Like many of you, I have been distracted by (code for ‘taking extra Klonopin‘ over) the heightening tensions between the US and Russia over the Ukraine. There seems to be little agreement about who the guilty parties are in terms of what’s going on. True, the Russians have responded with military force, but there appears to be more than a little evidence that Western interests have been trying to bring the Ukraine over to a pro-EU setting. The US would like nothing better than to fold the Ukraine into the loving embrace of NATO, thus further surrounding the former USSR with military allies. And there are other reasons being touted–the EU is promising loans as long as the ‘New’ Ukrainian government complies with the kinds of Austerity Measures that have made Greece and Spain explode into civil strife. What is not on anyone’s radar screen (at least none of the talking heads bloviating about what a ‘strong American response’ would be) is a little thing called nuclear weapons. Russia and the United States have a combined arsenal of some 16,000+ warheads according to the Ploughshares Fund. While many are in the process of being dismantled, both sides have maintained large strategic arsenals on deployment. That includes 1,800 Russian Federation weapons and 1,950 US weapons that are known to be active and ready for use. That’s far more than enough explosive force to turn the entire planet into an ashtray.
Which reminds me–we have an important anniversary coming up.
On Good Friday 1994 (which happened to fall on April first/April Fool’s Day), a Catholic Priest by the name of Carl Kabat dressed in a clown suit. He then proceeded break into a North Dakota missile base and disarm a Minuteman III by hammering its silo doors shut.
Twenty years ago come April first.
Twenty years ago, the US held most all of the cards in its dealings with the former USSR. The Russian Federation was mostly broke, and the huge cost of maintaining (and securing) all those weapons made them a ripe target for decommissioning. Many US politicians and peace activists also saw the increasing cost of our nuclear arsenal and had the idea that maybe we could, you know, negotiate real bi-lateral reduction in the size of those arsenals. Perhaps we could go down to the size suggested by the Rand corporation study for the Carter administration, which posited that we could reduce the USSR to 16th century status with a mere 160 warheads (Dr. Michio Kaku wrote about it here and spoke about it at length here).
There was a huge window of opportunity in the 1990’s, but Bill Clinton had other issues on his plate. His successor, George W Bush, actually abrogated the ABM treaty in 2002 (which covered defensive weapons and the Star Wars Boondoggle). Though Russian reaction was muted, (Putin was Premier then, too) the Russians had good reason to be annoyed/peeved/furious. And the US has been pushing its luck ever since, convincing several of the now-liberated countries on Russia’s border to join NATO. Other former Soviet client states show interest in joining the European Union or engaging in other trade deals with the West. From the very paranoid (but understandable) Russian point of view, they see these steps as threatening. And they have a considerable amount of history to justify that feeling.
And I’m pretty sure the US does NOT want to go to war with Russia over the Ukraine. And vice versa. But we’re in a posturing stage with the Russians in a way that dates back to Cold War days. And those of us who’ve read the recently released documents regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis know how quickly everything could have gone wrong in 1962. But the US has few choices BUT war, and Putin understands this. Putin knows that the EU will not go along with heavy trade sanctions because they depend on Russia for natural gas. And the EU doesn’t want to close down the billions in deposit accounts that belong to the Russian oligarchy. And what possible scenario is there for the US to support any sort of ‘freedom fighter’ initiative in the Ukraine? Because there’s no way the US could ever put ground troops there.
Which brings me back (in a roundabout way) to Father Carl Kabat and his 1994 action. There have been over 40 Plowshares actions since 1994. Most of them have been against nuclear weapons and proliferation. Or if you want to go back earlier, Easter Week is the 54th anniversary of the British ‘Ban the Bomb’ protest. And this September will be the thirty-fourth anniversary of the original Plowshares 8 action that started the movement. Those of us who aren’t in the Plowshares movement, who don’t want the weapons around, haven’t been out on the streets about them in quite some time. As I posted a week or so ago, the protesters of the Plowshares don’t want to be pardoned as much as they want to see the end of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. And our current dilemma points to the way we would’ve been better off if we’d listened to Father Carl Kabat and his predecessors twenty years ago. It’s getting rather late, but we need to turn swords into plowshares, starting with the nuclear weapons.
Here’s a complete video history of the Plowshares Movement.