20 January 2023
By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
As a participant in the 20th century Cold War, I can tell you that the Cuban Missile Crisis had the effect of convincing the leaders of the US and the USSR that trust had to be created between the two nuclear superpowers in order resolve differences and prevent a reoccurrence of tensions at the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev worked together independently of their military/security bureaucracies to resolve the issue. Both paid a price. President Kennedy was murdered by the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff who were determined not to lose the Soviet enemy that justified their power and budgets. Khrushchev was removed from power by Communist Party hardliners suspicious of accommodation to the capitalist enemy.
After President Johnson destroyed himself in the military/security complex’s Vietnam War, President Nixon renewed the tension reducing policy of President Kennedy. The Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) and arms limitations agreements followed. President Nixon topped them off by opening to China and replacing that tense relationship with the “one China” policy. This was again too much for the US military/security complex, and they orchestrated with the Washington Post the “Watergate” scandal to remove him from office.
President Carter tried to continue building bridges. He signed the SALT II agreement that Nixon had initiated, but Carter had his hands full with Israel and Palestine. The situation awaited President Reagan to bring about the end of the Cold War.
President Reagan was a cold warrior who wanted to end it. He hated what he called “those godawful nuclear weapons.” He thought it was terrible that the world continued to live under the threat that they might be used.
President Reagan was convinced that the Soviet economy was broken and could not be fixed, whereas the right policy could fix the US economy. Once the US economy was fixed, he could put pressure on the Soviet leadership to come to the negotiating table by threatening an arms race that the broken Soviet economy could not meet.
The problem was stagflation, and the fix was the Kemp-Roth bill which I had drafted and explained to the House and Senate. The Republican minority on the House Budget Committee supported it. Democrat Senator Russell Long, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee supported it as did Democrat Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee Lloyd Bentsen and Democrat Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn. Energetic new Republican senators such as Orrin Hatch and S.I. Hayakawa supported it. Reagan accepted it, campaigned on it, and appointed me to the US Treasury to get the bill out of his administration so that Congress could vote on it.
Faced with yet another president determined to wind down the Cold War, the CIA told President Reagan that he must not renew the arms race, because the Soviets would win. The agency’s reasoning was that the Soviet economy was planned, and thereby the Soviet leadership could put a far greater percentage of the society’s resources into the military than could Reagan.
To deal with the CIA, Reagan established a secret committee to examine the CIA’s case. He put me on it. The committee’s conclusion was that the CIA’s position was based on its power and stratus that a continuation of the Cold War ensured.
Some American conservatives misinterpret President Reagan’s policy as a hostile one against Russia designed to win the Cold War. Reagan told us the goal was not to win the Cold War but to end it. The Soviet collapse was the result of hardline Communist Party members, disturbed at Gorbachev’s rapid release of Eastern Europe, placing him under house arrest, thus setting in motion the events that led to the collapse of the Soviet government. This was as much a surprise to Washington as it was to Moscow.
The point of this brief history is to contrast the efforts of American presidents to reduce tensions during the 20th century Cold War with Washington’s efforts in the 21st century to undo this accomplishment and to elevate tensions to their current high peak.
We owe this disaster to the neoconservatives. The neoconservatives were responsible for Iran-Contra and were fired and prosecuted by President Reagan. They were pardoned by Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush and wormed their way into conservative ranks and into policy positions in government. When the Soviet Union collapsed, they came up with the Wolfowitz Doctrine, a declaration of US hegemony over the world as the principal goal of US foreign policy.
An early manifestation of neoconservative treachery was on March 12, 1999 when the Clinton regime expanded NATO eastward to incorporate the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland in NATO in violation of the promise given to Gorbachev by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker. This was the fledgeling Russian state’s first indication that the word of the US government means nothing.
A false argument was made that no such pledge had been made or if it had, it didn’t count because it wasn’t in writing. I know for a fact that the promise was made, and not only by Washington but also by NATO itself. See this.
The 1999 NATO enlargement was followed in 2004 by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. In 2009 Albania and Croatia were added, and in 2017 Montenegro and in 2020 North Macedonia.
Readers need to understand what this means. The US government took what was formerly the Soviet Empire and transformed it into Washington’s empire. Washington proved that the Soviet Communist hardliners were correct that it is a mistake to trust the West.
Twelve days after putting the Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles in NATO, without UN approval NATO began a three month bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, leading to the breakup of the country.
