Winning the War Against Nuclear Energy

“He’s ready for you, Mr President.”

Jacob Zuma lifted the phone to his face with sweaty palms. Clearly his throat loudly, he greeted the mouthpiece. “Good day, Vladimir. Thank you for agreeing to speak with me on this fine morning.”

He listened through the soft crackling delay until a thick Russian accent greeted back. “Good evening, Jacob. You do realise that the weather is different here, right?”

“Heh heh heh,” Zuma chuckled. “Of course, Mr President. I was only making a joke.”

Putin sighed. “Of course you were.” His sentence ended with some aggressive slurping of what Zuma assumed had to be vodka. “So what is the reason for this call? I’m teaching my bear how to drive a submarine at 10 so I can’t talk for long.”

Fidgeting with the phone cord, Zuma cleared his throat three more times. “Well, you see, the thing is,” he hedged, “the thing is that, well, I mean, you’ve got to, understand this is coming from, a, position of wanting, you know, just good relations, between our countries and, well, you know, um.”

He was rudely interrupted by a thud from Putin’s fist on some faraway Russian table, discernible but muted through the phone. “Chyort! Spit it out, man.”

Spluttering, Zuma turned to placating his foreign counterpart. “You must forgive me, Mr President. These are, hard things to talk about, and our relationship is, important to me.”

Clearing his throat a fourth time he regained his composure, he continued. “Something has, come to my attention that, I think you should know, about. It’s a website. It’s called Koeberg Alert. It, um, well, it talks about what a bad idea our deal is. You know, the one with the nuclear power plants? That expensive one? It’s really enlightening and I, er, I think you should read it.”

“Ty che, blyad? I remember the deal. Let me look at this site.” Calling away from the mouthpiece in incomprehensible Russian Putin ordered an aide to pull up the site on his screen for him. He scanned the site, reading silently for a few minutes with a furrowed brow. He picked up the phone again. “Hello?”

“Yes, yes, Vlad. I am still here.”

“I see what you mean, Jacob. Very interesting.”

Zuma sighed with relief. “That is good news.”

“I still don’t care though.”

“Wha… what? Sorry, say again?”

“Jacob, I don’t care. We’ve made a deal. You know how much I love nuclear. This is important to me. That should matter to you.”

“But Vlad, it does. It does. I’m not saying I don’t care about what you care about. You know I give you nice things all the time.”

Putin frowned, mumbling, “Well it wouldn’t kill you to say nice things once in a while too. What are you suggesting with this? That we cancel our deal?”

“This looks quite bad, my dear Putin. They’re saying, we don’t have the money. They’re saying nuclear, energy might not be a good choice for us. There could be, at least 50 people, my citizens, who are actively, campaigning against this deal. 50, Vlad. And they really, seem to know their stuff.”

Putin was standing now, his knuckles going white as he clenched the phone. “I am not pulling out of this deal, Jacob. This is like the other night all over again.”

“But we can’t go ahead with it. I mean, we shouldn’t,” Jacob pleaded in a soft, crooning voice. But all he heard was the rapid beeping of a disconnected phone line. The President of Russia had hung up.

Cradling his head in his hands Zuma summoned his secretary. “Get Barack on the line.”

Minutes passed. “Hello, this is Barack speaking.”

“Mr President, thank you for your time. I need your advice.”

“Is this about Vladimir again? Jacob, you know I don’t like weighing in on your relationship.”

“I know, Barack, but this time it’s serious. I tried to call off the nuclear deal.”

“What? Why?”

“I found a website. Koeberg Alert. They say it’s not a good idea.”

“Wow, Jacob. This is big. I wish you’d brought this to my attention before.”

“I only discovered it today. I called Vlad immediately. He doesn’t want to back out though. What should I do?”

Obama swiveled back and forth in his chair, thinking. “I’ve struggled to get through to him for years. He never comes round. I’d recommend sanctions, but that might damage your relationship irreparably.”

“That’s what I want to avoid.”

“Very well. Then maybe offer some sort of cancellation fee. 1/10 of the deal agreement with no nuclear program.”

“Barack, you’re a genius. I will run it by Koeberg Alert and hope they go for it.”

“Thank you, Jacob. They don’t call me the ruler of the free world for nothing. Good luck.”

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