My students most definitely do not like it when I tell them that as long as nuclear weapons exist sooner or later they will be used…sooner or later!
Can anyone really believe that if Russia were again to place nuclear capable missiles anywhere in the Western hemisphere that Washington would not envision a threat identical to that felt by Russia today and act as aggressively and dangerously as it did in 1962? Or imagine a scenario wherein Canada aligned itself with China and invited Chinese military advisers and their advanced weapons into its territory.
Those of us of an age remember all too well the first time our species faced self-extinction. Understand too that the missiles of that time were mere toys compared to the weapons that exist today.
Yes, the Russian war on Ukraine is criminal and atrocious but note that it has yet to approach the scale of deaths and destruction the US and NATO have wreaked upon numerous peoples across the Middle East, and even Europe, as in Serbia and Kosovo. Armed by the U.S. Saudi Arabia has been visiting identical horrors on it victims in Yemen for years with little opposition in the halls of power or among ordinary citizens. As one who has taken to the streets over many years to condemn our own nation’s atrocities I could not but notice the scarcity of my fellow citizens in our demonstrations against the monstrous transgressions committed by our own nation and, yes, our own war criminals. Our double standard makes a travesty of our proclaimed commitment to human rights and international law. The immeasurable tragedy is that this war was wholly preventable.
When Mikael Gorbachev announced the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 sighs of relief surged across the globe for it appeared that the extremely precarious Cold War would be peacefully concluded. Now looming threats like climate change might be cooperatively and transnationally addressed. Yet Washington moved almost immediately and aggressively to weaken the new Russian state. Democrats and Republicans competed to outdo each other. Clinton moved to enlarge NATO despite the guarantees of Bush I not to do so. He also terminated the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Bush II enabled former Baltic Soviet republics to enter NATO at Russia’s very border and dissolved the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Obama installed “defensive” missiles that can readily be redeployed as offensive nuclear weapons in Poland and Romania, and Trump annulled the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.
How else but threatening and foreboding was Russia to interpret these measures?
When NATO was formed in 1949 it encompassed twelve nations. Today it comprises thirty. American citizens were told that the alliance was necessary to prevent the dictatorial and repressive Soviet Union from moving ever westward by military means. The coterminous fall of China was claimed to prove that global communism was on the offensive and could be contained only by American military supremacy shared with western European allies and undergirded prominently by advanced weapons and U.S. possession of the Atomic Bomb. The U.S. public was and has been propagandized incessantly to believe that their nation’s role was limited to the “defense” of the Atlantic liberal civilization (Oceania?) and the salvation of “democracy” and human rights throughout the globe. At the close of World War II the U.S. had suffered the fewest combat losses and was the only intact belligerent with no devastation to its national territory. Russia, by extreme contrast, had suffered 27 million dead, 70 of its largest cities lay in utter ruin, its roads, railways and industries demolished, and its agricultural base in Ukraine a burnt wasteland. By what metric could Russia invade Western Europe? What was the evidence that it would? Russia occupied much of eastern Europe because the Soviet army was the primary actor in the defeat of Nazi Germany and The Yalta and Potsdam Agreements signed by the U.S. Russia and Britain affirmed that occupation. While Winston Churchill soon conjured the term “Iron Curtain” to condemn the USSR, he had also signed a separate secret agreement with Stalin that endorsed Russian control in its already acknowledged sphere in exchange for keeping Greece in the western orbit.
There was no military threat from the Soviet Union. Over the decade after 1945, in contradistinction to official claims of Russian desires ruthlessly to expand, the USSR voluntarily withdrew the Red Army from Austria, Iran, Manchuria and Korea. American forces have never been withdrawn anyplace they occupied territory after WWII. FDR’s Vice President, Henry Wallace was convinced that American and Russian cooperation was possible if Washington would acknowledge Russia’s security apprehensions. The Soviets made clear their concern to enforce a “cordon sanitaire” between themselves and any possible future invasion from the west. The European Recovery Plan, the Marshall Plan, of the post-war is celebrated as an act of generosity by the U.S. to rebuild the ruined economies of Europe but especially western Germany, occupied by American and British forces. But Wallace dubbed it the “Martial Plan” because many of its major beneficiaries were U.S. banks and arms corporations that had profited tremendously from the war and would subordinate western Europe’s future economic development to Wall Street via the new institutions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Germany was critical to recovery plans for the U.S. because its industrial capacities and potential markets were the linchpin for general European revitalization and extremely worrisome for the Soviets because twice in one generation that nation had invaded Russia with disastrous consequences. Known also to the Soviets, and secret to most American citizens, was the fact that the same U.S. banks and corporations had assisted Germany to re-arm the Nazis after World War I. Nor would Russia disremember the uninhibited statement made by President Truman (then a senator) before U.S. entry into the war in 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.”
The American corporate media has long ignored the revelation by General Leslie Groves, the military commander of the A-Bomb project, who stated ”That there was never from about the time I took charge of this project any illusion on my part but that Russia was our enemy, and the Project was conducted on that basis”
Among much else lost to public historical awareness was the unease of Charles Wilson, CEO of General Electric, and the “czar” of American weapons procurement during the war. Facing the cessation of American arms production, a world unable to trade with the U.S., and the return of more than ten million G.I’s to possible mass unemployment, Wilson said ”what we need is a permanent war economy.”
