Russian troops mass on Ukrainian border

Chill wind: Satellite images also show a huge Russian military buildup in the Arctic.

Could Vladimir Putin start World War Three? Yesterday, Ukraine’s president asked Nato for help as hostile forces continued to gather to the north and east of Ukraine and in occupied Crimea.

A muffled thump would be the only sign World War Three had started. Radioactive tsunamis would crash over the coast, killing millions.

This would be the effect of Russia’s new superweapon, the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo. It would detonate, turning the sea radioactive and pushing waves towards the land.

Russia has been taking advantage of climate breakdown to test Poseidon in the Arctic Circle. As the ice melts, it will become a shipping route. Some fear Russia’s activities show it wants to establish control of the route.

Last year, Russia helped suppress pro-democracy protests in Belarus. In the last few days, it has amassed troops on the border with Ukraine.

In 2014, Russian soldiers seized Crimea. Russia has been funding rebel groups in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. There are fears the country could be preparing to annex Donbas.

Others think Russia is trying to mask its weaknesses.

Vladimir Putin has the right to stay in power until 2036, but waves of protest against him have broken out across Russia. Growing numbers of Russians regard the regime as corrupt, and have found a figurehead in Alexander Navalny.

Putin’s control is slipping outside Russia’s borders.

Could Russia start World War Three?

Putin-g it on

Yes. Russia is a powerful nation: it has the largest nuclear stockpile, and its soldiers have combat experience from Ukraine and Syria. Its expansion into the Arctic will be seen as a threat by the USA. Russia could spark a war by provoking the USA.

No. Russia is quite a weak nation, with a restive population and shrinking influence abroad. Its allies, like Belarus and Moldova, are turning away from Russian-style authoritarianism, and towards European social democracy. Within Russia, anti-Putin movements are strengthening. It is in no position to fight a new world war.

You Decide

  1. In what circumstances, if any, should a country ever use nuclear weapons?

Activities

  1. You have been assigned to interview Vladimir Putin. Think of five questions you would like to ask him.

Some People Say...

“The worst thing for a politician is to try and cling to power by every possible means, and focus only on that.”

Vladimir Putin (1952 – ), Russian politician and current president

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that Russia is not in a position to win a war against the US. The US military is the most powerful armed force that has ever existed on the planet. The US spends more than seven times as much on its military as Russia does: in fact, its military budget is greater than that of the next 10 biggest military spenders combined. However, there is no question that it poses a serious threat to its much smaller neighbours, including Ukraine.
What do we not know?
There is some debate over who could replace Putin. Although the West has pinned its hopes on Alexander Navalny, he is a controversial figure in Russia: in his early career he was an avowed nationalist who railed against migrants, and many anti-Putin protesters do not support him. Some think the Russian state is so structurally corrupt that it can only be governed by a strongman – that whoever replaces Putin is doomed to become like him anyway.

Word Watch

Tsunamis
Enormous, devastating waves, created by the displacement of a huge amount of water.
Arctic Circle
The area around the North Pole, generally covered in sea ice.
Belarus
An Eastern European country previously part of the USSR. It became independent in 1991, but since 1994 it has been ruled by pro-Russian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Crimea
A peninsula that juts out into the Black Sea, which is an important crossroads between Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Donbas
A region of eastern Ukraine with a relatively large proportion of ethnic Russians. Some in the area want the region to become part of Russia.
Annex
To seize an area of land and declare it part of one’s own territory.
Alexander Navalny
Navalny mounted a serious challenge to Putin’s party in the Moscow mayoral election of 2013. He is currently ill with tuberculosis in a Siberian prison.
Syria
A Middle Eastern country in the grip of a civil war since 2013. Russia has been providing military support to the Syrian government since 2015.
Social democracy
A form of government in which a liberal, constitutional state funds generous welfare provisions for its people.

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