Radio Show Host Stenholm: “But, Andrei Dmitrivich, you are doubtful that anything in general can be done to improve the system of the Soviet Union, yet you yourself go ahead acting, writing declarations, protests – why?”
Andrei Sakharov: “Well, there is a need to create ideals even when you can’t see any route by which to achieve them, because, if there are no ideals then there can be no hope…one would be completely in the dark, in a hopeless blind alley.”
Andrei Sakharov spent his whole life defending the right of free speech, throwing all his power against the repression of the Soviet government. Although some of his suggestions to the problems of the world in his time were considered too idealistic, his well-thought out ideas and his practice of peaceful protest have influenced the lives of countless people, both during his lifetime and after his death.
THE DANGERS OF THERMONUCLEAR WAR
There are those who say that war is inevitable. Perhaps it is; it has been demonstrated throughout history over and over again that war sometimes the only way mankind can ever experience any progress. But any kind of nuclear war is never necessary, for the primary target of any nuclear explosion is nearly always the civilian, the ordinary citizen whose only hope is of peace and survival during a time of war. Nuclear war means the death of millions of innocent people with the explosion of one missile – this alone turns the meaning of war into that of murder.
The main reason that a thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb is so powerful lies in its immense power to destroy. According to Sakharov, “ the explosion of such warhead is 150 times greater than from the Hiroshima Bomb (atomic bomb), and the area of destruction is 30 times greater.” With the construction of more powerful and scientifically advanced hydrogen bombs, its rate of devastation increases to thousands of times the force of the atomic bomb.
Another, perhaps more frightening aspect of the hydrogen bomb, is the ease of its production after the design has been perfected. As Sakharov says, “ the mass production of thermonuclear weapons is more complex and expensive than…the production of military aircraft,” which were produced by the tens of thousands during the time of war. If these nuclear weapons are produced cheaply – for there is no shortage of resources, the use of them will be much less cautious. By the time this book was written in the 1970s, Sakharov believes that enough plutonium has been mined to create nuclear bombs to “destroy mankind many times over.”
The third factor of the danger associated with the thermonuclear bomb is the impossibility of preventing potential attacks. Billions of dollars would be spent in creation of an anti-bomb system, which would most likely prove ineffective due to the strength of the thermonuclear bomb. In the case that thermonuclear warfare does erupt, it is likely that the whole world would become involved, leading to the quick destruction of mankind.
During the 1970’s, the threat of thermonuclear war between the two superpowers, the United States and Russia, hung over both countries. The political agendas and the ambitions of the countries’ leaders blinded them to the safety of the people. Although the threat of nuclear war is not as imminent as it was three decades ago, it is nevertheless an issue that affects our lives today. The leaders of countries with nuclear weapons still choose not to listen, for disarmament also means the exposing their nation to other means of harm. But if the voices of the people are raised in unison to protest against one of the most dangerous threats to the meaning of human life, someday, these leaders will be forced to listen.