Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans (politicians) doing the right thing after they’ve exhausted all the other possibilities.”
I inserted (politicians) as Churchill was referencing them not the American public of which he was a member (albeit an informal one, thanks to his American mother).
Our politicians seem inordinately incapable of changing past decisions, no matter how misguided. Admitting mistakes gives your political opponent ammunition and anything that reduces your grasp on power is to be avoided like the plague. But not admitting and fixing mistakes can have grave consequences.
The nuclear contest between nations, including Russia and the U.S., concerns the question of dominance. Who has more ways to successfully demolish the planet many times over. Starting from parity, adding offensive missiles will trigger the other side to do likewise. The end result is riskier. Both sides have more missiles to use in anger or by mistake, but neither has an advantage. The path down from this insanity has been to reach nuclear parity and then reduce nuclear capacities on both sides pari passus.
But adding ABMs (anti-ballistic missiles), presuming they work, also disturbs parity. It is equivalent not to adding to increasing your own count of offensive weapons, but to reducing your adversary’s. In 1972, we and the Soviet Union realized that restricting ABMS was a critical part of maintaining nuclear parity and banned their construction. But in 1983, President Reagan began to undermine the treaty with the Strategic Defense Initiative. This ended the peace initiative of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, who announced, “It is time they (Washington) stopped … searching for the best ways of unleashing nuclear war … Engaging in this is not just irresponsible. It is insane.”
Fast forward a third of a century. We have no more ABM treaty and another nuclear arms race underway with Russia. NATO has just placed ABMs in Romania and is about to place them in Poland. Russia views the ABMs as impacting nuclear parity. We view them as a deterrent against Iran firing its long range missiles at our European allies.
The Russians have been vigorously objecting for years to the placement of these ABM’s near their frontier. This anger is manifest in dangerous talk and action by President Putin, including threats of nuclear war and too-close-for-comfort engagements by Russian jets with U.S. air and naval forces. This could quickly lead the U.S. to shoot down a Russian fighter with unknown consequences.
Here is what President Putin thinks of NATO’s ABM policy. “References to Iran and North Korea nuclear threats are just a cover for the true purpose. … That is to neutralize the potential of other nuclear states — primarily Russia. … (Russia will) take the necessary measures to respond by strengthening its own missile defense. .. And at the first state we are going to develop strike weapons that can penetrate any missile defense shield.”
In short, the nuclear arms race is back on.
As I wrote in my book, Write Me In, as President, I would impose a ban, backed by the use of military force, on further testing by Iran of long-range missiles and, in the case of North Korea, on the testing of missiles of any range. I would then remove the ABM missiles in place in Romania and not install them in Poland in exchange for Russia’s agreeing to stand down on its nuclear rearmament.
In short, let’s address problems at their source. If Iran’s missiles are the danger, and they most certainly are, placing ABMS near Russia — ABMs that have never been shown to be failsafe — and risking military confrontation with Russia makes no sense. Yet this seems to be the policy of Secretary Clinton. For his part, the delusional Mr. Trump appears to think that two quick phone calls, presumably between golf games, to the Iranians and the Russians, is all that’s needed to fix this problem and make his tee time.