By Paul Goble
In recent days, Vladimir Putin has made casual references to the possibility of nuclear war and massive deaths in Russia and elsewhere, Lev Shlosberg says, comments that must be taken seriously as “a symptom of his poor political health” and as evidence that he has passed “the psychological barrier” against entering into such a conflict.
The Pskov Yabloko commentator argues that every gest or joke contains within it some element of truth; and with respect to such important things as war, they are no laughing matter but rather must be the subject of intense attention as an indication of the habits of mind of the teller (gubernia.pskovregion.org/columns/predchuvstvie-posledney-voyny/).
And Putin’s comments on nuclear war are especially disturbing as “it is simply impossible to imagine such talk between the leaders of the USSR and the US in the worst days of the cold war and the era of nuclear parity.” But today, thanks to Putin, such observations “are not simply possible but have become part of the image of Russia in the world” and in Russia itself.
Putin is exploiting a demographic development, Shlosberg suggests. “The generation of those who remember the last global war has almost left the scene, and the generation of those who remember the times of the cold war and a permanent nuclear threat has ceased to be the majority.”
In their place, tens of millions of people without any understanding of the horrors of war are forming under Putin’s tutelage a vision of a future one, the Yabloko commentator says. “Russian society is being taught to think constantly about war and correspondingly about death. Not only the death of others (enemies) but their own.”
“Because there won’t be death on only one side of the front.” Such a focus, Slosberg says, “is not simply dangerous; it is mortally dangerous for the entire society” because it suggests that everyone is facing Armageddon and therefore the future is irrelevant and not something anyone should be thinking about or planning for.
Putin’s own words suggest he is not thinking about the future and that he doesn’t want others to think about it either given that soon there will be the end of everything. Instead, he is forming a society “which has no thought about the future” because he is incapable of offering any future except an apocalypse.
That may suit Putin’s needs, but it ensures that a society which share his vision is condemned even before the conflict he talks about all too often, Shlosberg concludes.