With diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington at their lowest point since the Cold War, one could be forgiven for being alarmed by recent Russian news broadcasts. For the past month, Russian media outlets have been punctuated with reports asking people whether they are ready for nuclear war.
“If it should one day happen, every one of you should know where the nearest bomb shelter is. It’s best to find out now,” according to one particularly fevered report on the Russian state-owned channel, NTV.
Russia’s main current affairs show, hosted by a presenter known by critics as the country’s propagandist-in-chief, recently spent two hours warning that Russia would defend itself with nuclear arms.
“We’ve had it with American scolding over Syria,” the show’s host, Evgeny Kiselyov, told his audience. "Impudent behavior,” from the U.S. he said, can take on “nuclear dimensions."
Anti-Americanism is not rare on Russian state news, nor is an inclination for the apocalyptic. More notable than the intensity of the warnings has been how Russian government ministries have joined in the alarms in recent weeks. Since September, Russia has conducted a nationwide civil defense drill, purportedly involving 40 million people, preparing them for catastrophes, among them nuclear fallout. Russia’s military announced who would run the country in the event of war and ran an exercise simulating that in the south. The governor of St. Petersburg clarified what bread rations people could expect should Russia come under attack (300 grams for 20 days).