Reigniting the Cold War

In a recent column, conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan wrote:

Is the Senate trying to reignite the Cold War? If so, it is going about it the right way. Before departing for a five-week vacation, the Senate voted to declare Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be provinces of Georgia illegally occupied by Russian troops who must get out and return to Russia. The Senate voice vote was unanimous. …

In co-sponsoring S.R. 175, Sen. Lindsey Graham contended that “Russia’s invasion of Georgian land in 2008 was an act of aggression, not only to Georgia but to all new democracies.” This is neocon propaganda. Russian troops are in those enclaves because in August 2008 Georgia invaded South Ossetia to re-annex it, and killed and wounded scores of Russian peacekeepers.

This is particularly worrisome because Georgia today, like Cuba in 1962, is one of the most likely places to ignite a Russian-American crisis that could spiral out of control and, without anyone intending it, ignite a nuclear exchange.

Much of the danger lies in the oft-repeated statement that the United States is the world’s sole remaining superpower. That has been said so often that we have come to believe it, but the reality is much more nuanced: Russia still has the capacity to destroy us in under an hour, so we threaten Russia’s vital national interests at our peril – and its conflict with Georgia is one of those interests.

The unintended risk generated by S.R. 175 is just one of many that needs to be better understood if we are to improve our national security. If you agree, please sign my petition asking Congress to authorize a National Academies study on the potential risks posed by nuclear weapons, both from nuclear terrorism and nuclear war. The petition has been endorsed by Adm. Bobby Inman (USN Retired; former Director of the National Security Agency), Donald Kennedy (Stanford’s former president), Kenneth Arrow (Nobel Laureate in Economics) and Martin Perl (Nobel Laureate in Physics), so you can rest assured it makes sense and will contribute to our national security.

Martin Hellman

Earlier posts on Georgia:

President Palin Declares War on Russia!

The Georgian War Revisited

Georgia Invaded by Russia, Saakashvili Dead, American Troops Airlifted to Region!

Stanford Coverage and More on Georgia

Russia and Georgia: Getting a Better Perspective

About Nuclear Risk

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects your credit card. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic.
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