disturbingly successful. Most likely it's on deployed troops, but possibly in its homeland. One way to do so might be for a disaster like the Bhopal Chemical Plant leak to be a result of hostile action, or to be blamed on hostile action.
Retaliation against a WMD is another WMD...and most nations, at least officially, don't have gas or bioweapons.

There were also times when, at least from the POV of some, and India-Pakistan war could have broken out, and both nations have nuclear weapons.
 
It was strongly implied in 1991 that if Saddam used gas or BW on Coalition forces, or on civilian targets in the Gulf, there would be nuclear retaliation. Jim Baker, when he had the meeting with Tariq Aziz a week before the balloon went up, gave the Iraqis a note which strongly suggested that would be the case in the event of any WMD use. Not striking Baghdad, mind, but, say, the CW plants at Samarra and Habbiniyah....

There was a serious proposal (it was mentioned in Schwartzkopf's memoirs and at least two other books on the Gulf War) to strike 12 known BW storage bunkers with low-yield nuclear weapons. It went pretty high up, but then planners found another way to deal with the problem: striking the power plants nearby-and the backup generators on the storage facilities-would do the job just as well: the lack of power meant the temperatures inside the storage bunkers would go outside the range needed to keep the BW material viable. Too hot or too cold, and the bugs die.
 
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