Here We Go Again

PARIS, March-April, 2022

The year was 1962, the month October. I clearly remember my 16-year-old self standing still in a state of shock as I listened to the alarming reports and speculation about a possible nuclear war after U.S. intelligence reports showed that Russian missiles had been secretly placed in Cuba. Less than an hour from my home in the corner of southwest Iowa, the SAC (Strategic Air Command) which housed interballastic missiles at the Offutt Air Force Base was on high alert.  This proximity made the whole thing even more frightening.  There was talk of safe shelters and of ducking under desks should the attack come when we were at school. Only one word summaries how we all felt: terrified.

We all know the end of the story. Krushchev and Kennedy worked out a diplomatic solution that ended the standoff. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief and that was that.

Cuban missile crisis

But it was close.

And now, some 60 years later, I am sitting in my living room in Paris, France watching the same kind of brinkmanship play out. This time it is Russia invading the Ukraine whose capital Kiev is a mere three hour flight from the French capital.  Europe is small and it is literally as if this attack is in our backyard.  Way too close for comfort.

Putin obviously thought that the weak Europeans would never get their act together and would show no resistance to his carefully planned attack.

But he was wrong. In every European capital, protesters protested and heads of government took firm stands against the invasion. That included Germany, which since 1945, has never had a standing army. Surprisingly, the German government offered to send arms to the oppressed Ukrainians, a real game changer.

The U.S. is geographically far away from all this. But here in France and in Europe there is no getting away from the fact these the country under attack is almost your next door neighbor.  What happens to that neighbor concerns you and affects you. NATO has stood up to the bully; the U.S. and many European countries are sending weapons to arm the Ukrainians as well as medicine and clothes and food. Many European countries, in particular Poland, are welcoming the refugees streaming across the borders, fleeing the bombs.

Where and when will all this end?  Are Putin’s threats of nuclear dissuasion mere threats? Or is he crazy enough to implement them? That is a thought to be banished as we hope for the best.

Just like back in 1962.

8 thoughts on “Here We Go Again”

  1. I was a passenger on a freighter out of Galveston headed for San Juan, PR and a job on a newspaper. Because of the blockage of Cuba we had to swing out into the Atlantic and Gulf Stream which meant we had a look at the Sargasso Sea and flybys of most of the U.S. air defense, Air Force and navy. It was not reassuring. On the other hand there was a family of missionaries aboard who were all seasick. So much for the cheap transportation. I was a long way from Shenandoah and didn’t imagine your civil defense. I had hoped you would have some insight into President Macron’s strategy going into the election with all the implications for the Ukraine and Europe. Sandy Overbey

    1. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing your experience. I have no particular insight into President Macron’s strategy going into the election with all the implications for the Ukraine and Europe other than that he is keeping the channels open between France and Russia in hopes of cooling down Putin and getting negotiations going. He and far right leader Marine Le Pen will face each other in two weeks and God help us all if she wins. She has cozied up to Putin and has never believed in Europe. Macron is a true European and I think that he has done a remarkable job so far in terms of strategy in this particular affair. Unfortunately, it has met with no success – so far.

      1. I knew you had an emotional investment in Pr. Macron and I cannot imagine what perverse aspect of political imagination binds followers to Le Pen, her niece and those further right. Hoped you might help me learn. Thanks.

  2. Yes, the US is protected by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans but ICBM’s don’t care which makes Everyone in the World with the possibility of Total Destruction. From what the Scientists have predicted after a Nuclear War a Nuclear Winter, it could end up destroying the Earth. It would take a Madman to start a Nuclear War, what concerns me more is Biological Warfare, just Kills People and does not destroy the infrastructure, and can blame it all on Nature, the perfect tool for Genocide and Destroying your Enemies…God Bless Europe since this is happening in your Neighborhood, and God Bless Ukraine…

    1. Thanks, Dave, for your comment. I agree with you that biological warfare is even more frightening. It would take a madman to start a nuclear war and here’s hoping that Putin is simply amoral, not crazy.

  3. I remember reading of the atrocities committed by the Red Army as they retreated from the Germans in World War 2. Apparently, they have not gotten any less barbaric. Putin’s desire for security through territorial conquest is earning him the contempt of the Western world. Although I admire the attempts by M. Macron (and others) to coax Putin back into civilization, I am not optimistic.

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