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Russia war: ‘Putin has doubled down, and sees no way out except to continue with the destruction’ | International

William Shakespeare wrote that some men “are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Boris Johnson, 57, has spent his entire life seeking political glory. He tried to achieve it with Brexit, when the United Kingdom left the European Union. But that process left behind a trail of divided citizens. The pandemic steamrollered him, as it did so many other leaders. His Churchill moment may have arrived, however, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Johnson and his ministers have been on the front line of the response to the challenges of Vladimir Putin. The British intelligence services clearly anticipated the Kremlin’s intentions, and Downing Street sent arms to the Ukrainian government well before other states did. “Putin has decided to double down, and he sees no way out of the cul de sac that he’s in except to continue with the destruction, the pulverizing of innocent populations, in innocent European cities,” says Johnson, speaking ahead of this interview with correspondents from the German newspaper Die Welt, the Italian La Repubblica and EL PAÍS, all of them members of the LENA alliance of leading European media outlets.

Question. You received a call last night [in the early hours of Friday morning] from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and you expressed your great concern for the incident in the nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia. Are we close to a nuclear war or nuclear incident?

Answer. I think we need to distinguish very sharply between two things. And I think the whole question of a nuclear exchange, as it were, the use of nuclear weapons, this is a distraction from what’s happening in Ukraine, which is, I’m afraid, of a brutal and barbaric attack on innocent people. And I don’t think that we should be sidetracked by some of the rhetoric that we’ve heard. The issue is to do with the safety of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste. So I’m concerned that we work together to think of ways in which we can avert that disaster, because as I said, I do think that this would be a pan-European disaster. And I think the legitimate concerns of all European countries are engaged.

Q. And how can we protect the nuclear plants and Zelenskiy?

A. I think that we have to make clear to the Kremlin that a civilian nuclear disaster in Ukraine, another Chernobyl, is a disaster for Russia as well as for everybody. And therefore, I think that some system of protecting those plants, some system of ensuring that radioactivity levels are monitored by international authorities is going to be extremely important.

Q. Your Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, said that Putin has gone “full tonto”, implying the idea that he’s just gone crazy. Do you agree with that? Is this a cold-blooded strategy, or, as you just said, he’s in a cul-de-sac, and he’s in a desperate and probably nervous state of mind?

A. I think he’s very difficult to read into it, to make a window into his soul, and to try and imagine what he’s thinking, really. Like you, I get all sorts of information about the way his government works, the system or the non-existent checks and balances in his system, the arbitrary way in which he’s able to make decisions, and that’s extremely worrying. But I think the issue is that he’s clearly made miscalculations. I think he probably has a lack of real feel for what life was really like for people in Ukraine and how people in Ukraine really feel about their country. It’s possible that he hasn’t been there for quite a long time, as I’m sure all of us have. There was there was a logical problem, because I knew that the Ukrainians would fight and anybody who’s been there would instinctively have understood that. Maybe he’s allowed himself to become out of touch on that issue. Now he’s made that mistake. There has to be a way out, there has to be solution that doesn’t involve the total destruction, or him continuing on this path of total destruction. But I’m afraid, logically, it’s very, very hard to see what that solution is. That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that he must fail.

Q. French President Emmanuel Macron is the one leader who’s still talking to Putin. Do you think that this is a good thing? What do you hear from the French president makes you very concerned?

A. I think that the unity of the West has been one of the most important things. Before the invasion began, we were working together with Emmanuel to understand what the implications would be. It is very, very important that we continue to work, particularly with the Americans to have a common series of assumptions and priorities, about the conflict. The lesson of history from, you know, 1914, to Bosnia and beyond is that, sadly, the most wretched European conflicts are not solved without some measure of American interest and leadership. That’s going to be very, very important as well.

Q. So is it good that Macron is still talking to Putin?

A. I think it’s important that the unity of the West is preserved. I’m sure that Emmanuel is is not diverging from that unified position.

Q. Prime Minister, you said that Putin must fail. But shouldn’t he also fall, I mean losing power, to end all this? How can the West make it happen? Should we, as the West, encourage the Russian opposition to revolt?

