Russia’s Legitimate Fears
Editor’s Note: Russia’s dictatorship is a far cry from the hopes that the Russian people had when they overthrew their communist regime and bought into the neo-liberal fantasies sold to them by global capitalism. The subsequent history has led many Russians to regret that they didn’t try to replace an oppressive oligarchy claiming to be communist with a democratic socialism instead of a new capitalist dictatorship. Yet none of that is reason to dismiss Russia’s legitimate fears about NATO encirclement and the neo-con thirst for yet more wars to advance an imperialist agenda to serve global capitalist economic expansionism. Russia’s disgraceful and murderous policies in Syria are good reason to hope that Putin, Assad and their allies should be brought to justice for crimes against humanity, but that is not a good reason for the US and Nato to take steps which might accidentally lead the U.S. into a nuclear war with Russia–a point that led some otherwise decent people to not want to support Hillary Clinton who represented the side of the Democratic Party more aligned with those imperial interests than with the aspiration of many Americans to not be involved in more wars. But those forces are just as strong in the Republican Party, so there are many who fear the worst as Obama leaves office by further stroking tensions with Russia (if he was so concerned about the “integrity” of our democratic voting system he should have begun a campaign as soon as he was elected in 2008 for a constitutional amendment that would have replaced the electoral system with a direct vote for Congress and that would have incorporated the ESRA’s plan to ban all money from elections except public funding, and he should have insisted that the 2016 election was not valid until all those who had been prevented from voting in the racist states had been allowed to vote–and certainly should have made known to the American people what the Russians were suspected of doing in September when he learned about it, rather than let their alleged manipulation of the elections stand). Hypocrites and liars on all sides–so best not allow all of this lead us to new wars!!— Rabbi Michael Lerner firstname.lastname@example.org
Summing Up Russia’s Real Nuclear Fears
December 29, 2016
Exclusive: The mainstream U.S. media’s relentless Russia-bashing has obscured Moscow’s legitimate fears about Washington’s provocative nuclear-missile strategies, which could lead to Armageddon, explains Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall
The conflicts between Washington and Moscow keep on growing: Ukraine and Syria, rival war games, “hybrid” wars and “cyber-wars.” Talk of a new Cold War doesn’t do justice to the stakes.
“My bottom line is that the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War,” declares [ http://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/
A nuclear test detonation carried out in Nevada on April 18, 1953.
If a new Trump administration wants to peacefully reset relations with Russia, there’s no better way to start than by canceling the deployment of costly new ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. One such system went live in Romania this May [http://www.reuters.com/
Only last month, at a meeting in Sochi with Russian military leaders to discuss advanced new weapons technology, Putin vowed [ http://www.businessinsider.
Putin accused [ http://www.businessinsider.
Moscow has reacted to this perceived threat with more than mere words. It is developing new and deadlier nuclear missiles, including the SS-30 [ http://www.thedailybeast.com/
If a new arms race is underway, it’s not for lack of warning. The Russians have voiced their concerns about missile defenses for years and years, without any serious acknowledgment from Washington. From their vantage point, the apparent bad faith of successive U.S. administrations, Democratic as well as Republican, is a flashing red light to which they had to respond.
From the earliest days of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense (“Star Wars”) Initiative to make ballistic missiles “impotent and obsolete,” an alarmed Moscow has viewed U.S. efforts to build a missile shield as a long-term threat to their nuclear deterrent.
President Reagan meets with Vice President George H.W. Bush on Feb. 9, 1981. (Photo credit: Reagan Presidential Library.)
In 2002, President Bush one-upped Reagan and unilaterally canceled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 [ https://www.armscontrol.org/
Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine [ https://www.foreignaffairs.
But with Russia still reeling from the neoliberal “shock therapy” that it suffered through during the 1990s, the neoconservatives (then in charge of U.S foreign policy) were confident of winning such an arms race. In 2002, President Bush adopted a National Security Strategy that explicitly called for U.S military superiority over every other power. To that end, he called on the Pentagon to develop a ground-based missile defense system within two years.
Since then, that program has lined the pockets of major U.S. military contractors without achieving any notable successes. Critics – including the U.S. General Accountability Office, National Academy of Sciences and Union of Concerned Scientists [http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/
Russia fears, however, that it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. perfects its missile shield technology enough to erode the deterrent capabilities of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.
Promoting U.S. Nuclear Primacy
That specter was highlighted in 2006 when two U.S. strategic arms experts declared [https://www.foreignaffairs.
President George W. Bush in the Oval Office, Oct. 7, 2008. (White House photo by Eric Draper)
The authors, Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, added, “Washington’s pursuit of nuclear primacy helps explain its missile defense strategy.” Missile defense, they pointed out, is not the same as population defense. No conceivable defense could truly protect American cities against an all-out attack by Russia, or even China. Rather, a leaky shield “would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one — as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield.”
“If the United States launched a nuclear attack against Russia (or China),” they explained, “the targeted country would be left with a tiny surviving arsenal — if any at all. At that point, even a relatively modest or inefficient missile-defense system might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes, because the devastated enemy would have so few warheads and decoys left.”
As if to make that scenario a reality, the Bush administration soon announced plans to install an anti-missile base in Poland and a radar control center in the Czech Republic — ostensibly to counter a nuclear threat from Iran. No matter that Iran had neither nuclear weapons nor long-range ballistic missiles — or that Washington had rebuffed Russia’s offer to cooperate on building missile defenses closer to Iran. No, Moscow was supposed to believe President Bush’s assurance that “Russia is not the enemy.”
Republican hawks in Congress didn’t get the message [ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
Yet when Russian officials reacted with alarm, and warned of the potential for a “new Cold War,” American news accounts [ http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Obama Blows Up the Reset Button
Taking office in 2009, President Obama promised a new era of nuclear sanity. Again, the Russians pleaded for an end to the missile defense program in Eastern Europe. Privately, they expressed a new and genuine concern [ http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/
President Barack Obama meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Obama and his team didn’t heed the warnings. Instead, they snubbed Putin — and the entire Russian leadership — by marching ahead with the missile shield deployment in Eastern Europe, still insulting Moscow’s intelligence with the pretense that it was a defense against Iran.
Obama’s “reset button” was the first casualty [ http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/
President Obama never intended to expand his limited missile defense program into an existential threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent, but he opened that door. Exactly as Moscow has long feared, hawks in Congress now are chomping at the bit to spend what it takes to build an all-out missile defense system [ http://breakingdefense.com/
One 2003 study [ http://www.epsusa.org/
One of these days such a mistake may prompt an all-out Russian nuclear launch — and then, not even a full missile defense will spare the United States, and much of the world, from devastation.
Jonathan Marshall is author of many recent articles on arms issues, including “How World War III Could Start [ http://nationalinterest.org/