Bridging Divides of a New Cold War

As NATO steps up military maneuvers near Russia’s borders and congressmen fume about “Russian aggression,” a delegation of Americans including former U.S. officials is looking for face-to-face ways to encourage peace, writes Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

I just flew across 11 times zones — from Tokyo, Japan to Moscow, Russia. Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth’s inhabited land area, nearly twice as large as the United States and has extensive mineral and energy resources, the largest reserves in the world. Russia has the world’s ninth largest population with over 146.6 million people. The population of the U.S of 321.4 million is more than twice as large as Russia’s.

I haven’t been back to Russia since the early 1990s when the Soviet Union dissolved itself and allowed 14 new countries to be created from it. At the time I was a U.S. diplomat and wanted to be a part of the historic opening of U.S. Embassies in one of the newly formed countries. I asked to be sent to a new country in Central Asia and soon found myself in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin laying a wreath at Russia's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on May 8, 2014, as part of the observance of the World War II Victory over Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin laying a wreath at Russia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on May 8, 2014, as part of the observance of the World War II Victory over Germany.

Since the new embassies were being logistically supported out of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, I was fortunate to make frequent trips to Moscow in the short three months I was in Uzbekistan until the permanent Embassy staff was assigned. Several years later in 1994, I returned to Central Asia for a two-year tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and again made trips to Moscow.

Over almost 25 years since the Cold War ended, Russia has undertaken a monumental shift from state-operated institutions to privatized businesses with the Russian Federation joining the G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the World Trade Organization.

But now the U.S/NATO and Russia are engaged in a 21st Century new Cold War complete with large military “exercises” in which a small misstep could bring actual war.

On June 16, I will join a group of 19 US citizens and one from Singapore in Moscow, Russia. We are going to Russia to do what we can to continue bridges of peace with the Russian people, bridges that our governments seem be having difficulty maintaining.

With international tensions high, members of our delegation believe its time for the citizens of all nations to loudly declare that military confrontation and hot rhetoric are not the way to resolve international problems.

Our group is composed of several retired U.S. government officials and persons representing peace organizations. As a retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and former U.S. diplomat, I join retired CIA officer Ray McGovern and retired Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and CIA analyst Elizabeth Murray. Ray and I are members of Veterans for Peace and Elizabeth is the member-in-residence of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. The three of us are also members of the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Long-time peacemakers Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence; Hakim Young of Afghan Peace Volunteers; David and Jan Hartsough of the Quakers, Nonviolent Peaceforce and World Beyond War; Martha Hennessy of the Catholic Workers movement; and Bill Gould, former national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility are just a few of the delegates on this mission.

Former U.S. military officer and diplomat Anne Wright

Former U.S. military officer and diplomat Ann Wright

The delegation is led by Sharon Tennison, the founder of the Center for Citizen Iniatives (CCI).  Over the past 30 years, Sharon brought thousands of Americans to Russia and over 6,000 young Russian entrepreneurs to 10,000 companies in over 400 American cities in 45 states. Her book The Power of Impossible Ideas: Ordinary Citizens’ Extraordinary Efforts to Avert International Crises, is the remarkable story of bringing citizens of the U.S. and Russia together in each other’s country for better understanding and peace.

In the tradition of going where our governments do not want us to go to witness the effects of the breakdown of non-violent approaches to conflict resolution, we will be meeting with members of Russian civil society, journalists, businesspersons and perhaps government officials to express our commitment to non-violence, not war.

The Russian people know well the carnage caused by war, with over 20 million Russians killed during World War II. Although not on the same scale as Russian deaths, all too many U.S. military families know the agony of injuries and deaths from World War II, the Vietnam War and the current wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

We go to Russia to talk with the Russian people about the hopes, dreams and fears of the American people and to call for a peaceful resolution to current tensions between the US/NATO and Russia. And we will return to the United States to share our first-hand impressions of the hopes, dreams and fears of the Russian people.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a US diplomat for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned in March 2003 in opposition to President Bush’s war on Iraq.  She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

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22 comments for “Bridging Divides of a New Cold War

  1. June 15, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Excellent, excellent! The VIPS are doing absolutely life-saving and planet-saving work. I hope during your visit to Russia you will emphasize that you are speaking not only for the groups like VIPS mentioned in your article but also for many thousands and I hope millions of Americans, including people like Noam Chomsky and Paul Craig Roberts and their (literally) millions of readers and followers (i.e., admirers). Could you not also include Stephen Cohen and Gilbert Doctorow and and the other distinguished members of EastWestAccord.com?

