The Cold War Might Not Be Over — and the US Is Making It Worse | Sojourners

The Cold War Might Not Be Over — and the US Is Making It Worse

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In the historic port city of Yalta, located on the Crimean Peninsula, I visited the site where Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, in February of 1945, concluded negotiations ending World War II.

These leaders and their top advisers were also present at the creation of the United Nations and other instruments of international negotiation and non-military cooperation. Tragically, the creation of the “Cold War” was underway soon after.

Today, reviving tensions between the United States and Russia make it seem as though the Cold War might not have ended.

While in Yalta, I also met with groups of young adults, teachers, and veterans of foreign wars. At each meeting, participants readily agreed that new peace agreements are needed.

Konstatin, a veteran from the U.S.S.R.’s war in Afghanistan, now a grandfather, spoke to us about Yalta’s history during World War II.

Many people perished here,” he said. “More than a million perished during WWII. This tourist resort was founded from the bones of people killed in the war.”

Some 22 million Russians in total died during World War II, most of them civilians. Konstatin urged all of us to find ways for avoiding further war, and he spoke about how funds spent on weapons are crucially needed to help heal children afflicted by disease or hunger.

Julia, a university student who wants to become an interpreter working with diplomats, said that she is glad and grateful never to have lived through a war. "I always want to choose words instead of weapons,” Julia said.

We asked university students what they thought of the prospects for abolition of nuclear weapons. Anton, who studies engineering, told us that he believes “the youth of different countries would like to bridge the gap and work out ways to unite people.” His words are extremely important now, as Russia and the U.S., possessing such huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons, engage in intensifying conflict.

The Federation of American Scientists, in its 2016 inventory of nuclear forces, states that approximately 93 percent of all nuclear warheads are owned by Russia and the United States, who each have roughly 4,500-4,700 warheads in their military stockpiles.

“All of us should soften the geopolitical relations between our countries, and try to get together on the same level, on the same ground,” Anton said.

“The idea of this future should be attractive to everyone, and enable us to solve ecological problems. And if we all put efforts into reaching this idea of development and creativity, then the nuclear abolition will be something we can accomplish.”

In 1954, the Soviet government transferred this largely Russian-speaking area from Russia to Ukraine. In 2014, after Ukraine's elected president was ousted and its new government formed in part by neo-Nazis, Russia occupied the Crimea. After overwhelmingly winning an uncomfortably hasty vote, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula to Russia (or “reunited” it, depending on who describes the history).

The Ukraine ouster is considered, here in Yalta and in much of the world outside the U.S., to have been engineered by the United States and NATO. What plays in the U.S. as Russian aggression is seen by many here as a response to antidemocratic NATO interference along the Russian border.

It can be credibly argued that at its creation, NATO’s mission was essentially defensive. But the continuously assertive military posturing of NATO undermines and conflicts with the instruments of international negotiation and constructive cooperation. Some striking examples in recent years include expanding NATO into eastern and southern Europe as far south as Georgia; a now-defunct attempt by the U.S. to build a “ballistic missile shield system” in Eastern Europe, allegedly to protect against possible Iranian missile launches; and decisions by the U.S. and NATO to invade Afghanistan and establish long term military bases there, anchoring a military presence in the middle of Central Asia.

Milan Rai, writing for Peace News, helps put the conflict between Russia and the U.S. in context:

“Since Vladimir Putin’s first ascendancy to the Russian presidency in 2000, the Russian state has used its armed forces against other countries twice: against Georgia, in 2008; and now against Ukraine. …In the same time period, the U.S. has used its armed forces in a criminal fashion against a number of countries, including: Afghanistan …Yemen … Iraq … Pakistan … Libya …[and] Somalia …When one thinks of the number of deaths caused by U.S.-U.K. aggression since 2000, including the grim ongoing tragedy of the Iraqi civil war, it is difficult to listen to the wave of western outrage.”

I believe that the greatest threat to the long range peace and security of Europe and the United States is the reality that the military sectors of Western governments and the military spending sectors of Western economies are so huge and bloated, like incurable cancers, that they cannot give up on inventing military threats and advocating military solutions that powerfully undermine diplomatic efforts to secure peace.

I hope Anton’s ideas will echo in the U.S. and help steer his generation toward pursuit of new acutely needed agreements.

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