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Andrei Kolesnikov: 'A Bomb from the Supreme Commander' (New Times)

posted 30 Mar 2015, 02:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Mar 2015, 03:08 ]
25 March 2015

By Andrei Koleshnikov 

How nuclear posturing has pumped up, as if with steroids, the “Great Power feeling” which is the basis for the charisma of Vladimir Putin

The testing of one of the first Soviet atomic bombs at Semipalatinsk (Kazakhstan) was on 29th August 1949. As from that time the world has lived in a state of nuclear parity. “If we had not done it, we would not be having this conversation, guys. And half of humanity as well,” says the radiation-exposed physicist Gusev in the film by Mikhail Romm, “Nine Days In One Year”. “It” meaning the atomic bomb.

These words in the most simple and comprehensible way summed up for the ordinary Soviet citizen, in 1962, the very year of the Cuban missile crisis (which strangely coincided with the release of the film that year), the rationale for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. They (USA) have the bomb, and we (USSR) have the bomb. We are on an equal footing. They create more sophisticated weapons, so we do the same.

Nuclear parity on the understanding that if someone is the first to make the fatal move, then they themselves will die all the same, restrains superpowers, and consequently also humanity, from nuclear war. In the years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, some nuclear weaponry has been destroyed, and – at least in theory – there has been no proliferation. (Although there is still enough for 30,000 or 40,000 Hiroshimas, according to Aleksei Arbatov). The main thing is that nuclear war has ceased to be the main fear or has almost been forgotten. And now Vladimir Putin in the film “Crimea. Path to the Motherland” has stated that the Russian leadership in the days of the annexation of Crimea was ready to use its nuclear forces.

First of all Nikita Khrushchev took part in creating the world threat of nuclear war in 1962 because of Cuba, and now Vladimir Putin is ready to do the same because of the Crimean peninsula. In addition, for the Russian president, Crimea, as he has said on several occasions, is the source of a special Russian “spirituality” (we don’t know why, but we’re not going to discuss it now).

But, for Khrushchev, Cuba was also the very root of a real revolutionary “spirituality” – pure, passionate, something lost by the Soviet Union, already hardened by age. And so here we go…. Listeners of one Moscow FM-radio station were asked whether they would or would not be prepared to apply nuclear force over Crimea. 62% responded yes; 38% no.

Of course we need to understand that the audience for this radio station is pro-government. And that the people who are not reluctant to take part in media questioning, are a specific and often fairly aggressive section of the population. Nevertheless these figures are representative from the point of view that there has been a shift in the minds of people to a condition where all fear and responsibility are lacking. And what else should they have been thinking if the supreme commander himself issues a summons, rattling nuclear weapons like a taxi driver rattling their car keys?

Basically the Russian government continues to do this. Three days after the screening of the film on central television, naval strategic forces from the Northern Fleet confirmed their military preparedness. What’s more, ten strategic TU-22 rocket launchers are scheduled to be redeployed in Crimea.

This is a development of some poignancy, especially if you take into account the fact that some evidence suggests that, on the collapse of the USSR, Crimea was left to Ukraine in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons, a status later ratified in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. Of course, it is possible that these statements of Putin were directed at an internal audience rather than an external one.

In doing so he is pumping up, on excessive ideological steroids, “a feeling of great power” which sticks to the charisma of the Russian president. This is for those who go through a geopolitical orgasm from the obscene rhetoric of war. But whether they achieve this effect, willingly or unwillingly – the old threat of nuclear war has returned.

And the news is that America’s reduction into “radioactive dust” is by no means just a metaphor from the gloating broadcaster alone. For nuclear deterrence, it seems, isn’t really working under Putin.

Translated by Frances Robson