Russia Expands Nuclear Arsenal for first time since End of Cold War
by Playthell Benjamin
There are a lot of smart and reasonable people who cannot conceive of a nuclear war between Russia and NATO as a real possibility. The reasoning of my learned friend Bill Meissner is typical of this group; he is convinced that no rational leader would initiate a nuclear war. And thus, as in the past, the MAD doctrine – Mutual Assured Destruction – will continue to restrain political leaders from taking actions that will also result in the destruction of their own nation. Hence, they reason, there is no real danger of nuclear war with Russia despite the increasing decibel level of the saber rattling. They are wrong. What they fail to understand is that both things can be true: No leader will give a command to launch a first strike but a nuclear war breaks out anyway.
This is why the obsession with whether the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon is a fool’s errand that takes us down the road to nowhere in terms of dealing with the real issue concerning nuclear weapons: the nuclear arsenals of the Russia, the US and NATO. First of all, I am not convinced that the Iranian leaders are any more willing to commit national suicide than the leaders of any other country; although the fact that Iran is ruled by Islamic clerics that often behave like Mad Mullahs might suggest otherwise. However even if some religious fanatic were to decide that it was the will of allah to initiate an act of national suicide, the weapons are under the control of military who are unlikely to launch an nuclear strike. And even if they did, it would be a regional affair.
On the other hand, if the US and Russia fire their nuclear weapons it will spell the end of modern civilization for sure and probably the end of all life on this planet….depending on the extent of the exchange. In my view, as one who has a solid knowledge of the destructive capability of the US nuclear arsenal by virtue of having served in our nuclear forces with a Top Secret security clearance, once a nuclear exchange commences between NATO – the USA and our nuclear armed allies Germany, France and England – all of the weapons on both sides will be fired.
Hence we are literally talking about snuffing out life forms that may well be unique in a universe composed of billions of galaxies. It is more than a crime against humanity – which is already achieved by the mere possession of nuclear weapons – it would be a sin against all creation.
The authors of this narrative of nuclear terror that hangs over the people of the world are the leaders of the USA during the mid-twentieth century. While no thoughtful observer can condemn the US government for initially building an atomic bomb, considering that they were in a war with Nazi Germany who was known to be working on an atomic weapon. This is what attracted great scientist and humanitarians like Albert Einstein, Edward Teller and the swing dancing jazz loving George Kitakowski, et al to the Manhattan Project that created the bomb. However it is what the US government decided to do with these weapons after ending World War II by the atomic bombing of Japan.
The leading scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project wanted knowledge of nuclear fission placed under the control of an international commission for safe guarding, otherwise, they predicted, if this technology remained the possession of the USA it would spark an international arms race. Failure to heed this advice has led to the nuclear quagmire we are in today, when the threat of nuclear war is growing and nobody knows the way out.
I have repeatedly written treatises warning about the drift toward nuclear war, fueled by NATO expansion in Eastern Europe; which is a clear violation of the agreements that ended the Cold War as Stephen Cohen and other leading US Russian experts have repeatedly pointed out. This danger now centers on the Ukraine Crisis, where the Russians have drawn a line much like the US did when Soviet Russia put missile silos in Cuba. The world is lucky to have survived that crisis without a nuclear war between the US and Russia; we may not be so lucky this time; especially if any of the candidates for President gain control of the White House and becomes Commander-In-Chief.
To those who think that I am being alarmist should consult the opinion of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the world’s leading authority on nuclear War. They are constantly monitoring relations between nuclear armed nations and the set the hands on their atomic clock in order to dramatize how close the world is to nuclear holocaust. At present the hands stand at 3 minutes to Midnight! While most people go about their business without giving a thought to the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist tells us:
“Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have embarked on massive programs to modernize their nuclear triads—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. “The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”
The extent to which their fears are based on real developments in the relations between Russia and NATO can be seen in events of the last few days. First there was the near collision between a Russian Fighter plane that came within ten feet of a US Air Force spy plane attached to NATO over the Black Sea. Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, called the Russian maneuver an “unsafe intercept, unprofessional and inappropriate.” Then he tried to play down the incident as possibly the result of “a lack of training” by the pilot.
The Black Sea is closer to Russia than the Caribbean Sea is to the US, yet the Caribbean Sea has been called an “American Lake” and defined by the Monroe Doctrine of 1830 as an inviolate US Sphere of Influence. The fact that the US seeks to deny Russia, another great power, her natural Sphere of Influence in the Black Sea through the eastward expansion of NATO onto Russia’s door steps (see my writings on the Ukraine”) when the US is located thousands of miles away, is the crux of the present conflict in US Russian relations.
Hence the Russians view the Americans as armed intruders, while the Americans intoxicated by the dazzling myth of “American Exceptionalism” as the protector of Eastern Europe from the ravages of the Russian Bear. This vision led the United States to recruit former Republics of the Soviet Union into the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, a western military alliance formed to prevent communist Russia’s expansion into the West.
The admission of the Baltic States that were formerly a part of the Soviet Union is the most dangerous development in US/Russian relations since the Soviet Alliance with Cuba. This is because a military conflict with Russia and any of these little Baltic States will plunge the US into a military confrontation with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently declared that anybody who thinks Russia would launch an unprovoked attack on NATO is “irrational” but he has also declared “We will be forced to aim our armed forces … at those territories from where the threat comes.” If that perceived threat is from the USA then the forces he is referring to are intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This is the raison d’etre for Putin’s moves to expand the Russian nuclear missile arsenal, an effort fueled by the unilateral US abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, which expressly forbade building missile defense systems which NATO has been working to deploy. Putin was unambiguous about the fact that his decision to expand Russia’s nuclear missile arsenal is a response to NATO’s actions: “It is NATO that is moving towards our border and we aren’t moving anywhere.” This comment was buttressed by a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry:
“The United States is inciting tensions and carefully nurturing their European allies’ anti-Russian phobias in order to use the current difficult situation for further expanding its military presence and influence in Europe. We hope that reason will prevail and it will be possible to save the situation in Europe from sliding toward a military standoff, which could entail dangerous consequences.”
Incredibly, both the US Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appeared to be surprised at the Russian reaction to their meddling in Eastern Europe. “We’re trying to move in the opposite direction,” said Kerry. “We have had enormous cooperation from the 1990s forward with respect to the structure of nuclear weapons in the former territories of the Soviet Union. And no one wants to see us step backwards.”
Jens Stoltenberg, speaking for the European allies in NATO responded with this comment:
“This nuclear saber-rattling of Russia is unjustified. “It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces. We are responding by making sure that NATO also in the future is an alliance which provides deterrence and protection for all allies against any threat.”
When this heated rhetoric is considered in the context of the rancid political relations and widening armed conflict in the Ukraine, it does not require a mental giant to conclude that we are stumbling into a war with Russia, and one need not be a military strategist in order to foresee that any war between Russia and NATO has the potential to go nuclear despite the initial intentions of our leaders. That’s why the peoples of the NATO countries must insist that our leaders cease all efforts to develop a military relationship of ANY KIND with the Ukraine against Russia and allow these Slavic cousins to settle their own problems… the fate of our planet may well depend upon it!
Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.