Plastic Bags or Nuclear Missiles: Putting Threats into Perspective

A message to the Schiller Institute online event of June 10 was sent by Dr. Andrey Kortunov, Director-General of the Russian International Affairs Council, which we quote below.

“It was sixty years ago, when John F. Kennedy made his historic speech about the challenge of nuclear weapons. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, this challenge was on the very top of the global political agenda. Is it still the case today? Hardly so. The international public opinion no longer prioritizes the threat of nuclear annihilation as the crucial concern overshadowing other important problems and threats. Politicians, researchers, journalists and bloggers all over the planet are distracted by issues that look more urgent and less complicated.

“International public opinion focuses on plastic bags much more than on nuclear missiles. The plastic bag problem is part of leading political parties’ programs. National and international projects to reduce plastic production are being adopted and implemented. Prices for polyethylene containers in stores have increased sharply. Public awareness campaigns are being run to improve household waste disposal practices.

“Unfortunately, nothing even remotely similar to that is observed with regard to nuclear missiles. On the contrary, even the very modest achievements in nuclear disarmament of the past 50 years are turning to dust before our eyes….

“This is not a good enough reason to sit back and do nothing. The time for a new model of nuclear arms control will come sooner or later: the costs are too high and the risks of an upcoming ‘nuclear isolationism’ are high as well. It is possible to bring an era of revived nuclear disarmament closer, if we borrow the methods used for dealing with environmental problems, such as international expert cooperation, public awareness campaigns, involving pop culture stars, lobbying in parliaments, and much more. If we discard the clearly obsolete myths and archaic stereotypes that make the nuclear sphere something mystical and sacred, the difference between nuclear missiles and plastic bags will not seem as big as we might think.”

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