Friday, February 23, 2024

A full list of worries just went nuclear

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Vladimir Putin’s deadly tantrum puts waterlogged pasture into perspective.
If Russia did deploy a nuclear device, would NATO actually retaliate as it has said it would, knowing that they and everyone they know could be wiped from the face of the earth, asks Steve Wyn-Harris. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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In these troubled times, it’s difficult to know what to worry about the most.

The covid-19 pandemic shoved most issues down the ladder but as it abates some of those old worries have resurfaced.

Global warming, climate change, methane emissions, pine trees taking over good sheep and beef land, polluted waterways, Three Waters, legislative change overload, the woes of the All Blacks, inflation, a waterlogged farm, and a myriad other issues have all been competing in my mind for dominance.

Which ones should I worry about more so that I can push the other things down to some place where I can forget about them?

Then another one comes up that makes all of these seem like mere trifles.

Nuclear war and mutually assured destruction of the planet.

Excellent. Who cares about Three Waters, faced with this?

I’ve been to Hiroshima and spent a couple of very reflective and emotional days visiting the memorials and walking solemnly with many others from all around the world through the sombre museums.

The blatant and obvious message there is that this should never ever be allowed to happen again.

No one in their right mind who visits that place or even those who haven’t been there would argue against this.

Yet the madness of the Cold War saw a massive increase in testing of these evil weapons and stockpiles of nuclear warheads.

Over 2000 nuclear tests were conducted, with the United States doing over half of these, the Soviet Union more than 700 and the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea responsible for the balance. Israel may not have tested but is thought to have 90 nuclear bombs.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed that this new weapon worked to deadly effect in 1945, so you would have to wonder why they continued to test at this scale to finesse these bombs.

In 1955 there were 3000 nuclear warheads held, as it happens, by the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council.

More than enough to destroy most life forms on the planet.

However, 10 years later there were 37,000 and by the late 1980s there were over 60,000 of these evil things.

North Korea has been the only nation to undertake testing in this century so welcome progress has been made with the various agreements banning testing.

With the demise of the Soviet Union and the nuclear disarmament treaties that followed, there are now 13,000 or so nuclear warheads with Russia and the US holding around 6000 each.

The alarming development now is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sham ballots in those eastern Ukraine provinces, which will mean he will annex them and then claim them as part of Russia. He will say any attacks on these areas by the Ukrainians in their efforts to take them back is an attack on Russian soil.

When Putin hints that Russia is prepared to use nuclear weapons if he feels his country is under threat, it needs to be treated seriously.

He may be deluded and isolated, but he is justifiably paranoid so he is extremely dangerous and right now he is on the back foot and fighting for his very existence.

He says he’s not bluffing but one would hope that only a person who was bluffing would say that.

If he did decide to use a tactical nuclear warhead in Ukraine, would his own systems and the people around him allow it, knowing that it could begin the end of themselves and their families?

And if a nuclear device was used, would the US or other members of NATO actually retaliate as they have said they would, knowing that they and everyone they know could be wiped from the face of the earth in short measure?

These are questions none of us would hope to have to learn the answers to.

This is a dangerous situation we all find ourselves in, with no easy way out.

Putin’s mobilisation of 300,000 reservists shows he is not backing away from his war on Ukraine.

It has caused much dissent and unhappiness in Russia but his grip on power is strong, so a regime change from some sort of uprising isn’t going to happen.

Maybe he will be removed from power by those around him in some form, but he is very well protected, so another unlikely scenario at this time.

All we can hope for is that common sense prevails, and no one does anything stupid.

See, all the other things you were worried about are really of little consequence eh?

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