A . Number one: I think it’s absolutely vital that there are two things we must frame strictly. We must not be trapped into framing this as in any way a conflict between the Russian people, or Russia, and the West, or even between Putin and NATO, or Putin and the West. That is not what this is about that. So that’s one category we must not fall into. This is about helping the Ukrainian people to protect their themselves, to protect their lives, their families and their independence. Number two: I think it’s very, very important that people see that this is the sum-total of the agenda. There is no further agenda. We can’t think like that. Events in Moscow or Russian politics are simply unforeseeable. In fact, that would be a total, a total distraction. Let me be very clear: this is not about trying to do anything to shorten the political career of anyone in Moscow. On the contrary, this is about simply trying to protect the people of Ukraine, and give them the help that they need. If we think in that way, we will damage our chances of achieving what we need to do.

Q. You said in the House of Commons that Putin is a war criminal. Should the West aspire to put this war criminal in front of an International court, like Milosevic or the Nuremberg trial?

A. What I certainly believe is that there is a close analogy between Putin’s behavior and the last years of Slobodan Milosevic. It’s very interesting that both leaders had been in power for a long time, both increasingly autocratic, both seeking to shore up their domestic position, and found a great nationalist cause. Slobodan Milosevic identified the birthplace of Serbian nationalism, indeed the Serbian nation, in Kosovo Poljie, and he inspired his people with this misbegotten idea that it needed to be rescued and liberated. There’s a very close sort of analogy between that catastrophic mistake, and what the president of Russia has been saying about Kyiv and the origins of Russian religion and culture and civilization and his objectives in Ukraine. When it comes to the International Criminal Court, that’s a matter for them. There would have to be the gathering of evidence. If there is evidence of the use of illegal munitions, cluster bombs, barrel weapons, this clearly will have to be brought to the Netherlands.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the interview.
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the interview. Martin U. K. Lengemann

Q. Who’s going to enforce that?

A. I think we must be quite limited in what we’re setting out to do. Because I’ve never seen in a long time, such a clear difference between right and wrong in international politics, or such a clear difference between good and good and evil. The minute we start to introduce all sorts of other political considerations in Moscow, or whatever geostrategic considerations, then we lose the sharpness and the focus.

Q. How many deaths and how much brutality from Putin can we allow? What’s the red line until the west decides to act?

A. If you just think back a few weeks, I don’t think anybody would have imagined a few weeks ago, that so many European countries, would now be following what the UK did, and sending weapons in the way that they are. I don’t think anybody would have imagined that [the German chancellor] would have made a speech like the one he did. And that Germany would be in the position that it now is. Things are changing. And that’s because of people’s outrage and disgust at what is happening in in Ukraine. So what I’m trying to say is that the West has already moved a long way. And it’s very, very united. But it is still a long day’s march, as they say, to the idea of any kind of direct confrontation between Western forces… between UK, Italian, German, Spanish armed forces and Russian forces. And the reason for that is that the consequences of such engagements would be very, very hard to control and to manage. We wouldn’t know where it would end. And the risks of miscalculation are huge. And I think that we have to talk about a red line, we have to keep a boundary, we have to keep a conceptual boundary in what we’re doing. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care passionately, or that we won’t do everything that we can within the parameters that we’ve set to try to change the odds in favor of the victims. And we will try to change the odds in favor of the victims. But I think that there is no… let me put it this way… there is no Western country that I know of that is currently considering sending combatants to that theater of conflict. That’s just the reality. And I think that it’s not on the agenda.

Q. The Ukraine crisis, in some sense, has mended a lot of wounds and a lot of broken relations between the UK and the European Union. Would you say that? After all that happened after Brexit?

A. I think what all crises do is they reveal the true relationships. Sometimes, if a family goes through some big trauma, then the real strength of the affection between the members of the family and the way they work together can sometimes suddenly be revealed again. And I think that’s probably what’s happening now.

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Artificial Grass Can Lead To Increased Flooding Risk, Major Insurer Warns

Artificial Grass And Increased Flooding Risk

Homeowners who’ve opted for artificial turf are cautioned about its risks, such as its connection to flooding and elevated temperatures.

A survey conducted by insurer Aviva reveals that one in five homeowners have either replaced or intend to replace their natural lawns with artificial grass.

Nevertheless, numerous homeowners remain unaware of the potential hazards linked to artificial turf.

Many homeowners are unaware of the dangers associated with artificial grass, according to a new survey

Many homeowners are unaware of the dangers associated with artificial grass, according to a new survey

While the Aviva survey revealed that 32 per cent believe artificial grass can increase the risk of flooding, almost half believe it has no impact.