    Just in case you are not already planning to do so, I urge you to write a “memo” addressed to the US president imploring him to rescind the sanctions and stop the sabre-rattling along Russia’s borders, in short, to be reasonable, and please have that document signed by all of the above and and have it disseminated widely in Russia in the US and in Europe. Russians and the world must know that we are not all as crazy as those in power in Washington. Now is the time — while the presidential race is still on and people (hopefully) are listening — to get this message out. So far, none of the presidential candidates, including Sanders, seem to have a clue about the danger that Washington has put us in, and by “us” I mean the planet.

    • jo6pac
      June 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I agree.

    • Bart Gruzalski
      June 16, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Michael,
      Your comment made me realize that the wonderful work which Ann Wright, Ray McGovern and all the rest will do will not have an iota of effect on militaristic travel across the six lane bridge controlled by Neocons, Obama, Hillary, and a swarm of US’s warmongers. The people almost never want war unless they are sucked into a war frenzy by propaganda. Who’s creating all the stress and tension with Russia? It’s not ordinary Russians, not even ordinary Ukrainians who created this new Cold War. It’s been manufactured by our Neocons, including Clinton, who conjured up the tension in Ukrainian, using Nuland. The wonderful team going over to build bridges with individual Russians won’t undo this Cold War. What’s needed are positive steps by US leaders. Obama should meet with Putin. Yet even that won’t work if the American hardliners keep such meetings from becoming actual negotiating sessions. We need to persuade American leadership to begin negotiating seriously. AND, as important, we need to do what we can to keep Neocon,Hillary Warmonger Clinton from getting into the White House.

      • Realist
        June 16, 2016 at 7:35 am

        Obomber personally hates Putin. That is quite clear and a big part of the problem. All their meetings and phone calls in the past ever accomplished was more insults and trash talk by Obomber. There is no one on the American side willing to be a diplomat rather than a thug, so true “peace” is not an option. The best to be hoped for, probably until Hillary’s terms of office are completed, is a de facto hybrid war frozen in suspended animation, unless someone achieves the will to end all life on the planet to make their “point.” These are, after all, human beings we are talking about, and therefore basically idiots.

        • Gravedigger
          June 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

          In the fields the bodies burning.. as the war machine keeps turning.

          • Joe L.
            June 17, 2016 at 1:23 pm

            War Pigs:

            Generals gathered in their masses,
            Just like witches at black masses.
            Evil minds that plot destruction,
            Sorcerer of death’s construction.
            In the fields the bodies burning,
            As the war machine keeps turning.
            Death and hatred to mankind,
            Poisoning their brainwashed minds.
            Oh lord yeah!

            Politicians hide themselves away,
            They only started the war.
            Why should they go out to fight,
            They leave that role to the poor.

            Yeah!

            Time will tell on their power mind,
            Making war just for fun.
            Treating people just like pawns in chess,
            Wait till their judgement day comes.

            Yeah!

            Now in darkness world stops turning,
            Ashes where the bodies burning.
            No more war pigs have the power,
            Hand of God has struck the hour.
            Day of judgement God is calling,
            On their knees the war pig’s crawling.
            Begging mercy for their sins,
            Satan laughing spreads his wings.

            Oh lord yeah!

  2. Abe
    June 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Bonnie Faulkner: Russian Prime Minister Putin proposed a partnership, or at least cooperation, between the West and the emerging military and economic partnerships in the East. Putin’s overture to the West seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Why do you think?

    Michael Hudson: This is the same hope that has existed since the 1990s, even before Putin came into power. The idea was that Russia is willing to join NATO, seeing that atomic war between the industrial nations of the world is now out of the question.

    They do face a common threat from Wahhabi Islam, funded by Saudi Arabia – Wahhabi Sharia Law terrorism. Russia is concerned about Saudi-backed terrorists on its southern front, from Georgia, Azerbaijan, all the way through central Asia. The Chinese also are concerned about Wahhabi terrorism through the Uyghurs. ISIS and Al Nusra are acting as America’s Foreign Legion. When Hillary Clinton overthrew the Libyan government, the arms and military stockpiles were turned over to ISIS. Libya’s central bank resources were robbed and also turned over to ISIS. When America marched into Iraq, it turned the Sunni army and all those billions of dollars of shrink-wrapped hundred-dollar bills over ultimately to ISIS. So although America opposes ISIS when they kill Americans, ISIS is basically America’s way of breaking up countries that may threaten not to be part of the global dollar standard.

    Russia hoped that the United States would see that this is a crazy system. America, Russia and Europe can get rich in mutual trade. If Europe pursues its economic interests, it would see itself as a natural trading partner of Russia. Europeans and probably Americans could go to Russia and try to build up the economy, because it needs entrepreneurs.

