War Analysis

'Big guns' keep the world on nuclear high alert

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Superpowers Russia and the U.S. are armed with thousands of nuclear weapons (Image by cottonbro | Pexels)

With Russia and the U.S. currently on the warpath during the escalating conflict in Ukraine, the world is again at serious risk of nuclear disaster, writes Dr Helen Caldicott.

JOHN F. KENNEDY’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and I got to know each other during the last years of his life.

One day, as we were having lunch in the Metropolitan Club, he said to me:

“Helen, I was in the Oval Office during the Cuban Missile Crisis and we came so close – within three minutes – to nuclear war."

Now, we are at another turning point in history — although most commentators seem not to understand the gravity of the situation. For the first time since then, the two nuclear superpowers armed as they are with thousands of nuclear weapons – many on hair-trigger alert – are facing each other during an escalating war in Ukraine.

As the genius, Albert Einstein said:

'The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.'

So true.

Here we are with Vladimir Putin who decided to invade Ukraine killing innocent civilians and destroying property at random, while the U.S. military-industrial complex rejoices at the opportunity to make and sell as many weapons as it can, as its shares bound sky high.

The neocons that Joe Biden has appointed to his Cabinet are thrilled that for the first time since the Cold War ended, they can take on the “evil” Russia — although Russia seems no longer to be a communist country, but in fact a raging capitalist institution, with many of its state riches stolen by outrageous oligarchs living high on the hog.

During the Clinton Administration, Putin requested that Russia become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but it never eventuated as Russia was too big and too authoritarian.

NATO was created to defend western Europe from the perils of the “aggressive” Soviet Union and, as is well-known when the Cold War ended, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch to the East.

This posture however was antithetical to aerospace corporation Lockheed Martin whose president, Norman Augustine took it upon himself to visit these newly liberated countries convincing them to become democracies – that is, part of NATO – which required them to arm themselves to the tune of millions of dollars, enormously benefiting the U.S. military-industrial complex.

America then introduced military and missile equipment in all these NATO countries, targeting, of course, Russia, while NATO expanded from 12 to 30 countries.

Putin originally had two requests:

  • that the missiles targeting Russia be removed; and
  • that Ukraine not be admitted to the NATO block.

He was refused.

The present precarious situation is heightened by the testosterone imperative that has dominated and guided wars throughout history, superimposed by the tenuous control of nuclear arsenals, the launching of which has too often been triggered by false alarms, a rising moon, a flock of geese triggering radar alerts, human fallibility, war games, tapes plugged into the Pentagon system and many more.

Superimposed upon this fragile system is the age-old necessity to “win”.

I wake up each morning, look out the window to see the roses and wonder how much longer they will exist — more frightened now than I have ever been even during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

You can follow Dr Caldicott on Twitter @DrHCaldicott. Click here for Dr Caldicott’s complete curriculum vitae.

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