In 2001 the neoconservative regime of President George W. Bush pulled the US out of the ABM Treaty, the cornerstone of the arms control and reduction agreements achieved in the 20th century. Washington’s withdrawal also had the effect of cancelling START II, because Russia’s agreement to START II was conditional on the US remaining in the ABM treaty.
This was followed by the further additions to NATO described above.
In 2007 the US government announced that nuclear capable missiles would be placed in Poland on Russia’s borders. The blatantly false claim was made that these were a defense system agains an Iranian attack on Europe. Such a claim must have amused the Kremlin in addition to worrying them.
In 2008 a US trained and equipped Georgian army (a province of the former Soviet Union) invaded South Ossetia and killed Russian peacekeepers. The Russian Army entered the conflict, quickly defeated the Georgian Army and withdrew, disproving the claim that Putin intended to restore the Soviet empire. Washington and its whore media misrepresented the conflict, as they have done the Ukrainian one, as a Russian invasion of Georgia.
In 2014 Washington overthrew the government of Ukraine and established a puppet regime. The regime began attacking the Russian population of Donbass. For the next 8 years thousands of Russians were murdered by neo-Nazi militias and Ukrainian armed forces while President Putin tried to obtain to no avail Western compliance with the Minsk Agreement. The French and German leaders who signed the Minsk Agreement have recently acknowledged that it was a trick to deceive Putin while the US and NATO built and equipped a large Ukrainian army. In February, 2022, this army was poised to invade the Donbass region and to do away with the two independent republics, thus provoking the Russian intervention.
2014 also brought the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 which, falsely blamed on Russia, served to initiate a propaganda campaign against Russia and justify the initiation of economic sanctions against Russia.
In 2018 President Trump, beat up by the false “Russiagate” narrative, withdrew the US from the INF treaty to prove he was tough on Russia and not a Russian agent.
Also in 2018 there was the concocted case of alleged poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK with Russian nerve gas which they somehow survived. The alleged event was blamed on Putin. The Skripals mysteriously disappeared and have not been seen or heard from since.
In 2020 Washington withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty.
In December 2021 and January 2022 the Kremlin made strenuous efforts to reach a mutual security treaty with the US and NATO and was coldly rebuffed by the US Secretary of State and the NATO Secretary General. Instead, a large Ukrainian army was poised on the Donbass border and heavy shelling began, bringing in the Russians in February 2022.
In 2022 more sanctions were applied to Russia, and Russia’s foreign reserves were seized. Massive arms shipments from the US and NATO began arriving in Ukraine. In September 2022 the US and UK blew up the Nordstream gas pipelines. Washington accused Russia of sabotaging its own pipelines.
The efforts of 20th century American presidents to end the Cold War, restrain armaments, and reduce the possibility of nuclear war have been completely overturned by neoconservative-dominated governments in the 21st century. The tensions today are far greater than at any time during the 20th century Cold War. Today the Kremlin openly states that the Russian government has zero trust in the West and believes that the West intends to destroy Russia. This is extremely dangerous. During the Cold War there were numerous incidences of false alarms of incoming ICBMs, but neither side believed them because the ongoing negotiations had created a framework of mutual trust. This achievement has been squandered by America’s 21st century leadership which in pursuit of the neoconservative goal of US hegemony has left the door wide open to Nuclear Armageddon.
The situation is even worse than the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock indicates. The correct time is one nano-second to Midnight.
And there is no one in the West to take this into account. There are no more Presidents such as Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan or experts such as Steven Cohen. America’s foreign policy “experts” are a collection of whores on military/security grants and consultancies, and the presstitutes support rather than investigate official narratives. As I have previously reported, David Johnson at George Washington University provides a daily list of media and academic comment on US/Russia relations. The unreality of almost all of it is beyond belief. It is difficult to believe that the foreign policy community that got us through the Cold War has been replaced by Russophobic emotions incapable of objective reasoning and unaware of the dangerous situation that they have created.
Instead we have neoconservatives blabbering about how we can win a nuclear war.
Here we are a superpower made dangerous to ourselves and to the entire world by the total absence of any awareness and any leadership whatsoever.
“Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War”
“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
–John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University
“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations
Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
–Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute
Paul Craig Roberts is a renowned author and academic, chairman of The Institute for Political Economy, where this article was originally published. Dr. Roberts was previously associate editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy during the Reagan Administration. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.