A Voice of Caution Not Heard in the West

My last three posts have been about the risk of the Ukrainian crisis escalating out of control, and the lack of coverage of that possibility in the West. Today, as I went through a slew of articles about Ukraine, a number echoed my concern, but none of them received coverage in our mainstream media. (I did web searches on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.) One article, “Arming Ukraine will put the West in danger,” on the Reuters web site stood out for its clarity of thought and fairness. It says in part:

At this rate, someone’s really going to get hurt soon. This is not to make light of the suffering already being caused by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with half a million people displaced and thousands killed and wounded in fighting there. What it does suggest is the need for perspective amid the increasingly unhinged talk of war with Russia. … 

Russia still possesses a nuclear arsenal in excess of 8,000 warheads. It has a conventional military of nearly one million men under arms, and in the age of cyberwarfare has the ability to inflict catastrophic damage on critical Western infrastructure. … 

The more the West emphasizes a belligerent course of action, the more Putin’s popular support, already in a range undreamed of by Western leaders (80 percent approval), will harden rather than soften. … 

Moscow will view a decision to expel the Russian banking system from SWIFT [an action currently being given serious consideration] as not just an economic measure but as a strategic one. To be met by any and all means at Russia’s disposal. Cyber, energy, finance, nonstate groups in neighboring states — all could become weapons in such a response. That is also without considering the risk of a catastrophic miscalculation or overreaction by a single pilot, nuclear submarine captain or militia member with a shoulder-fired missile.

In an atmosphere of zero trust, anything becomes possible.

If a diplomatic solution is to be found before — and not after — a terrible conflagration involving the world’s two nuclear superpowers, a new U.S.-German diplomatic initiative toward Moscow must be launched.

One of the biggest shortcomings of our current thinking in the West is that we are only looking one move out – and only in terms of our moves. We seem to be incapable of envisioning Russia’s likely response. We act as if we really do believe that we are the world’s sole remaining superpower, even though Russia can destroy us in under an hour. Pretending we have superpowers when we don’t is dangerous business. If we try to emulate Superman and “leap off tall buildings in a single bound,” our results will be very different from his.

Martin Hellman

If you agree that these ideas need wider consideration, please add a link on Facebook, tweet it, or use other social media to help get the word out. Thank you!

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, since 1982, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book, co-written with my wife Dorothie, with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." It's on Amazon and a free PDF can be downloaded from its website: https://anewmap.com.
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4 Responses to A Voice of Caution Not Heard in the West

  1. Peter says:

    Glad to see your website Prof Hellman. I’d also recommend readers to read Robert Parry’s work – http://www.consortiumnews.com – excellent reporting by a world class journalists who went independent in the mid-1990’s from his good jobs at Newsweek and Washington Post, in order to print the truth. His latest post is hard hitting about the dire threat of nuclear war.

    Back when I was a university student in the 1970’s/80’s – there was a global peace movement in the wake of the Vietnam War and in the midst of the Cold War. The problem is since then the peace movement has dissipated and the Western media has lost its independence – now totally controlled by big business – banking, military-industrial and oil/gas.

    Given that the banking system is a corrupt Ponzi scheme on verge of meltdown, the military-industrial complex wants more war and chaos and the Western oil/gas gang of West-Saudi-Gulf Emirates is in tense competition with Russian Gazprom-Iran-Syria (ex-Libya now) but with Iraq siding back with Iran – the prospects for peace are diminishing.

    Rather than a concerned educated active public – people are bemused in apathy, bread and circuses. The Greeks have woken up that the current path is unsustainable at least with the financial system. Hope and pray people of Europe in particular wake up (seems have to forget the bulk of Americans and Australians etc).

  2. Nuclear Risk says:

    Peter: Thanks for your encouragement. I see the source of the problem as much more due to sloppy thinking on everyone’s part, rather than a Machiavellian scheme by the military-industiral complex to make money. Of course, people are very good at fooling themselves into thinking that what is in their financial interests is what is right. (I know because I caught myself doing that – an important life-changing realization.) But it’s in no one’s real interests to increase the risk of civilization being destroyed, so even to the extent that people working in the M-I complex have fooled themselves, they would want very different policies IF they saw the long range implications. So, even then part of the solution is to apply critical thinking to counteract the current sloppy thinking.

  3. Tom Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Marty for continuing to write about the very frightening and absolute tragic situation that is going on in Ukraine. And, Peter, thank you for referring folks to a view of WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON at:


    I highly recommend this website and encourage everyone to spend some time with it. There are ALWAYS two sides to every story, but our mainstream media is lockstep with the neocons and liberal interventionists in voicing ONLY one-sided, misleading and false information. We are hearing non-stop propaganda. This is not only irresponsible, it is a travesty and it is incredibly dangerous (as you have often pointed out, Marty).

    Over 5000 people have been killed/slaughtered. The vast majority of the dead are folks in Eastern Ukraine who had asked Russia for help when a US-backed group of Neo-Nazi thugs violently ousted their democratically elected president! The US is clearly in the wrong here, and the actions we are taking are only adding fuel to the fire that WE and our EU friends were instrumental in starting. As usual, we are being sold a pack of lies. It’s time we wake up — before it’s too late.

  4. Nuclear Risk says:


    Good to hear from you! And thanks for your encouragement. I have fond memories of our times working together on these issues back in the 1980s. Hoping all is well with you.

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