Buffett calls every day a 'coin flip' when it comes to nuclear weapons

Buffett said it's hard to predict what will happen in a 'very, very dangerous world'

Warren Buffett had no answers but plenty of caution about the threat and impact of nuclear weapons, saying that every day is living with "flipping a coin."  

"The world is flipping a coin every day whether people who can literally destroy the planet as we know it and will do it," Buffett said to an audience of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders Saturday. "Unfortunately, the major problem is that people who have large stocks of nuclear weapons and ICBMs." 

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"They talk about using tactical nuclear weapons … if someone is willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people with tactical nuclear weapons, why would they stop there?" he added. "It’s a very, very dangerous world."

The question, submitted by a shareholder, asked about the impact of nuclear weapons on Berkshire’s operations and outlooks. The company maintains a number of insurance operations, and a nuclear attack would severely impact the company’s operations as a result. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BRK.A BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. 415,850.00 +6,900.00 +1.69%
BRK.B BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. 277.50 +4.48 +1.64%

"For certain things, we don't write policies on because we wouldn't be able to make good on them anyway," Buffett said. "And everybody would know we wouldn't be able to make on them. 

"So you have that risk. And there's nothing Berkshire can protect you against."

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The concern over nuclear weapons has increased in the past month as Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised threats of nuclear attack and tested new weapons, such as the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile – a weapon that Putin says would provide "food for thought for those who … try to threaten our country." 

But neither Buffett nor Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger appear to be fretting over the situation. Munger made a rare interruption to say that the company "doesn’t have "any way of predicting if there’s going to be a nuclear attack."

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"I know a man who said "I know what I’m going to do if there’s a nuclear war: I’m going to crawl under table and kiss my a** goodbye," Munger added, prompting laughter from the crowd.