ACTON ALERT: Tell Congress to Block Trump and Bolton: Save Nuclear Ban Treaty!
November 29, 2018
oots Action, World BEYOND War, The Nation, Environmentalists Against War et al.
The White House proposal to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has been widely criticized, for good reason. Former military officials and diplomats see the INF treaty as a "bedrock" of arms control that eliminated thousands of deadly medium-range missiles in Europe. The Trump administration alleges the INF is flawed but if there is a problem, the answer is to try to fix the treaty, not walk away from it.
ACTON ALERT: Tell Congress to Block Trump and Bolton: Save Nuclear Ban Treaty!
Roots Action, World BEYOND War, The Nation, Environmentalists Against War et al.
(November 29, 2019) -- The White House proposal to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has been widely criticized, for good reason. Former military officials and diplomats see the INF treaty as a "bedrock" of arms control that eliminated thousands of deadly medium-range missiles in Europe.
The Trump administration alleges the INF is flawed but if there is a problem, the answer is to try to fix the treaty, not walk away from it. Scrapping the INF would undermine international security and unleash a new nuclear arms race.
Tell Congress to Save This Vital Nuclear Treaty
(November 29, 2018) -- President Trump has said that he plans to withdraw the United States from a key agreement with Russia that banned intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
President Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 and the US Senate approved its ratification.
Now, experts are alarmed that pulling out of the treaty will heighten the risks of nuclear war. Congress has the power to force adherence to the treaty if it chooses to act.
ACTION: Email your two Senators and your Representative with one click here.
David Cortright, The Nation: "The Peace Movement Won the INF Treaty. We Must Fight to Preserve It."
Russell Feingold, NBCnews.com: "Donald Trump can unilaterally withdraw from treaties because Congress abdicated responsibility"
Zia Mian, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: "The INF Treaty and the crises of arms control"
Jon Schwarz, The Intercept: "What Trump and John Bolton Don't Understand About Nuclear War"
Ira Helfand, CNN.com: "Sheer Luck Has Helped Us Avoid Nuclear War So Far -- Now We Need to Take Action"
The Peace Movement Won the INF Treaty.
Now We Must Fight to Preserve It.
David Cortright / The Nation
(November 14, 2018) -- The White House proposal to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) has been widely criticized, for good reason. Former military officials and diplomats have described the agreement as a "bedrock" of arms control. The 1987 treaty eliminated thousands of deadly medium-range missiles in Europe and helped to end the Cold War.
The Trump administration alleges that the agreement is flawed and that Moscow is cheating, but if there is a problem, the answer is to try to fix the treaty rather than walk away from it. Scrapping the agreement would undermine international security, the former officials warn, and could prompt a new arms race in Europe.
Progressives have also blasted the proposal. Win Without War director Stephen Miles said that abandoning the agreement could increase the risk of nuclear war and called upon Congress to deny funding for any weapons that violate the treaty.
The INF agreement occupies a special place in peace history. The treaty was a response to and result of the massive nuclear-disarmament movements that swept across Europe and the United States in the 1980s. In some respects the peace movement owns this agreement, and we must do what we can to ensure it is not taken away.
Let's review the history. Beginning in 1979, as the Soviet Union deployed SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe and NATO prepared to deploy new cruise and Pershing missiles in the West, millions of people took to the streets to demand an end to an accelerating arms race that put Europe in the nuclear crosshairs. In 1981 and again in 1983, massive protest marches occurred all across Western Europe -- the largest rallies in postwar European history.
In the United States, the nuclear-freeze movement spread like a populist prairie fire. Hundreds of cities and towns and nine states conducted public referendums calling for a halt to US and Soviet nuclear-weapons development. In June 1982 close to a million people converged on New York's Central Park for the Rally to Freeze and Reverse the Arms Race, the largest peace rally in American history.
Caspar Weinberger told a meeting of Catholic bishops that the administration would not negotiate seriously with the Soviet Union until after the United States had "rearmed," a process he estimated would take eight years.
Yet, within months of taking office, the United States was at the bargaining table, driven in part by the political demands of the disarmament movement. Weinberger acknowledged in his memoir that antinuclear demonstrations generated pressure on NATO ministers to begin negotiations.
Public protests also shaped the content of the negotiations. At the opening session of the talks, the United States and its NATO allies proposed the so-called zero option: the elimination of all intermediate-range weapons, on both sides. No SS-20s or cruise and Pershing missiles. The idea of the zero solution originated in the demands of the antinuclear movement.
