Missiles on the Doorstep and Impending Nuclear Winter

Nobody in their right mind would advocate what is called ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons.

‘Nuclear winter’ is defined in Britannica as “the environmental devastation that certain scientists contend would probably result from the hundreds of nuclear explosions in a nuclear war.” One immediately direct effect of such a conflict would be to block out the sun’s rays, which would lead to “a massive death toll from starvation, exposure, and disease. A nuclear war could thus reduce the Earth’s human population to a fraction of its previous numbers.” There have been innumerable portrayals of what would happen in a nuclear-devastated world of which the most evocative are the film Threads, made in 1984, depicting the ghastly aftermath in the United Kingdom, and the U.S. ABC television movie The Day After, of the previous year, which was even more horrifying, even though there was a lot of censorship before it was permitted to be shown.

It is only too apparent that a nuclear war would be catastrophic — and also that a nuclear exchange would be encouraged, indeed initiated, by the country that first fired or otherwise despatched one of these systems. No nuclear-armed country could accept nuclear devastation in its own lands without retaliating in force. The conclusion is that nobody in their right mind would advocate what is called ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons.

So step forward U.S. legislator, Senator Roger Wicker, who was reported as declaring that if there were conflict between Russia and Ukraine then the U.S. would have to be involved to the extent that this “could mean American troops on the ground.” And taking a massive leap backwards for mankind the senator declared on Fox News on December 8 that in the event of engagement against Russia “we don’t rule out first use nuclear action.”

The U.S. mainstream media, including The New York Times and the Washington Post did not publish the senator’s remarks, or make the slightest reference to them, which was unfortunate because his “no first use” statement is of enormous importance, especially because he used the word “we” in his public declaration of national policy. The senator is a member of the Armed Services Committee which according to its website has jurisdiction over “Aeronautical and space activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems or military operations… Common Defence… Department of Defence, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force, generally.” These are most important responsibilities, and it is therefore assumed that his proclamation has basis in policy to which he is privy.

The only (fairly) prominent American political figure to criticise the senator was former member of Congress Tulsi Gabbard who declared that Wicker’s statement “exposes exactly how dumb, insane, and sadistic he and other like-minded warmongers are,” which, while undeniably apposite, received no wide cover. And while it is realised that President Biden has many problems with which to deal at the moment, it is reprehensible that he has not said a word in refutation of Wicker’s insane proclamation concerning national nuclear policy.

It seems that Senator Wicker has not read what his President has said about the undesirability of nuclear war, as recorded in the “U.S.-Russia Presidential Statement on Strategic Stability” of June 16 which included the agreement that “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.”

Direct contradiction of the U.S. President by a U.S. senator concerning national policy on nuclear war is beyond disconcerting : it is alarming to the point that clarification is urgently required. The Congressional Research Service recorded that “In his press briefing following the summit, President Biden noted that this dialogue would allow diplomats “to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war.” Presumably following Presidential guidance, the 2021 ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ commissioned by the Pentagon makes it clear that there will be examination of “how the United States can take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy while ensuring the strategic deterrent remains safe, secure and effective and that the extended deterrence commitments to its allies remain strong and credible.”

This might have been taken as a small step towards the beginning of another approach to arms reduction, had it not been that Colin H. Kahl, the undersecretary of defence for policy, fenced off the route when he stated that “We also see that the role that nuclear weapons play in Russia’s doctrine is quite elevated in the sense that, I think, Russia sees much higher utility for nuclear weapons than any other state.” Which is a strange pronouncement from a nation that, as noted on December 9, is “developing a totally new $100 billion missile, known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.”

Kahl did not equivocate about the Pentagon’s approach to U.S. nuclear policy when he explained that “especially important to the FY 2023 budget” will be “decisions the department makes about modernizing and replacing the aging systems of the nuclear triad, which includes ground-launched, submarine-launched and air-launched nuclear weapons. Modernization also involves new submarines, such as the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines; new intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program; and new bomber aircraft, such as the B-21 Raider.”

In spite of President Biden and President Putin agreeing in June that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” it is apparent that the Pentagon is at best paying lip-service to their joint declaration. And this prompted the observation by President Putin on December 23 that “The United States is standing with missiles on our doorstep. Is it an excessive requirement not to install shock systems at our house? How would the Americans react if missiles were placed at the border with Canada or Mexico?”

We can imagine what Senator Wicker would advocate in such circumstances, but it is reassuring to know that there are some adult voices in the political games arena of the U.S. legislature, with Senator Ed Markey, for example, bringing a note of sanity by saying in a speech that “The United States has a moral responsibility to make the world safe from nuclear weapons. As Congress debates Defence Department spending, our budgets must reflect our values. It’s time to bolster climate funding, not our nuclear arsenal. President Biden should stick to his own instincts in reducing nuclear weapons risks, not follow the recklessness of the military industrial complex that was a cheerleader of the Cold War arms race and endless wars in the Middle East . . .”

The first things that President Biden should do is remove U.S.-Nato nuclear weapons and their support infrastructure from the bases on Russia’s doorstep, while concurrently indicating publicly to Senator Wicker that such action is consistent with national defence policy. The Pentagon must be made to understand that its desired upgrading of the nuclear triad is an indicator of intent to expand the existing U.S. nuclear threat to Russia and China and that this is massively counter-productive. Remove the missiles and the threat of nuclear winter will be eliminated. That would be a good New Year present to mankind.

By Brian Cloughley
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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