Putin’s Nuclear Gambit

Bullying is never fun, it’s a cruel and terrible thing to do to someone. If you are being bullied, it is not your fault. No one deserves to be bullied, ever. ~ Raini Rodriguez

Vladimir Putin is a bully, plain and simple. In the Ukraine he’s using the standard bully playbook. You know the one, the guy in the bar who with no provocation says something rude to you. If you respond the bully always is offended as if you started it, you want to go outside, you want to go, they’ll say?! Of course it’s ridiculous that they are offended, after all, they started the altercation.

Putin just perfectly exemplified this today in the Ukraine. Putin of course started the war, invading the Ukraine under the pretense that Nazis were controlling the Ukrainian government and therefore needed to be cleansed. Of course this was ridiculous, hell, the president of Ukraine is Jewish. While their may have been a Jewish Nazi at some point, President Zelensky certainly isn’t one.

As the world has seen, the Russian Army is no the juggernaut that many believed it to be. We have seen that the Russian army is not well trained, not as well armed as suspected and with no legitimate reason to fight don’t have the morale to stick out the fight. And as such we have seen the Russians pushed further and further first from Kiev, then to the East and now are even being pushed in the southern occupied region of the Crimea.

The Ukrainians have surprised the Russians at every turn. Just yesterday the bridge connecting Crimea, personally commissioned by Putin, was devastated in an explosion. Today, in response, Putin rained missiles across all of the Ukraine on residential targets in order to sew terror into the Ukrainian people. This was in response to the bridge attack, as if a country being invaded has somehow offended him by fighting back. This is the logic of the bully.

Putin is a proud bully, and right now his pride is being hurt. First, the Ukrainians pushed him out of Kiev. Then they pushed him out of the North. Recently they’ve embarrassed him in the East and the bridge was embarrassment in the South. He called for a conscription and men of draft age are fleeing the country. Some of his generals have even disagreed with him publicly in the media. It’s bad to hurt a bully’s pride.

When you hurt a bully they become desperate, some will fold up, but Putin is far too proud for that kind of dance, so what will he do? I’m going to make a prediction I hope is wrong. Vladimir Putin has said that he would be right in using nuclear weapons to defend the territorial boundaries of Russia. Of course he’s run a fake voting referendum and now claims all of these invaded territories are part of Russia. That would, in his twisted bully mind, justify him in using tactical nuclear weapons in these territories. But I don’t think that’s the direction he’ll go.

If he uses a tactical nuke he risks far too much. First, he may be spotted by NATO satellites moving the weapons that are currently in storage. Secondly, Russia would be a global pariah for using the weapon, not to mention the risk of escalation and kicking off WWIII and nuclear annihilation. Not even a prideful bully hopes for that.

I believe instead, Putin will target the nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia. He has recently claimed it as Russian national property. I think what he will do is have the plant shelled and cause an “accidental” meltdown of the reactor so that radiation spreads across Ukraine and into the rest of Europe. He’ll start by saying the Ukrainians caused it as an act of terrorism and use that as an excuse to once again shell the country. Eventually, as evidence builds that the Russians are the cause he’ll lay it off as fake news and then if he’s pushed by NATO as an accident. Likely it will lead to more sanctions but not much else from NATO.

I really hope I’m wrong about this.

The end is here

So it’s been a while since my last post, but the post was appropriately entitled, Are we shambling into WWIII? I don’t like being right, particularly when the risks are the end of humanity as we know it. The war in Ukraine is almost two weeks old and has of course turned into a horrible refugee crisis. With all wars it is the innocent who suffer. Russia is led by arguably a madman, he has no humanity, there were reports that an agreed upon evacuation route had been mined by the Russians.

One of the things that this whole crisis does to me personally is that it brings back the existential dread of my teen years. I’m of the end of a generation of a certain age, cold war kids, as such I pretty constantly thought about the possibility of nuclear war when I was a teenager. Up even into my first year of college, I will never forget my whole fraternity house gathering to watch the Day After in 1983. It quite literally freaked everybody out. The existential dread was ubiquitous in our life, including in pop culture. In 1985, Sting put out his song Russians, with the chorus of, “I hope the Russians love their children too.” The song really expressed the desperation of the time, where the simple idea that both the Russians and Americans needed to be reminded that people on the other side were just that, people. People who had children, that if they also loved would be reason enough not to engage in the mutually assured destruction we had built together.

