LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Political balloon has gone up

THIS world when you look around is physically a beautiful place, but is politically twisted and ugly, and full of frightened people, who could so easily destroy what they are eager to own, both for themselves and us.

I am reminded of a song by Nena, a German singer of 99 Red Balloons. A hit in 1984 and translated into three languages, it tells the story of a couple of kids who buy a pack of balloons from a toy shop, set them off the morning after, and start a nuclear war. This week a large Chinese weather balloon went astray, a huge gas-filled balloon with testing equipment and radio attached sent up into the troposphere to collect atmospheric data and radio it back to the ground. They are entirely wind dependent and are not infrequently caught in an air current or jet stream that the owner hasn’t spotted, and shucks, you’ve lost your balloon and equipment. This one finished up over the USA, and the balloon went up politically.

In the news it was a surveillance unit, a politician cancelled his visit to China on the strength of it. It “hovered” over a sensitive area, and was eventually brought down over the sea where naval divers can get to it but no-one else can. By the time you read this it will have been retrieved and an American statement issued, which of course the Chinese will have no evidence to contradict, even if they wished to, since their attitude before to any such pressure has been to reply with greater aggression. What the USA, who have 178 spy satellites regularly passing over China, and incidentally us, will make of this one balloon should make interesting reading.

The nuclear threat is relevant as we have a similar problem in Europe. When the USSR broke up in 1988/91 12 countries decided to become independent states, Ukraine among them. After a stormy few years it declared sovereignty in 1991. However, in 2014 Russia invaded and occupied the peninsula of Crimea, and seven years later attempted an invasion of Ukraine itself.

With the staunch resistance of the Ukrainian people, Putin has twice hinted at the possibility of escalating the present action by the use of nuclear weapons if EU and US aid is increased by the addition of armed forces, so we, the EU, and anyone in the vicinity are understandably treading with delicacy when dealing with a man who could well prefer such an option to the prospect of losing face by defeat, but who would undoubtedly repeat his conquest of Ukraine with a similar action against any or all of the other surrounding nations if allowed to win.

So there we have it, the nations with the three largest nuclear arsenals in the world posturing like gangsters or schoolyard bullies, and it will only take one of them to believe they can get away with a “limited” nuclear strike to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world that will reduce to nothing all the environmental and political efforts to achieve a better and a fairer world.

As I wrote at the start, a physically beautiful world in danger from a politically twisted and ugly ruling elite, while we, the ordinary people stand and watch.

Charles David Foulstone, Rotherham Green Party