What does a nuclear test do, after all? There is clearly some confusion.

It’s not a show of strength. Not for the US. It offers no advantages in bargaining. It would - at best - demonstrate a capability already well-known to exist, at the price of international opprobrium.
To the contrary, for an advanced nuclear power like the US, testing would be a sign of weakness, a concession that we lack confidence in our technology and require added reassurance.
But just under the surface of a lot of nuclear policy debate lurks a frustration. All of this extraordinary destructive power doesn’t actually provide much control over outcomes. It’s far, far too blunt an instrument.
Advocates talk about the daily “use” of nuclear weapons to shape the perceptions and influence the behavior of other states, but this is largely hypothetical. There is still a desire to exercise this power more concretely somehow, to establish a dominant bargaining position.
If anyone really wanted to make sure that Russia and China aren’t conducting very-low-yield tests, they could negotiate access to the test sites. Flipping the table of the nuclear test moratorium - or hinting that you might - isn’t a way to get there.
Bottom line: no state can harness its nuclear capabilities to a wish to dictate to others. Not short of a credible threat to annihilate someone. No move, however clever or dramatic, can solve this problem. (End)
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