Front Page Talking Points


An old nightmare returns, awakening new concerns about Russia’s nuclear warheads


1.gifCatch up on Ukraine war news and describe your emotional reaction in a few words.

2.gifRead about another world concern (such as climate or hunger) and list two facts.

3.gifSummarize the key point of a different international article. What continent is it from?

Dark fears that have been largely dormant for over three decades are resurfacing because of Russia's six-week-old invasion of Ukraine. The nightmare question is whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin might use nuclear missiles – a mostly unthinkable nightmare since 1991, which brought the end of a "Cold War" between the United States and the Soviet Union (as Russia's larger predecessor was called). Now Putin has put his country's nuclear weapons on a higher alert status, meaning they're closer to launch readiness. His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned two weeks ago that the threat of a nuclear war "cannot be underestimated. . . . The danger is serious."

In Washington, President Biden called Russia's actions and talk "irresponsible," and said: "No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility of the need to use them." The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said recently: "President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable. And we have to continue to condemn his actions in the most strong, strongest possible way."

Russia, like the U.S. and NATO, has thousands of nuclear warheads as a deterrent to an attack. A doctrine of "mutually assured destruction" — that no state will start a nuclear war because swift retaliation would jeopardize its own fate — has kept those ultimate weapons from being launched. But some experts say the fear of a major nation's nuclear missile launch now pushes smaller states, such as South Korea, to consider nuclear weapons for protection. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says his country shouldn't have abandoned nuclear arms inherited from the Soviet Union.

Pentagon leader says: "Any time a senior leader of a nation-state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes it seriously." – Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

British expert says: "It's outside the realm of possibility right now that there's going to be a nuclear war or World War III that really spills over that far beyond Ukraine's borders." -- Samuel Ramani, analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a London research center

U.S. historian says: "I sense a period ending. I am now deeply afraid that Mr. Putin's recklessness may cause the years between the Cold War and the Covid-19 pandemic to seem a halcyon period [peaceful time] to future historians, compared with what came after." -- Mary Elise Sarotte of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2022

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.