And a further 9% of homeowners think it can actually help to reduce the risk.

Jason Storah, of Aviva, said: ‘At this time of year, many of us are thinking about making changes to our homes and outside spaces.

‘While it can be tempting to replace a garden with low maintenance artificial grass, these changes can make it more difficult for water to be absorbed.

‘At times of heavy rain in urban areas, drains can rapidly become overwhelmed if the water cannot be absorbed, causing flooding outside and in the home.

‘As our climate changes, periods of extreme weather are likely to increase, including heavy downpours and higher temperatures.

‘Our flood mapping technology shows that surface water flooding is on the increase and it can be harder to predict, so it’s important to be prepared.’

Climate-ready gardens

Alternative ground covering that can have a positive impact on the climate include planning a wildflower meadow.

This is something that 11 per cent of homeowners say that have already done and 13 per cent plan to do in the future.

Mr Storah explained: ‘Even the smallest of planted or permeable spaces can help make a difference.

While it can be tempting to replace a garden with low maintenance artificial grass, these changes can make it more difficult for water to be absorbed.

‘Climate-ready gardens can play an important role in helping to mitigate the impact of heavy rain and reduce the chance of a flood from happening at home.

‘Plants, lawns and flowers can not only help to absorb excess water, they can also bring other climate benefits, including improving biodiversity.

‘Equally, plants in the right location can help to absorb heat during heatwaves or droughts. But it’s important to get ready for the future by locating the right plants in the right places.

He added: ‘Some shrubs and trees can have extensive root systems which may cause some soil types to shrink in periods of hot weather.

‘The materials we use in an outside space can impact the likelihood of our homes being flooded or affected by other climate events.

‘We’d urge residents to ensure their homes, gardens and driveways are climate-ready and resilient to the impacts of extreme weather.’

The temperature of artificial grass can reach levels that could pose a risk to young children and pets

The temperature of artificial grass can reach levels that could pose a risk to young children and pets

It comes off the back of other warnings about artificial grass, including how its temperature can soar during the summer.

The temperature of artificial grass can reach levels that could pose a risk to young children and pets, according to gardening experts Rated People.

Nat White, of Rated People, explained: ‘While artificial lawns are a convenient solution for many, they could become dangerous when temperatures rise as the material can get incredibly hot in the sun.

‘As the UK is experiencing increasingly high temperatures in summertime, it is crucial for homeowners with small children and pets to regularly assess the safety of their artificial grass.

Artificial turf lacks the natural cooling effect of real grass, and it can rapidly accumulate heat due to its polyethylene composition, a type of plastic known for its insulation properties

‘Artificial turf lacks the natural cooling effect of real grass, and it can rapidly accumulate heat due to its polyethylene composition, a type of plastic known for its insulation properties.

‘As a result of absorbing and maintaining heat so effectively, the artificial lawn fibres can become very hot, posing a burn risk to children and pets during the summer months.’

It follows a separate survey carried out last summer that suggested 24% of people would like to see a full ban on fake grass.

The survey by MyBuilder.com also found that a third of people would like measures to be put in place to limit the use of such materials, to help protect the environment.

Expert landscaper James Lewis, who has worked with MyBuilder.com, explains that it is important to do your research when it comes to buying artificial grass.

‘While it’s not for everyone, and there are some obvious concerns for its ‘green’ credentials, there are still benefits to having an artificial lawn.

‘If you are thinking about it, we’d advise you to carefully weigh up the pros and cons before investing in it.’

The pros and cons of artificial grass

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of artificial grass have been identified by MyBuilder.com:

Pros

1. Looks aesthetically pleasing all year round

No brown spots, bald patches, or muddy puddles. There’s no denying that a properly installed artificial lawn can look nice and maintains its appearance, whatever the weather.

2. No need for watering

No live grass means no need for watering in the summer. This saves you time, as well as money off your monthly water bill. It is also useful when the inevitable hosepipe ban comes into play.

3. Low maintenance

No mowing, no watering, no reseeding – there’s no doubt that an artificial lawn is easier to look after than a natural one.

4. Easy to clean

We all know the risk of unseen pet poo and urine on our lawns, but with an artificial lawn you can easily hose it down to keep it sparkly clean.

Cons

1. Cost to buy and install

Although once in place it may save you money, buying and installing your artificial lawn is likely to be a several thousand pound cost. The average cost for installation in an average size garden is between £1,200 to £2,500.