A State Department official told scholar-activist Mary Kaldor, "We got the idea from your banners. You know, the ones that say 'No Cruise, No Pershing, No SS-20s.'" A senior White House counselor said the zero solution was "our response to the antinuclear people." Weinberger also attributed the proposal to "a number of antinuclear groups" and political leaders in Europe.
Many in Washington opposed the zero option and believed that cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe were necessary regardless of what the Soviet Union did. Secretary of State Alexander Haig told a National Security Council meeting in 1981, "We wouldn't want a zero option even if we could have it." Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon later wrote that agreeing to the zero option would undermine security and lead to the breakup of NATO.
Reluctant US officials nonetheless accepted the proposal because it was politically popular and provided a way of responding to and attempting to coopt the demands for disarmament. They presented the zero solution in the cynical expectation that the ossified leadership of the Soviet Union would reject the offer, which they did. The aging bosses of the Kremlin clung tenaciously to their missiles and refused to consider their elimination, thereby directly undercutting the peace movement.
NATO leaders felt satisfied that they had outmaneuvered the transnational movement in the streets. They had offered the zero option but the Soviets had refused, so they were now free to proceed with cruise and Pershing deployments. The nuclear hawks had won the day, it seemed.
The people in the streets refused to go away, however. Demonstrations and protests continued, despite the disappointment of not having stopped the missile deployments. Many organizers became policy advocates and worked on electoral and legislative campaigns. In the United States, activists worked with SANE, the Council for a Livable World, and other groups to pressure members of Congress for arms reduction, which generated political pressure on the White House for more flexibility at the bargaining table. The nuclear-freeze movement kept up a steady drumbeat for arms reduction.
Then, in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and launched his revolutionary program of perestroika at home and support for nuclear disarmament and peace in the world. During his 1986 summit with Reagan at Reykjavík, Iceland, Gorbachev signaled acceptance of the zero option, and Soviet and US negotiators promptly worked out the details. Moscow was finally saying yes to Washington's offer. The zero option became reality.
Soon afterward, I came to Germany to speak at a Green Party conference. I thought the party activists would be pleased by the treaty, but many delegates were confused and uncertain. They had lost the fight to stop the deployments in 1983 and did not recognize the broader impact of their activism in shaping the terms of the negotiations and creating pressure for peace.
That's a common experience in social movements. We often don't see the effects of our work in the political processes that unfold in response to our action. Change usually does not occur as we expect, and there are setbacks along the way. But persistent pressure can have an impact, and is often decisive in setting the terms of political debate and generating pressure for change.
It's important to remember this history, and the significance of the INF treaty as an achievement for peace. It's also important to generate renewed political pressure now to preserve the agreement and keep alive this vital legacy of the citizens' movement for nuclear sanity.
David Cortright teaches peace studies at the University of Notre Dame and is the author of Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas (Cambridge).
The INF Treaty and the Crises of Arms Control
Zia Mian / The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
(October 24, 2018) -- The decision by the Trump Administration to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is causing concern and rightly so. Upon reflection, arms control crises are not an exception but the rule.
Some of the blame can be laid at the door of generations of American politicians, strategists, military planners and weapon builders, and their advocates ideologically opposed to limiting US military power, wary of treaties and international institutions, and seeking to sustain and expand dominance. Another part of the problem is the inherent contradictions in the project of arms control as a way to control the threat of nuclear war.
The INF withdrawal is part of a pattern. It is not the first nuclear treaty the US has terminated; at the end of 2001 the United States walked out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty it had signed with the Soviet Union in 1972. For President George Bush, pulling out of the treaty reflected a judgment that 30 years after the treaty had been signed we were living "at a much different time, in a vastly different world."
The undoing of the ABM Treaty showed the importance some US policy makers attached to changing circumstances for assessing the value of superpower bilateral arms control. Ten years after the end of the Soviet Union, there was no more fear of a superpower challenger. As public concern moved on, there was no longer a political need to use arms control to demonstrate restraint and responsibility in the face of domestic and international opinion mobilized to protest the danger of nuclear war.
The US decision to terminate the INF Treaty also comes about 30 years after that treaty was signed, in 1987. Again the reason is that for those in power in Washington, the circumstances have changed.
The December 2017 Trump Administration National Security Strategy argued that after the Cold War "America emerged as the lone superpower with enormous advantages and momentum in the world" but now it faces "growing political, economic, and military competitions …[as] China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity."
