I disagree with President Donald Trump about practically everything. With two exceptions.
First, Trump said it from Day One: “Getting along with Russia and China and with everybody is a very good thing. It’s good for the world, it’s good for the U.S.” He said it again regarding his planned July 16 meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
For some years now, we’ve been sleepwalking toward war with Russia, as I try to show at https://www.unz.com/article/ukraine-syria-russiagate-the-media-and-the-risk-of-nuclear-war/. And we now have an opportunity to reduce that risk, with a couple of easy actions.
That’s why the Trump-Putin summit has my attention. As U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley observed, “Only nuclear weapons have the capacity to wipe out humanity in the blink of an eye.”
In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis took us close to just that catastrophe. Thereafter, the two superpowers negotiated several treaties to decrease the risk of nuclear war. The system that evolved was called Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD: neither power could launch a first strike because the other could always retaliate. The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty preserved that system by prohibiting deployment of weapons that could neutralize a retaliatory strike.
Is that crazy, or what? Could anyone seriously consider starting a nuclear war? Daniel Ellsberg gives the unpleasant answer in “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” In fact, the so-called “missile defense” system, a gigantic boondoggle for the military-industrial complex, also looks like a plan to wage and “win” a nuclear war.
Such demented thinking was probably behind U.S. withdrawal, in 2002, from the ABM Treaty, and deployment of the “missile defense shield.” The shield, if effective, would make a nuclear first-strike thinkable, because it could defeat the retaliating strike.
Putin repeatedly asked the U.S. to discontinue its missile defense deployment, warning that Russia would have to take counter-measures. But the deployments have continued. Then, on March 1, Putin announced Russian development of new weapons that he claimed would render a missile shield ineffective.
Make your own assessment. You can see Putin’s speech at
His 30-minute description of the new weapons starts at 1h:18m. A transcript, also with videos, is at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957 . Analysis and commentary appear at http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/03/russia-shows-off-new-weapons-tells-us-to-come-down-to-earth.html#more ; https://www.unz.com/article/the-implications-of-russias-new-weapons/ ; http://thesaker.is/newly-revealed-russian-weapons-systems-political-implications/ ; and https://www.thenation.com/article/how-washington-provoked-and-perhaps-lost-a-new-nuclear-arms-race/ .
Putin’s announcement was dismissed as “saber-rattling.” But his tone was not threatening. Rather, he invited the U.S. “to come to the negotiating table to give thought to an updated, future system of international security and civilization’s sustainable development.”
Thankfully, a few senators were listening. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) promptly urged the State Department to convene the next U.S.-Russia dialogue as soon as possible. Then in late June, Senator Merkley, along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a Senate resolution in support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the occasion of its “Golden Birthday.” The full resolution can be found at https://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/NPT%20Resolution.pdf .
The planned Trump-Putin summit offers a chance to jump-start that overdue process. You can help with a couple of small but meaningful actions: (1) Contact the White House at (202) 456-1111 or https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ . Tell the President you support his meeting with Mr. Putin, and hope he will use it to discuss nuclear arms control. (2) Contact any or all of the above-mentioned Senators via the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or, if you reside in a State represented by one of them, via email. Thank the Senator for his or her work to support nuclear arms control and ask them to keep at it and keep you posted.
Unfortunately, the “Russiagate” investigation and widespread demonization of Putin and Russia create an atmosphere making it difficult to improve U.S.-Russia relations. This brings me to my second point of agreement with Trump, who has repeatedly denounced the investigation as a “witch hunt.” As appalling as most of Trump’s policies are, I can’t support the effort to unseat a constitutionally elected president by a campaign of disinformation and lies.
“Russiagate” is politically motivated, is founded on an act of deception, and has produced no evidence. Its cornerstone, the misleadingly titled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 2017, was in fact authored by hand-picked staffers from just three agencies, and even they admitted their judgments “are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” For details, see the London Review of Books at https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n01/jackson-lears/what-we-dont-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-russian-hacking , and a summary by former ambassador Jack Matlock at http://jackmatlock.com/2018/06/musings-russiagate-hysteria/#more-982 .
But isn’t it pointless to negotiate with the diabolical Vladimir Putin? Again, make your own assessment. Read Oliver Stone’s book of interviews with Putin, or former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin’s “Return to Moscow.” Or just take a look at the interview with Russianist Stephen Cohen posted http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/whos-responsible-for-the-new-cold-war-an-interview-with-renowned-russia-expert-stephen-cohen/2018/03/28/ ..
Robert Roth prosecuted consumer fraud for the attorneys general of New York (1981-91) and Oregon (1993-2007). A shorter version of this article originally appeared in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard.