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Trump and Putin Are Cornered. Now for the Hard Part

With the Very Stable Genius declaring that he has used his awesome mental powers to declassify all those documents the FBI seized, and Vlad the KGB Impaler showing off his nuclear teeth, I think it’s fair to say this era’s two foremost fascists have been backed into a corner. The question, of course, is what happens next and how we can avoid catastrophe at the hands of these ultra-powerful maniacs.

On the face of it, Putin is certainly the bigger menace to the world, since he controls Russia’s nuclear arsenal even while he continues his ruinous war against Ukraine. “I am not bluffing!” he growled while “reminding” the world this week that he has his finger on The Button, as we used to say during the Cold War. In extremis, would he really decide to outdo Hitler in a Götterdämmerung of our entire global civilization? Impossible to know, and it’s almost as impossible to guess whether he has really terrified all his underlings so thoroughly they’ll never dare attempt to overthrow him, as was indeed the case with his hero Stalin. That is why Biden has been so cautious in his approach, trying to strike the middle ground between resisting Putin’s aggression and provoking him into proving he’s not bluffing.

But it may not be possible to thread this needle much longer. Let’s say Putin’s next step is to order his army to explode “tactical” or “battlefield” nuclear weapons in Ukraine, or to deliberately shell a nuclear power plant in the country he has invaded so as to cause a meltdown. What are the contingency plans in that case? Sanctions have long since outrun the limits of their usefulness, and would not be an adequate answer anyway, since the fallout would be bound to spread across Europe. One hopes that NATO and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have some real options to offer the president in such an eventuality.

Then there’s Putin’s Biggest Fan, and it doesn’t take a conspiracy-monger to wonder if his current troubles are somehow connected to Putin’s nuclear blackmail. Just which “foreign power’s nuclear arsenal” was described in the beyond-top-secret documents the FBI seized? And how can we ever be sure that Trump, who openly passed on classified information to Putin’s rabid dog Sergei Lavrov, hasn’t done the same with the papers he stole as he exited the presidency in disgrace? No wonder he is now openly threatening to incite a domestic rebellion if indicted. After all, this is still the same country that sent Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair for passing atomic secrets on to Soviet agents. (Yes, they did. Don’t even try bringing that old argument up again.)

“Where we go one, we go all” is the slogan of the QAnon movement, with its quasi-paranoid schizophrenic delusions, which Trump is now stroking and stoking. Funnily enough, it’s not a bad description of what will happen to our world if the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ doomsday clock strikes midnight now, in this year of grace 2022. Biden and those around him had better have the political wiliness of Lincoln plus FDR combined and squared to figure out how to slay these monsters without taking unthinkable numbers of victims with them.


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