Saturday, May 3, 2014

Letter to editor: US policy in Ukraine risks nuclear war

(published in the Valley Times-News, May 1, 2014)
In 1962 Russia began placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, only 90 miles from the US homeland. That led to a military confrontation, the US Navy blockading Cuba, with destroyers dropping depth charges on Russian submarines sent there to protect Russian shipping. Russia’s Nikita Khruschev declared the blockade was an act of war and threatened global nuclear war if the US would not back off. At one point a Russian submarine commander ordered launch of a nuclear-tipped torpedo against a US destroyer, which would almost certainly have triggered a nuclear World War III. He was stopped only because the political officer on the sub had authority to countermand the order. The US and Russia were “eyeball to eyeball” and the world within an eye-blink of annihilation. Thankfully, on the 13th day of the stand-off the Russians backed away, agreeing to withdraw their missiles from Cuba.
I remember vividly how frightening the Cuban missile crisis was, perhaps especially because I was at the time living with my wife and children in Miami; but also because I was only recently discharged from service in the US Navy and had in the Pacific off California watched American destroyers playing tag with Russian submarines. It was “only” Cold War gaming, each side testing out the other side’s tactics. But we all knew the slightest mistake on either side had the potential to start the nuclear Hot War that would kill us all.
The Cold War supposedly ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and our collective fears of nuclear war have abated. But today the US (and NATO, dominated by the US) is making the same mistake the Russians made in 1962 by threateningly moving massive nuclear-capable military forces close to the Russian homeland, along the western border of Ukraine and in the Baltic and Black Sea areas. The Russians are lining up their forces on the other side of Ukraine. Should civil war break out in Ukraine, which now seems likely, Russia is likely to send its forces into Ukraine to protect its legitimate economic interests in the area. What will US/NATO forces do? It’s important to realize that Russian military doctrine dictates use of tactical nuclear weapons any time they are out-gunned in conventional combat. Such a conflict could not be limited and would almost certainly lead to the nuclear wildfire.
The United States has no legitimate national security interests in Ukraine, and trying to bring Ukraine into the European Union (or NATO), and massing forces along the border, can only be seen by Russia as threats to its security, as attempts to isolate and weaken it. The former Soviet Union might have been seeking world domination, but post-Soviet Russia has become integrated into the global economy and is not that kind of threat.  It’s time for the US to see the wisdom of backing off from an unjustified and unwinnable conflict, just as the Russians did in 1962.
Most of the time when I see just about everyone in Congress and in the mainstream media going along with a stupidly foolish and/or dangerously aggressive Administration policy, I shrug and say “What’s the use?” This time I’m at least sending this letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, along with Rep. Mike Rogers and Senators Shelby and Sessions.

-- Jim Allen, Fredonia

Note –  I saw after I had sent this letter a Wall St Journal interview with John Kerry: 

[Kerry's] greatest fear now? "I think it could deteriorate into hot confrontation," even without Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Mr. Kerry said. "And there are provocateurs who are perfectly capable, who are trying to instigate that kind of flare-up. The fact it hasn't happened so far, he said, is a tribute to the discipline and restraint of the fledgling Ukrainian government. "But obviously," he added, "you could have a flash point here."

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