Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he visits the war-hit Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, Dec. 6, 2021. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

The success of the Ukrainians in thwarting the Russian invasion has been remarkable. Thus far, President Biden has been consistent in preventing a direct confrontation between the United States, our NATO allies and Russia, even overruling his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and prohibiting the use of MIG fighter jets from being transferred from Poland to the Ukraine.

Joseph Bentivegna MD

But as the images of Russian barbarism are being flashed across our television screens, there are cries from both sides of the aisles to increase our involvement. This would be a mistake.

Our gung-ho media is failing to educate citizens about what a nuclear war entails and how easily Putin can turn the United States into a scene from Mel Gibson’s Road Warrior.

Vladimir Putin’s finger is on the button of over 2,000 nuclear weapons that can be launched at a moment’s notice. Eight-hundred are located on submarines and Putin recently deployed several such submarines on the Alaskan coast. Thanks to the liberal Democrats, our missile defense shield is inadequate to stop them.

The explosive power of a nuclear bomb is measured in kilotons of TNT. The nuclear bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II were 15 kilotons, meaning each contained the explosive power of 15,000 tons of dynamite (TNT). Each of these bombs immediately killed 80,000 and 70,000 civilians respectively and tens of thousands more from radiation poisoning. Five square miles in each city were flattened and over 40 square miles received some damage.

Hiroshima after the atomic bomb,, 1945

But these bombs were fire crackers compared to what Russia has now. The land-based and submarine-based Russian missiles average 800 kilotons. If one exploded over mid-town Manhattan, a fireball of 100 square miles would envelope New York City. Millions of people would be vaporized and they would be the lucky ones. Those in the New Jersey coastal towns of Hoboken and Jersey City would have their clothes set on fire and suffer horrible burns and agonizing deaths.

And this is with just one weapon. What would happen with hundreds dispersed across the United States? The United States has the capability to rain the same terror on Russia, thus a military doctrine called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) has kept the peace.

But Putin is fighting for his life. Unlike in the United States, were retired presidents return to their ranches, Mar-a-Lago or buy ocean view estates on Martha’s Vineyard, former Russian leaders often fare poorly. Czar Nicholas II’s entire family was assassinated after the Communist Revolution. If Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine fails or becomes a long-term slog, he may not fare much better.

We may admire the Ukrainians’ bravery, but the potential destruction of our country is not worth escalating this war. The consensus of our ruling class is that this can’t happen. But anyone who studied the history of World War I is aware of how the assassination of an obscure archduke quickly escalated into a conflagration in which 20,000,000 died because of cascading alliances and refusals of political leaders to lose face. With nuclear weapons, this could happen in a matter of minutes.

Putin is a modern-day Genghis Khan. He is willing to massacre entire cities to achieve his goal of subjugating the Ukraine. But thus far, he has only used conventional explosives. But if this fails, Putin could resort to chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians have adopted New Hampshire’s state motto, “Live Free or Die.” And the reason they continue to thwart the Russians is because the United States and NATO are supplying them with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons via neighboring NATO countries of Poland, Hungary and Romania – former countries of the Soviet Empire.

Thus far, Putin has been remarkably restrained in not stopping this supply chain. But what if he concludes he must stop it to win and bombs Poland? Poland is a NATO ally and Biden has pledged to defend it. Will Biden sit back while Poland gets bombed? What if Poland decides to fly its MIG jets and start bombing Russia?

The main job of our president is to prevent nuclear weapons from becoming airborne. Everything else is irrelevant. Biden and our ruling class need to negotiate a settlement quickly, even if it means giving Putin and his cronies’ safe passage to villas on the Riviera in return for exiting the Ukraine, allowing the Ukraine to become part of Russia – or any compromise in between. The longer this situation continues, the greater the chance of a nuclear confrontation.

Joseph Bentivegna MD is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.