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Boardman writes: "Expressing official US policy, Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, told the Russian daily Kommersant on May 13 that the White House does not believe that the Ukraine conflict will lead to nuclear war, because there is no need for the use of nuclear weapons."

Rose Gottemoeller stated the White House does not believe that the Ukraine conflict will lead to nuclear war. (photo: Pacific Press/picture alliance)
Rose Gottemoeller stated the White House does not believe that the Ukraine conflict will lead to nuclear war. (photo: Pacific Press/picture alliance)

Nuclear War Is Not Likely Over Ukraine, US Tries to Reassure World

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

20 May 15


“We don't think the Ukrainian conflict is a nuclear crisis.”

hat comment is a recent example of a US State Department diplomat deploying standard diplo-speak in order to engage in nuclear saber rattling by denying there’s any need to rattle any of the roughly 10,000 nuclear sabers that already worry the entire sentient world. The world can plainly see that the two most heavily nuclear-armed countries (between them, the US and Russia have about 95% of the global nuclear stockpile) are in a confrontation over Ukraine that shows no significant signs of compromise or de-escalation.

Expressing official US policy, Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, told the Russian daily Kommersant on May 13 that the White House does not believe that the Ukraine conflict will lead to nuclear war, because there is no need for the use of nuclear weapons. The day before she spoke, Russia and China began a joint operation, Sea Cooperation 2015, ten days of naval exercises with live fire in the Mediterranean and Black seas. This is the first such Russian-Chinese military exercise, albeit of limited scale, with seven Russian and two Chinese warships. 

That would be two nuclear-armed countries playing naval war games on the home waters of four other nuclear-armed countries: Israel, France, GB and the US. The headquarters ship for these naval activities is the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, part of the Black Sea Fleet based at Sevastopol, Crimea. In good non-saber rattling fashion, Russian vice-admiral Alexander Fedotenkov said the military exercises were “not aimed against a third country.”  

Others are less delicate. In France on May 13, Ukraine prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (called “prime minister of war” by the Czech president) warned that Ukraine and Russia are on the verge of a nuclear confrontation, even though Ukraine has no known nuclear weapons. Yatsenyuk has, for months, been promoting the perception that Ukraine and Russia are “in a state of war.” (With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine was left in possession of hundreds of nuclear weapons that its government surrendered, as did Belarus and Kazakhstan.) 

Is the risk of nuclear war worth taking for any reason? 

However close any nuclear-armed state actually is to using those weapons, the actions of those states do little to ease global anxiety. Both the US and Russia have lately increased their nuclear weapons stockpiles. The nuclear Doomsday Clock maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists since 1947 represents the assessment of a panel that includes 18 Nobel laureates as to how close, metaphorically, the world is to midnight, nuclear apocalypse. The Doomsday Clock has been re-set 22 times, most recently in January 2015, when it was moved to three minutes to midnight. This is the closest to midnight the clock has been since 1953, when it was at two minutes (it was last at three minutes during the US build-up in 1984). Announcing the Doomsday Clock re-set, the Bulletin’s executive director Kennette Benedict said in part:    

Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity. And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth.

The grand failure of human leadership on climate change and nuclear disarmament is mirrored in smaller scale by the failure of human leadership in Ukraine and a host of other places – but among these, only Ukraine is an obvious and certain flashpoint that could unleash nuclear war.

For more than 20 years now, US policy toward Ukraine has been relentlessly aggressive in pushing nuclear-armed NATO ever closer to Russia’s borders. This is a policy that makes imperial economic sense only so long as its base remains rock solid denial of the most obvious global risk: the assumption that pushing Russia to the limit on its vital interests would not ever lead to a nuclear attack or counterattack.

That combination of aggressive policy and denial was alive and well at the high level NATO/Russia meeting May 19 in Brussels. This was the first such meeting since February and, by its own account, only NATO made demands. NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg later told reporters he had reiterated the “very strong NATO position” that Russia should leave Crimea and disengage from the rebels in eastern Ukraine:

I restated the very strong NATO position on the illegal annexation of Crimea, but also on the very serious situation we see in eastern Ukraine. I also called upon Russia to withdraw all its forces and support for the separatists. 

Translated, Stoltenberg was demanding that Russia accede to the US-backed coup that seized control of Ukraine from its duly-elected government in February 2014. Unfortunately, it’s perfectly natural for a military alliance like NATO to seek victory by any means necessary, but that’s a far cry from acting honestly and in good faith in negotiating hard questions with merit on more than one side. Stoltenberg reinforced his apparently non-negotiable demands with a bit of oblique nuclear saber rattling on behalf of NATO, which has nuclear weapons well within range of every part of Ukraine (not to mention Russia). Stoltenberg’s argument was that Russia has been having too many military exercises on short notice and should treat NATO with “more transparency and predictability” to avoid creating an incident that could “spiral out of control.”

