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Countries can have nuclear weapons of their own (e.g. Russia, US) or be protected by them through alliances (e.g. Baltic states via NATO, Belarus via Collective Security Treaty Organization, Warsaw pact countries under USSR).

While there have been accidents, brief incursions, and minor skirmishes involving nuclear-protected countries, are there any examples of significant military engagements against a nuclear-protected country?

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    You know what, I completely agree that the question could have been looked up. But... Virtually every question asked on all of Stack Overflow can be looked up provided that you look deep enough. The beauty of this platform is that you do not only get answers, but also opinions, and all that nicely grouped together and therefor in context and related to the question. Feb 27 at 15:39
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    IDK, that's a lot of looking up and rabbit holes to go down. Which nations that are capable and willing to destroy the entire world in a first strike, have never had another sovereign nation's boots on its continental soil? - That means no territories, so Britain is out. "NFU" : India is out. IDT Pakistan can; they're out. sovereign nation : terrorists are out. - And my final caveat that doesn't fit that sentence: can't share a border (nor previously have been a country in it, so the rest of the world can conveniently ignore your 'civil war').
    – Mazura
    Feb 27 at 19:56
  • Not any. Which. America, Britain, Russia, Germany.... none of them have ever stepped on each other's toes in their own countries. (?) That's why we go play war games in Afghanistan for the last 40 years.
    – Mazura
    Feb 27 at 19:59
  • I've had this question for years. The answer is not to be found by 'googling'. It requires a dissertation. All I know is that there were some Russians on some Aleutian Island, and a few Japanese submariners in the Gulf. Other than that, America is a no. - Who's had boots on their ground that they could've nuked where they came from? A bunch of countries in the Middle East; wow big surprise. (final caveat, if you've been fighting for 2000y it doesn't count).
    – Mazura
    Feb 27 at 20:14

5 Answers 5

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India and Pakistan.

India most likely completed weaponized nuclear warheads around 1994 and tested them in 1998. Pakistan also tested their first nuclear weapons in 1998.

Both had a war in 1999, the Kargil War that lasted almost three months and resulted in a few hundred (official figures) to a 1000-2000 (claims) casualties on each side.

So, for your question they both would count unless you think that is not significant enough.


As another potential case: Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons since ~1960-63 and was since then involved in the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition , the Yom Kippur War, Lebanon Wars, Intifadas, Gaza Wars and some smaller stuff like being bombarded by missiles from Iraq. For a list of all involved countries see this table.

So if you believe that Israel really has nuclear weapons and is a nuclear-"protected" country, then Israel would definitely be such a country.

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The Falklands War ("a ten-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and its territorial dependency, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands"), would probably qualify.

The UK had nuclear weapons in 1982.

While this war was undeclared, it was without a doubt significant. This war from 40 years ago, is the most notable episode of active naval warfare that has taken place in the world in the time period after the Vietnam War. Wikipedia sums up the casualties and losses of the parties to the war (the left column is the U.K., the right column is Argentina):

enter image description here

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    Not sure if I would count an attack on a country's territories that are halfway around the world for this question.
    – Joe W
    Feb 25 at 23:15
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    @JoeW How different is that from Pearl Harbor (which, obviously, immediately preceded the age of nuclear weapons)?
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 25 at 23:16
  • A country being willing to go to war over the attack of a territory isn't the question but what happens once you mix in nuclear weapons. I think you would find there is a difference when you compare the two.
    – Joe W
    Feb 26 at 0:04
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – JBentley
    Feb 26 at 16:18
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Perhaps Israel... or perhaps not, as it adheres to the policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming, nor denying that it has nuclear weapons.

If Israel did have nuclear weapons, then the first nuclear tests would have been carried out somewhere in early 60s - that is before some major military engagements: in 1967 (Six Days War) and 1973 (Yom Kippour War), as well as a slow-burning War of Attrition in between.

1973 was certainly a significant attack, whereas the war of 1967, although technically started by Israel, is widely considered as a pre-emptive action against an imminent attack.

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    FWIW, I think it is unlikely that Israel had operational nuclear weapons as of 1973, even though it may have been developing them at the time.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 25 at 23:05
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    It does appear that nuclear weapon use was strongly considered by Israel in Yom Kipur War: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur_War#U.S._aid_to_Israel
    – Justas
    Feb 26 at 13:21
  • @Justas indeed, I though about mentioning this in my answer when I was writing it. However, in view of the ambiguity policy, this remains an unverified verified information. Feb 27 at 6:49
  • @RogerVadim unverified information? Doesn't your whole answer hinge around the unverified claim that Israel may have had nuclear weapons? Feb 27 at 21:24
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    @LioElbammalf You are entitled for your own opinion about the relevance of this piece of information, but don't speak for everybody. Feb 28 at 10:16
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The Sino-Soviet border conflict was a seven-month undeclared military conflict between the Soviet Union and China in 1969, following the Sino-Soviet split. The most serious border clash, which brought the world's two largest communist states to the brink of war, occurred in March 1969 near Zhenbao (Damansky) Island on the Ussuri (Wusuli) River, near Manchuria. The conflict resulted in a ceasefire, which led to a return to the status quo.

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I think the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington DC qualify here as well. Yes it was not an attack by an other country, but is was an attack, it did result in war and most, if not all, NATO allies supported the US during the attacks on Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda that followed these attacks.

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    It's worth adding also that Al Qaeda (who carried out the attacks) had links to the Taliban (Afghanistan's government). While it might not qualify as an attack by a country, it could arguably count as a proxy attack.
    – JBentley
    Feb 27 at 15:32
  • Problem is that if no country attacks, then you cannot strike back with nuclear weapons, so bring "protected" by nuclear weapons doesn't work. Al Queda also could not have conquered the US. Terrorism works differently than war.
    – Trilarion
    Feb 27 at 22:02

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