Caitlin Johnstone: The Single Most Important Question In The World Right Now

The more tense things get, the greater the likelihood of an unthinkable chain of events from which there is no coming back.

A nuclear test by the United States at Bikini Atoll in 1946. (U.S. Defense Dept.)

By Caitlin Johnstone

There is one question today that is more important than any other question that could possibly be asked, and it’s this:

“Is what the U.S. and its allies are trying to accomplish in Ukraine worth continually risking nuclear armageddon for?”

Russian state media confirmed that Vladimir Putin’s orders to move the nation’s nuclear deterrent forces into “special combat duty mode” have been carried out, citing “aggressive statements from NATO related to the Russian military operation in Ukraine.”

“Russia’s ground, air and submarine-based nuclear deterrent forces have begun standby alert duty with reinforced personnel, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Putin,” Sputnik reported.

This came days after Putin issued a thinly veiled threat of an immediate nuclear strike should western powers interfere in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying, “Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so, to create threats to our country, to our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate. And it will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.” 

This also comes as the U.S. and E.U. countries commit to sending fighter jets and stinger missiles to assist Ukraine in fighting an unwinnable war against a longtime target of the U.S. empire, perhaps with the hope of dragging Moscow into a costly military quagmire like it deliberately worked to do in Afghanistan and in Syria.

This also comes as the ruble crashes following crushing sanctions and the banning of Russian banks from the international money transfer system SWIFT by the U.S. and its allies. The economic hardship that follows will hurt ordinary people and may foment unrest, and it is here worth noting that in 2019 then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that the goal of brutal sanctions on Iran was to push people to rise up and overthrow their government.

We’re also seeing the all-too-familiar phrase “regime change” used in reference to Putin by prominent western narrative managers like Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haas, European Council on Foreign Relations Co-Chair Carl BildtBenjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institute and Hoover Institution, as well as USA Today.

All of this has made nuclear war in the near term a whole lot more likely than it was just a few days ago… which is a really strange thing to type.

As I’m always saying, the primary risk of nuclear war is not that anyone will choose to start one, it’s that one could be triggered by any combination of miscommunication, miscalculation, misunderstanding or technical malfunction amid the chaos and confusion of escalating cold war tensions.

This nearly happened, repeatedly, in the last cold war. The more tense things get, the greater the likelihood of an unthinkable chain of events from which there is no coming back.

Cold war brinkmanship has far too many small, unpredictable moving parts for anyone to feel confident that they can ramp up aggressions without triggering a nuclear exchange. Anyone who feels safe with these games of nuclear chicken simply does not understand them.

To get some insight into how easily an unpredictable scenario can lead to nuclear war I recommend watching this hour-long documentary or reading this article about Vasili Arkhipov, the Soviet submariner who single-handedly saved the world from obliteration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was one of three senior officers aboard a nuclear-armed sub that was cornered near Cuba by U.S. war ships who did not know the sub had a nuclear weapon on board.

The U.S. navy was dropping explosives onto the sub to get it to surface, and the Soviets didn’t know what they were doing as they had cut off all communications. It took all three senior officers to launch the nuke their ship was armed with, and two of them, thinking this was the beginning of World War 3, saw it as their duty to use it. Only Arkhipov, who had witnessed the horrific effects that radiation can have on the human body during a nuclear-powered submarine meltdown years earlier, refused.

You, and everyone you know, exist because Arkhipov made that decision. Had his personal history and conditioning been a little bit different, or had another officer been on board that particular ship on that particular day, nothing around you right now would be there. We got lucky. So lucky it’s uncomfortable to even think about it. But it’s important to.

This again is just one of the many nuclear close calls we’ve experienced since our species began its insane practice of stockpiling armageddon weapons around the world. We survived the last cold war by sheer, dumb luck. We were never in control. Not once. And there’s no reason to believe we’ll get lucky again.

2014 study by Earth’s Future found that just a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would throw 5 Tg of black carbon into the stratosphere, blocking out the sun for decades and potentially starving everything to death. India and Pakistan have 160 and 165 nukes each, respectively. The U.S. and Russia have 5,550 and 6,257. 

