To the military mind, nuclear bombs save lives. They save the lives of fellow soldiers. They save the lives of fellow citizens. They save military resources, require little sacrifice, and nullify almost all of a faceless enemy’s defense. They compress years of bloodshed, agony, and terror into mere moments of loss. In short, they are an efficient, sanitary, and humane means of waging war.
Both Korea and China were spared from nuclear war during the Korean War, but there were military strategists promoting the nuclear option. The Korean War was thoroughly devastating to the Korean People, but dozens of nuclear strikes across the Korean Peninsula and China would have changed the very makeup of the human population. Asia has Western ideals, diplomacy, and democracy to thank for the decision of US leadership to table their nuclear strategy instead of immediately turning to the power of the atom to save American blood and treasure.
To the human conscience, nuclear weapons represent a horror like no other. Where a bullet can kill a man in a fraction of a second, a nuclear weapon can wipeout any evidence of an entire civilization in the same amount of time. In many respects, nuclear weapons are a manifestation of mankind’s greatest fears. Not only do they unleash an unstoppable force that can render everyone and everything we know back to dust, their fallout will slowly consume the flesh of enemies and allies alike.
Nuclear weapons are a power that leaves the Peoples of the world powerless against those willing to use them. They are a curse to those who must bear the burden of choosing not to use them. Sadly, the apocalyptic nature of nuclear weapons was beyond the imagination of most men before two relatively small nuclear bombs were dropped on the Peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Unfortunately, the failure of younger generations to comprehend the now historic references to the use of nuclear weapons imperils the world.
Throughout the Ukraine Crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin has teased the world with his command of the Russian nuclear arsenal. Amid renewed tensions and barely garnering any public response, Putin’s government has announced plans to acquire 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles allegedly capable of overcoming any antimissile defense system. Meanwhile, the world is struggling to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon after failing to convince North Korea, China, India, and Pakistan the hazards of a nuclear arsenal outweigh the benefits.
Putin’s response has been to assuage and dismiss fears by proclaiming the acquisition of these nuclear upgrades is part of a modernization of the Russian military and unrelated to the Ukraine Crisis. Even if true, Putin is essentially putting a gun to the heads of Westerners, instead of just the Ukrainians, in the middle of a standoff and saying, “don’t worry about this.” Understanding military strategy, Russian leadership must recognize NATO has now no other choice but to respond by building up defensive and offensive capabilities on Europe’s Eastern border. They must also prepare for both a traditional military threat and a nuclear war.
Regrettably, it is unclear if Vladimir Putin can see unfolding events in terms outside of the strategic thinking of a Cold War military mind. If such is the case, the Russian People and the Peoples of the outside world face a growing threat. Had someone like Putin been the US President during the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear war may have been the reality. Consequently, Putin will only be deterred by a credible threat of a nuclear response. He will only reverse course if he perceives there is a real danger to Russia and his government.
The Russian Leadership and People would be wise to heed the words that the Germans twice did not:
"True genius is knowing when to stop" - Johann von Goethe
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