The goal now is demonstrate United States primacy by nuclear arms racing; in Trump's words "we have more money than anybody else, by far. We'll build it up. . . . Until they get smart, there will be nobody that's going to be even close to us." Left unsaid is the likely legacy of such an arms race in terms of continuing commitments to nuclear weapons, enduring narratives of hostility and threat, and lost opportunities.
The logic of changed circumstances may undo yet one more 30 year long arms control process. The series of US-Soviet/Russian agreements to reduce strategic weapons, beginning in 1991 with START I, may end in 2021 with the expiration of the New START treaty.
Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton has described New START as "profoundly misguided" since it imposes "outmoded Cold War limits on weapons launchers" that "cripple America's long-range conventional warhead delivery capabilities, while also severely constraining our nuclear flexibility" and failing to reflect "our global interests and alliances.".
Arms control has not been abandoned, however. Today the goal of arms control is used by Donald Trump and others to justify building new US nuclear weapons. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress in February 2018 that he supported plans for new US nuclear-armed submarine-launched cruise missiles because "I want to make sure that our negotiators have something to negotiate with" in talks with Russia on the INF Treaty, and "[a]t the same time, we have options if Russia continues to go down this path."
This suggests parity in kinds of nuclear weapons (and numbers of nuclear weapons) is a necessary or worthwhile end in itself, when instead it is strategic window-dressing for a crude politics of competition.
All of this makes sense if one pays attention to what arms control was always about. Arms control, strategist Thomas Schelling observed in 1960, was "designed to preserve a nuclear striking power," and it was "an open question whether we ought to be negotiating with our enemies for more arms, less arms, different kinds of arms, or arrangements superimposed on existing armaments."
Given this foundation, it is understandable that nuclear arms control arrangements are constantly under challenge by those seeking fewer limits on nuclear weapons, a build-up in military capabilities, strategic advantage, and failing that balance, a hedge as political and technological circumstances change.
It is not only this aspect of the political structure of Cold War style bilateral nuclear arms control that is a challenge to hopes for international peace and security. The larger step-by-step agenda for curbing nuclear dangers began to drift as Cold War pressures ebbed. The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is still not in force after more twenty years.
Despite a mandate in 1993 from the United Nations, the talks on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty to ban production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons have not started. There have been no talks on a Treaty on the No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons despite a draft text presented by China in January 1994 to the United States, Russia, Britain, and France. Now the only steps seem to be steps side-ways or backwards.
The recurring crises of arms control teach that managing and ending nuclear weapons risks is too important to be left to the nuclear weapon states, just as the world learned that war is too important to be left to generals.
Accepting the need to face the world as it is and the logic of changed circumstances leads in another direction, one that does not involve accepting the dominance and impunity of nuclear states and the continued existence of nuclear weapons.
There is opportunity now for new kinds of initiatives and making of common cause by non-weapon states, together with social movements from inside and outside the weapon states, to confront the threat from new nuclear weapons, the sharpening of nuclear-armed great power rivalry, and arms racing.
Three important players in such an effort are the United Nations, the European Union, and the countries of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They will find public support in the United States in the resistance to Trump and in the persistent peace groups and anti-nuclear activists who are part of the networks once inspired and led by Randy Forsberg in the 1980s in the Nuclear Freeze movement to end the arms race.
Across Europe, there are still many who were involved in the mass protests of the 1980s against US and Soviet nuclear weapons. They also may find allies in the democracy movement struggling against Vladimir Putin's rule in Russia.
As the political structure that helps order the international community and pursue global peace and security, the United Nations can take a more active role. The Secretary-General should take up the INF Treaty dispute and the larger crisis of arms control and exercise his authority "to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."
The United Nations Security Council Military Staff Committee could be charged to assess and rule on the INF violations and other nuclear arms control treaty issues under its mandate to "advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council's military requirements for the maintenance of international peace and security, the employment and command of forces placed at its disposal, the regulation of armaments, and possible disarmament."
Having emerged after the Cold War, the European Union is a new force international affairs. It has responded to the US announcement terminating the INF Treaty by noting, "While we expect the Russian Federation to address serious concerns regarding its compliance with the INF Treaty in a substantial and transparent way, we also expect the United States to consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF on its own security, [and] on the security of its allies and of the whole world. The world doesn't need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability." The EU must do a lot more.
The Soviet and American nuclear weapons that were withdrawn from Europe under the INF Treaty had been intended to wage nuclear war in the European "theater." Millions of Europeans refused to consent to their home being a battleground for the United States and Soviet Union. Today, European citizens and the European Union should insist on being heard in Washington and Moscow on the INF Treaty issue.
