THE VILLAGE SOAPBOX
Ron loks back at the Cold War and examines the role of nuclear weapons.
In the 1950s the cold war was at its height, the prospect of a nuclear war appeared to loom large. The US and the UK adopted a policy of deterrence. The Soviet Union was seen as the threat, they had those very large very long range bombers potentially armed with nuclear weapons and were developing long range intercontinental ballistic weapons capable of delivering nuclear weapons to anywhere in Europe and beyond. The USA were pursuing the same endeavours in the hope that by being able to respond with equal force they would deter the Soviets from aggressive action. They had surrounded the Soviet Union with air bases capable of launching strikes against any part of their territory. The UK had the V-bombers equipped with 'Blue Steel' missiles. Blue steel could be launched from anywhere up to 500 miles from the target. We were also developing our own ICBM, 'Blue Streak'. The Russians in turn saw these arsenals as a threat and responded by seeking better ways of delivering nuclear weapons and better ways of defending themselves. And so the 'arms race' went on.
Our government went to considerable lengths to prepare for a nuclear attack, building deep nuclear shelters for a few and deep control centres in secret locations to be rapidly commissioned in the event of an attack. Many people were terrified by the possibility of a nuclear war, some who could afford it built their own nuclear shelter. Personally I never took it very seriously, perhaps naively I believed in the deterrent policy and saw it all as some sort of international game. I didn't believe for one moment that the Soviet leaders, especially the likes of Kruschev, would contemplate embarking on a course of mutual destruction. Their actions were always essentially rational, they had been willing to act in ways that could be regarded as evil, particularly in the days of Stalin, and had been willing to oppress the people of Eastern Europe, even their own people, but only so long as they were confident that they would not have to suffer serious repercussions.
Today the threat of conflict between super-powers has thankfully receded. Sadly, however, the possibility of a disaster due to the use of nuclear weapons is increasing. The proliferation of these weapons due to the understandable aspirations of governments to join the 'nuclear club' increases the risk that they will find their way into the hands of fanatics. This could be particularly dangerous with religious fanatics whose actions are not governed by rational thought and who might, under certain circumstances, convince themselves that, by unleashing one or more of these fearful weapons, they are doing their God's work and will be rewarded in the next life.
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
"All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at some happy juncture, end in failure."