2. Impact on natural habitat

Removing natural grass undeniably has a negative effect on the environment, with the loss of habitat for bugs and wildlife.

3. Drainage implications

Although this varies depending on product and installation, an artificial lawn does not drain as well as a real one. This can cause issues in areas where flooding is a problem, such as in new build estates built on previous flood plains, or in areas close to bodies of water.

4. Can get too hot

Artificial lawns can get too hot for little feet and paws, causing blistering and burns. Vets often warn owners that artificial grass can be perilous for pets, and advise caution when allowing pets onto it.


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Culture

Spain throws away 400,000 tons of lemons: ‘Production has got out of hand’

According to the latest estimates provided by the Spanish agricultural union COAG, in the 2023-2024 season, around 400,000 tons of lemons cannot be sold and will go to waste — about 27% of the planned production. Losses from this massive waste are estimated at €120 million ($129 million). Spanish farmers have blamed the problem on various factors: lemons entering the European Union from Turkey, Egypt, Argentina, and South Africa; investment funds altering the market; supermarkets that only want aesthetically perfect fruit; the rise in pests; climatic adversities… However, some in the sector openly recognize that the main reason for the disaster is the disproportionate rise in the number of hectares cultivating lemons on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

One of these critics is the World Citrus Organization (WCO), which cites the excessive rise of lemon crops in Spain as the main cause for the disaster. The WCO does not understand why the entry of foreign lemons is criticized when Spanish lemons are found across Europe. “Spain is the leader in the market, it is the one that controls the situation, it is always easy to blame someone else, but we must accept that we are in markets in which there must be a minimum level of competition,” WCO Secretary General Philippe Binard tells EL PAÍS by phone. “Let’s look at what happened with the tractor demonstrations in Europe, our headquarters are in Brussels, the Belgians complained about the Dutch, the French about the Spanish, the Spanish about the Moroccans….”

The Interprofessional Association of Lemon and Grapefruit (Ailimpo) — which represents the producers, cooperatives, exporters and the processing industry of the lemon sector in Spain — has not only distanced itself from the criticism of foreign lemons, it has also admitted that lemon cultivation needs to be reduced in Spain to rebalance supply and demand. Ailimpo proposes a different path to what was seen in some of the tractor protests: apart from tax reductions, improvements in agricultural insurance and promoting increased consumption, it is also committed to a more environmentally friendly model — it supports regenerative agriculture or the management of lemon farms as forests as a means of generating carbon and biodiversity credits.

For José Antonio García, director of Ailimpo, there is no doubt where the problem lies: “Production has got out of hand,” he says. “The data speak very clearly. The cultivation area has gone from 36,000 hectares eight years ago to nearly 53,000 hectares today.” He explains that lemon farmers decided to plant more trees due to the “very striking returns” on the crop. This move prompted other investors to get involved. “In the end, it is an exercise in simple mathematics. If the market is able to absorb 1.1 million tons of lemons, and the estimated production for this season is 1.5 million, there are 400,000 tons that are going to stay in the fields.”

agricultores Málaga Limón
Farmers throw lemons at a protest in Malaga last March.Daniel Pérez (EFE)

Pedro Gomáriz, head of citrus at COAG, acknowledges the excess production in the country, but says it is one of many factors. “The exaggerated amount of lemon from third countries that is entering the European Union is one of the big factors, it is unfair competition, because they are also entering with [phytosanitary] products that are not allowed here, and on top of that they are entering with pests that are not hitting us,” says the farmer, whose arguments have so far not been proven. “They are coming from Turkey, South Africa, Egypt, Argentina. They are flooding the European market with lemons that compete with ours, but without having to meet the same standards as us, treated with products that we do not have here, with much cheaper labor and often subsidized by the state,” insists Gomáriz.

While these complaints are common, the data on lemon consumption in the EU analyzed by Ailimpo, between October 2023 and March 2024, shows a quite different situation. In those six months, the total demand for these citrus fruits in the EU (excluding domestic consumption in Italy and Spain) was 403,000 tons, of which 302,000 came from Spanish fields, while the rest — 87,000 tons — came from Turkey. In other words, three out of every four lemons consumed in EU countries in this period were grown in Spain. According to Ailimpo, these figures are also similar to what was recorded in previous years, meaning they are unlikely to have played a significant role in the disaster of the current lemon season, which runs from September to June.

