Presently a growing number of people, including well known and respected politicians and foreign policy experts acknowledge that US-Russia relations are at a dead end and the risk of a military confrontation that could go nuclear is very real. These experts have stated that a careful dispassionate analysis focused on changing our currently disastrous trajectory is imperative among both citizens and policy makers.
Since we are dealing with the existential issues of war, peace and the very survival of our civilization, the search for the ideas that might help to prevent worse case scenarios should not be only left to government representatives, but should also involve what is called "public diplomacy".
This following discussion is intended to bring together people who are concerned about these issues and are ready to contribute their time and ideas.
The topic for the Discussion Panel is provided by Edward Lozansky.
Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow, Professor of Moscow State and National Research Nuclear Universities. He is the author of the book "Operation Elbe”, which describes joint US – Russia anti-terrorist efforts.
Expert Panel Contributions
Professor emeritus of the Stanford University
I was invited to speak at this roundtable because I was one of the signers of a letter in Politico titled, "It’s Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy.”
I really like that title for many reasons, one of them being that my current project is called "Rethinking National Security,” and clearly our Russia policy affects our national security.
There are parts of the letter that I would have said differently, but I felt that the letter’s overall message — the need to rethink our Russia policy — is so desperately needed that I was happy to sign in spite of those parts.
The letter starts really well when it says, "U.S.-Russia relations are at a dangerous dead end that threatens the U.S. national interest.”
Later it says, and again I totally agree: "Because the stakes are so high … a careful, dispassionate analysis and change of our current course are imperative.”
It’s strange — and dangerous — that something as important as our policy towards Russia has not been decided based on such dispassionate analysis. Of course, the same happens on the other side, with too many Russians believing that Neil Armstrong’s 1969 landing on the moon was a hoax filmed in Nevada. But, as an American, I will focus on emotionally incorrect thinking on our part. That’s where I can bemost effective.
I would have liked to change where the letter says, "Our strategic posture should be that which served us well during the Cold War: a balanced commitment to deterrence and détente.”
It is true that détente served us well during the Cold War. But deterrence did not. That strategy almost failed in 1962, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear devastation. And the Cuban missile crisis was far from the only near miss.
My research indicates that a child born today may well have less than even odds of living out his or her natural life without suffering a full-scale nuclear war.
Congressman Jim Cooper, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee, realized a 10-year old dream of mine by mandating a National Academy of Sciences study on the risk of nuclear war.
That study is about to start and its report should be out in about a year. If it reaches conclusions remotely resembling my own, it will be a great asset for awakening society to the need to rethink national security — and our policy toward Russia. And their policy toward us.
That study will be more mathematical than most people like, so I’ll convey the risk in non-mathematical terms with the following hypothetical story.
Imagine that a man wearing a TNT vest were to sit next to you and tell you that he isn’t a suicide bomber, so there is nothing to worry about. He doesn’t have the button for setting oﬀ the explosives. Rather, there are two buttons in very safe hands. One is in Washington with President Trump and the other is in Moscow with President Putin, so just relax. You would still get away as fast as you can!
Returning to the real world, just because we can’t see the weapons controlled by those buttons, why do we stay here? As if confronted by that man in the TNT vest, we need to be plotting an escape route.
A statement of support for Rethinking National Security has been signed by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta among others. It starts by noting that, at the end of World War II, we were totally secure from attack. Since then, we have spent vast sums to improve our national security. Yet, today, we can be destroyed in under an hour. What went wrong?
The statement then asks, "In this age of nuclear weapons, pandemics, cyberattacks, terrorism, and environmental crises, is national security becoming inseparable from global security? If so, how do our current policies need to change?”
I am convinced that our national security is becoming inseparable from Russia’s national security and that of all other nations. We need to bring "dispassionate analysis” (to use the letter’s term) not only to our relations with Russia, but to our relations with all nations. Taking North Korea as an example, I have time to highlight only one such error in our analysis.
Our threats against North Korea and our use of regime change in Iraq and Libya unwittingly motivate Kim Jong-un to seek nuclear weapons capable of reaching our shores so that he can deter us from doing to him what we did to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. That hurts American national security.
In the same way, some elements of our policy toward Russia have hurt our national security. Since Ukraine and Crimea are emotional issues — we cannot yet bring dispassionate analysis to bear — I’ll focus instead on an historical issue where emotions do not run so high: D-Day.
We call D-Day "the battle that won the war,” angering Russia by our discounting its far greater death toll on the Eastern Front.
When the 70th anniversary of D-Day was approaching in 2014, I went to my good friend, former Stanford Dean of Engineering, and D-Day veteran Bill Kays.
I asked Bill if it had occurred to him that he might owe his life to the sacrifices of the Soviets on the Eastern Front — where the vast majority of Nazi troops were occupied. Bill would have faced many more Nazi defenders on Omaha Beach if it weren’t for the Eastern Front. He replied, "Of course I have.”