Stoltenberg’s Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, made no public comments about the meeting. 

Will Gottemoeller tell Stoltenberg not to rattle those nuclear sabers?

Our general view is that nuclear saber rattling is unwarranted. There's simply no threat out there that would warrant nuclear saber rattling, and nuclear countries have come a long way since the Cuban Missile Crisis and what went on at that point, and it's all been to the good in terms of enhancing stability, predictability, and mutual understanding.

That’s what Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller told the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in an interview published May 14. She was on the same message in April to Kyodo News of Japan in which she engaged in nuclear saber rattling by denying she was engaging in nuclear saber rattling and, at the same time, pretending that nuclear saber rattling wasn’t inherent in every move made by her country, the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons.

To say that there’s “no threat out there that would warrant nuclear saber rattling” is to express a purely America-centric view that is, like Stoltenberg’s, a view without honesty or good faith. The question evaded is also a question the US has forced upon the Russians: what would you do if you had a nuclear armed alliance like NATO pressing your borders for decades? 

If you were the president of Russia and felt you’d been put on the defensive, you might well nuclear saber rattle, as Vladimir Putin has done with regard to NATO and Ukraine since early 2014, to little or no avail. In Kiev, Putin’s comments serve as a reason for Euromaidan Press to call for NATO to arm Ukraine to the teeth, at least with conventional weapons, a call made by too many American senators and congressmen.  

Despite Gottemoeller’s official optimism, years of “enhancing stability, predictability, and mutual understanding” are getting frayed and may be over for now. The 185 or so nuclear-weapons-free states who want to see progress on the promise of the nuclear weapons states to move toward disarmament have been watching that hope fade at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference that ends May 22 at the United Nations: 

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

New nuclear arms race, new cold war, and honoring the Holocaust? 

As the UN makes clear, there is no other hope for nuclear disarmament, short of a spontaneous outbreak of profound international good will. In reality, every nuclear weapons state is presumably continuing to improve and expand the effective destructiveness of its arsenal. The next non-proliferation treaty conference will be held five years from now. 

Rose Gottemoeller’s carefully calibrated but meaningless objections to nuclear saber rattling have at least one very clear propaganda purpose: to set up Russia as the scapegoat for further failures in cooperation on nuclear weapons. A corollary purpose of Gottemoeller’s happy talk is that the US is working hard for world peace and disarmament. That is fundamentally a lie, as Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group notes in response to Gottemoeller in the Bulletin:    

The truth is that this administration isn't retiring warheads on a net basis any more, but rather keeping them. Obsolete warheads retired under GW Bush and before are being dismantled, but there are no plans to dismantle post-2009 warheads until new factories are up and running in the late 2020s.

The Obama administration continues to pretend that US-Russian relations remain reasonable despite tensions over Ukraine. But the administration so far shows no willingness to abandon the aggressive NATO expansion policy that is the source of those tensions. In another sign of deteriorating relations, the Russians have now closed a military supply route that NATO has been using since 2010 to support NATO forces in Afghanistan. The official Russian reason for closing the NATO supply route was that the UN mandate for troops in Afghanistan expired months earlier, in December 2014. There is also Russian resentment of sanctions over Ukraine and Russian concern that US troops may be in Afghanistan permanently as the Obama administration keeps extending the mission. 

In Ukraine, the Kiev government continues to press for war against the separatist eastern provinces where the ceasefire continues to hold most of the time. Yatsenyuk has virtually called for an invasion to take back Crimea. US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, one of Yatsenyuk’s strongest backers, visited Kiev May 16 to reaffirm, as the official statement put it: 

... the United States’ full and unbreakable support for Ukraine’s government, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and reiterate our deep commitment to a single Ukrainian nation, including Crimea, and all the other regions of Ukraine.

There is no flexibility in this position. The US allied itself with an illegitimate government, ignoring the fascist elements that brought it into being and support its existence. The US is expressing “unbreakable support” for a government that passed a bill in April recognizing the World War I era Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a militia that collaborated with the Nazis. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has condemned the Ukraine’s government actions that “honor local Nazi collaborators and grant them special benefits turns.” The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has also condemned the Ukraine legislation. 

But the US still stands “shoulder to shoulder” with those who still honor perpetrators of the Holocaust. How can any policy with such grotesque results end well?   

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+31 # Helen Marshall 2015-05-20 21:41
IS this an article from The Onion? The US assures the world that there won't be nuclear confrontation over Ukraine? Start by removing Victoria Nuland from her post in the Department of State for "regime change" in Ukraine, and get rid of Amb. Pyatt. Sickening that my tax dollars have to pay for these escapades heading for nuclear war.
+25 # Archie1954 2015-05-20 22:47
Why didn't Obama rein in Victoria Nuland then? She is a notorious neocon and so is her equally notorious husband. If they had been reined in early in the game this egregious situation need not have ever happened!
+30 # harleysch 2015-05-20 23:15
Obama didn't rein Nuland in because her policy is the same as his, i.e., regime change in Kiev, to get a regime in place which would join NATO, and allow NATO forces on Russia's border.