So I repeat again the world’s most important question: is what the U.S. and its allies are trying to accomplish in Ukraine worth continually risking nuclear armageddon for?

Well? Is it?

It’s not really a question you can just compartmentalize away from if you have integrity. It demands to be answered.

Is it worth it to continue along this trajectory? Is it? Is it really? Perhaps there might be some things that would be worth risking the life of every creature on earth to obtain, but is refusing to concede to Moscow’s demands in Ukraine one of them?

Whatever your values are, whatever your analysis is, whatever beliefs you’ve been holding to justify your support for the west’s side of this conflict, will you still proudly stand by them if you look outside and see a mushroom cloud growing in the distance?

Well? Will you?

Here’s a hint: if your answer to this question is premised on the assumption that nuclear war can’t or will never happen, then you don’t have a position that’s grounded in reality, because you’re not accounting for real possibilities. You’re justifying your position with fantasy.

I understand the argument that if we let tyrants do whatever they want just because they have nukes they’ll just do whatever they want. I understand the argument that if we don’t stop Putin now he’s going to take over all of Europe because he’s literally Hitler and blah blah blah. I understand why people ask “Well if we don’t stand up to him now, then when? Where is your line??” I really do.

But the U.S. has been making risk-to-benefit calculations based on the fact that Russia has nuclear weapons every single day since Stalin got the bomb. There are things Russia has been permitted to do that weaker nations would have been forcefully stopped from doing, like annexing Crimea and intervening in Syria, exactly because they have nukes. If those weren’t the line, why specifically does Ukraine have to be? Surely there’s a line somewhere, but it would have to exist at a point where it would be worth risking the life of every living creature for.

So is it? Is keeping the possibility of NATO membership open and retaining control of the Donbas really so important that we should roll the dice on the existence of the entire human species on it? Is maintaining a hostile client state on Russia’s border truly worth gambling the life of every terrestrial organism for? Are the desperate unipolarist grand chessboard maneuverings of a few powerful people in Washington, Langley and Arlington really worth risking the life of everyone you know and love?

If the answer is no, then building some opposition to what we’re seeing here becomes a very urgent matter. Very urgent indeed.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.  Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix, Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


32 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: The Single Most Important Question In The World Right Now

  1. robert e williamson jr
    March 2, 2022 at 14:36

    If the world makes it through this agonizing “rough spot”, the experience should be seen as a teachable moment.

    Among common themes in the comments here at CN lately I notice two trending themes. One being how terrifying theses “close calls ” are to so many standing on the sidelines world wide. The other which interestingly enough seems to have a large lead on some others it simply how damned stupid this entire exercise in futility actually is.

    The needless suffering and death in Ukraine, the wrecking of the world economy and the terror spread world wide all are very real and I’m sure most agree.

    What can we learn? #1 All nuclear weapons must be dis assembled and or neutralized As Soon As Humanly Possoble and #2 All nuclear power reactors, commercial power plants and all other put under strict government control led by international regulators.

    Nuclear power proponents have had seventy years to come up with solutions to the disposal of spent fuel and highest level wastes. By the way spent fuel is considered high level waste for the purpose of storage / disposal guidelines.

    The long term cost of storing high-level waste and spent fuel is both very expensive and unsustainable.

    If people only knew the word games used by the industry to camouflage the truth to those outsiders who may have questions.

    Speaking of questions. Does it seem right that any one person let alone nation hold the rest of hostage to the threat of nuclear war.

    Isn’t it about time something was done about it?

    Thanks CN

  2. Robert Emmett
    March 2, 2022 at 09:10

    Right Now (an apotheosis of humans)

    If you were partial to signs & portents, you’d be having a penultimate field day that’s been extending itself for years now. Think about it for a sec. Or not, up to you.

