Britain’s delayed investigation into the assassination of former-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko’s 2006 murder and alleged links to the Kremlin, which may even include Russian President Vladimir Putin, should raise concerns. What is more alarming is the failure of political leaders, national security officials, and prosecutors in Britain to immediately and constantly rally international outrage against the use of a nuclear weapon on the streets of London. Not only was the 2006 use of polonium-210 a violation of British sovereignty and an act of war, assuming Russian leadership was responsible, it represents a nightmare scenario when it comes to public health and safety.
Nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons are characterized as Weapons of Mass Destruction due to their potential to inflict massive causalities across vast expanses. Unlike automatic guns and traditional bombs, the only defense against WMD’s and their capacity to be civilization killers is preventing their spread and use. Where images of nuclear weapons usually include bright flashes and mushroom clouds, Litvinenko’s murder via polonium poisoning demonstrates something that is probably an even greater nuclear threat than the use of nuclear bombs.
As the world has learned from rogue states like Iran and Syria, nuclear weapons are difficult to engineer and very expensive to develop. Outside of a war to end all wars, there is no strategic use for a nuclear bomb, particularly when it comes to small counties. Not only is the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal expensive, it draws the ire of the International Community, which includes costly reprisals. In short, nuclear weapons are more a curse than a blessing. On the other hand, it is fairly easy and inexpensive to enrich nuclear material to be used as a chemical weapon.
Like all chemical weapons, nuclear chemical weapons are Weapons of Mass Destruction, because they can be readily dispersed into a large population. Unlike standard chemical weapons, however, a single atom of nuclear material, such as plutonium, can cause cancer; whereas, a slightly larger dose can ensure the death of all casualties. Not only is treatment for acute radiation poisoning largely ineffective and cell death almost immediate, the death of the body is slow and painful, which was made evident by Mr. Litvinenko’s suffering over the course of his 22-day death. Reflecting on the aftermaths of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, the thought of such widespread agony is horrifying.
North Korea’s potential use of nuclear weapons is alarming, but the greatest nuclear threat stems from globalized terrorism. The proliferation of nuclear arms and material raises the risk of a terrorist organization or state-sponsor-of-terrorism acquiring nuclear weapons. Where sneaking nuclear bombs into London is a less challenging alternative to the deployment of nuclear warheads, acquiring nuclear material and using it as chemical nuclear weapon is a lot cheaper and easier. The irresponsible actions of Putin and his cronies demonstrate the world is not prepared for such a threat. If the allegations against the Putin mafia are true, it also reaffirms Putin’s leadership represents a serious security threat to the International Community, including the Russian People.
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