By Greg Mello
The drums of war are getting louder by the day here in the West, and we should be criticizing them. Joining the shrill voices demonizing Russia has a cowardly ring to it.
The US and its NATO allies are now bombing Russia. Let that sink in. Not every day, but often enough. This, after scuttling peace talks in March. The US and its NATO allies are running a war against Ukrainian provinces with millions of ethnic Russians who look to Russia for protection and safety from years of persecution and mass murder — over 10,000 have died; the usual estimate is 14,000 — by neo-Nazi formations and genocidal national laws that outlaw the Russian language and culture. A US artillery shell was aimed at a busy spot in Donetsk [in late September]. The US and its NATO allies have sunk a Russian warship, aging but still the flagship of its Black Sea fleet…. Let that sink in, so to speak. The US and its NATO allies are shelling the grounds of a large nuclear power complex and have conducted terrorist operations in Russia proper. With NATO training and assistance, Ukraine launched an amphibious operation against a nuclear reactor site [Zaporizhzhia] while International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were present. Total US aid to Ukraine, in dollars, looks like it exceeds the total military budgets of all but two countries in the world.
This is a major war effort by NATO. It is not defensive. It is not aimed at “protecting Ukraine” or the dragooned, poorly-trained and equipped cannon fodder that Zelensky is sending to be chewed up on the front lines. NATO’s 50-country “Ukraine Defense Contact Group” supplies the arms, Ukraine supplies the bodies.
NATO worked hard to widen the eight-year conflict in Ukraine, building up Ukraine as a kind of “anti-Russia” — a conflict which the Minsk [agreement to end the conflict] guarantor states did nothing to stop, for years. NATO continued to expand — why? Missile launchers were installed a few minutes from Moscow. What did anybody think would happen? Well lots of people, like us, knew more or less exactly what would come of this — war. Western leaders and many NGOs were blinded by chauvinism and group-think. Finally the US neocons, which now control US foreign policy, succeeded in getting the war they have worked toward and have said all along that they wanted.
What Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shoigu said Sept. 21st [“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all the means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people…Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the winds may blow in their direction.”], was nothing more than what is implied, or stated, in Washington, DC every day. Have you been in the conferences when nuclear weapons executives and Air Force generals start spontaneous war whoops at the stirring patriotic videos of the day when US nuclear missiles are finally launched at their targets? The US has made countless nuclear threats, from congressional hearings all the way down to speeches at Chambers of Commerce. Everybody involved in the enterprise understands that if conventional means of deterrence fail, the nuclear triad can and will be used. That’s the nature of the beast,in every country that has these weapons. That’s why nuclear weapons are built.
More specifically, Putin and Shoigu said they were responding to US nuclear threats with their own nuclear deterrence. What happens when or if NATO loses this war? What will NATO do? I have no idea. We have seen plenty of US nuclear threats, including at the UN.
Why was the W76-2 “low-yield” Trident warhead just built and deployed? What is the B61-12 for? People should know that there is now a 24/7 rush to build nuclear weapons here in the US, with plants in Missouri, Texas, and New Mexico among those with regular graveyard shifts. Why do German and Dutch and Italian and Belgian pilots train to drop those tactical weapons? Why were nuclear-capable B-52s just brought to RAF Fairford in the UK? What do you think that was? Fun and games? Where was the outcry then, or now? Why aren’t we all over the enduring problem of US nuclear weapons deployments in Europe, as Europeans were in the 1980s? Or is NATO a “good nuclear alliance?” Where are the nuclear umbrella relationships today? How many, with which countries? It’s a bit one-sided, isn’t it? What about the “missile defense” installations in Poland and Romania? All these are very real nuclear threats.
If you want to oppose nuclear weapons, you have to oppose them in your own country, not join in your country’s propaganda against other countries.
Putin and Shoigu are absolutely right in noting that the objective of the West, since long before the current conflict — and as a cause of it — is to “break” Russia, as the aged [former Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger put it. It’s a real threat, now voiced from many sources in the West, with hundreds of billions of dollars invested in it, and it’s visibly ramping up week by week. You can see the blood lust in the mainstream press. Something has to be done to cool that lust, and in the absence of opposition in the West, we are going to get nuclear warnings from those being targeted.
Russia, like any other country, would not have launched such a high-risk, high-cost operation unless its ruling political elites were sufficiently united in understanding that there was an existential threat to the Russian Federation. If a hostile army — by 2022 the most potent in Europe — was being groomed on the US border, my country would not have waited eight years to act.
The broader point is that nuclear weapons cannot be seen in a narrow silo. For disarmament, peace is needed. You can’t existentially threaten a country from a position of enormous military and hybrid war advantage (NATO spends more on armaments than the entire rest of the world combined, plus all its economic power and soft power), and then expect to have fruitful nuclear disarmament talks. If you threaten any creature and their offspring, or any country, with annihilation — which is what has been going on — you will see teeth and claws.
I would go further to say that what we are seeing is a reawakening of an aggressive form of European colonialism. NATO, which the US leads by the nose, or wallet, is an aggressive alliance that has been bombing here and there for far too long, serving as cover for a US imperial project that is now meeting resistance in Ukraine and many other places. The dying US empire is dangerous, as dying empires always are. When the purpose of NATO was expanded a few years back to include gaining or protecting access to energy resources, it was an important admission.
With the likely annexation of parts of Ukraine — which perhaps should have been done in 2014 — the war there is entering a new phase. Again Russia is drawing a line. “Ukraine” as an independent state ended in the 2014 coup; now it will shrink further, territoriality, from the boundaries that Lenin and others negotiated back in the day.
If the West can stop fanning the flames of war, and shipping more and more weapons into Ukraine, providing targeting services etc., there could be peace. That would be more likely if there was a peace movement.
Europe is now going to be much poorer, permanently, thanks to the war fever that has gripped its elites, which masks growing global energy scarcity.
We need to get our feet on firmer ground and work for peace, not just join the chorus condemning Russia.
Now go back to the beginning. The US and NATO are bombing Russia and sinking Russian ships. Let the implications of that sink in.
— Greg Mello is the executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group in Albuquerque, New Mexico.