The President and the Bomb

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President Biden has warned the Russians that the usage of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine may result in a wider nuclear battle. He’s proper to be frightened—and he’s proper to warn the Russians but once more to not take that fateful step.

However first, listed below are three new tales from The Atlantic.

The Brightest Crimson Line

The president of america said last night that he’s involved about nuclear conflict. “I don’t suppose there’s any such factor as the flexibility to simply [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and never find yourself with Armageddon,” he remarked, seemingly off-the-cuff, at a Democratic fundraiser. The reactions had been what you’d count on: Strategists and foreign-policy consultants tried to unpack his statements, whereas right-wing pundits declared that the outdated man is just too unsteady for the job. Many Individuals are, understandably, scared.

I’ve criticized Biden for intemperate remarks prior to now. I gladly stipulate that I by no means need any president speaking about nuclear conflict extemporaneously (and I ponder what moved the president to talk out this time). However I perceive the message Biden is attempting, in each doable venue, to ship to Russia, and I’m glad that he’s attempting to shake us—and Russian President Vladimir Putin—out of our complacency about this probably cataclysmic challenge.

What I think Biden is aware of, and what Individuals and their allies ought to notice, is that Putin is sort of actually speaking so much about nuclear weapons as a result of he desires to accustom the West to the concept he has the appropriate to make use of them. From the first day of the war, Putin has woven nuclear threats into each his offensive in opposition to Ukraine and his warnings to the West. Like different Russia-watchers, I feel the chances that Putin will resort to nuclear use are low. However I’ve been frightened about it because the second Russia’s army began collapsing on the battlefield.

Now the Russian president is ensuring to maintain mentioning tactical nuclear weapons, smaller bombs delivered over brief distances. These arms, nevertheless, are “small” solely relative to the huge weapons on bombers, submarines, and intercontinental missiles; even the tiniest of them can do immense damage, particularly in opposition to civilian areas.

By elevating the specter of tactical nuclear weapons, Putin is attempting to play either side of the nuclear sport. He desires the remainder of the world to internalize the concept a small nuclear assault isn’t actually all that totally different from some other form of bombing, whereas nonetheless shattering the nuclear taboo, with all of the anxiousness that phrase provokes. He would possibly see this as permitting him to make use of a nuclear weapon to realize the trifecta of terrorizing the Ukrainians into give up, holding the West at bay, and escaping the results of crossing the army world’s brightest purple line.

Putin has performed the identical sport with different breaches of worldwide norms. He talks about doing one thing horrible, does it, after which assumes the remainder of the world will take up all of it as a brand new actuality and simply stay with it. It’s of venture that has paid off for him prior to now, particularly when he seized Crimea.

Tactical nuclear use could be far riskier than the Crimean journey. However Putin just isn’t the one one who thinks the West would possibly merely take it if Russia makes use of a nuclear weapon. When the author Eric Schlosser interviewed former Secretary of Protection William Perry in The Atlantic just some weeks in the past, Schlosser famous that Russia has already engaged in numerous atrocities and {that a} very small nuclear weapon “won’t appear too controversial.” Perry agreed: “I feel there could be a world uproar, however I don’t suppose it might final lengthy,” he stated. “It’d blow over in every week or two.”

I feel that President Biden, nevertheless, is correct that the primary use of a nuclear weapon is barely the start of a slide towards world catastrophe. The world could be totally different the second Russia ushered in a brand new age of nuclear fight. And the uproar wouldn’t die, as a result of tv cameras would present the world what even a small nuclear assault seems like: Except Putin selected to do one thing dramatic however militarily ineffective, equivalent to an explosion out at sea, there could be ghastly burns, folks dying of radiation illness, and fires that might make the present pictures from Ukraine look like the outcomes of mere skirmishes.

Such an assault would demand a response. Regardless of Perry’s fears—and no matter Putin’s hopes—there may be nearly no probability that america, NATO, the European Union, and even different nuclear powers equivalent to India and China will merely shrug if Putin makes nuclear weapons simply one other type of usable ordnance. Extra to the purpose, Biden has already said to the Russians publicly and privately that America and its allies would impose “catastrophic penalties” on Russia and its army. I’m reluctant to foretell what these measures would possibly appear to be, however they may functionally finish Russia’s means to make conflict in Ukraine and the Black Sea area.

