Vlad Putin has put fire into Russia’s belly with his star turn in a documentary entitled The World Order 2018. The film opened to great acclaim, both public and critical, the other day.
At some point, Vlad broached strategic issues from, as he hastened to add, a purely hypothetical perspective. Suppose for the sake of argument that a nuclear missile is heading for Russia. Well then, Vlad wouldn’t hesitate to order a global nuclear Armageddon – in the full knowledge that this is what he’d be doing.
“This would certainly be a global disaster for humanity, a calamity for the whole world,” commented Vlad dispassionately. “But, as a citizen of Russia and head of the Russian state, I have to ask myself: What good is the world without Russia in it?”
Interesting question, that, as far as hypothetical questions go. Replying in the same hypothetical spirit, I’d say that a world without Russia would still be able to muddle through somehow.
Moreover, had Russia not existed over the past century, the world would be distinctly better off. For one thing, tens of millions wouldn’t have been annihilated for the good of the state.
Without Russia’s help Hitler would have remained a marginal extremist unknown outside Bavaria. And he certainly wouldn’t have been able to start a world war without his Russian ally watching his back and supplying vast amounts of strategic materials.
Mao wouldn’t have come to power in China, nor Kim in Korea. The West wouldn’t have had to spend trillions protecting itself from the Russian threat. And even today the world would sleep a bit better knowing that no one is threatening to nuke it to kingdom come.
I know this might upset Vlad but, if he doesn’t like the answer, he shouldn’t have asked the question. And anyway, the view that Russia is a lot less indispensable to the world than he thinks isn’t new.
Writing a century before Rutherford split the atom, the first Russian philosopher Pyotr Chaadaev commented: “Alone in the world, we have not given anything to the world, nor have taken anything from it. We have not added a single thought to the wealth of human ideas, we have not in any way promoted the advance of human reason, and we have distorted everything this advance has given us.”
At that time no red button existed at the push of which Russia would have ceased to exist. But had the possibility occurred to Chaadayev, one gets the impression he would have felt that Russia’s absence from the world would be no great loss.
I’m only sorry that Vlad left many details out, opening the door to idle speculation. Usually he expresses himself more exhaustively. For example, when he says that traitors to Russia will “swallow poison”, no questions arise. And Vlad is always happy to stage a little demonstration for the benefit of slow learners.
But the Armageddon message raises a few questions. Vlad mentioned a single missile approaching Russia as a sufficient reason for destroying life on Earth. How will he be sure that the missile is nuclear? And in any case one missile, whatever its payload, wouldn’t destroy all of Russia, would it?
At most, it’ll take out a big city, which makes Vlad’s hypothetical response a bit of an overkill. And what if that missile was launched by accident, in a scenario similar to that shown in Dr Strangelove, the prequel to Vlad’s film? Still wipe out the world?
And shouldn’t there be some attempt to contact the responsible government? As that actress said to Harvey Weinstein, “Can we talk first?”
Then again, presumably the incoming missile would have been launched by one state, rogue or otherwise. Shouldn’t the retaliatory strike be directed at that state only, rather than the whole globe? Isn’t that pushing collective responsibility too far, even if the Russians do think that the whole world is united against them (for no conceivable reason of course)?
Too many loose ends, Vlad. But one can discern the central thought: if Russia goes, she’ll take the world with her. In this connection it’s interesting to juxtapose the statement by Vlad with an earlier one about Vlad.
A few years ago, Vyacheslav Volodin, the present Chairman of the Duma, explained that enemy action wasn’t the only threat to Russia’s continuing existence: “If there’s Putin, there’s Russia. If there’s no Putin, there’s no Russia.”
The logical inference from the juxtaposition of the two statements is irrefutable. If there’s no Putin, there’s no Russia; and if there’s no Russia, there’s no life on Earth.
Suddenly the situation is no longer hypothetical. It’s a loud and clear message to enemies internal and external that any attempt at a regime change in Russia would have calamitous consequences. Vlad would bang the door on the way out so hard that the whole house would collapse.
Hypothetical, yes, but there’s an element of bone-chilling reality to it. I for one am scared, and I don’t scare easily.
This sort of thing makes one reassess the ledger sheet of modernity, its credits and debits. Let’s chalk up in the credit column analgesics, painless dental work, longer life expectancy, my car – and anything else you care to mention.
But then let’s also inscribe in the debit column the technical possibility of an evil humanoid acting on an apocalyptic threat – or at least blackmailing the world with it. Which sign will the balance have, plus or minus? Will we be in the black, as in the heart of Putin’s Russia, or in the red, as in blood?
The next two questions are addressed to all those Putinistas on our hard Right, all those ‘useful idiots’ yearning for a strong leader like Putin. What kind of man can issue such a threat? And what kind of nation would bellow its delight at it?
Don’t bother to answer. I know what you’re going to say.