Friday, July 20, 2018

Political Hysteria

I am disturbed by the hysteria in the news media and political circles about the Trump-Putin summit in Helskinki.

I am old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had just started high school. There was a heightened awareness of the dangers of nuclear war back then (families in the US were digging fallout shelters). I can still remember the fear that we felt, even far away in New Zealand.

The two nuclear powers, the United States and the Soviet Union were attempting to stare each other down, with the leader of each side threatening to launch their nuclear arsenal, if the other did not back down. No one knew who would blink and pull the trigger first. Confidential files that have been made public in the last few years show that the world was much closer to conflagration than we even realised at the time.

Fortunately, the two leaders, Nikita Khrushchev and John Kennedy were able to roll back the tension, and arrive at a solution, despite their political and military advisors wanting to amp the tension up. One reason they were able to do this was that they had met at a summit a year earlier in Vienna. I presume that they did not like each other, and they did not agree on much, but they did establish a working relationship that enabled them to resolve a crisis when this became necessary.

Therefore, I am amazed at the hysterical reaction of the western media and political leaders to the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki. I think it is good that leaders of nuclear powers sit down and talk with each other. They don’t have to like each other, or trust each other, but dealing with a crisis can be much easier if they have got to know each other a bit.

The greatest threat to the world is still nuclear annihilation. We seem to have got used to it, but the risk has not gone away. Big wars start when the news media get hysterical and stir up political and military leaders. Rash actions are more likely when tension is high. The anti-Russian frenzy of the news media is creating hatred and anger that increases the risk that conflict between nuclear powers could get out of control. This is far more dangerous than any chat between two not-very-nice men in Helsinki.

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