Activists gathered last Saturday at Nuclear Missile Silo N8, east of Fort Collins. It was a beautiful afternoon and a meaningful event for anti-nuclear activists from Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder. On our minds were a beloved activist who had died suddenly exactly one year before and other memorable activists including the three Catholic nuns who had been arrested there in 2002.
When we all got home, the news had spread that President Donald Trump was threatening to pull the U.S. out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a 37-year-old treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev who had acknowledged at the end of the Cold War "that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
Juxtapose that with the fact that 122 nations have voted at the U.N. to adopt a treaty for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons and that the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons won a Nobel Peace Prize for their many-year effort to organize it. So far, 19 countries have voted to ratify the ban, and when 50 countries have done so, it will be international law.
The contrast is mind boggling.
According to Alice Slater, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, none of the nuclear weapons states — U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — supports the new ban treaty. She goes on to say that this is the time for Russia and China to step forward, with whichever other nuclear weapons states would be willing to join them and call for a time out on any further nuclear weapons development.
According to Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, "The treaty grew out of the Soviet deployment, in 1977, of mobile-launched ballistic missiles with a range of just under 3,400 miles. Western European leaders raised concerns these weapons made them vulnerable to attack, and a strategy of negotiations backed up by the threat of deploying new NATO missile launchers across Europe was adopted." Ultimately, Gorbachev called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, the U.S. wanted a phased reduction, and the two countries destroyed more than 2,500 between them.
There were promises, broken promises and accusations, and many back-and-forth negotiations, bringing us up to the present with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, a known right-wing hawk, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. is deciding to leave the treaty.
"An honest appraisal of the bad actors in this frightening scenario for the destruction of all life on earth must conclude that the U.S. has been the constant provocateur in the relationship," Slater says, "starting with Truman's refusal of Stalin's 1945 request to put the bomb under international control at the newly established U.N., the mission of which was to 'end the scourge of war.'"
What a strange and tragic dance.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.