Staunton, April 15 – The portal of the Russian Council for International Affairs, an organization created jointly by the foreign ministry, the Academy of Sciences and Interfax features an article saying that mutual assured destruction is a myth but that nuclear war is not necessarily so horrific that Russians need to fear.
The article by political observer Valery Alekseyev argues, in the words of Moscow’s Novyye izvestiya which reports on it that “there is no special harm from the use of nuclear weapons and that “in comparison with conventional weapons, it even looks humane” (russiancouncil.ru/analytics-and-comments/columns/military-and-security/mif-yadernogo-sderzhivaniya as reported at newizv.ru/news/politics/15-04-2019/atomnaya-borba-ne-strashnaya-i-gumannaya-ili-k-chemu-privel-son-razuma).
Alekseyev concludes his article in the following way: “It is possible that the myth about the fantastic power of nuclear war was needed by humanity which had suffered through two world wars. But now, when humanity has gained strength, this idea is beginning to shift into the category of doubtful myths.
“The essence of nuclear restraint is threat,” Alekseyev says. “But a threat can be real only when it seems large and horrific. The experience of the local application of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests do not confirm that. This means it remains only a virtual one.
“Russia must constantly support and perfect its nuclear arsenal,” he continues, “so that it will be able in the course of necessity to respond to the US adequately.” But the notion that any use will lead to a global conflagration and that nuclear weapons are thus not weapons remains “an open question.”
Alekseyev may believe that a limited nuclear war is not the occasion for fear, but almost everyone else should view his words as precisely a reason for serious concern. Economist Yakov Mirkin, for example, says that this article is the product of the view that a limited nuclear war with the US is possible (facebook.com/yakov.mirkin/posts/2344041199166987 citing russiancouncil.ru/analytics-and-comments/analytics/vozmozhna-li-voyna-s-amerikoy/).
The article Mirkin cites gives many examples of this such as conflicts over Belarus, the Baltic countries, and Japan. And he then asks what Novyye izvestiya says is “a reasonable question: whose point of view is this?” Is this the view of the Russian government or simply the musings of some “militarist” author or editor?
Moscow commentator Yegor Sedov asks “who could think this way?” Only someone very old or very sick. And he says that such suggestions especially now force one to ask who is this “Alekseyev” and who if anyone is behind him? Such ideas are dangerous and risk making people more comfortable with the idea that Moscow could fight and win a nuclear war.
Another commentator, Aleksandr Makhlayev tells Novyye izvestiya that “in fact, this [article] is not a strange episode and the opinion of one idiot. This is a more complex and larger situation.” Obviously, some in Moscow are thinking about the possibility of a nuclear war and have come to believe that they can win it rather than face destruction.
And finally, yet another analyst, Yury Yakubovsky, says he believes he knows who stands behind what he says is “the pseudonym Valery Alekseyev.” It is Aleksey Fenenko, a specialist on international security at the Russian Academy of Sciences and an instructor on world politics at Moscow State University.
Last fall, Yakubovsky says, Fenenko delivered a lecture entitled “The Bomb is Not as Terrible as People Portray It.” In reporting this, Novyye izvestiya concludes: this is what those working on international security are telling their students. “The country must know its heroes.”