    Glaciers & polar caps melting faster than were predicted according to preponderance of the evidence, (though some were wise to it long before that). Unstoppable forces ticking toward kicking-in, in exponential time. All manner of pestilence, famine, rampant disease. Wanton bloodshed, murder & theft on a grand scale. Wars, wars, wars endless wars. Generations of death seeded through wind & dust, carried by water just waiting for the final breakage of atoms, already harnessed & triggered.

    And close calls. The ones we know about. How many more allotted by the sweeping wheel of fate? Or is that wheel now a scythe?

    And a world gone mad in hate & rage. Does it really matter whether someone or no one is at the controls anymore?

    Still not enough for you? Then how about right now. The Big Standoff. Let’s find out, once & for all, whether MAD deterrence really works!

    • robert e williamson jr
      March 2, 2022 at 18:00

      For what it is worth.

      Make no mistake Mr. Emmett we will find out.

      I have faith in the saying that is from an old blues tune. “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” Here is hoping Mr. Putin loves his family more that he wants a place in a history , a history that no one will survive to write.

      Seriously, no one cannot make this shit up!

      The only thing the egg-head experts had right with the MADD philosophy is that nuclear war in insanity.

  3. John Gilberts
    March 1, 2022 at 19:54

    In answer to that ‘single most important question in the world right now’, the answer of the Canadian government appears to be an overwhelming ‘yes!’ The anti-Russian propaganda barrage is in full tilt boogie and most of the Canadian left is either keeping its head down or cheering on the real west-backed warmongers. RT has been removed from cable packages and they are working on removing all Russian sources.

    Perhaps to conceal things like this:

    Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Shares – Then Deletes – Photo Holding Fascist Banner at Ukraine Protest


    “…Red-and-black banners like the one held aloft by [Chrystia] Freeland on Sunday evening were the official battle flag of the so-called Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the paramilitary wing of the fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

    The groups, which were comprised heavily of Nazi collaborators, received funding by the Central Intelligence Agency for much of the 20th century. They became infamous for terrorizing Ukraine’s Jewish population alongside German death squads…”

  4. dunord
    March 1, 2022 at 19:37

    dear CJ,

    this is was never about the US wanting to be good or moral reg.UKR, this is about the geo-existential continuation of the USA as a geo-extortionary power. This plan included:
    1) forcing the EU to buy US weapons for hundreds of billions of dollars (1st US theft-tax on the EU) and at the same time
    2) creating a pretext to force the EU to stop buying Russian gas thus forcing it to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in 3x more expensive gas sold by the US (2nd US theft-tax on the EU). To this end the US plan also included
    3) threatening russia with an accelerating buildup of ABMs and disarming nuclear-first-strike weapons on russian borders, a process started by george W bush by abandoning the 1972 ABM treaty and that is about to put the US in position of blackmailing Russia (and CN) with… a first disarming nuclear strike.
    So Putin had his back against the wall:
    If he acted against the US buildup on russia’s borders, the US would have used it as a pretext to rob the EU 2x (and the world with US green paper and bonds “voluntarily” purchased by local satraps), and Russia would have lost the hundreds of billions of euros that it expects to earn by continuing exporting gas to the EU.
    If Putin, on the other hand, did not act, sooner rather than later Russia would have been extorted by the USA with the threat of a nuclear first strike.
    We just saw that putin chose to do what he knew the USA wanted…

  5. George Philby
    March 1, 2022 at 17:15

    This is for peoples of the world, too long lulled by “media” and governments into complacency about ‘the Bomb”.

    On the Beach (1959) and its Australian miniseries remake (2000) are as relevant now as then.

    People go on the streets protesting all kinds of things. This is infinitely more important than anything. This is the furure (or otherwise) of life on this planet (for humans, anmals, birds, fish, trees, grass). Why aren’t we on the streets now?


    Let’s all pretend we’re happy.
    Let’s all pretend we’re glad.
    Let’s all pretend eight billion dead
    Won’t really be that bad.

    Let’s all get in the shelter,
    Bury our heads in sand.
    Let’s all pretend the world won’t end
    When all the warheads land.

