A Dangerous Trend Line

For a number of years I have advocated a risk framework for reducing the danger of a Russian-American crisis escalating out of control to nuclear threats. One tool in that approach is to highlight early steps in accident chains which could lead to catastrophe and, instead of ignoring them, to treat them as early warning signs needing remedial action. Doing that is one goal of this blog, but a recent Gallup poll shows how miserably I (and others) are succeeding. Gallup’s accompanying news release starts out:

Russia now edges out North Korea as the country Americans consider the United States’ greatest enemy. Two years ago, only 2% of Americans named Russia, but that increased to 9% in 2014 as tensions between Russia and the U.S. increased, and now sits at 18%.

An article in yesterday’s Moscow Times notes a similar trend in Russia:

Meanwhile, the results of a recent Russian survey shows the feelings are mutual. Some 81 percent of Russians view the United States negatively, independent Moscow-based pollster the Levada Center revealed earlier this month. The findings represented an all-time high for the pollster, which has been conducting similar studies since 1990.

The Gallup news release concludes with a possible prescription for halting this accident chain before it progresses any closer to the nuclear abyss (emphasis added):

However, because Americans’ attitudes about Russia have changed substantially in the past and have been quite positive at times — which has not been the case for countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea — if Russian and American policy interests find more common ground, Americans’ views of Russia could recover quickly.

While the release doesn’t say what that “common ground” might be, mutual survival in the nuclear age would seem to top the list. Another common interest would be to alleviate the human suffering in Ukraine, something which can only be done by reining in both the pro-Russian separatists and the most virulently nationalistic elements within the Ukrainian militias.

Martin Hellman

If you agree that these ideas need wider dissemination, please consider sharing them via email, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and other social media. Thanks!

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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