Russia: A Bang in Asia

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Moscow's millions knew something was afoot even as they awoke and dressed for work one morning last week. The radio was droning out the full text of a long government communiqué. First came the strident buildup: "The United States and its allies are fanning up the arms race . . . preparing a new world holocaust while the Soviet government strives for peace. The Soviet Union considers it its duty to take all necessary measures...'' Slowly, as the high-charge prose unwound, the reason for all the excitement began to dawn on the Muscovites: the Kremlin had decided to start testing its nuclear weapons again. Just 49 hours later, a brilliant flash lit the bleak plains of Central Asia, and a mighty bang echoed for miles.

Moscow's bang sent shudders down millions of spines. For months Nikita Khrushchev had vowed not to resume unilateral nuclear testing, paying lip service to scientists and humanitarians who feared pollution of the earth's atmosphere, assuring the nervous neutrals that only the warmongering West wanted to resume testing, feigning loyalty to the long, tedious test-ban negotiations in Geneva, where the painful quest for the first step toward effective world arms control droned on.

Last week, with callous contempt for the opinion of the neutralists he had assiduously wooed, Khrushchev tossed aside the mask of the smiling conciliator and spoke in the bullying accents of raw power.

Heavy Heart. In the characteristic doublespeak of totalitarianism, Khrushchev blamed the tension that he himself had cranked up. "The Soviet government has been compelled to take this step under the pressure of the policy of leading NATO powers," insisted the Russian statement. "This aggressive bloc leaves the Soviet Union no other choice."

Chief culprits, according to the Russians, were France and its Sahara atomic-bomb blasts (four scrawny shots, two of which were near fizzles), as well as "Adenauer and the forces that pursue a course of turning West Germany into a militarist state, armed to the teeth."

With hypocritical unction, Moscow added, "it was with a heavy heart that the Soviet government has decided to carry out nuclear tests,7'" for it knew that any such experiments "instill alarm in people, make their hearts ache." But "every effort is being taken to minimize" the harmful effects of fallout on living organisms.

A few sentences later, Moscow showed that it was more interested in terrorizing the world's citizens than in preserving their health. Bluntly, the government declared that Russian scientists were working on "superpowerful" bombs in the 100-megaton range (the equivalent of 100 million tons of TNT), made to fit rockets "similar to those used by Major Y. A. Gagarin and Major G. S. Titov for their unrivaled cosmic flights." In case somebody missed the point, Russia's army newspaper Red Star explained that nuclear weapons of such power could wipe out anyone anywhere: "No super-deep shelter can save them from an all-shattering blow from this weapon."

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