If you go

What: "Conflict with Russia and the Danger of Nuclear War" symposium

When: 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11

Where: Duane Physics room G130, at the CU Boulder campus

Cost: Free

More info: Participants include Kevin Martin (president of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund), Ron Forthofer (retired professor of statistics and former Green Party gubernatorial candidate) and Carolyn Bninski (award-winning peace and justice organizer).

Today, hostility between the United States and Russia is more intense than any time since 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union. Likewise, the danger of nuclear war is now greater than ever experienced by any living person under 40. The story of how we moved from euphoria about the end of the Cold War to the current dire situation is complex and disheartening. Neither the United States, Russia nor any of their respective allies is entirely innocent. Russia's military intervention in Georgia, annexation of Crimea, support for the Ukrainian rebels and bombing in Syria all deserve criticism.


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Nevertheless, principal responsibility for the current approach to nuclear Armageddon lies with the United States. It is the declared policy of the USA to be the world's only superpower and to attack — economically, politically and/or militarily — any potential rival. This policy is the implicit meaning of pronouncements that we are the "exceptional" or "indispensable" or "essential" nation. Every American president from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama has pursued this hegemonic strategy. Washington interpreted the end of the Cold War as both a victory over the Soviet Union and an opportunity to reduce the status and power of the Russian successor state. It did this by recommending a disastrous economic shock therapy, expanding NATO to the borders of Russia, detaching former allies from Russia and demonizing everything about the Soviet Union.

Our mass media have made Vladimir Putin exceedingly unpopular within the United States. Russia, however, has experienced a remarkable national renewal under Putin's leadership despite U.S. enmity and economic sanctions. Putin enjoys very high approval ratings among the Russian public. Russia is not challenging the United States for global leadership. Putin and other Russian leaders are determined, however, to protect their country's essential national interests and to regain Russia's position as a respected world power. These nationalistic objectives inevitably conflict with the entrenched hegemonic aspirations of the United States.

Ukraine, Crimea and Syria have jointly inflamed Russia-U.S. conflict to the boiling point. Three weeks ago, the United States egregiously violated (it claims accidentally) a cease-fire agreement in Syria. Subsequently, Syria — with Russian air support — launched a devastating military offensive against rebel-held positions in Aleppo. Next, Washington unilaterally abandoned discussions with Russia about collaborating in Syria. Then Russia abrogated an agreement to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium. Currently, the Obama government is considering imposing a no-fly zone over Syria, something guaranteed to engender bitter discord with Russia. Who knows where this conflict spiral will end? Both Russia and the United States are loaded with nuclear weapons, some of which could be used under battlefield conditions. We are truly flirting with Armageddon!

For further discussion of this absolutely critical topic, attend the forthcoming symposium on "Conflict with Russia and the Danger of Nuclear War." This event will be 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, in Duane Physics room G130, at the CU Boulder campus. Participants include Kevin Martin (president of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund), Ron Forthofer (retired professor of statistics and former Green Party gubernatorial candidate) and Carolyn Bninski (award-winning peace and justice organizer).

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.