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Max Hastings

With Nuclear Threat, Putin Makes the Unthinkable a Possibility

Most Westerners thought the peril of apocalypse disappeared with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. They were wrong.

Nikita Khrushchev, nuclear power.

Nikita Khrushchev, nuclear power.

Source: Express via Getty Images

Might Russian President Vladimir Putin drop The Bomb? Unleash a nuclear weapon in Ukraine? It is conceivable. Yet five years ago, it would have seemed fantastic that such a question could be posed about any national leader in the world.

For much of the Cold War, prospects of Armageddon filled the nightmares of statesmen and their peoples. During the past three decades, however, we have lived as if nuclear weapons had ceased to exist. In 1985, the U.S. and Soviet Union issued a joint statement that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” which seemed to point the way toward a much less scary world.