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Nuclear weapons

Thank goodness for Germany’s millennials

German anti-nuclear activists in 1981. Sahm Doherty/Getty

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz is 63 years old, says Peter Huth in Die Welt. “He never walked through the rubble of his homeland like his elders did.” But his generation grew up with a fear “that darkly outshined all others: that of world annihilation in nuclear war”. Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats have reignited it, unleashing a flood of apocalyptic images “we have stored in our cerebral cortex since Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. You can see that fear in how reluctant Scholz was to send heavy weapons to Ukraine and risk escalating the conflict. Only 12% of supporters of Scholz’s SPD party, which is dominated by older voters, backed the move.

But this fear weighs much less heavily on millennials, and those even younger. Scholz was forced to send heavy weapons largely by his government’s junior coalition partners, the Greens and the liberal FDP, who do disproportionately well among under-34s. Annalena Baerbock, the 41-year-old Green foreign minister, can’t be blackmailed by Putin – his nuclear posturing doesn’t have enough resonance with someone her age. Of course we need to guard against the threat of nuclear war, but whatever our actions, Putin will find in them suitable provocation if he decides to cross the line. We can’t let a dictator commit war crimes with impunity – and thank goodness the millennials know it.