Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

U.S.-Russia Bickering May Trigger Nuclear Fallout

Brinkmanship over the crisis in Crimea could lead to rollbacks in arms control agreements between the United States and Russia.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Inter Press Service

The U.S.-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, which is threatening to undermine current bilateral talks on North Korea, Iran, Syria and Palestine, is also in danger of triggering a nuclear fallout.

Secretary of State John Kerry told U.S. legislators that if the dispute results in punitive sanctions against Russia, things could “get ugly fast” and go “in multiple directions.”

Perhaps one such direction could lead to a nuclear impasse between the two big powers.

According to a state agency news report from Moscow, Russia has threatened to stop honouring its arms treaty commitments, and more importantly, to block U.S. military inspections of nuclear weapons, if Washington decides to suspend military cooperation with Moscow.

These mostly bilateral treaties between the United States and Russia include the 1994 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the 2010 new START, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and the 1970 international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A nuclear tug-of-war between the two big powers is tinged in irony because post-Soviet Ukraine undertook one of the world’s most successful nuclear disarmament programmes when it agreed to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Dr. Rebecca E. Johnson, executive director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament and Diplomacy, told IPS, “Clearly the situation between Ukraine and Russia is deeply worrying.

“Without going into the politics of the situation on the ground, as I don’t have the kind of regional expertise for that, this is not a place for issuing nuclear threats or scoring nuclear points,” she said.

“I’ve been disgusted to see some British and French representatives try to use Ukraine’s crisis to justify retaining nuclear weapons in perpetuity.”

Russia is not directly threatening to attack Ukraine with nuclear weapons, and no one believes it would be useful for the United States and countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to threaten Russia with a nuclear attack, no matter what they do, said Johnson.

Ukraine, which was once armed with the third largest nuclear arsenal after the United States and Russia, and possessed more nukes than France, Britain and China, dismantled and shipped its weapons to Russia for destruction beginning in 1994.

Dr. Ira Helfand, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), said Ukraine is commendable in being one of the few states to have given up its nuclear weapons peacefully, and the people of Ukraine should not have to fear nuclear weapons ravaging their country.

“Any war involves a terrible and lasting human toll, risks spreading and harming people’s health in the region and beyond,” he warned.

In a statement released last week, IPPNW said it underscores the absolute imperative to avoid the possibility of use of nuclear weapons.

“This danger exists with any armed conflict involving nuclear armed states or alliances, which could escalate in uncontrollable, unintended and unforeseeable ways,” it warned.

Dr Tilman A. Ruff, co-chair, International Steering Group and Australian Board member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told IPS the current agreements (e.g. START, New START and INF) are probably most important in that they demonstrate that verified reductions and elimination of whole classes of nuclear weapons are feasible, and hopefully reduce the risk of nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

However, continuing massive nuclear arsenals on both sides; the retention of almost 1,800 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert missiles, ready to be launched within minutes; the aggressive eastward expansion of NATO, contrary to what Russian leaders were promised; and the rapid escalation of tension over recent events in Ukraine demonstrate the Cold War has not been firmly laid to rest.

“Any confrontation between nuclear-armed states runs the risk of escalating to the use of nuclear weapons, whether by inadvertence, accident, or bad decision-making,” said Dr Ruff, who is also an associate professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne.

He said currently all the nuclear-armed states are massively investing in keeping and modernising their nuclear arsenals, and show no serious commitment to disarm, as they are legally bound to do. As long as nuclear weapons exist and are deployed, and policies countenance their possible use, the danger they will be used is real and present.

“The dangerous and unstable situation in Ukraine highlights this starkly, and should dispel any notion that nuclear danger ended 20 years ago with apparent end of the Cold War,” he said.

Dr Johnson told IPS Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons in the region are demonstrably not contributing to deterrence.

“If anything, their presence complicates the current dangers, with the attendant risks of crisis instability and potential military or nuclear escalation or miscalculations, though I’d hope no one would be mad enough to actually use them,” she said.

Politicians that want to keep French or British nuclear weapons need to stop making arguments that undermine the NPT and encourage proliferators, she pointed out.

“It is extraordinarily irresponsible to jump on the bandwagon of this dangerous regional crisis and make Ukrainians feel that they were wrong to rid their newly independent country of nuclear weapons in 1992 and join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states,” Johnson said.

It is clearly unacceptable for states armed with nuclear weapons to threaten non-nuclear nations, but this cannot be turned into a rationale either for risking nuclear war between Russia and NATO or for the non-nuclear countries to pull out of the NPT and start arming themselves with nuclear arsenals of their own, she noted.

As brought to the forefront through the recent Oslo and Nayarit conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons need to be stigmatised, banned and eliminated, she added.

“Only by removing these weapons of mass destruction from all countries’ arsenals will we be able to fairly address the security needs and aspirations of all peoples – whether in non-nuclear or nuclear-armed countries,” she added.

Thalif Deen is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share