During the third week of September, Russian President Putin recalled 300,000 army reservists to active duty, to reinforce his army in Ukraine. Putin has also threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. President Biden declared that results of responses to Putin’s use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine would be devastating.

Putin created a national emergency with his recall of the reservists. It triggered a mass exodus of men from Russia, and thousands of Russians were arrested protesting the massive mobilization. Failure to report to active duty would bring charges of desertion. Thousands of protesters will be tried, convicted, and sent to “work colonies” that are the remnants of Stalinist gulags.

The rough dialogue between the two leaders of the great world powers sent shivers through me. Putin’s threats are sinister. President Biden stands resolute to confront Putin’s aggression and to avoid America’s military action in Ukraine against Russians, because that would trigger an actual war between Russia and the United States. 

Talk of nuclear weapon use guided my mind to remember times in the 1960s. During the Cuban missile crisis, we practiced defensive drills, to survive a possible nuclear attack. The survival tactics and shelters possibly would have been adequate to withstand a tornado, but would have been no match for the shock wave of a nuclear explosion.

Putin’s threats are not to be ignored or disregarded. They reflect his disappointment with the dismal progress of his war in Ukraine, and his desperation not to suffer a loss.

Threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Putin thinks he found a loophole in MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). It is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy which posits that an initiated use of nuclear weapons against a nation with a nuclear arsenal essentially assures the ultimate destruction of both, the attacker and the attacked. Putin is emboldened and comforted by the fact that Ukraine does not have a nuclear arsenal for retaliation.

On the other hand, Biden’s rhetoric implies that some measures of MAD may be applicable against Putin. Economic sanctions that have already been imposed upon Russia by President Biden are slow-acting to stifle Putin’s military aggression. President Biden must find some other anti-Putin tactics.

The current escalation in hostile talk puts me on the edge of outright panic. With a high level of anxiety, I looked up the doomsday clock. It had seven minutes to midnight at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Now, the clock stands at 100 seconds remaining.

In my childhood, before the Russian occupation of my native Lithuania in 1939, I heard my father talk about storm clouds of war appearing on the horizon. Now, in my old age in America, I too am keenly aware of an ominous lurking of clouds on the horizon.

The clouds are mushroom shaped. They are a forewarning of an impending nuclear conflict.

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