At that time, Putin—if he’s nonetheless in energy—would both have to just accept defeat, or escalate and throw the cube but once more. (And, as even Secretary Perry famous, america must “take off the gloves the second time round.”) Putin would possibly then declare that the U.S. and NATO are presenting an existential menace to the Russian state, and go to a full nuclear alert that instantly threatens all of Europe and North America.

The US must reply and go to a equally heightened standing. Putin, because the Soviet chief Nikita Khrushchev put it during the Cuban missile crisis, could have tied the knot of conflict, and either side’s actions would then run the danger of pulling it tighter. Even the slightest miscalculation may result in an apocalyptic consequence. The one choice that avoids such a catastrophe is settlement to Putin’s phrases, a direct Ukrainian give up, and basic Western abandonment of East-Central Europe. That is seemingly what Putin expects, however it might be yet one more mistake from a Russian dictator who has underestimated his opponents and made horrendous miscalculations at each flip.

Putin is attempting to normalize the usage of nuclear weapons for imperial conquest. If he succeeds, he won’t cease. The US didn’t battle two world wars and the Chilly Warfare merely to bow to blackmail and settle for the calls for of a despot holding your entire world order of peace and safety hostage with a nuclear bomb. It was Biden’s obligation—as it might be for any American president—to say clearly and instantly that the usage of nuclear weapons runs apocalyptic dangers.


As we speak’s Information
  1. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to human-rights organizations in Russia and Ukraine, and to a Belarusian activist.
  2. The U.S. added 263,000 jobs in September, falling simply wanting expectations. The labor market stays robust.
  3. The Uvalde, Texas, college district suspended its whole district police pressure amid outrage over officers’ response to the college capturing in Might.


Night Learn
(Everett Assortment; The Atlantic)

The Surprising Energy of Seeing Your self as a Villain

By Mary Retta

Monsters in horror movies aren’t simply scary, or harmful. Additionally they “make one’s pores and skin creep,” the thinker Noël Carroll wrote: “Characters regard them not solely with worry however with loathing, with a mixture of terror and disgust.” It’s no coincidence, then, that horror is strewn with characters who’re overtly, or coded as, queer and transgender—and that they’re nearly all the time the soiled, lecherous, bloodthirsty villains, seldom the victims. Consider movies equivalent to The Silence of the Lambs and Psycho, with their suggestion that the gender confusion of their “cross-dressing” villain is the impetus for his or her violent wishes.

Read the full article.

Extra From The Atlantic

Tradition Break
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Karen O performing with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on October 1, 2022, at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York (Ellen Qbertplaya)

Learn. Hill Station,” a brief story by Madhuri Vijay about an unhappy marriage and an unfulfilled mother.

Or strive one among these books that our writers read too late—and that you need to learn now.

Watch. One (or two, or 5) of those 25 horror movies for every kind of viewer.

On TV, Abbott Elementary is an ideal consolation watch.

And don’t hand over on SNL but. Final week’s premiere signaled stunning potential for the brand new season.

Pay attention. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re the band that invented Millennials.

Play our daily crossword.


The information cycle as soon as once more thwarted my hopes of leaving you with one thing lighter on a Friday. So let me counsel to you some retro tv consolation meals which you can stream on Hulu or purchase on iTunes. I’ve an important affection for Boston, the capital metropolis of my state of start, and I’m a sucker for nearly something set there. Once you consider Boston tv, you consider Cheers, in fact, or perhaps Spenser: For Rent or Crossing Jordan.

However don’t overlook one of many quirkiest and greatest dramas ever set in Boston, St. Elsewhere. The fictional hospital St. Eligius was an impoverished dumping floor nicknamed “St. Elsewhere,” and the collection was each a satisfying medical drama and a bizarre innovation in tv. (One of many characters visits one other character in hell throughout a near-death expertise. That’s not your customary physician present.) Some folks didn’t just like the finale; I cherished it. And it’s laborious to make a nasty present with Denzel Washington, Alfre Woodard, and David Morse alongside veterans equivalent to William Daniels and Norman Lloyd. So when it is advisable to tune out the information, get on the Orange Line, activate the present’s great theme song, and cease in at St. Eligius.


Isabel Fattal contributed to this article.

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