    Let’s all pretend we’re happy,
    Grateful for what they do:
    Spending our taxes on the bomb,
    Not on the schools or you.

    Let’s all pretend that Russia
    Wants to bomb New York town.
    Let’s all pretend the world won’t end
    When ail the nukes go down.

    Nine nuclear countries now,
    Enough to wipe mankind out.
    “If we k’pow Moscow
    Will we die?” “You’ll soon find out.

    Then you may not be happy,
    Watching your children die,
    Their little faces all lit up
    By fireworks in the sky.

    Maybe they’ll all forgive you (doubt it)
    Maybe they’ll understand (don’t think so)
    Why you stood by and let them die.
    Why didn’t you demand

    Government scrap those bombs and zap
    Every bomb-making gang?”

    It’s up to us to start a buzz –
    Don’t let the world go hang!

    If not, my friend, you can depend
    All human life on Earth will end
    In one – big – nuclear –

  6. jdd
    March 1, 2022 at 16:02

    Caitlin Johnstone is on to the truth, and should not be ignored.

  7. UncleDoug
    March 1, 2022 at 15:25

    Also on this point:

    “There are things Russia has been permitted to do that weaker nations would have been forcefully stopped from doing, like annexing Crimea . . .”

    There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Russia’s actions over the past eight years of this long tragedy, but the annexation of Crimea was perfectly understandable and reasonable.

    Crimea has been Russian since 1783, when both Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet were founded. The transfer to Ukraine was an administrative move by Khrushchev, perhaps not legal even in terms of the USSR framework.

    In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimeans tried on multiple occasions to either claim independence or to rejoin Russia. Kiev prevented those options.

    When the US-sponsored coup overthrew Yanukovych, it was clear that NATO had its eyes on the the peninsula and the naval base. There was no way Russia could let that happen.

    The people of Crimea overwhelmingly approved then and approve now of the annexation.

    • March 2, 2022 at 11:39

      You will never hear that version of the story in the Western MSM. Nor the story about the Maidan coup, which when mentioned at all, is either denied or fluffed off as not important to the situation in Ukraine today. I am so disgusted with the hypocrisy of the so called “progressive left” on the Ukraine issue as they turned into hacks overnight.

  8. Rachel Reesor-Taylor
    March 1, 2022 at 15:10

    Well put!

  9. roger noehren
    March 1, 2022 at 14:31

    The Cuban missile crisis was resolved by president Kennedy secretly agreeing to remove US nukes from Turkey.
    President Biden should be in direct communication with Putin. He could offer to remove US nukes from Romania & Poland if he withdraws his invasionary forces from Ukraine and agrees not to place nukes in Belarus.

  10. March 1, 2022 at 14:22

    What is so crazy about this whole conversation is that what Russia wants from Ukraine and the US/NATO bloc, is the same existential sense of security as any other nation wants and has a right to expect. There are plenty of nations that would like to have nuclear weapons, and for better reasons than the Ukraine does. For Ukraine to remain neutral on NATO membership does not diminish Ukraine’s sovereignty. For example, taking a position of neutrality has not interfered with Finland and Sweden’s sovereignty in any way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the over whelming of nations do not belong to NATO or possess nuclear weapons.
    Theoretically, the world is trying to contain the expansion of nuclear weapons, but the U.S., the U.K., and France have been going around “(T)he Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)” by placing their own missiles in NATO Bloc member countries.
    The worst offender is the US/NATO is the biggest obstacle to peace in Eastern and Northern Europe. NATO should have been disbanded right after the Warsaw Pack was demobilized. And why wasn’t it: Because a bunch of right-wing neo-cons decided that with the Soviet Union out of the way, it was a sign from God that the US should become the unipolar dictator of the world (the Wolfowitz Doctrine). The U.S. (Both Democratic and Republication parties), using NATO member states as muscle power, has maintained this policy to this very day. And so here we are talking about the possibility of a real nuclear war, all because the US/NATO countries insist that their very petty rules about “the right to ask to join NATO” are somehow more sacrosanct the life on earth.

