khrushcheva153_Alexander Tjagny-Rjadnorpsullstein bild via Getty Images_andreisakharov Alexander Tjagny-Rjadnor/psullstein bild via Getty Images

Unhappy Birthday, Andrei Sakharov

From rising repression to economic destruction to a rapid brain drain, Russia has incurred heavy losses from the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin's negation of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov’s legacy represents yet another step backward – one that could lead to nuclear war.

NEW YORK – This month, Andrei Sakharov – the Soviet nuclear physicist turned anti-nuclear activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate – would have been 101. As the Russian billionaire industrialist Oleg Deripaska recently noted, Sakharov, “like no one else, understood the true consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and the senselessness of the arms race. He consistently advocated one principled position: for peace.”

As the Russian military ravages Ukraine with its “special military operation,” peace has become a dangerous word in Russia. Calls for it have gotten thousands arrested, with one man being detained simply for holding a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Moscow’s Red Square. So, kudos to Deripaska for speaking out on its behalf.

Of course, refraining from nuclear war is not the same as securing peace. Rather, as Sakharov, who helped create the Soviet thermonuclear bomb, knew all too well, it means avoiding annihilation. As he wrote in 1968, “A thermonuclear war cannot be considered a continuation of politics by other means (according to the formula of [Carl von] Clausewitz). It would be a means of universal suicide.”