Moscow suicide club

denko maleski
Professor Denko Maleski, Photo: Free Press / Archive

If Russia drops a nuclear bomb on Ukraine, Western powers are unlikely to launch nuclear strikes fatal to the survival of humanity. For virtuous people it may be a moment to step back from the brink of the nuclear abyss. But the members of the Moscow suicide club are playing that card.

And this morning, a prominent representative of the Moscow suicide club - Dimitriy Medvedev - spoke. He boasted that NATO would not intervene even if Russia dropped a nuclear bomb on the Ukrainians. This is correct, it will not intervene. But the restraint of the West even in such a case only says that on the other side there are politicians who have preserved their reason and are not ready to judge humanity without thinking.

In fact, I don't think there would be an automatic Western reaction to start World War III even if the Russians dropped an atomic bomb on a NATO member in Eastern Europe or the Baltics. It does not speak of their weakness but of the fact that, faced with a cataclysm, even then reasonable people would seek a reasonable way out of the crisis. And what about the collective security that derives from Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter of NATO?

Here is what the science of international politics says about the topic of collective security. The natural tendency of states, when faced with danger, is to group together against the aggressor, who, if successful in conquering his first victim, will turn to others as well. If they are in an alliance, the states are bound by the principle of collective security to come to the aid of the victim. In the case of NATO, it is enshrined in the famous Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter. A few years ago, in a debate with my American friend and colleague, we asked ourselves whether Article 5 should be taken literally? Opting for a small NATO member state, we then asked ourselves the question: what if Russia dropped an atomic bomb on Bratislava, Slovakia? Does it automatically follow a nuclear response by other NATO members and the start of a third world war? We concluded that humanity's experience with the principle called collective security shows that such automatism does not exist, even when something is written down on paper. Namely, reality shows that there is no blank support for the potential victim of aggression. The politician at the head of a country always wants to have free hands in the pragmatic assessment of the character of the crisis and to know how it corresponds to the national interest of his country.

The fact that statesmen are unwilling to sacrifice the careful analysis of each specific case for the abstract principle called collective security or Article 5 does not make them immoral as human beings. That's just the way it is. Hence, weak states must also be careful about the international policy they lead and, with their behavior, contribute to world peace. That's in a nutshell, says the science of international politics.

Translated to the current crisis, the conclusion is that even if Russia were to drop a nuclear bomb on Ukraine, Western powers would likely not launch nuclear strikes fatal to the survival of humanity. For virtuous people who kept their sanity, it could sooner be a moment of sobering up and a retreat from the brink of the nuclear abyss. But that's exactly the card the members of the Moscow Suicide Club are playing.

You know that behavior from everyday life when bullies equate our decency with our weakness, only to be surprised that it wasn't quite like that. Well, in that manner the persistent Medvedev repeats: "I have to remind once again about those deaf people who only listen to themselves. "Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary... And that is definitely not a bluff." US Secretary of State Blinken, on the other hand, calls on Russian politicians to "stop talking nonsense about nuclear war". Perhaps he has in mind the words of Khrushchev, who once said that after a world nuclear war "the living will envy the dead".

(The author is a professor and the first minister of foreign affairs)

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