I was a toddler during the Cuban missile crisis. But I recall my parents telling me of the real fear that they had about nuclear war. Those fears were justified as at least twice only heroic refusals by individuals to follow orders stopped missile launches and President Kennedy’s adviser Dean Acheson later said that catastrophe was only avoided thanks to “plain dumb luck.”
I do remember though the later Cold War years in the early 1980s as the nuclear arms race escalated with Cruise missiles on one side and a Soviet equivalent on the other. Once again catastrophe nearly befell us through technical malfunctions and only the bravery of individuals refusing to follow procedures saved us all.
But those fears are returning with the war in Ukraine. The threat of a tactical nuclear strike’s growing. Putin’s using dangerous rhetoric and NATO planes are carrying out nuclear drills. Yet all the scenario planning shows that if you step on the nuclear escalator as the phraseology goes its hard, if not impossible to get off. Moreover, the gaming as its also euphemistically called shows there’s no benign options and many result in ”Armageddon”. Indeed, that was the phrase used by President Biden when he referred to the tactical nuclear strike scenario.
It’s why Pope Francis’s call for peace should be heeded. He has been a voice for decency and sanity on many issues from refugees and poverty through to this. The risks are rising. The UK may not be at war, but we’re involved in it. Billions are being provided and UK military are in Ukraine. It’s clear that Russia’s bleeding badly but that raises the nuclear risks through what military analysts call the Russian Paradox. That is when their military power declines, their nuclear arsenal increases in importance.
It’s unquestionable that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was wrong, just as was their annexation of territory. But what’s required urgently are negotiations. There are diplomatic solutions to this that would that avert catastrophe for us all.
Those talks have been stymied or not pursued. But they must be and Pope Francis should be heeded.