The liberal imperialist regime change policy of Susan Rice and Samantha Power, under the doctrine of the "responsibility to protect", is no different than the neo-con regime change policy developed by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The push from Rice and Power to carry out regime change in Libya (look how well that has turned out) and in Syria has been part of the broader effort to provoke regime change in Russia.

In addition to supporting a regime in Ukraine which honors, as Boardman reports, Nazi predecessors, the Obama administration is planning to spend $1 trillion in the next years to upgrade our nuclear force. This was planned before the plebiscite in Crimea, and is a significant part of the nuclear war danger -- coming from the Obama administration -- exposed in this article.
+6 # fletch1165 2015-05-21 07:57
Its a one party system. The neocons elected Obama in the first place. That is what Palin was for. And Romney the second time. Paul was the popular candidate in the GOP almost every reputable poll shows. Obama is a neocon too clearly. The parties agree on absolutely everything. Money is wasted on debates to fool unwitting Americans. Abortion will never change as will guns always be available. Both parties agree nearly unanimously. Any one that doesn't is at risk of expulsion.
+11 # Helen Marshall 2015-05-21 09:14
Don't forget that our esteemed Secretary of State pushed hard for military intervention in Libya (and some of her friends, like Sidney Blumenthal were promoting it while expecting to make money from arrangements with a post-Qaddafi government). "We came, we saw, he died," she said, grinning. If you need a reason not to vote for her for president, this is a good one.
+2 # A_Har 2015-05-24 20:44
Quoting Helen Marshall:
"We came, we saw, he died," she said, grinning. If you need a reason not to vote for her for president, this is a good one.
+12 # jdd 2015-05-21 05:04
the situation is as bad our worse than Mr. Boardman describes. The Obama administration is continuing the policy to deploy ABMs in Poland against a non-existent "Iranian missile threat" despite Russian attempts at joint control. The Russians correctly perceive this as part of a "dream scenario" by NATO to create a "first strike victory" in a "limited-nuclea r war." As for China, both Pres. Obama and Sec. Clinton have embraced the "Asian Pivot" to surround China militarily as well as the TPP to (try and) economically isolate it. We're kind of caught in a race to see if the BRICS nations can secure an alternative to the Anglo-American financial system before the warmongers in the West start the shooting.
0 # fletch1165 2015-05-21 08:02
Who gave China the stealth bomber? Santa Claus? Or do you claim independent invention? China is a core U.S. player. Who do you think is getting all the oil from the Basra fields Japan oil(essentially a Western corp just like the jokers that blew Fukashima) is shipping them. Chevron has been drilling the Takla Makan in western China since the 1990's. The tarim basin is the world's third largest reserve. Yet it took this oil from Iraq to make China the world's number one importer of oil over the U.S.
+11 # wrknight 2015-05-21 07:29
What's really scary is that these damned fools are even thinking nuclear.

When are American voters going to wake up and get rid of the two political parties that are owned lock, stock and barrel by corporations and other monied interest groups.
+9 # fletch1165 2015-05-21 07:51
Never so long as corporations are considered human beings.
+5 # Malcolm 2015-05-21 08:30
Never,as long as rabid democrats keep insisting third party candidates "can't win" and continue such inane claims as "Nader cost Gore the election".
+8 # fletch1165 2015-05-21 07:49
If State dept says nuclear war is unlikely the opposite must be true since they are 100% proven pathological liars.
+4 # Bruinwaterjongen 2015-05-21 11:34
It was through the multinational corporatists of the past century who actually invented national Socialism. Hitler (presumably an acronym for something like 'Highly Intensified Totalitarian Leadership Evoking Repression' this 'HITLER' was Adolf Schicklgruber 'given' name by these corporatists. (JP Morgan, J Paul Getty, Charles Lindberg, Henry Ford (an ardent anti-Semite), Alfred Sloan of GM, and others as well as some German corporatists such as Karl von Siemens, I G Farben, et al. It is little wonder that US sides with current Ukrainian government who honoured Hitler and Nazis!
remember, it still has been USA that had actually USED nuclear weapons against another country (Japan).
+2 # Edwina 2015-05-22 09:13
Informative article. The U.S. has lots of "odd bedfellows". The difference between American ideals and actions is becoming more and more glaring. The most obvious explanation is its pursuit of corporate -- now financial -- profits without respect for any other values. We have succumbed to the notion that "business" and "growth" are good, without any acknowledgement of negative consequences for humans or the rest of nature. We need another model, if we are going to survive into the 22nd Century.

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