Practicing Nuclear War

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About the middle of this month, Russia will stage the largest strategic nuclear maneuvers since 1982. These maneuvers will involve the test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, both from land and sea; the test-firing of cruise missiles from strategic bombers; and even the launch of a military satellite.

Publicly, according to the Moscow Times, Russian generals say this is part of preparing for the war on terrorism. Obviously, however, you don’t need strategic nuclear weapons to fight terrorists. No, what the Russians are doing is practicing all-out nuclear war against the United States. The Russian military probably believes a nuclear exchange with the United States is still a possibility, and therefore the military should train for it.

Now, why would they think nuclear war is still possible? They are realists. A realist disregards intentions and looks at capabilities. Intentions amount to intangible thought and therefore can change on a dime. Capabilities, however, involve hard, measurable objects like missiles, bombers, submarines and ships. It takes a great deal of time to change capabilities. Whatever our intentions, we have the capability of wiping Russia off the map. Whatever their intentions, the Russians have the capability of wiping us off the map.

I have long argued that with the end of the Cold War, the United States’ relationship with Russia should be the paramount job of American diplomacy. Unfortunately, both the Clinton and Bush administrations have thought otherwise. About all we did after the fall of communism was to send some Wall Street sharks over to teach their sharks how to rape the Russian economy. Otherwise, we treated Russia as if it were a Third World country.

Dearly beloved, no country that can destroy the United States in 30 minutes is a Third World country. Keep in mind that more than half of our population lives in 75 metropolitan areas. Those are targets in military terms. The Russians could put 10 nuclear warheads on each of those targets and still have many, many hundreds of warheads left.

Being as how both countries have hundreds of nuclear missiles on a hair-trigger alert that once launched, on purpose or by accident, can’t be called back, you would think the president of the United States would realize how important it is to be tight with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president and a very tough guy.

Alas, President Bush, obsessed with a petty tyrant who lacked the capability of causing us any harm, has just about put U.S.-Russian relations in the freezer. Bush has talked and acted recklessly, ditching the anti-ballistic missile treaty, announcing an end to the no-first-use-of-nukes policy and replacing it with a policy of preemptive war. He has demonstrated that he will ignore allies, world opinion, international law and the United Nations.

Can you blame the Russians for being cautious? After all, Mr. Bush said no one can allow the worst weapons in the world to be controlled by the worst leader in the world. Well, the shoe fits the cocky little guy from Texas. Worst weapons, worst leader — or so it must seem to the Russians. It’s no wonder that a large poll of Europeans found that the United States and Israel ranked right up there with North Korea and Iran as the greatest threats to world peace.

I’m not suggesting that the nuclear maneuvers are a prelude to war, but they are a practical result of cold relations with the United States. President Bush’s foreign policy has been characterized mainly by blunders, the largest of which was alienating world opinion, which had been solidly on our side after the Sept. 11 attack.

Domestic blunders can be easily repaired by the legislative branches, but foreign-policy blunders can sometimes have dire, even fatal, consequences. The president ought to be pursuing disarmament, but instead he has initiated a new arms race.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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