I ran into someone today who was absolutely convinced that Russia’s recent saber rattling would lead us inevitably to a massive nuclear exchange and the end of the world. He was so terrified of the whole thing that he was unable to talk about any other subject, without returning to the evils of Vladimir Putin and his evil expansionist goals which would, of course, lead to the demise of the entire human race in nuclear hellfire and nothing anyone said could dissuade him.
Of course, I suspect he was quite young and had very little life experience. Having lived through the end of the Cold War in the 1980s, when people were certain that we’d see missiles cresting the horizon at any moment, I have no more fear today than I did then that the world was going to end because of anything Russia did. Putin isn’t crazy, any more than Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko or Gorbachev. Those people may have rattled their fair share of sabers but they also wanted to survive and they wanted the best for their people, at least from their particular political perspective.
What’s happening in Russia today is the same thing that happened after the end of WWI in Germany. The German people were downtrodden, they were depressed and they had fond memories of power. That directly led to the rise of Hitler and the horrors of WWII. In this case though, that won’t happen. The German people were in the throes of economic upheaval, there was nowhere for them to go but up, although I’m sure they thought differently following the end of the war. In Russia though, the people are thriving and doing much better than they were under Soviet Communism. They are not going to follow a leader into war because they really have nothing to gain but some nationalistic sentiment. There are people who really want to feel like a world power again, especially seeing that China has bypassed them as an economic and political powerhouse, but to go to war over it? Especially to start slinging nukes around over it? Not a chance in hell.
If you really want to know who to fear in this arena, it’s the religious fanatics, especially in the Middle East. Unlike Putin, they have nothing to lose by launching nukes at others. They think they’re going to a better place once they fry in a flash of atomic heat. They don’t care about leaving a decent world behind for their children. And it isn’t just the crazy Muslims, the crazy Christians are just as bad. They desperately want to bring about the end of the world and I wouldn’t put it past them to try to launch nukes to do it.
Worse, it’s almost exclusively American Christian crazies that we have to worry about, the ones who have been caught repeatedly trying to sneak explosives over to the Muslim side so they can blow up the Dome of the Rock so the Jews can rebuild the temple and issue in the end of the world. These people want to start a war, but not over territory, they only way to win their war is to end all human life on Earth.
We probably do have something to fear from nuclear weapons, but not in the hands of the Russians, not in the hands of the Americans, not in the hands of most nuclear powers. No, it’s religious terrorists that we have to fear more than anything because not only are they ready and willing to push the big red button, they have nothing to lose by doing so. Is it any wonder a lot of us want a much more secular world?