After-Christmas sales

December 26, 1991

The Soviet Union is dead, but there are survivors, and as with any family whose members didn't get along, it's certain that there's going to be a bitter battle for a share of the inheritance.

But this particular battle is one that can have deadly consequences, because the inheritance happens to include around 25,000 nuclear warheads, ranging from the monsters that sit atop the intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are still aimed at the United States, to the small, tactical battlefield weapons.

There is virtually no danger of a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and any surviving component of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, there is a good deal more danger of such exchanges between the surviving components; the disintegration of the Soviet Union into a nuclear Yugoslavia, so to speak, can't be ruled out. Even a "limited" nuclear war can have devastating effects; just look at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident.

And even if the weapons are not put to deadly use, there's the real danger that a new class of nuclear arms merchants will emerge -- ranging from governments strapped for hard currency to buy food for their destitute people to low-level military officers who might stash away a few tactical nuclear warheads.

In the "free market," these weapons would be for sale to the highest bidder, which could be Iraq, Iran, Libya, among others.

So the most urgent task of the West is to start buying nuclear weapons -- at market prices, whatever they may be.

Moreover, there is the question of what to do with the former Soviet Union's most talented people -- those who built that nuclear arsenal. In the best spirit of capitalism, they will be selling their services on the open market. It behooves the West, once more, to be the highest bidder -- to put these people to work dismantling the very deadly weapons they have built.

Mind you, this is not "humanitarian" aid, but simply good business. And it's more than that; it's a matter of survival.

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