I then asked him if he would consider writing a letter asking President Obama to pay tribute in his D-Day anniversary speech not only to Bill’s D-Day comrades, but also to the Soviets who died on the Eastern Front.
Bill’s letter onto Secretary of State Kerry’s desk for consideration. But then, in February 2014, Ukraine exploded and the idea never saw the light of day. President Obama couldn’t say anything nice about the Russians, no matter how true it was.
Not being able to say something that’s true because people are angry is the opposite of the dispassionate analysis called for in the Politico letter that I signed. And it’s something we need to correct. Our lives and those of our children and grandchildren literally depend on it.
RETHINKING NATIONAL SECURITY
WHEN WORLD WAR II ENDED THE US WAS TOTALLY SECURE.SINCE THEN, WE HAVE SPENT TRILLIONS TO IMPROVE OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.YET WE NOW CAN BE DESTROYED IN UNDER AN HOUR.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
The Statement: In just 153 words, this statement summarizes what went wrong and how it might be fixed. Signers include a former Secretary of Defense, a former Deputy Secretary General of NATO, a former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), and Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to Moscow. A more complete list of signers follows the statement.
The Paper builds on the statement by briefly exploring twelve assumptions that form the foundation for our thinking on national security, but that turn out to be questionable.
Congressionally Mandated Study of Nuclear Risk: Congressman Jim Cooper, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee, realized a 10-year old dream of mine by getting Section 1674 into the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. This directs the Secretary of Defense to contract with the National Academy of Sciences for a study on the risk of nuclear war. My research indicates that the risk is on the order of 1% per year, which would correspond to worse than even odds over the roughly 80 year life expectancy of a child born today. If the study reaches similar conclusions, it will awaken society to the need to rethink national security. The report from this study is expected to be available mid-year in 2021.
National Security and COVID-19: A few words and a great drawing powerfully communicate that we have defined national security far too narrowly. Self-described hawk and conservative columnist Max Boot makes the same point in his March 31, 2020 column.
Understanding the Level of Risk: A short story about the man in the TNT vest graphically communicates why the risk is so much greater than society realizes and a list of some post-Cold War nuclear risks dispels the myth that nuclear war is merely a nightmare of the past.
For the more mathematically inclined, I'll explain why the risk is on the order of 1% per year. Clearly, 10% per year is too high since then we would expect World War III to occur in about 10 years. Similarly, 0.1% per year is too low since then we could expect to go 1,000 years on our current path before it occurred. That leaves only 1% per year as "the order of magnitude estimate," meaning rounded to the nearest power of 10. The risk could be 2% per year or 0.5% per year, but that wouldn't change the need to fundamentally rethink national security. For more details, see publications 74, 75, and 79 on my Publications Page.
What You Can Do: Getting society to rethink its approach to national security is such a huge task that many people ask, "What difference can I make? What can I do that could possibly help?” This page lists a number of effective actions that you can take, many of which take just minutes.
By David S. Foglesong
Professor of the Rutgers University
Ways Out of the Crisis in American-Russian Relations
American-Russian relations today are more dangerously strained than at any point in my lifetime except for two moments: the fall of 1983, when Soviet leaders feared a nuclear first strike by NATO, and the fall of 1962, the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Since relations between the United States and the Soviet Union improved dramatically after 1983 and 1962, in principle it should be possible for the trajectory of relations to be altered today. However, three key factors were present at those earlier moments that are not present today.
First, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan provided articulate and credible leadership. Kennedy delivered a bold speech at American University in June 1963 that called on Americans to reconsider their attitudes toward the Soviet Union and that helped to make possible a significant shift in relations with Moscow, including a limited test ban treaty and a first step away from Cold War hostility. Reagan gave a speech in January 1984 to assure the Soviet and American people that he did not want a war and to express a vision of a shift away from ideological polemics to cooperation in safeguarding the future.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump has been incapable of providing that kind of articulate and far-sighted leadership. Statements by Joe Biden and his top foreign policy advisers do not offer much hope that he will be interested providing bold leadership to foster better relations with Russia. On the other side, Vladimir Putin has given good speeches but his credibility has been severely damaged by Russian actions that have contradicted his proclaimed adherence to principles such as non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states.
Second, neither top leaders nor mass publics in America and Russia appear to realize how dangerous the present situation is, when a collision between US and Russian forces could escalate into a nuclear confrontation. The late Stephen F. Cohen for years warned that the "new Cold War” was becoming even more dangerous than the old Cold War, yet few heeded his warnings.
Third, in part because of the lack of public fear, there is no movement in the United States today like the anti-nuclear movement of the early 1980s or the test ban movement of the early 1960s.
As a result, it is unlikely that American-Russian relations can be dramatically improved in the near future. However, three courses of action may contribute to gradual, long-term easing of tensions and a shift toward greater cooperation between the United States and Russia.