    • Danny Miskinis
      March 1, 2022 at 19:33

      I ,for one, agree with your viewpoint 100% ….. a rarity for me!

  11. Ian McWethy
    March 1, 2022 at 14:01

    The levels of hypocrisy are staggering. Who has used nuclear weapons on this planet and who indiscriminately killed innocent civilians. Who fought the Nazi in WWII…. the USA, a little, Russia the most. Remember the siege of Leningrad. Were the French Resistance criminals? France supporting Neo-Nazi now. I am certainly not going into detail but remember 6 million Jews were killed in WWII and 23 million ( at least ) Russians were killed fighting and overcoming the Nazi.

    • michael888
      March 1, 2022 at 17:43

      The US is somehow ALLOWED to make regime changes at will (and no improvements for the people of Honduras, Egypt or Ukraine after the US picked a puppet dictator). Syria invited Russia in, the US invaded. Russia was careful to recognize the breakaway Donbas states, so he could be invited in, and act to protect ethnic Russians against NAZIs. The US has been dumping weapons into Ukraine, pushing for a proxy war (as we did with OUR ISIS headchoppers in Syria). Russia has shown restraint (probably because they know they are weaker), but nuclear missiles are their remaining ace in the hole, and as Madeleine Albright said of starving the 500,000 Iraqi kids “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.” Putin has stated repeatedly that he will use nuclear weapons if Russia is pushed far enough.
      Joe Biden obviously thinks Putin is bluffing. Biden has been in DC for 50 years, and remarkably, has almost invariably been wrong about everything.

    • Antforce62
      March 1, 2022 at 18:36

      And in WW2, the Ukrainian’s were Nazi Collaborator’s who allowed the Nazi’s to enter Ukraine via Crimea! 27 million Russians died & 6 million Jews! That is why you haven’t heard America’s staunchest ally, Israel condemning Russia because they are grateful for what Russia did to save Jewish lives during WW2 & Israel detests the Nazi Traitors of Ukraine!

      • Willow
        March 2, 2022 at 13:56

        Yet today at the UN, Israel cast their vote to condemn Russia’s Nazi rout in the Ukraine, which is a vote to keep the U$ gravy train flowing

  12. Mark Campey
    March 1, 2022 at 13:25

    A very pertinent question. It’s extremely worrying and it does make you wonder about the mindset of these power mad capitalists and to what extent they’d push things to the absolute edge in order to retain their $billions. Would they ultimately pull back from the brink or go the whole hog towards oblivion? You just have to hope that most have a shred of humanity left. Aren’t enough people struggling with mental health issues right now? This will plunge many more into a state of acute anxiety.

  13. Danny Miskinis
    March 1, 2022 at 11:55

    I wish all sane people would read this and demand an end to this madness! I say sane people, excluding those awaiting ‘the end times’ as well as psychotic neocons and neolibs. 2 ‘mistruths’ are evident: 1.This was/is a new cold war 2. We won the cold war[the more dangerous myth]. How can you say you won a conflict that YOU NEVER stopped fighting even though the other side was no longer participating?

  14. rosemerry
    March 1, 2022 at 10:58

    If Jens Stoltenberg had, instead of mocking Russia, given ONE reason why NATO should keep expanding, perhaps we would have realized that this alleged need to keep expanding was completely of no real valueto NATO or its minions but of vital importance to the safety of Russia. All that has occurred since, meticulously documented by Russia but still taken with NO respect of Russia by the “international community” of white rich Western lands, has led to this “unprovoked invasion” by Russia into its neighbour which is NOT its eternal enemy but which it needs to ensure is not allowed to remain one under US?NATO control.

  15. susan
    March 1, 2022 at 10:28

    I guess it’s not enough that almost 6 million people in the world have died from Covid – now they want to take the rest of us for a ride on the Dr. Strangelove bomb! If it weren’t so sick – it would be absolutely hilarious.