    But instead of pursuing a mutual prosperity sphere between Europe, Russia and the United States, the United States has pressed Europe into a dead zone of neoliberal austerity. That is shrinking Europe’s economy and carving it off from Russia. This prevents prosperity for Europe, on the ground that it would also benefit Russia or China.

    The idea from the Americans’ side is to treat Russia like it treated Cuba, Iran and Libya – to isolate it, expecting Russia to knuckle under. But instead, Russia’s much bigger than Cuba or North Korea, and China is even bigger. So instead of just surrendering to the American neoliberal economic plan, they’ve decided that America has driven them together in a mutually defensive alignment. U.S. diplomacy has brought about precisely the Eurasian unity that it set out to try to prevent.

    The New Global Financial Cold War
    Interview with financial economist and historian Dr. Michael Hudson
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/19/the-new-global-financial-cold-war/

  3. Erik
    June 15, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Congratulations on your wonderful efforts and thoughts, Ann and Ray and the VIPs and all others involved. These are the messages that should be heard around the world.

  4. Bill Hessell
    June 16, 2016 at 12:00 am

    US foreign policy has been failing for years. It has tragically failed in the Middle East, and continues to be enmeshed there indefinitely. Is it diverting attention from its failures there by threatening Russia with encroaching encirclement, and pushing it to the brink of open conflict? Also by shifting attention to the Far East with its Asian Pivot, risking conflict with China within their sphere of influence, over their developments on barren South Chinese Sea islands, as well as by pushing for the Trans Pacific Trade agreement? When will the American public awaken to the fact that our conflict-prone foreign policy is greatly, and unnecessarily, increasing the risk of a major outbreak of international war, which could readily become nuclear? Good luck to the group of citizen-diplomats representing us in a positive manner in Russia. May the public here come to realize our policy makers in Wash. DC are leading us down a dangerous, deadly path, and apply the pressure necessary for them to reverse course before it is too late.

  5. James
    June 16, 2016 at 2:05 am

    I actually find this whole article very naive.
    The U.S. is the problem with their desire for hegemony

    You need to stay In the U.S. and talk to your own government and media.
    Russia already discussed the issue of NATO and potential war.
    The U.S. is the problem

    • June 16, 2016 at 2:48 am

      I don’t think the authors are naive but you are right, of course, that the US is the problem, as the other commenters have also said. But the mission to Moscow, as I see it, is to convince them that there are still some voices of reason in the US. I doubt that many Russians read this website or OpEdNews or any of the other progressive websites, but then again, and confirming your point, neither do many Americans. Just out of curiosity, yesterday I copied down the rankings of a number of websites for comparison and put a spreadsheet on my Google drive that can be edited by anyone with the link, so if anybody wants to add anything, comment, or update the numbers, please do! The link is
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Nqg30pXddw0ej7w2T-gL41gKpXUKDb7yMAuLNBMclOw/edit?usp=sharing

  6. Madhu
    June 16, 2016 at 8:38 am

    It’s amazing how little public discussion there is of these topics other than press releases by NATO written as news articles, and corresponding furious denials by Russian papers.

    Bernie Sanders mobilized a huge group of young people and independents. Can this be tied into a non-militarized bloc within Democratic Party circles? This is wonderful work but how does it help to blunt the Washington Consensus and the main drivers to militarization that come from elite positioning and various lobbying within DC?

    Does this group visit Eastern European countries too, are there ties to Ukrainians, Poles, Baltic peace or Realist groups, etc., and those within that are worried about the effects of all of this on their countries? Are there other groups outside the peace activist community that are worried about this too and might be interested?

    I guess I can go look some of this up myself too :)

    Thanks for this.

  7. Madhu
    June 16, 2016 at 8:52 am

    How is The National Interest a realist magazine? (A tangent, just checking in with their articles and I see that Baltics RAND article mentioned without any discussion of the fact that the war game ignores the presence of nuclear weapons).

    Why do editors not check this and make the authors include it within their articles? No wonder realism never gets a real hearing within DC.

    What is Jacob Helibrunn’s deal?

    War on the Rocks (the strange foreign policy discussion platform with ties to Center for New American Security and the Atlantic Council via some of its editorial board) sure has raised a lot of money for a site started by a lapsed PhD student (Ryan Evans). Lots of money via kickstarter and other sources? I’m sure they are all nice sincere young students that are affiliated with that site but attention by the bigwigs mean younger policy oriented folk probably feel compelled to hold their tongues about what they really think.

