The war in Ukraine increasingly resembles the First World War, and the first warnings that such a development is possible were heard more than a year ago. Initially, analysts from specialized publications such as Foreign Policy or Bloomberg began talking about it, and now we see gloomy forecasts in widely read media. The question of support for Ukraine becomes more complex, and we witness sharp debates both in the United States and in the changing political landscape of the European Union, where Slovakia has joined traditionally conflicting Hungary, and, worse yet, the Netherlands. So, we need to prepare for both a potentially prolonged conflict within Ukraine itself and a longer confrontation between Russia and its allies and the West.
This is not the “Cold War.”
Why is this a situation more reminiscent of the First World War than the Cold War? First, let’s look at the rhetoric of Russian officials, for example, Lavrov’s recent statements, where he openly threatens specific countries such as Moldova. Propaganda, not lagging behind the diplomatic leader, names a whole list of “hostile states” – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and others. Compare this with Soviet behavior on the international stage after Stalin’s death, and we will see that the Soviets directly threatened the West only during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and they did not carry out direct attacks against Western democracies.
Meanwhile, Russia, even before the large-scale war in Ukraine, showed that it is ready to act not only abroad but also within the territory of EU states, for example, the 2014 and 2015 diversions in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. The Kremlin operates abroad too overtly, acting against its political opponents, as happened not only with the Skripal family but also with the poisoning of some politicians in Eastern European countries. So what we see is a perspective of a long-standing confrontation with Russia, where the latter is ready to use any means and military force to achieve its goals without paying much attention to established norms of international law.
Once again, specialized publications increasingly talk about unconventional Russian weapons, which are well-suited for organizing diversions.
Contracts are not a hindrance.
If we look at the history of Soviet and Russian chemical and biological weapons, it is extremely rich. In 1920, the Soviets created a “Special Cabinet” project to study primarily toxic substances, and in 1937, the project was reformed into the NKVD toxicology laboratory, where both chemical and biological weapons development began later, becoming a completely separate branch of military science.
However, more importantly, the Soviets, with a centralized economy, learned to integrate military production and research into ordinary civilian sectors over time. Even pasta was produced in calibers of 7.62 and 5.45, as production matrices could be used for bullet production if necessary. Agricultural machinery plants were prepared for armored vehicle repairs. Moreover, “peaceful” institutes for biological and chemical research excelled in developing mass destruction weapons. Yes, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many such institutions and companies ended up outside Russia, and international treaties forced them to destroy chemical weapon arsenals and finally abandon biological weapons. However, many Western experts ask a simple question: how long would it take for Russia, with its old but dangerous and effective technologies, and even some surviving production chains, to restore its potential? Especially since, formally complying with international agreements, there are no restrictions on working with the most dangerous chemical substances or biological agents if it is done for scientific research or as part of peaceful technological processes. Dual-use technologies allowing the production of mass destruction weapons have long been a concern for experts, but when such technologies fall into the hands of North Korea, Iran, or Russia, the problem begins to look menacing, and, most importantly, there is no solution.
Local use will go unnoticed?
A potentially long period of confrontation, a large arsenal of possible means, and the seemingly belligerent attitude of the Kremlin directly increase the probability of using mass destruction weapons. While the press already talks widely about the danger of nuclear conflict, specialists mention the possibility of chemical, biological, or radioactive material use, especially in the case of unconventional weapons. One reason for this is that this is a very uncomfortable topic for many politicians, especially those whose civil defense infrastructure has been destroyed.
Several scenarios for the use of mass destruction weapons for diversions are often mentioned. The first is the supposedly accidental release of chemical or biological agents into the environment in the “enemy’s territory.” A ship accident in the port, a railway disaster involving a transit train, or an emergency landing of an aircraft that cannot be accepted at the airport, and so on. In such a diversion, it is possible to transport significant quantities of hazardous substances without necessarily using combat means. It can always be justified by claiming that it was just transporting dangerous cargo, and it accidentally leaked due to very poor circumstances. While we would not suggest celebrating that this will not be a real chemical weapon, because even the same phosgene is used in industry. Moreover, it will be very difficult to hold accountable the organizer of such a diversion, as it will first be necessary to prove the fact of intentional action.
Another likely scenario is the targeted use of a real chemical or biological weapon, as was the case in eliminating political opponents by the Kremlin, where collateral damage is possible. If we recall both the cases of Litvinenko and the Skripals, just understanding what was used already requires some time. Also, some deaths in Europe began to be investigated again only after the Skripal story became clear. So, if we encounter a real combat chemical or biological agent, there is a high probability that it will not be noticed or recognized in time.
Specialists also point out a third scenario, which assumes the possible use of a real weapon in a local area, such as the location of a military unit, a critical infrastructure object, and so on. In this case, the number of collateral victims can be significant. The bad news is that it will take time to identify the attack, and civil defense structures will take time to react, as they will primarily wait for political decisions from the authorities, which will inevitably be delayed.
Of course, there is also the possibility of a large-scale war in which unconventional weapons will be used. And this probability is now higher than ever.
The value of life in hiding
How long will local residents have to hide from the deadly danger in the event of an attack? As specialists say, depending on the type of weapon, weather conditions such as wind direction and speed, and the distance to the epicenter, in the case of a chemical attack, there are only a few minutes, at best a dozen minutes to hide. So, it is obvious that within such a short time, not only evacuation but also obtaining clear instructions from civil defense will be impossible. However, it would be ideal to have a shelter prepared in advance and to reach it as effectively as possible.
Of course, talking about individual shelters and again skeptics will pour in comments that I am spreading fear. However, let skeptics answer a simple question: who could have thought just two years ago that a huge continental war would take place nearby? Or how many believed that whatever Russia is, its current government would openly threaten to use military force against the West? And probably few could have guessed that Russian state propaganda would explicitly name nuclear and now even chemical weapons as one of the ways to fight against the West. Moreover, the topic of biological weapons in the Russian media is constantly being discussed, claiming that the West is building biological weapons laboratories, so the background for using such weapons is also there.
And then the last question. If the cost of individual or family shelters is lower than that of an average used car, isn’t it time for us to seriously consider them as an essential part of our home?
Bunker construction will not be necessary.
You’ve probably already heard that wealthy and famous people are not shy about admitting that, for the sake of their own and their family’s peace, they have real bunkers at home in case of war or a natural Apocalypse. Of course, ordinary mortals wanting to ensure their safety allegedly do not have such an opportunity. Is that true? Not at all. Almost every private house has a cellar, which is usually used at best for storing old things.
And this is the perfect space to create a shelter, just requiring simple work to first isolate it and then install compact filtering equipment. There are already several companies in the world that design, manufacture, and provide users with such equipment with detailed instructions. One such British company is Castellex, whose products are specifically designed for protection against radioactive, chemical, and biological pollution, and according to its technical characteristics, these systems will cope with both industrial accident pollution and save in the case of the use of mass destruction weapons. And all this for just a few thousand pounds.
As representatives of the company said, there is currently a very high interest in equipment designed for individual or family shelters. And if, until the beginning of the large-scale war in Ukraine, the main customers were countries bordering on such world villains as North Korea or Iran, now Europeans are also concerned about building personal shelters.