2015-04-11putins-dog-koniWe were the post-war generation. I remember myself as a kid living in a tiny wattle-and-daub hut until I was thirteen. The matter was that my grandparents’ house had been burnt when a bomb hit it during the Germans’ retreat from our village in 1943, so a hut was hastily built instead – in the hope that something more solid would shortly be built after the war was over, but neither my grandparents, nor parents could scrape any money for it. The charred remains of the pre-war home were dug out all the time as soon as we started working in our vegetable garden next to the hut.

Another thing that I remember from those days was the fear of a future war with America. Moscow crammed it into our heads that the “imperialists” were ready to drop nuclear bombs on us as they had dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We, in the Soviet Union, would certainly strike back, and the whole of the world would burn in the atomic war, but we, being generally PEACEFUL, would never use the nuclear bomb first, because nothing could be worse than a war, because most families in the village had someone who had been injured or killed in the war, because half of the village had been burnt in the war, etc.

Of course, the peacefulness and non-aggressiveness of the state which had been Hitler’s ally some ten years before, and which had stolen the secret of the nuclear bomb right after the war – to arm itself in no time – could be doubted.  But the idea of using the Bomb was presented as the worst crime against humanity and it was firmly implanted in our brains that “we” (i.e. the USSR, or Russia) would not use it first. Actually, that attitude explains a much later uproar when President Reagan said facetiously into a live mike that he had signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever and that bombing would begin in five minutes. A few days after the gaff the official news agency TASS declared that this kind of behavior was incompatible with the great responsibility “borne by heads of nuclear states for the destinies of their own people and mankind.”

When I hear now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to start a nuclear war against Ukraine, the Baltic States or Denmark to keep NATO out of his back yard, I ask myself where the Kremlin’s “great responsibility” has gone. One reason can be that the new Russia has thrown off its disguise and shown its true face. However, I also think that such a cavalier attitude about the likely nuclear war is explained generationally.  The Putinites, who are now in power, didn’t see the mass carnage Khrushchev or Brezhnev saw. A war for them was a thing of the past, or something that other people do. So, why not grab a part of a neighboring country and flex their nuclear muscles now? Nuclear blustering for Putin is very much like demonstrating his masculinity when he poses with his shirt off, or when he scares Chancellor Merkel by letting his hound attend their meeting.

The line between the nuclear intimidation and the real war may be thinner than political machos think it is.  Or is it understood only by those who, as kids, lived in mud-huts and dug out burnt bricks in their gardens for years after the war?


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