There also needs to be positive European alternative to being trapped in the US-Russian nuclear contest. This could be the pursuit of a European Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, which could link to broader efforts for delegitimizing nuclear weapons and advancing nuclear disarmament.
Finally, there is the group of 122 countries that in 2017 agreed the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, in defiance of the nuclear weapons states. The 69 countries to have signed the treaty as of October 2018 have resisted pressures to not sign.
They could now organize themselves to intervene collectively to support anti-nuclear groups around the world and show up and speak to the public and policy makers in the nuclear weapon states. There may be more of a constituency than many imagine for the goal of a nuclear weapon free world.
What Trump and John Bolton Don't Understand about Nuclear War
Jon Schwarz / The Intercept
(October 27 2018) -- Donald Trump's announcement on October 20 that he intends to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was, if nothing else, appropriately timed. On that date exactly 56 years before, President John F. Kennedy abruptly cut short a midterm campaign trip to Illinois because, the White House said, he had a cold. In fact, Kennedy was returning to Washington to address the Cuban missile crisis -- the closest humanity has ever come to obliterating itself with a nuclear war.
The INF treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It required both countries to forgo any land-based missiles, nuclear or otherwise, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
In concrete terms, the treaty was a huge success. The US destroyed almost 1,000 of its own missiles, and the Soviets destroyed almost 2,000 of theirs.
But arms control treaties are never about weapons and numbers alone. They can help enemy nations create virtuous circles, both between them and within themselves. Verification requires constant communication and the establishment of trust; it creates constituencies for peace inside governments and in the general public; this reduces on both sides the power of the paranoid, reactionary wing that exists in every country; this creates space for further progress; and so on.
The long negotiation of the INF treaty, and the post-signing environment it helped create, was part of an extraordinary collapse of tensions between the US and the Soviet Union during the 1980s.
When Reagan took office, the Soviets genuinely believed that the US might engage in a nuclear first strike against them. This, in turn, led to two separate moments in 1983 in which the two countries came terrifyingly close to accidental nuclear war -- closer than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.
Instead, the INF treaty was part of an era of good feelings that contributed to one of the most remarkable events of the past 100 years: the largely peaceful implosion of the Soviet Empire. Empires generally do not go quietly, and the dynamics of imperial collapse often contribute to huge conflagrations.
Think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and World War I; or the British Empire and World War II. The Soviet fall was an incredible piece of good fortune for the world; if it had happened in the early 1980s, instead of a few years later, it plausibly would have been catastrophic.
It is almost certainly these more diffuse effects that concern the smarter members of the Trump administration, such as national security adviser John Bolton, who's yearned for decades to decommission the treaty. Russians may be cheating on the treaty in a modest way, while China is not bound by it at all and is developing intermediate-range missiles. But it's hard to see how this will affect legitimate US security interests.
On the other hand, exiting the treaty will do more than just lead to an arms race in which all three countries throw themselves into building new weapons. It will also create an atmosphere in which any rational modus vivendi between the US and Russia, or the US and China, will be far more difficult. This is the prize for Bolton and his allies, who can imagine only one world order: One in which they give orders, and everyone else submits.
Bolton has the standard self-perception of his genre of human: In his memoir, "Surrender Is Not an Option," he explains that he cares about "hard reality," in contrast to the "dreamy and academic" fools who support arms control.
But in fact, it is Bolton who is living inside of a dream. The hard reality is that our species almost committed suicide on October 27, the most dangerous moment of the Cuban missile crisis, later dubbed Black Saturday by the Kennedy administration.
Even with comparative doves in charge of the US and the Soviet Union, we came close to ending human civilization, thanks to mutual incomprehension. And we avoided it, as then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later said, not by talent or wisdom, but pure luck. Then, we created a false history of what happened, one which allows terrifying fantasists like Bolton to reach, and thrive within, the highest levels of power.
THERE IS A STANDARD STORY about the Cuban Missile Crisis, at least for those who remember it at all:
The perfidious Soviet communists, bent on intimidating the US into submission via the superior power they wielded as a result of the missile gap, sent nuclear weapons to Cuba, from where they could strike the US in minutes.
But Kennedy stood tall, refusing to make any concessions to the Russian bullies. Kennedy went toe to toe with the Soviets, and demonstrated that he was tough enough to risk nuclear war. Finally, the other side blinked first and surrendered, taking the missiles out of Cuba. America won!
The hard reality, however, is that everything about this is false, both in its specifics and implications. It is, as James Blight and janet Lang, two of the top academic specialists on the crisis, have put it, "bullshit."