First, we can challenge the distortions and exaggerations in the two countries’ mass media, which have inflamed antipathies. I have been trying to do that – for example, with an article against the Russophobia of the New York Times that was published in The Nation in July 2020 [https://www.thenation.com/article/world/new-york-times-russia/] and an article on the American vilification of Russian leaders in the journal Raritan in 2019 [https://1478c132-f47f-47d5-ad0d-a41ed084e78d.filesusr.com/ugd/14e072_657e8ab52d48456e88508b586c5b0cfa.pdf] Exposing and opposing the mutual demonization in Russian and American mass media is necessary to foster a climate in which calm thinking about mutual interests – above all, survival – will be possible.
Second, we can educate our students and others about the danger of our present situation. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and filmmaker Cynthia Lazaroff have been doing valuable work along this line. [https://www.nuclearwakeupcall.earth/...]
Third, we can remind people of the positive impact of citizen activism in earlier eras as a way to inspire or encourage similar activism today. Exchanges between Soviet and American citizens in the 1980s had significant impacts. They challenged negative stereotypes, helped to overcome ideological antipathy, and encouraged top leaders to see what could be achieved. The new American organizations that sponsored the exchanges were not radical or left-wing but mainstream, involving both Republicans and Democrats. That helped them to receive widespread publicity for the tours of the United States by Soviet citizens, which magnified the impact of the hundreds of thousands of face-to-face encounters. [https://1478c132-f47f-47d5-ad0d-a41ed084e78d.filesusr.com/ugd/14e072_920a06d051a1476881122e249c622d87.pdf]
Women were at the forefront of many of the citizen diplomacy efforts in the 1980s. They founded new organizations such as Peace Links: Women Against Nuclear War, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (based in Massachusetts), and Mothers Embracing Nuclear Disarmament (with headquarters in San Diego). It would be valuable for women to play leading roles in similar efforts in the future.
The present situation, with the coronavirus pandemic and with the other preoccupations of American and Russian peoples, makes citizen diplomacy much more difficult. But we can use the technology available today to try to broaden the exchanges between the two peoples. In the 1980s "spacebridges” that used satellite linkups to connect Soviet and American audiences had significant effects by allowing citizens of the two countries to see the other people’s humanity and to engage in dialogue. Similar electronic meetings and constructive exchanges today can help to create a foundation for better relations in the future.
By Herbert R. Reginbogin
Professor of The Catholic University of America
Shaping US-Russian Relations
US-Russian relations are at a catastrophic level of mistrust potentially stumbling into a global war without intention but with necessity, due to the logic of the zero-sum system that they built not unlike the European balance of power of the 19th century in which war was a acceptably legal means to resolve conflicts. In this context, the primordial question will be how to stabilize that system, while avoiding the cataclysm of war that in the past proved to be the only means to settle questions of power.
America’s principles and values that ostensibly represent the West have been pulled apart, pulverized, and roiled for their hypocrisy over generational social injustices and systemic racism by rising authoritarian powers. While welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers as a welcomed highlight in the West, these visions have dramatically changed about building a society whose laws actively prioritize the lives of the vulnerable in policymaking. The fear and need for security have drivenAmerican society from ensuring that all people have the power to shape their government can indeed be just and that a genuinely just society and that world can learn and benefit from its leadership, guidance, security, and protection. Instead the USA facing the blame for grievous mistakes, including aggressive interventionism, harmful globalization, and alleged war crimes, does America and the West desperately need to rebrand its mission in becoming a non-aligned state to refrain from continuing criticism? With many mainstream American policymakers and think tanks calling for the USA to restrain its foreign engagement with rising 'Great Power Rivalry,' should the USA accommodate? By the USA accepting different competitive civilizations' aspirations to dominate their neighboring sphere of interests, what would the world be like without the USA upholding democratic ideals and the liberal world order in which the people and their countries share the same recognition of international law and values to coexist allowing its people the rights to voluntarily decide theirs and their countries’ future? Any decline in Western power will usher in Russia’s utopian dream of cooperative multi-level world order founded on the principles of ‘spheres of influence’ in which neighboring states orbiting near Russia would gravitate toward its civilizational identity as others would do the same. Shall the USA make accommodations with America’s adversaries – even at the cost of sacrificing a democratic ruled-based liberal world order based on shared values to respect human dignity and human rights as laid down in international conventions and declarations - or are we destined for War unable to deal with the moral hurdles except through revisionist history of turning victims into perpetrators of World War II and transforming the identity of a people as victims fighting threats from abroad when the real culprit lie within the country.A reset is needed to rebuild trust using an age-old legal concept called ‘permanent neutrality’ as a geostrategic instrument to alter conflict into cooperation to handle existential threats of the 21st century. Countries in neighboring orbits of major powers would adopt the status of ‘permanent neutrality’ forging a buffer zone between historical Cold War adversaries and contributing to international security and humanitarian services in a world of pandemics, natural catastrophes related to climate change, but above all to neutralize the growing modernization of nuclear arsenals and focus together on what is coming - next which is going to be inherently more destructive to people and the earth – the ecological changes.