The Nuclear Spectre: Threats From An Angry Dictator
Ever since the first two nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the world was not the same. Robert Oppenheimer, the man in charge of the first successful detonation said: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Justifications were found by historians and tacticians, but the bomb was never used. During the Korean War, general Douglas MacArthur had such plans but was quickly sent home.
The destructive force of the atom kept us away. In 1949 the Soviets had their own bomb. Now, the two superpowers could annihilate each other. In fact, the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction kept us away from the bomb. However, its spectre still looms.
The World Reacts
The war in Ukraine is going poorly for Russia. What should have been a quick victory is now bordering on humiliation. Also, the world has come together in unprecedented fashion. Many countries are sending aid to the Ukrainians. In this context the dictator in Kremlin has grown angry. Now he spews threats at all who dare defy him.
An increasing number of reports say that Vladimir Putin is no longer rational. The facade of a cold and calculating political mastermind looks more like that of an angry toddler. It is obvious that the plan was for a short invasion and that no measures were taken in case the Ukrainians put up a fight. However, Putin’s threats came from the very beginning. He threatened with “never before seen consequences” if NATO dare intervene. Pure hatred was plastered all over his face.
Nobody sent troops into the conflict. However, the world did not sit aside completely. Waves of aid were and are still being sent to the Ukrainians. Countries sent military equipment through bilateral agreements. Never before seen sanctions were imposed on Russia. Consequently, if it could not intervene directly, the world decided it would help with aid.
As he saw his military failure and the world uniting against him. Vladimir Putin feels his facade is threatened. By all means, he has failed in his attempt at painting Russia as invincible. The world’s second best army is incapable of defeating an inferior force. The Kremlin dictator underestimated one simple fact of human nature. Once people taste freedom it is very difficult to take it away by force.
In this context, on February 27, 2022, Putin came with a new threat. He ordered Russian deterrent forces to on high alert. His argument was that beyond unfriendly sanctions, enemies were making threatening statements. This is also an attempt to intimidate Ukraine. Although, president Zelensky did not seem impressed.
Reactions of the World
Without underestimating Putin’s evident madness, this acts was meant to scare. For younger generations nuclear weapons were more the stuff of fiction. We know they exist, but the general peace of our time made them fade. However, the threat now seems more real, although not quite immediate. I know many people who are worried about this possibility.
The leaders of Western countries and allies were very calm. All criticise Putin’s nuclear move. It is indeed a very dangerous rhetoric. However, they were not intimidated. They moved forward with more sanctions for Russia and more aid for Ukraine. I am also certain that China as well is growing more concerned. A nuclear war would be detrimental to humanity as a whole.
One reaction in part illustrates the lack of impact Putin’s threats have. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, suggested his country should allow U.S. nuclear bases. Normally this is a taboo in Japan’s politics and society given their history. It can be coupled with Germany’s earlier decision to dramatically increase military spending.
How Should We Look at the Situation
Vox spoke to three experts and while concerned all said we should not worry. While indeed this recent threat is an escalation of the situation we are not on the verge of nuclear war. Firstly, there is no concrete reason for Putin to launch. NATO did not get involved in the conflict. There is no act of war against Russia. Secondly, we should not ignore the effect of deterrence. Any Russian nuclear strike is met by a response. Russia cannot be a great empire if it no longer exists. Also, those in the circle of power in the Kremlin might not all have death wishes.
Vladimir Putin keeps everyone at a distance in all meetings. He seems to react very poorly to criticism. Now he is more angry than ever. The lonely dictator threatens the world with nuclear weapons. His war on a smaller nation is a disaster. The Russian people are taking to the streets in unprecedented protests. This is the image of a cornered paranoiac man who’s last hand is not what he dreamt. As we have already mentioned in another article, could this be The End of Putin?
Check out more on Russia here.
- Neel Dhanesha, How to think about the risk of nuclear war, according to 3 experts, Vox, February 27, 2022.
- Tessa Wong, Ukraine live updates.
- Maria Tsvetkova, Putin puts nuclear deterrent on alert; West squeezes Russian economy, February 28, 2022, Reuters.
- Juliette Garside, Swift action at last brings meaningful sanctions against Putin’s regime, February 27, 2022, The Guardian.
- Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat shows how much is going wrong for him in Ukraine, February 27, 2022, The Economist.
Originally published at https://www.theworldbriefly.com on February 28, 2022.