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The world is now closer to nuclear war than at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. History matters.
In 1961 the U.S. placed nuclear armed Jupiter missiles on the Soviet Union’s border in Turkey. The Soviets reacted and in 1962 placed missiles in Cuba. The U.S. was outraged and threatened nuclear war because the Soviet Union had had the audacity to do to America what America had done to them.
“You are disturbed over Cuba. You say that this disturbs you because it is 90 miles by sea from the coast of the United States of America. But Turkey adjoins us; our sentries patrol back and forth and see each other. Do you consider, then, that you have the right to demand security for your own country and the removal of the weapons you call offensive, but do not accord the same right to us?”
Thankfully, JFK had the wisdom to ignore his military advisors, got on the phone with Khrushchev, and they agreed to remove the missiles from both country’s borders. The fact that the US had been the original aggressor, not the Soviet Union, was censored from US media at the time. It was decades later when this intelligence was exposed in a 2013 issue of Atlantic Magazine.
Breaking all of the promises made in 1990 to Soviet Chairman Gorbachev by then U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, not to move NATO “one inch” to the east if Germany was allowed to reunite, President Bill Clinton began doing so against the advice of the most experienced diplomats of the time. Jack Matlock, the last U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union before its dissolution, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
“I consider the [Clinton] Administration’s recommendation to take new members into NATO at this time misguided. If it should be approved by the United States Senate, it may well go down in history as the most profound strategic blunder since the end of the Cold War. Far from improving the security of the United States, its Allies, and the nations that wish to enter the Alliance, it could well encourage a chain of events that produce the most serious security threat to this nation since the Soviet Union collapsed.”
The US now has missiles in Poland and Romania capable of hitting Moscow in 7 minutes (3-5 minutes if converted to hyper-sonic). After the U.S. orchestrated coup overthrew the democratically elected, Russian friendly president of Ukraine in 2014, America began arming Ukraine. Given America’s reaction to Soviet missiles in Cuba decades ago, why on Earth would anyone think Russia would, or even should, react differently. Mirroring American missiles in Turkey 60 years ago, it is the U.S. that is the aggressor, not Russia, and to say Russia was unprovoked in Ukraine is to deny all fact. Perhaps Russia should put missiles back in Cuba.
Russia did everything in its power to avoid this war including proposals for negotiations sent to Biden and the US State Dept. in 2021. The U.S. barely acknowledged the receipt of Russia’s written concerns.
It’s easy to call Putin a thug, a gangster. It conveniently “justifies” the lack of any thoughtful consideration, “excuses” U.S. culpability for the Ukraine crisis. But to think the U.S. would act any differently than Russia has if Moscow placed missiles 3-7 minutes from Washington D.C. is ridiculous.
It is time for U.S. leadership to summon the wisdom and courage of JFK, call Putin and say:
“President Putin, we were wrong to break our promises, we were wrong to expand NATO and place missiles on your borders. For the sake of all humanity, we will end this insane escalation. Just as the Soviet Union disbanded the Warsaw Pact after the Berlin wall came down in the belief that Russia and Western Europe could now work cooperatively for the good of all, we will remove the missiles from your borders and move NATO back to its promised limits in Germany or disband the organization completely. We would then like to work with Russia to rebuild Ukraine.”
I know this is pure fantasy, but I have this strange aversion to nuclear holocaust and I don’t know what else to do.