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An opinion column in the New York Times on May 23 by U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, gave this bleak message to readers: “We Must Prepare for Putin’s Worst Weapons.” Too true, Senator Romney, but your screed proceeded to omit the worst of all weapons: nuclear-armed ICBMs that can reach any target in the world. Though many Americans apparently have forgotten it, both America and Russia are still well supplied with these launch-on-demand, silo-based behemoths.

Romney did mention two nuclear options Putin has: tactical nuclear weapons (probably cruise missiles) and weaponizing one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. If, he asserts, Putin should resort either of these horrendous strategies, NATO might “engage in Ukraine potentially obliterating Russia’s struggling military”.

Romney is right that a united and coordinated NATO could sweep Russian forces away. An air war led by Britain and France (with American special help in AWACS and tanker refueling) could establish air superiority in a matter of weeks. Then a phase two ground attack led by NATO members closer to the Russian border — who hate and fear Russia — could free all of Ukraine. But if such a plan would be carried out this still would not take away Putin’s ability to use of either tactical or strategic nuclear weapons.

If the Russian struggling military was obliterated then, in the eyes of many, no doubt including Putin, Russia itself would be effectively destroyed. Use of ICBMs has been considered very unlikely because of the of the mutual assured destruction doctrine: Any use of an ICBM would result in obliteration of … everyone. But if Russia (Putin) were to see itself as already destroyed …

The worst single weapon in the world is likely the Russian R-36 (also called the SS-18, “Satan”), which in its latest iteration can carry 10 warheads of 18-25 kilotons each. Developed, ironically, in the Ukraine in 1962 when Ukraine was part of the USSR, there are fewer of them now then there had been (55 now by one report). But so what? The complete nuclear destruction of even just one major American city would destroy America, (and probably Canada and Mexico as well). Tens of thousands of refugees suffering from radiation sickness would spread out from ground zero. Weakened survivors would be prey to many diseases, which would overwhelm hospitals everywhere. West Virginia, of course, being so near Washington, D.C., would be hit hard and fast.

Following the logic presented by Sen. Romney and then making a reasonable extrapolation gives us this possible four-phase scenario:

Phase one: Putin resorts to a nuclear option.

Phase two: NATO proceeds to obliterate Russia’s struggling military.

Phase three: Putin would likely respond with additional use of nuclear cruise missiles. But, whether he did so or not, some rogue NATO ground units, having defeated Russia in Ukraine, would head north into Russia. Though they might make side forays to pillage, rape and murder, their obvious goal would be the Kremlin in Moscow.

Phase four: Satan emerges.

John Palmer is a Huntington resident.

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