    Sorry if this seems off topic but there are so many ways to push militarization outside how populations feel about one another and I guess I am fascinated by all the maneuvering.

    All that, what’s his name, Lyne?, Chatham house stuff.

    I get such a bad feeling about British propaganda on this, just like the old days, especially for me, the way I’d watch planted stories about vaunted “South Asia” to protect its favored party (not India).

    Younger progressives don’t know or have forgotten, so lost in this eras narratives. I don’t identify with either political party, it seems strange, the whole phenomenon.

    I should just give in and have a Twitter account or go back to my own writing on these subjects because I can’t comment at all my old haunts….

  8. Madhu
    June 16, 2016 at 8:57 am

    If Russian online trolls are so effective, how come every time that article is mentioned no one in comments–when I survey them–ever mentions that the RAND war-game doesn’t include nuclear weapons. It ought to be the first comment to every article that mentions the war game.

    Who were the participants? I’ve read the war game but don’t see them, did I miss it? I can space things out that way sometimes.

    Does anyone here know who participated in the Ballistics RAND war game and why no one ever mentions that they didn’t game under conditions of nuclear weapons and ignored them?

    As public money supports RAND through the Pentagon and its support, etc., does FOIA cover it or what? How does that work? Do I call my congressperson, Senator?

    • Madhu
      June 16, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Baltic war game, some kind of autocorrect? LOL.

  9. Zachary Smith
    June 16, 2016 at 10:32 am

    As NATO steps up military maneuvers near Russia’s borders and congressmen fume about “Russian aggression,” a delegation of Americans including former U.S. officials is looking for face-to-face ways to encourage peace, writes Ann Wright.

    There seems to be another sort of NATO “maneuvering” which has just been invented – to declare computer hacking as the equivalent of an old-style bombs-and-bullets military attack.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-nato-idUSKCN0Z12NE

    This looks to me like the lazy man’s way to start a war with anybody, anywhere. Just claim that nation initiated a cyberattack, or ever permitted one, and it’s shock-and-awe time.

    When I first saw this story I thought it was a joke, but after about the fifth viewing of the same stuff it is beginning to look all too real.

  10. Ol' Hippy
    June 16, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    One can only hope the situation with Russia doesn’t escalate further than it already is. Sadly though US policy has always been an aggressive stance. Since Russia has the last reserves of vital energy and mineral resources on the planet, I’m afraid that the temptation may be hard to resist by short sighted military planers and capitalists wanting the oil to fuel the US’s addiction to unlimited supplies. After all the reserves in the Middle East are starting to run low and there’s little in the way for new sources to be found. Time’s are just going to keep getting tougher and the US govt won’t do what it needs to do to get off fossil fuels and transition away from them as rapidly as possible. I hope some kind of truce can be found, soon, because the alternative is really unthinkable.

  11. M.
    June 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you to you and your delegation, Col. Ann Wright, for planning this important work. It is a heartening counter to the lack of real diplomacy we have unfortunately been witnessing for a very long time in our own country, with few exceptions. You make total sense. I look forward to hearing more as you progress on this journey and will share it with family and friends.

  12. Abe
    June 16, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Global Warfare: Is the US/NATO Going to Attack Russia?
    Michel Chossudovsky on KPFA Guns and Butter

    http://archives.kpfa.org/data/20160615-Wed1300.mp3

    The significance of Anaconda 2016, NATO’s massive war games underway in Eastern Europe; global warfare and non-conventional warfare; Iran and the Middle East; nuclear weapons reclassified for conventional use; the Oded Yinon Plan for greater Israel; the structure of military alliances an instrument of conquest; the strategic alliance between Russia and China within a larger global geopolitical framework; the criminalization of high office.

  13. C. Dolan
    June 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    It is time for Americans to have a serious, thoughtful, and bold conversation on the US – Russian relationship.

    Sharon Tennison and her mates are doing their part by going to Russia instead of sitting back.

    Undoubtedly, they will return and unleash a first-hand American observation and ignite an American Conversation at this critical time in history!

    All of us need to ask what are we doing to advance more enlightenment in the United States!

    U.S. foreign policy needs a kick-start of bold leadership!

    When US foreign policy across West Africa and MENA increases human trafficking worldwide, this is a failed foreign policy!

  14. Elaine
    June 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Finally, some good news of people organizing to do something about the madness that seems to be prevailing and even increasing all around. It gives me hope. Thank you all.

  15. June 19, 2016 at 5:10 am

    Absolutely a stupendous article and mission! Godspeed, Ann and all!

Comments are closed.