Gomáriz also blames the disaster on supermarkets’ “oligopolistic” practices, decisions by investment groups, and weather events, while downplaying the importance of the spike in lemon cultivation. “The life of a lemon tree is like a Gauss bell. Its harvest increases, at 15 to 20 years it reaches its maximum and from 20 onwards it begins to decrease. So, of course, there is a lot of new lemon destined for the replacement of plantations,” he says.

“This is the elephant in the room that no one wants to see,” says García, who notes that in the last eight years, seven million lemon tree seedlings have been sold in nurseries in the country. “These are really very typical dynamics of the agricultural sector. We have seen it in other products such as the persimmon, we are seeing it with the pistachio, with the almond tree, they are cycles where the farmer sees profitability in the crop and there is an explosion of cultivation.” García acknowledges that other factors are at play, but believes this is the biggest reason for the current disaster. “It is true that there are investment funds involved in the lemon sector, but they have not invested a single euro in new plantations,” he says.

For Ailimpo, what’s most important right now is to address the losses of this disastrous season. But the organization also believes that green measures are key to ensuring long-term economic profitability. “We have closely followed the development of regenerative agriculture in citrus in California, and we believe that the future really lies there,” says García. He explains that his organization is trying to design a system of green practices to improve CO₂ absorption, which will allow the sector to generate carbon credits. “It seems like science fiction, but it is already working in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, where agricultural activity is also generating biodiversity credits. Because when we think about biodiversity, we think about lizards, birds, bees, but we always forget what biodiversity there is in the soil.”

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Resurgence of Nuclear Threat: Is a New Cold War Evident in Literature, TV Series, and Films?

Is a New Cold War Evident in Literature, TV Series, and Films?

The screen is filled by a scientist who, with eyes like light bulbs in all their electrical splendor, seems to question himself beyond time. He is Robert Oppenheimer, who 48 years after dying of throat cancer — he drank and smoked too much, doctors warned him — has provided the cultural reference point for months. Christopher Nolan, director and screenwriter of the movie Oppenheimer, which won seven Oscars, said in an interview that the American physicist was the most important man of the 20th century because through him, mankind gained the ability to blow up the entire planet.

The spectacular notoriety of his scientific vicissitudes, the political betrayals and the tangled web of Soviet espionage experienced by the New York researcher and his Manhattan Project team has surprised many. After all, it is a film for adults in a time of superhero franchises, a long, dark journey with no possible happy ending and which dissects a deadly serious matter.

One of the keys to its success is perhaps that it links fatally with the present day, when the war between Russia and Ukraine, the conflict in the Middle East, and the tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan bring back a certain air of the Cold War and its arms escalation. Vladimir Putin has for some time been threatening to unleash a nuclear conflict and just this month United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned of rising geopolitical tensions, saying that humanity cannot survive “a sequel of Oppenheimer.”

Cillian Murphy Oppenheimer
Cillian Murphy (l) as Robert Oppenheimer (r), who is photographed at the New Mexico ranch where the atomic bomb was tested in September 1945. Photo: MELINDA SUE GORDON (AP)

These are shadowy echoes of the past being renewed in the present. “Yes, being very different times, I would say there is a certain revival of the Cold War. The idea of rearmament and the tension of balance, the fear of entering into a direct confrontation, reaching a level of brutal destruction,” reflects Mariano Aguirre, author of Guerra Fría 2.0 (Cold War 2.0). In his book, Aguirre makes note of the great differences between eras — nowadays the struggles between countries are between different types of capitalism, without a trace of socialism or communism and between a fragmentary multilateralism of blocs, more complex than the U.S. vs the USSR equation of yesteryear — but he underlines certain similarities between the period 1947-1991 and the present day. There are processes of escalation and rearmament, the indirect confrontation between superpowers with atomic capability, proxy wars (as in the case of Ukraine), brutal repression of civil liberties in Russia, and a certain air of cultural cancellation in the West if one questions, for example, the expansion of NATO’s area of influence.

Aguirre, an associate member of the London-based Chatham House think tank, also highlights similarities in the growing importance of the art of diplomacy, closed-door negotiations and contacts, hostage exchanges, or the influential role of certain media. Examples of this would be the exchange of the women’s NBA superstar Brittney Griner for a Russian arms dealer, the current situation of The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, accused of espionage and imprisoned for a year in Russia, or the case of the United States leaking to the media that diplomatic sources had already warned Putin’s government about the possibility of attacks in the Russian capital before the massacre at the Crocus City Hall, northwest of Moscow.

