Food For Thought.
1. Ed Luce:
If there were a 5 per cent chance of Putin detonating a battlefield nuclear weapon, the world would be at more risk than at any point in most people’s lifetimes. In the past few days, Moscow’s signaling has arguably raised the chances to one in 10. Putin described last week’s test of the Sarmat hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile as giving the west “food for thought”, which would not sound out of place from Blofeld, the 20th-century Bond villain. On Wednesday, Putin said: “We have all the instruments for this [responding to an existential threat to Russia] — ones nobody else can boast of. And we will use them, if we have to.”
The natural response is that Joe Biden and his European counterparts have made it plain Nato will not fight in Ukraine. The west, in other words, poses no “existential threat” to Russia — its threshold for use of nuclear weapons. But that is only how the west sees it. Putin’s threats, and those of his officials, have been made in the context of claiming Russia is already at war with Nato. Russians are being told every day that they are in a fight for national survival against western-backed Nazis. This level of rhetoric exceeds anything from the cold war.
The concept of mutually assured destruction, which took hold after 1962, is that each side has a clear window on the other’s routines and thinking. Most of the information-sharing that was put in place has been abandoned in the past decade. Putin has closed down cold war protocols and even accused Russian nuclear scientists who want to meet their US counterparts of being spies. This means the two adversaries, which account for 90 per cent of the world’s warheads, are far more ignorant of each other’s signaling than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. Ignorance, in this situation, is not bliss. (Source: ft.com)
2. New omicron sublineages, discovered by South African scientists this month, are likely able to evade vaccines and natural immunity from prior infections, the head of gene sequencing units that produced a study on the strains said. The BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages appear to be more infectious than the earlier BA.2 lineage, which itself was more infectious than the original omicron variant, said Tulio de Oliveira, the head of the institutes at the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch. With almost all South Africans either having been vaccinated against the coronavirus or having had a prior infection, the current surge in cases means that the strains are more likely to be capable of evading the body’s defenses rather than simply being more transmissible, de Oliveira said. (Sources: bloomberg.com, krisp.org)
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