  16. Dave Take A Chill Pill
    March 1, 2022 at 10:15

    It’s interesting to reflect on how things would go if the situation was the other way round. How would the US react if Russia overthrew a US friendly democratically elected government in Mexico, armed the new regime to the teeth with billions worth of sophisticated military hardware, scrapped non-proliferation treaties on nuclear missiles that had been in place for decades, began an ethnic cleansing pogrom against English speaking Americans living inside Mexico, taking the lives of thousands of civilians, and then impose crippling sanctions aimed at starving the United States and its people into submission? Surely they would suspect that such actions were aimed at the destruction of the United States itself.

    • Antforce62
      March 1, 2022 at 18:38

      Sounds like s solid plan, thanks Dave!

  17. Vera Gottlieb
    March 1, 2022 at 10:08

    There is going to be TWO losers: Russia and the entire European Union. And it is going to hurt a lot in months to come. Time to stop looking at the US as the ‘leader’ of the free world.

  18. susan
    March 1, 2022 at 10:08

    What the HELL is the matter with these FUCKING ASSHOLES???

    • John Ressler
      March 2, 2022 at 07:43

      Susan – couldn’t have said it better myself. So many great pieces and comments here at CN that buoy me in these surreal daze.

  19. torture this
    March 1, 2022 at 09:35

    Suspense is killing me! Will Biden introduce Juan Quaido as the new President of Russia tonight?

  20. Evan Larson
    March 1, 2022 at 08:59

    The primary struggle in the U.S. now is fighting the U.S. NATO criminals! Let’s stop them from sending more funds and weapons to the Ukraine. These funds could help the U.S. working class instead! Ms. Johnstone is correct, we need an opposition, people’s front. We the people can win!

  21. Howling Mad
    March 1, 2022 at 08:13

    So going to this point:
    “There are things Russia has been permitted to do that weaker nations would have been forcefully stopped from doing, like annexing Crimea and intervening in Syria, exactly because they have nukes. ”
    This goes for any of the western powers that have nukes with powers that don’t…
    The US has invaded so many nations in the last 30 years(this is not an aboutism), but nobody every took it to the ICC for war crimes and there have been many.
    We are being hypocritical with Russia, as our governments are with us: Rules for thee, but not for me

    • rosemerry
      March 1, 2022 at 11:06

      Several of the nations attacked by NATO in Yugoslavia did try to take the NATO members to court but were stopped for procedural reasons, just like the war on Iraq, the siege of the 1990s of Iraq, etc; The”international community” cannot do wrong, according to their laws. An excellent book by Edward Herman and David Peterson 2010, “The Politics of Genocide”,gives so many meticulously researched details on this and is well worth consulting. Use of the words genocide and massacre is not neutral!! Chomsky said it “when they do it it is genocide, when we do it-never!!”

    • SomeSalt
      March 1, 2022 at 11:14

      “annexing Crimea”

      There was no annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation their representatives were already there by mutual agreement, but had the added advantage post February 2014 of being invited more viciferously, then the inhabitants voted in a referendum to ask to join the Russian Federation, the population of The Russian Federation then had their own referendun which agreed to allow Crimea to join the Russian Federation.

      • Mike Lamb
        March 2, 2022 at 06:03

        Alexander Solzhenitsyn On The New Russia, August 5 2008 Forbes – this was a reprint, I think the original interview was done around 1994.

        in 1954, Khrushchev, with the arbitrary capriciousness of a satrap, made a “gift” of the Crimea to Ukraine. But even he did not manage to make Ukraine a “gift” of Sevastopol, which remained a separate city under the jurisdiction of the U.S.S.R. central government

        As I recall Khrushchev violated the Soviet Constitution in this transfer of the administration of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine as the people of Ukraine did not vote on this transfer.
        As for the Soviet port of Sevastopol, it was not transferred as it was a military city under the control of the central Soviet Government in Moscow.

        You go back to circa 1991 when Ukraine separated from Russia and the Soviet Union Crimea was going to have a vote to become a separate country but the Government of Ukraine in Kiev threated to invade Crimea.
        In the Ukrainian Constitution in effect January 2014 Crimea was an “autonomous Republic.”


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