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In Gorky Park, With Nuclear Worries

| Aug. 13, 2018

On a recent Friday night in Moscow, I went for a stroll through Gorky Park, along the Moscow River. Mothers were pushing their toddlers in strollers; couples were walking hand-in-hand; people in paddle boats were cruising around a pond. I thought of how my own daughters would enjoy this scene.

And then, like a bath of ice water down my back, it hit me: these are the people at whom my country has thousands of nuclear weapons pointed, and whose country has thousands of such weapons pointed at us. The horrifying insanity of that fact left me breathless.

The U.S. military takes care not to intentionally target mothers with strollers. U.S. nuclear weapons are aimed at military targets, from nuclear missile silos to military bases and production facilities. But many of those targets are located not far from cities, and the terrible destructive power of nuclear weapons does not discriminate.

If U.S. and Russian plans for nuclear war ever were carried out, tens of millions would die — including, in all likelihood, everyone I saw in Gorky Park. Much of the human civilization built up over thousands of years would be obliterated. More than a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, we continue to rest our security plans on threats to kill more people than Adolf Hitler ever did.

Today, both Russia and the United States are modernizing their nuclear forces to keep these threats robust for decades to come — though their forces’ total numbers are limited by treaties (thank goodness). The U.S. program is expected to cost $1.2 trillion over 30 years, and the Trump administration has added new, smaller nuclear weapons that critics warn might seem more usable should war come. Russia’s program includes entirely new types of strategic weapons, from an intercontinental torpedo designed to blow up U.S. coastal cities to a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile.

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For Academic Citation: Bunn, Matthew.“In Gorky Park, With Nuclear Worries.” The Hill, August 13, 2018.

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