My dread has grown and morphed since the eighties, I’m nearly sixty years old now. My life is mostly behind me, but I have eight nieces and nephews from 3 to 20 years-old. My dread is for their lives, they’ve already had to live through a pandemic, they have global climate change impacts to look forward to, their lives will be hard enough without also having to live through WWIII, if anyone does.

As all of this madness swirling around has brought back a lot for me, like the Sting song. But mostly it brings me back to one of my favorite intersections of dystopian and Science fiction music and storytelling, Project Planet P’s Pink World. Tony Carey’s rock opera about nuclear war and the young boy named Artemis, the savior. It’s a spectacular double album and I’ve often dreamed of contacting Carey for the rights to write a script for a mini-series based on the album. As things continue to deteriorate in the Ukraine, a particular lyric has been ringing through my head from the song, “A letter from the shelter:”

When a madman gets a gun
He’s gonna point it at someone
If it’s up in texas tower
Or over there across the pond
And if you step on his pride
Or if he hurts somewhere inside
He might let one fly
When his nerves are gone

Let’s hope Tony Carey wasn’t prophetic.

Are we shambling into WWIII?

World War I started with the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand by Serbian extremists. This shows that even in the beginning of the 20th century the world was so interconnected that an assassination in Bosnia could lead to a world war. Of course this happened because there was great tension and in response to the assassination, the Austrian-Hungarian army attacked Serbia. Of course alliances kicked in, the dominoes fell and a few years later, nearly nine million soldiers and twenty million civilians were dead.

Are we shambling into another world war, the tensions certainly exist. Let’s start with the South China Sea. China has made no bones about the fact that they very much still consider Taiwan part of China, and like Hong Kong, they intend to take it back. Additionally, China has been very aggressively island building and claiming territory in the South China Sea as well as pushing hard on territorial rights of other Asian nations. Some of these countries like the Philippines have alliances with the United States. Japan, an ancient enemy of China, has an active military for the first time since World War II.

Staying in the region North Korea, a nuclear power, is always wholly unpredictable. The country has massive poverty, a leader that is claimed to be a living God and a completely unpredictable succession process. Not to mention that there current leader is not the most stable person. And as always there is a lot of tension and they continue with large weapons tests.

Historically, no world war has ever started in Asia, so let’s look at where they have started, in Europe. World War I started in the Balkans and right now the Balkans are nearly on fire again. The Belarusian president, a wannabe fascist, who has been a thorn in the side of Europe for years. However, currently he’s decided to throw Eastern Europe into chaos. Belarus has reached out to countries with large populations of potential immigrants and has told them that if they fly to Belarus they can easily cross the border into Poland or Lithuania thus entering the European Union which has a reputation of treating immigrants very well. These desperate people have gone to Belarus, been guided to the borders only to find the borders closed. Troops have amassed on both borders as these poor and desperate immigrants get treated like ping pong balls. Recently, clashes have started to develop between the immigrants the troops on the Polish border. How long before the NATO backed Polish or Lithuanian forces end up in a clash with Russian backed Belarusian forces. This could be the potential flashpoint that kicks off war in Europe.

Additionally, Russian forces are once again moving toward the Ukrainian border. Given that they already have invaded Ukrainian territory in Crimea and have continued to support a shadow ware with the Ukraine, it would not be shocking to see them invade the NATO/US backed Ukraine.

Given the global pressures of COVID, the subsequent economic pressures, global climate change, the rise of fascism and the existing tensions it may only take a spark to set things off. A mistake on the Belarusian or Korean border, China invading Taiwan or Russian invading the Ukraine.

It’s a terrifying proposition, it could easily become at least a limited nuclear war. And more terrifying yet is the recent test by China of a hyper-sonic missile. This is a missile that flies so fast that it actually circled the globe before it was detected. Anyone free this weekend to fill in the swimming pool?