The even harder reality is that October 27 was a far more petrifying moment than US and Soviet participants understood at the time -- and they were terrified. Blight and Lang estimate that if the crisis were run under the same conditions 100 times, it would end in nuclear war 95 times. We are living in one of the five alternate universes in which humanity survived.
The roots of the Cuban missile crisis can be found in three main factors: America's overwhelming nuclear superiority; the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961; and the stationing of US intermediate nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey early on during the Kennedy administration.
During the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy attacked the Eisenhower administration for allowing the development of a "missile gap" between the US and the Soviet Union. There was indeed an enormous gap in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles possessed by each country -- but in favor of the US.
As of 1962, the Soviets only had 20, and they were of such poor quality that they might not have managed to accurately reach the US The US had hundreds. This made the Soviets believe a nuclear first strike by the US -- something genuinely supported by factions of the US military and hard right -- could leave them unable to retaliate. The Soviets did have missiles, however, that could reach the US mainland from Cuba.
The Soviets were also motivated to send the missiles to Cuba because they believed they would deter another invasion attempt.
Finally, the Soviets reasonably saw it as leveling the playing field. The American nuclear missiles in Turkey could hit Moscow in 10 minutes. Now, the Soviet missiles in Cuba could do the same to Washington, D.C.
The US did not perceive it this way when American reconnaissance discovered the Cuban missiles on October 14. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended an immediate invasion of Cuba. Kennedy instead chose to blockade the island. But by October 26, he had come to believe that only an invasion could remove the missiles. The administration began planning for a replacement government in Cuba. All the while the US was acting in the dark, with the CIA concluding that Soviet nuclear warheads had not yet arrived in Cuba to arm the missiles. They had.
Shortly after midnight, in the early morning of Black Saturday, the US informed NATO that it "may find it necessary within a very short time" to attack Cuba. At noon, a U-2 flight over Cuba was shot down, killing the pilot. On all sides, war -- potentially nuclear war -- seemed likely, if not inevitable.
But that night, Kennedy made the most important presidential decision in history: He accepted an offer from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to remove the US missiles in Italy and Turkey in return for the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. But the US part of the bargain was kept secret from Americans. The administration maintained that Kennedy had forced the Soviets to give in, giving them nothing.
That was, of course, more than frightening enough. But here's the rest of the story.
ON OCTOBER 27, a US Navy ship participating in the blockade dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine. It was only discovered years later that not only was the submarine armed with nuclear torpedoes, but also was out of radio contact with the Soviet government and believed that the war had begun. The captain wanted to use the torpedoes, which almost certainly would have led to the U.S using nuclear weapons in response. However, according to Soviet protocol, the torpedoes could only be launched with the approval of all three officers aboard. One of them refused.
The US also had no idea that in addition to the missiles, the Soviets had brought tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba and the troops on the ground had received permission to use them against a US invasion without further authorization from Moscow. This, too, would have led to a US nuclear response and Armageddon. McNamara first learned this when attending a Havana conference organized by Blight and Lang in 1992, on the 30th anniversary of the crisis.
McNamara had also come to believe by Black Saturday that an invasion might be necessary. Blight and Lang report that McNamara turned pale and was temporarily speechless as he listened to an aged Soviet general describe the existence of the tactical nuclear weapons. When he spoke, it was to ask the translator to repeat himself.
Castro, too, had his preconceptions shattered at the conference. He had come to believe that the Kennedy administration was determined to invade Cuba again, nuclear weapons or not, and this time crush its young government and society. Cuba's only choice was either to accept its destruction, or be destroyed and take America with it.
Castro had therefore written a telegram to Khrushchev that arrived on October 27, beseeching him to use the Soviet Union's full nuclear might against the US if an invasion took place. But this was all wrong, McNamara told Castro: After the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy had decided that another invasion attempt was foolish.
So in the end, we're not here to think about the 56th anniversary of Black Saturday because of our overweening military might, or because we forced our adversaries to bend to our will. It's just the opposite, plus an extraordinary run of serendipitous flukes.
But what we can be sure of is that if people like Trump and Bolton had been in charge in 1962, then today there would be no discussion of the INF treaty -- because there would be no treaty and no one to discuss it. It's also certain that on our current trajectory, the day will come when the world will face a similar crisis. That time we won't get the same roll of the dice. The hard reality of the Cuban missile crisis is that, as Blight and Lang put it, "either we put an end to nuclear weapons, or they will put an end to us."
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