Little Boy Bomb
A replica of ‘Little Boy,’ the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945. MPI (Getty Images)

You and the Atom Bomb

It was George Orwell who first spoke of the concept of the Cold War as a radical geopolitical shift, because of the possibility of mutual self-destruction brought about by the development of the atomic bomb. He wrote about the subject in an article published on October 19, 1945, in Tribune magazine. In his essay, You and the Atom Bomb, Orwell warns that living in the shadow of the nuclear threat “is a peace that is no peace,” but a new war landscape he called the Cold War, which now seems to be revived again.

This atmosphere is related in public reports, non-fiction books and novels. In 2023, the Brussels think tank Bruegel warned that we were heading toward a new Cold War between two large blocs led, respectively, by the United States, the hegemonic power, and China, the emerging one. For their part, researchers at the Royal United Services Institute detect that Russia is rekindling some of the methods of the 1970s and 1980s, involving clean agents on long-term espionage missions — so dear to Moscow since the Soviet era — as was the case with the theft of atomic secrets by Klaus Fuchs, a member of the Manhattan Project. And from Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute, analyst Jesús A. Núñez Villaverde warns that the latest moves NATO seems to be planning “take us back to times we mistakenly thought we had overcome, with the only exception being that, if previously we were talking about the European Union, now we are talking about Russia.”

John MacKenzie
Michael Caine (right) in John MacKenzie’s The Fourth Protocol.

Reality and fiction

That old icy air is also being revived in video games, television series and movies. The Call of Duty videogame franchise is enjoying success with Call of Duty; Black Ops Cold War, set in 1981, where two of the game’s characters are Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and the protagonist is an alleged Soviet spy trying to steal U.S. nuclear secrets. On the streaming platforms is the documentary series Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War (Netflix, 2024), which across nine episodes narrates how close the world came to a nuclear apocalypse in the 1960s. As for possible fictional apocalypses, Oppenheimer’s 2023 release was joined by Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and is set in the 1950s in the context of nuclear testing in the U.S. desert near the Mexican border.

“On August 6, 1945, in the blink of an eye, the world changed completely. That had a full impact on popular culture and on comics,” reflects cultural analyst Giovanni Pasco, who specializes in the sociopolitical reading of comics. He emphasizes that after 1945 in the United States, highly politicized superhero figures emerged, fully involved in the present war of the atomic bomb and its consequences on the planet: The Fantastic Four were a family exposed to cosmic rays in a rocket when they were racing to beat the communists in the space race; The Incredible Hulk was a scientist accidentally exposed to gamma rays during a test; Spiderman was a boy bitten by a radioactive spider and The Watchmen exemplifies a dystopian fiction that harkens back to the Cold War era, where the world is constantly on the brink of nuclear disaster. And it’s not just about the past or future, but the present: these are all superheroes that to this day are being transmuted into movies or series.

Perhaps the Cold War never quite died down. After the 246,000 civilians killed by the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, after the decades-long psychological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States led the U.S. Civil Defense Service to broadcast radio and television spots on how to behave in case of a Soviet attack (with the voices and faces of Johnny Cash, Groucho Marx, and Boris Karloff), the fear of the bomb and its geopolitical consequences has resurfaced.

Barbara Moran, an American science writer and author of The Day We Lost the H-bomb (2009), about the nuclear accident in Palomares, Spain, believes that the cultural preoccupation with the bomb is changing over time. Before, in the movies, “maybe there was fear of radiation, mutations, and nuclear destruction,” she says, while now people seem to be more “concerned about human weakness, betrayal, and political consequences.”

Regarding the world’s current political leaders, it so happens that their ties to the Cold War era are very close. “For better or for worse, Joe Biden was trained in those times and knows very well the potential dangers of confrontation between nuclear powers, and Putin was molded as a spy in the final years of the Cold War, in the times of the decline and disappearance of the USSR,” Aguirre notes.

Against all odds, the intrigues between spies and the nuclear threat are once again topical. It is something that seems from another time, from another world. As the secret agent John Preston, played by Michael Caine in the movie The Fourth Protocol (1987) says to the different heads of the secret services, in the face of their conspiracies in the heat of atomic danger: “It’s about time they put you in a fucking museum.”

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