As the U.S. and its Western allies lurch into a new and dangerous confrontation with Russia, the different sides don’t even have a thorough understanding of the history behind the tensions, warns Alice Slater.
By Alice Slater
NATO’s recent provocative decision to build up its military forces across Europe — by sending four new multinational battalions to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland — comes at a time of great turmoil and intense questioning of global security with new forces for both good and evil straining to make their mark on the course of history.
This weekend, at the Vatican, Pope Francis held an international conference to follow up on the recently negotiated treaty to prohibit the possession, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons leading to their complete elimination which was negotiated in the United Nations General Assembly this summer by 122 nations, although none of the nine nuclear weapons states participated.
Honored at the conference were members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which worked with friendly governments to hold nuclear weapons unlawful, and has recently been awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its successful efforts.
The Pope issued a statement that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence in which countries threaten to wreak catastrophic nuclear devastation on their opponents should they be attacked with nuclear bombs has become ineffective against Twenty-first Century threats like terrorism asymmetrical conflicts, environmental problems and poverty. While the church once held that such an insane policy could be moral and lawful, it no longer views it as such. And there are plans for the church to examine the so-called theory of “just war” with an eye to prohibiting the very morality and legality of war itself.
In the U.S., an unprecedented examination of our hidden history has begun. People are questioning the numerous honorary statues memorializing Civil War generals from the South who fought to preserve slavery. Indigenous First Peoples are questioning the adulation given to Christopher Columbus, who “discovered” America for Spain and was responsible for enormous slaughters and bloodshed of natives in the first colonies established in the Americas. Famous and powerful men are being questioned in an avalanche of truth-telling about how they used their professional power to take sexual advantage of women who feared for their career prospects in theater, publishing, business, academia.
Need for Truth about U.S. and Russia
Unfortunately we have barely begun to tell the truth about the U.S. relationship with Russia and appear to be moving backwards in the U.S. with calls for RT, formerly Russia Today, the Russian equivalent of the BBC or Al Jazeera, to be registered in the U.S. as a foreign agent. This is certainly not consistent with the U.S. belief in the sanctity of a free press and will be challenged in the courts.
Indeed, there is a huge effort to misrepresent the provocations of NATO, to gloss over the history of the nuclear arms race– the refusal to take up Mikhail Gorbachev’s offer to Ronald Reagan to eliminate all their nuclear weapons provided the U.S. gave up its plans to dominate and control the use of space; the expansion of NATO despite President George H.W. Bush’s promises to Gorbachev that NATO would not go any further eastward beyond a unified Germany after the wall fell; Bill Clinton’s rejection of Vladimir Putin’s offer to cut arsenals to 1,000 nuclear weapons each and call all the parties to the table to negotiate for their elimination provided the U.S. didn’t put missiles in Eastern Europe; Clinton leading NATO into the unlawful bombing of Serbia, ignoring Russia’s veto of the action in the U.N. Security Council; George W. Bush walking out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; the blocking of consensus in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva to start negotiations on a Russian and Chinese proposal, made in 2008 and again 2015, to ban weapons in space.
Ironically, in light of the recent NATO announcement that it will expand its cyber operations, the U.S. rejection of Russia’s 2009 proposal to negotiate a Cyberwar Ban Treaty after the U.S. boasted of having destroyed Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity with Israel using the Stuxnet virus in a cyber-attack seems like a gross misjudgment on the part of the U.S. not to have taken Russia up on its proposal.
Indeed, the whole nuclear arms race might have been avoided, if Harry Truman and Josef Stalin could have agreed on a satisfactory arrangement for putting this devastating weapon under U.N. control at the end of World War II. Instead, the U.S. retained control of the technology, and the Soviet Union developed its own bomb.
Now we are entering a New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. Perhaps the only way to understand this deterioration of U.S.-Russian relationship is to remember President Eisenhower’s warning in his 1961 farewell address about the military-industrial complex. The arms manufacturers, with billions of dollars at stake, have corrupted U.S. politics, media, academia and Congress.
U.S. public opinion is manipulated to support war and “blame it on Russia.” Meanwhile, the so-called “War on Terror” is a recipe for more terrorism. Like throwing a rock on a hornet’s nest, the U.S. sows death and destruction around the world killing innocent civilians in the name of fighting terrorism and thus invites more terror.
Russia, which lost 27 million people to the Nazi onslaught of World War II, may have a much better understanding of the horrors of war. Perhaps we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reveal the causes and provocation of the historic tensions between the U.S. and Russia. After all, in other spheres, we seem to be entering a new time of truth-telling. And what could be more welcome and important than an honest presentation of the U.S.-Russian relationship over the past century to further better understanding and a peaceful resolution of our differences. With the looming environmental climate catastrophe and the possibility of destroying all life on earth with nuclear devastation, shouldn’t we give peace a chance?
Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.