Although both had enough nuclear weapons in stock to destroy the other several times over, there was never a direct conflict between the US and the USSR. In Korea, it was China that entered the lists against MacArthur and not the Soviet Union, which remained off the battlefield despite urgent pleas by Mao Zedong that his "fraternal ally" join in the effort to remove the US military from the Korean peninsula. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) developed the art of the proxy war, assisting other countries to fight the US, without itself getting involved in combat. This was most successful in Vietnam, where the US was forced to withdraw in defeat after more than 15 years spent battling a numerically and technologically inferior enemy. The fact that either country could pulverize the other, even after a devastating nuclear first strike, kept the peace. The doctrine that a balance of nuclear terror could keep the peace was known as MAD (or Mutually Assured Destruction). It was anything but that, although analysts in the "developed" parts of the world sniffed at suggestions that barbarians such as Indians and Pakistanis too would ensure an avoidance of nuclear war between themselves. Especially during the Clinton administration (1992-2001), "South Asia experts" secured considerable amounts of funding from "peace" foundations for writing tracts purporting to show that India and Pakistan were "on the edge" of a nuclear war, and only vigorous intervention by the "civilised world" (namely themselves) could avert such an outcome. This crescendo of noise reached a peak during 2002, when Atal Behari Vajpayee mobilised hundreds of thousands of troops to go to temporary billets near the Pakistan border, without any intention of ever using them. Vajpayee was a showman, and Operation Parakram was nothing but that, show.
Robert Blackwill was rewarded for defaming India as a potential nuclear flashpoint by the UPA making him a PR agent for India, at a cost in dollars of nearly a million a year.
That there was zero risk of war became clear from the behaviour of Chinese diplomats in Delhi. Nobody knows the Pakistan Army better than the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and if there were the slightest risk of war, much less a nuclear conflict, Beijing would have ordered its diplomats to leave both India and Pakistan. That they stayed put in both countries showed that the PLA was confident that Vajpayee was merely posturing when he shifted nearly a half-million troops to points along the Pakistan border. However, this was not clear to diplomats from the NATO bloc, who got into a panic. The most hysteria was shown by US envoy Robert Blackwill, who in a terrified state ordered every one of the 65,000 US citizens then in India to leave. They were accompanied by other nationals from countries that were reeking with fear about a possible nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Almost all members of this stampede of the cowards were NATO allies, not surprising considering the fact that this particular military alliance only goes to war against those countries that are harmless in terms of conventional capabilities. In the Blackwill-created 2002 flight from India, even the Israelis, otherwise known to be cool-headed, joined the exodus. Except of course for a few tourists who did not think a nuclear exchange reason enough to prematurely leave a country that they loved to visit. As for Robert Blackwill, given the masochistic propensities of the Indian establishment towards outsiders, he was rewarded for defaming India as a potential nuclear flashpoint by the UPA making him a PR agent for India, at a cost in dollars of nearly a million a year! Perhaps Manmohan Singh ought to consider giving a like assignment to past and present heads of Pakistan's ISI, for the way in which they (in the manner of Blackwill) have sought to damage Indian interests.
During the 2002 bogus crises created by Vajpayee's posturing across the border with Pakistan, this columnist had argued in print that India and Pakistan had the same chance of going into a nuclear war with each other as the USSR and the US did, which was near-zero. That the military establishments of both countries were as rational in their calculations as those of Moscow and Washington, and consequently would keep away from catastrophe. Almost all of India's security analysts argued otherwise. Unlike this columnist, almost all had the benefit of generous scholarships that enabled them to nest for long periods of time in thinktanks and universities in the NATO countries, principally the US. Together with hamburgers and steak, they were given generous dollops of false probabilities of irrational behaviour by the Indian and Pakistani sides, all of which got swallowed with zest and regurgitated as "expert" analyses that took the same position on issues as the thinktanks and foundations that had sponsored their sabbaticals. However, the fact was — and is — that if MAD worked in keeping the nuclear peace between the US and the USSR, so would it in the case of India and Pakistan.
MAD gave the US the immunity from direct retaliation it needed to pay the Soviets back for Vietnam, by funding the Afghan insurgency. Today, a new version of MAD has appeared, only this time it is Mutually Assured Destruction of the Economy (or MADE). Pairs in which a direct military conflict with each other would create unbearable economic damage are now in the same situation as the US and the USSR was during the Cold War. Either side dare not take on the other. Today, MADE is operating in favour of China, which — although militarily inferior to the US — knows that an attack on it would cause such severe economic damage to the economies of NATO partners as to be unthinkable. This immunity is the reason why China can encourage the Pakistan Army to hasten the retreat of NATO from Afghanistan by helping the Taliban. Indeed, China is now using Pakistan against NATO the same way that Islamabad was used by Washington against Moscow in the 1980s, by encouraging forces hostile to the alliance in Afghanistan. Beijing knows that the economic and financial linkage between itself and the NATO economies is too pervasive for the alliance to go to war against it. This has given China the flexibility needed to mount asymmetrical challenges to NATO worldwide. If MAD kept the peace during the Cold War, MADE will keep the peace between a rapidly rising China and the US, despite the former's adoption of the ISI's strategy of "death by a thousand cuts" to the enemy.