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 UN 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 21st 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 US, 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.
Unfortunately we have barely begun to tell the truth about the US relationship with Russia and appear to be moving backwards in the US with calls for Russia Today, the Russian equivalent of the BBC or Al Jazeera, to be registered in the US as a foreign agent! This is certainly not consistent with the US 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 Gorbachev’s offer to Reagan to eliminate all our nuclear weapons provided the US gave up its plans to dominate and control the use of space; the expansion of NATO despite Reagan’s promises to Gorbachev that NATO would not go any further eastward beyond a unified Germany after the wall fell; Clinton’s rejection of Putin’s offer to cut our arsenals to 1,000 nuclear weapons each and call all the parties to the table to negotiate for their elimination provided we didn’t put missiles in Eastern Europe; Clinton leading NATO into the unlawful bombing of Kosovo, ignoring Russia’s veto of the action in the Security Council; 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 and the shocking news that the US National Security Agency suffered a crippling attack on its computer-hacking equipment, the US rejection of Russia’s 2009 proposal to negotiate a Cyberwar Ban Treaty after the US 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 US not to have taken Russia up on its proposal. Indeed, the whole nuclear arms race might have been avoided, if Truman had agreed to Stalin’s proposal to turn the bomb over to the UN under international supervision at the catastrophic close of World War II. Instead Truman insisted on the US retaining control of the technology, and Stalin proceeded to develop the Soviet bomb.
Perhaps the only way to understand the deterioration of the US-Russian relationship since the Cold War ended, is to remember President Eisenhower’s warning in his farewell address about the military-industrial complex. The arms manufacturers, with billions of dollars at stake have corrupted our politics, our media, academia, Congress. US public opinion is manipulated to support war and “blame it on Russia”. The so-called “War on Terror”, is a recipe for more terrorism. Like throwing a rock on a hornet’s nest, the US sows death and destruction around the world killing innocent civilians in the name of fighting terrorism, and invites more terror. Russia which lost 27 million people to the Nazi onslaught, may have a much better understanding of the horrors of war. Perhaps we can call for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reveal the causes and provocation of the tensions between the US and Russia. We seem to be entering a new time of truth telling and what could be more welcome than an honest presentation of the US-Russian relationship 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.