Nuclear Warheads and a ‘Knucklehead’

Carlos Alberto Montaner.

Russia has roughly 6,000 nuclear warheads aimed at our venerable necks. Vladimir Putin – the ‘knucklehead’ – has asked his military to put them on alert in case they have to be used. The man was a KGB spy before he was a politician. The US has slightly fewer nuclear weapons, but much more precise – 5,500. Each nation can destroy the other 8 or 9 times.

An answer to this alarmist proposal from the Russians was given by the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General. They are not going to put their weapons in combat mode. The superpowers’ parity makes a nuclear war impossible, a war that no one could win. On the other front, finances, the Russian economy is about the size of the Spanish or Italian, although much less diversified. There is no possible competition. Russia is a third-world economy, mono-producer and mono-exporter that depends on the rest of the planet. That is why the sanctions cause Russia an enormous damage.

Jens Stoltenberg studied journalism and economics in Oslo. He’s waiting anxiously to take off his hat as Secretary General of NATO and put on the hat of President of Norges Bank, a public financial institution that acts as the Central Bank in his country. That will happen on October 1, 2022. The institution has more than 55 billion dollars in reserve for a nation that has just under five and a half million inhabitants.

Stoltenberg traveled almost the entire ideological arc. He was an impertinent red, pro-Soviet, anti-American teenager until he landed on the Norwegian Labor Party’s right wing and began privatizing state-owned companies. He met Vladimir Putin, recently appointed Boris Yeltsin’s heir in 2000, and suspected his intentions, despite the then modest attitude of the KGB lieutenant colonel. He boasted and laughed at the bad surprise he would give the Cuban government, closing the “Lourdes” listening base, saving Russia’s battered economy 200 million dollars a year.

Life – in which the meeting with Putin was not unrelated – and the case of Arne Treholt, a party colleague and journalist, who was a KGB spy (in Norway, in a border area with Russia), sentenced to 20 years in jail, made him turn to the right. When he was Prime Minister, he became pro-capitalist, pro-American and pro-NATO. He had lost all innocence and naivety.

There are nine countries with nuclear weapons, but there are more than 30 in Europe, starting with Germany, that have the economic and intellectual capacity to build them, but not all of them have the talent to handle them with moderation.

If we add to this terrifying panorama the Asian nations that have the possibility of building atomic weapons, we see that it is a blessing that institutions like NATO exist, and it is irresponsible to try to undermine them, as Donald Trump did, with his real estate salesman’s mentality, frenetically asking NATO member nations to pay 2% of their GDP for subordinating their will to defend themselves to the United States’ leadership.

If someone could explain to Putin – a true ‘knucklehead’ – that NATO’s main function today is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, protecting small nations from a blow like the one dealt to Ukraine, that person would have done a great service to the ex-KGB agent trying to be a strategist. Actually, Putin does not understand anything at all, and has only received praise from Donald Trump, who declared that Putin’s bloody mess in Ukraine is the idea of a “genius,” a mess which may end up costing Putin his head.

Why is Putin surprised and complains that Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO and abandon neutrality? Otherwise they would have to make their nuclear weapons and they find it much more acceptable to protect themselves with article five of the NATO charter, that says, “an attack on one member of NATO is deemed to be an attack on all”.

France’s nearly 300 nuclear warheads form the Force de Frappe, or “Attack Force,” cherished and armed by Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle could not leave the defense of France in American hands. It was a suicidal act. Maybe they would have experienced the same as Ukraine. When this country “returned” 1,900 nuclear warheads to Russia and relied on the USA and the UK to guarantee its sovereignty, it was of no avail.

Perhaps Israel’s 90 or 100 nuclear warheads – it is not clear how many it has made or where it hides them – are a good deterrent. Moscow knows that Israel will die killing if it is threatened or bombed. Tehran and Syria will be devastated. The capital of Russia and St. Petersburg would be destroyed. These last two cities have 17.5 million inhabitants, more or less twice as many as Israel.

Published in Sunday March 6, 2022.

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