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Hannah Arendt: On the Spectre of Nuclear War

Maurits de Jongh finds our contemporary situation reflected in earlier states.

On 27th February 2022, three days after the invasion of Ukraine began, Vladimir Putin ordered his generals to put Russia’s nuclear deterrent force on high alert. Seventy-seven years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Putin’s words brought the spectre of nuclear war back onto the world stage.

During the first months of the war, Western leaders kept their cool, not responding to his nuclear rhetoric, although the then French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, did remind the Russians on the first day of the invasion that NATO is also a nuclear alliance. Otherwise, Putin’s nuclear threats were met in the West with what Emmanuel Macron called ‘strategic ambiguity’. But the tide is changing.