DEFCON Warning System – While this article is biased, it does present some important information.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans genuinely and rightly feared the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. School children regularly participated in air raid drills. Federal, state and local governments prepared for operations in the event of nuclear emergency. More than a few worried citizens built backyard bomb shelters and stockpiled provisions.
Today, that old dread of disaster has all but disappeared, as have the systems that helped to preclude it. But the actual threat of nuclear catastrophe is much greater than we realize. Diplomacy and a desire for global peace have given way to complacency and a false sense of security that nuclear escalation is outside the realm of possibility. That leaves us unprepared for—and highly vulnerable to—a nuclear attack from Russia.
The most recent sign of American complacency was the death, a few weeks ago, of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty—a pivotal 1987 agreement that introduced intrusive on-site inspection provisions, destroyed an entire class of dangerous weaponry, and convinced both Washington and Moscow that each wanted strategic stability more than strategic advantage. The New START treaty, put in place during the Obama administration, appears headed for a similar fate in 2021. In fact, nearly all the key U.S.-Russian arms control and confidence-building provisions of the Cold War era are dead or on life support, with little effort underway to update or replace them.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials from both parties are focused not on how we might avoid nuclear catastrophe but on showing how tough they can look against a revanchist Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Summit meetings between White House and Kremlin leaders, once viewed as opportunities for peace, are now seen as dangerous temptations to indulge in Munich-style appeasement, the cardinal sin of statecraft. American policymakers worry more about “going wobbly,” as Margaret Thatcher once put it, than about a march of folly into inadvertent war. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the United States and Russia might explore ways to manage their differences diplomatically has produced mostly head-scratching and condemnation.