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The World is Plunging into a Dangerous New Cold War 2.0

Viewpoint by Dr Joseph Gerson

The writer is President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security

Image source: Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK (IDN) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s repeated tense threats to resort to genocidal nuclear attacks if the West intervenes more directly in Ukraine must be universally condemned and opposed. [2022-03-09-30] ARABIC | BAHASA |JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF

Despite Putin having told President Macron that he intends to take all of Ukraine, as demonstrations today are demanding, we must press for an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of all foreign troops from Ukraine and negotiations.

Putin and the Russian nation did have a number of legitimate security concerns: NATO’s violation of the Paris Charter and the NATO-Russian Founding Act, which guaranteed that none of the OSCE nations would seek to reinforce their security at the expense of another nation; the presence of U.S., German and other NATO forces on Russia’s borders, and the potentially nuclear first-strike related missile defenses in Rumania and Poland.

But clearly Putin’s ethnonationalist and great power ambitions spurred the invasion which was anything but justified. With Russian troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides, Putin had the diplomatic leverage to ensure that resolution of his security concerns could have been addressed.

In track II discussions that involved senior Russian, European and U.S. former officials and advisors, a diplomatic path out of the gathering storm was developed.

It included building a moratorium on new NATO memberships, building on the Minsk 2 agreements to create a neutral and federated Ukrainian state, updating and renewing the Intermediate Nuclear and Conventional Forces Treaties, limitations on provocative military exercises, and resumption of strategic stability talks, and New START extension negotiations had all been identified.

Even former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, whose hatred of Putin has long been palpable, had written in Foreign Affairs that it was time to negotiate a new Grand Bargain, a Helsinki 2.0, with Moscow.

Nonetheless, Putin launched his brutal invasion.

Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion

The U.S. and NATO could have done more to prevent the war. Biden and Blinken should have publicly recognized that given French and German opposition to Ukraine ever joining NATO that should have closed the “open door” to new NATO, using a face-saving call for a 15-year moratorium on new membership—that could be extended.

Having failed to press the Ukrainian government to fulfill its part of the Minsk 2 agreement, they should have fully recommitted the United State to the agreement stating the additional goal of using it to negotiate creation of a neutral and federated Ukrainian state to address Moscow’s security concerns in ways that would have preserved Ukrainian independence and democracy.

Now Ukrainians and Russians are killing one another. Ukrainian cities are being devastated. At least two million Ukrainians have fled their homes. And the world is plunging into an increasing dangerous new Cold War 2.0, also described as a new Ice Age.

With the potential for incidents and miscalculation to trigger great power nuclear or cyberwar and the diversion of limited resources from addressing essential human needs and the climate emergency to fund new arms races and militarization of our societies, humanity is plunging into the darkest of times.

Putin’s nuclear threats are extremely dangerous. He has described the massive and indiscriminate economic sanctions that are cratering Russia’s economy and leading Russians to rally behind their national leader and besieged nation as an act of war.

This takes us closer to the brink of a Russia-NATO war, especially if Biden bows to growing pressure to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. With U.S. and NATO planes shooting down Russian planes, a great power—quite possibly a nuclear—war would become inevitable.  Short of that, accidents, incidents, and miscalculations as the war is now being fought could lead to the unthinkable.

That Ukraine surrendered the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union in exchange for the Budapest Memorandum’s guarantees of territorial integrity and sovereignty, is already leading to calls for the U.S. to deploy nuclear weapons in Taiwan, for Japan and South Korea to become nuclear powers and President Zelensky’s ill-advised threat at the Munich Security Conference that in time Ukraine may again need to become a nuclear power.

Faced with what analysts in both the U.S. and Russia have described as a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion, the world must rally with a NO! to nuclear weapons and nuclear war that cannot be ignored, as well as its demands for a ceasefire. If there is a silver lining in this crisis—faint though it may be—it is that the nuclear threats and dangers are beginning to reawaken humanity to the urgent need for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Midst the murderous warfare and nuclear threat, there are also ironies. As ignominious as Putin’s invasion and nuclear threat are, they mimic decades, even centuries, of U.S. imperialism and nuclear threats.

Russia’s pursuit of a buffer against foreign intervention and a sphere of influence is the mirror image of the centuries-old U.S. Monroe Doctrine, which insists that the Western Hemisphere is the U.S. sphere, in which it has repeatedly toppled uncooperative governments and threatened to initiate nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis.

As Daniel Ellsberg and others have documented, during numerous international crises and wars, U.S. presidents have repeatedly prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear war to intimidate our rivals or to ensure that no one will come to the aid of those the U.S. was determined to attack.

Examples include the 1946 Iran crisis, Truman and Eisenhower during the Korean War, Johnson and Nixon during the Vietnam War, and Bush I & II on the eves of their Iraq wars, and Trump’s “fire and fury” threat against North Korea.

As Walt Kelly, the artist who crafted Pogo cartoons taught us, this crisis teaches us that “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Hibakusha have long taught us that “Human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist”.

And as Malcolm X might have said, U.S. arrogance and its imperialism—including repeated threats and preparations to initiate nuclear war have brought the chickens home to roost as we are all threatened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its nuclear threats.

Wisdom is urgently needed to ensure that as the fever of war continues to build, no one pulls too hard on the Gordian Knot that could trigger a nuclear war. Assuming that we survive this war, like all other wars, it will end with diplomatic negotiations.

We should insist that the agreements provide for Ukrainian independence and sovereignty and that the 1990s' promise of a Common Security replaces the momentum for a disastrous 21st-century ice age.

Stripped of our illusions, much as we did in winning the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze, and the INF Treaty, we must all do what we can to lead the brutal great powers to life-affirming nuclear disarmament, new arms control agreements, and a path toward the elimination of these omnicidal weapons. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 March 2022]

Image source: Los Angeles Times