A permanent war economy would require permanent enemies. NATO’s enlargement became its elemental foundation.
The new members of NATO became the purchasers and recipients of American arms, ostensibly to thwart the alleged aims of Stalin to conquer western Europe. Instead, the Soviet dictator saw NATO as a new and extreme threat to a weakened Soviet Union. The Cold War was on full throttle.
A recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times reveals the lengthy extent of CIA involvement in Ukraine. In the same year that NATO was formed the agency infiltrated trained Ukrainian anti-communists, some of whom had also been pro-Nazi collaborators, to “use Ukrainians to bleed the Soviet Union,” a gambit that “demonstrated a cold ruthlessness on the part of the CIA” because the agency knew that the Ukrainian resistance had no hope of success without wider American military involvement. So “America was in effect encouraging Ukrainians to go to their deaths.” Why then has the U.S. encouraged Ukraine to believe it can win with American support. Continued NATO arms shipments only bring down ever more death, destruction and homelessness for the Ukrainian people. Thus does history repeat itself … but hardly as farce.
From 1949 to 1991 the global arms race made a mockery of the United Nations avowed intent to uphold international peace and law. Its charter stipulates that its rules and obligations are binding on all members and take precedence over all other treaties. Yet, as we know its five most powerful members (The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, and France) of the Security Council, have violated this contract at will.
The collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union was celebrated as the “victory” of liberal democracy and free market capitalism and the basis for the establishment of future peaceful and beneficial friendship with our erstwhile enemies. For a time, during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, Russia allowed American economic “experts” free reign to establish “free market capitalism” which soon led to the collapse of the social welfare system, high unemployment and a drastic decine in life spans. This newly implemented capitalism enriched a new class of “oligarchs,’ largely attendant to the desires of their western tutors and this led immediately to extensive socio-economic dislocation and colossal and corrupt fortunes at the top. These new oligarchs were trained by their American equivalents to serve American interests. Then Putin and his confederates stepped in to re-arrange Russian capitalism to serve his version of Russian interest. Given that the Cold War Soviets had posed no military menace to western Europe the actual threat perceived by American oligarchs was that the vast area of the USSR and its satellites was all but closed to American capital penetration…at least on American terms. Now Russia’s capitalism competed with Wall Street’s version and stifled its vision of a globalized capitalized and yet more profitable world. In 1997 the Pentagon issued its plan for “full spectrum dominance” over the future of planet earth.
Thus, despite the guarantee that NATO would not move “one inch” eastward to encroach on the former Soviet sphere when it controverted that promise Russia declared categorically that the admission of Ukraine and Georgia would be a “red line” and absolutely intolerable..
I was 15 years old in 1962 and my own lifelong concentration, concern and alarm about American foreign policy began with the existential sense of dread I felt as the missile crisis unfolded. It was incomprehensible that responsible leaders could deliberately walk the world into doomsday. How had this come to pass? The answer presented by the establishment press (there was no other of which I was aware in ultra-Cold War America) was that the Commies were singularly to blame. For thirteen days in October I watched in growing apprehension. So eventually did the those most responsible for the deadlock that daily brought the world to the brink. President Kennedy, over the contemptuous objections of his military chieftains, secretly enabled a compromise with Khrushchev, to remove American missiles from Turkey and Italy, while the Soviets would do the same in Cuba. Later it became apparent that the U.S. had the Soviets virtually encircled with nukes. Many Americans still do not comprehend just how close we came to utter self-extinction. Robert McNamara was reputed to have said that he went to bed on the last night of the crisis not knowing whether he would see the dawn. Khruschhev is claimed to have uttered words to the effect that we must never allow such a near miss again: In the aftermath of nuclear war “the living would envy the dead.”
The current crisis daily brings us again to such an impasse and the civilians of Ukraine, and the world, needs immediate compromise. Russia is declaring now that it will stop its attacks if specific demands are met. If the ever escalating death and destruction is to cease Ukraine must repudiate any future desire to enter NATO, sever the CIA relationship with the truly neo-Nazi Azov battalion, and banish all U.S. military “advisers” from Ukraine. President Biden himself, always otherwise a hawk, warned against the expansion of NATO when he was a senator as did many of the otherwise most hawkish cold warriors so we cannot say that we were not warned of the present horrific outcome, and its potential for global nuclear destruction Nevertheless, Washington has continued its martial strut right up to Russian borders. As Ray McGovern, a lifetime CIA Soviet analyst and presidential briefer, and now one of the most knowledgeable critics of his former agency, laments “U.S. and NATO profiteers are willing to fight to the last Ukrainian.”
U.S. decision makers clearly do not want the war to cease. According to the State Department the war is “bigger” than Russia and Ukraine. “There are principles that are at stake here…” They will have their way and Ukrainians will be the sacrificial victims. What McGovern labels the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academic-Think Tank – (MICIMACC) will continue to reap measureless windfalls but we might do well to recall that the first Cold War brought us to the brink of nuclear holocaust on more occasions than one.