Stopping the New Arms Race

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The Nation

Stopping the New Arms Race

by
Katrina vanden Heuvel

The White House will do everything it can to push its reckless, European-based missile defense plan forward. Not only is there growing citizen opposition in the host countries to the proposed ten interceptor missiles in Poland and radar military base in the Czech Republic, but the system fuels a new arms race and militarism that is a far greater threat to our national security than any nuclear missile from Iran it would purportedly defend against.

As Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund and author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons told me last year, "President Bush is rushing to deploy a technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist."

But even worse than this rush to deployment is the destabilizing impact it has on relations with Russia and the prospects for real security and peace. Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison--co-directors of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy--recently wrote in Foreign Policy In Focus, "When the Soviet Union first built a limited missile defense system in the late 1960s, the United States responded by building up a nuclear strike strategy to overwhelm the new technology. The cycle of nuclear one-upmanship was partially halted by the ABM Treaty, but then the Bush administration withdrew from the treaty in 2002. Now... history repeats itself, but the table has been turned. Today it is the United States building a limited missile defense system... and it is the Russians who say they need to target it to maintain the effectiveness of their deterrent. The Cold War may be over, but military and policy planners in both countries still think in Cold War terms."

Landy and Harrison also point out while opposition to the proposed US installations gathers strength within Poland and the Czech Republic, many in the US peace movement don't know about the European-based system, which costs over $1 billion annually, further erodes our international reputation and fuels a new Cold War. "This issue feeds into the mistrust of America that Europeans feel on a host of Bush Administration policies from global warming to Iraq," Cirincione says. These are times, reminiscent of another Cold War era, when transnational, across-border-mobilization, activism and solidarity becomes so important. US peace groups should join with the grassroots opposition in Poland and Czech Republic--organizations like the No Bases Initiative (NBI) which has spearheaded Czech popular opposition to the installation of the US base--to take on this plan. As Landy and Harrison point out, "the Bush Administration hopes to override resistance in the Czech Republic and Poland and finalize agreements with both countries within the next few months."

It is essential, they write, "that activists on both sides of the Atlantic work to derail this agreement."

It is also important to call on presidential candidates and Congress to speak out - not only on the system's technological shortcomings which have been demonstrated through testing, but the fundamentally flawed approach of a militaristic, imperial foreign policy. Barack Obama supports the abolition of nuclear weapons (as do Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn) through a plan that accords with the Non-Proliferation Treaty's mandate that the nuclear powers reduce and abolish nuclear weapons. Obama has also been a leader in the Senate on nuclear non-proliferation issues. Hillary Clinton has not signaled her support for a nuclear-free world. And then, of course, there is John McCain. He's as militarist in orientation toward Russia and gung ho for the arms race as he is about staying in Iraq for 100 years. He said, "The first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place [in Poland and the Czech Republic]."

As the end of the Bush Administration nears - a reign defined by reckless subversion of bipartisan arms control agreements - The Nation, unlike too many in our media, is committed to stopping this escalating arms race and averting the danger of a new cold war between the US and Russia.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

© 2008 The Nation

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