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We Survived The Last Nuclear Standoff Through Compromise And De-Escalation
Vladimir Putin has signed documents finalizing the Russian annexation of four regions in eastern Ukraine, meaning there's now a western-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive underway to recapture what Russia officially considers parts of its homeland.
Moscow has made it clear that it will use all weapons systems at its disposal to defend against attacks on territories it claims as its own, which could include nuclear weapons. Depending on if and how that happens and what kind of day all the relevant decision makers are having when it does, there is a distinct possibility that a chain of events could follow which leads to the end of the world.
This happens as Ukraine's President Zelensky signs a decree officially ruling out the possibility of any peace talks with Putin, who recently publicly requested such talks. The US empire, which has been driving this proxy war from the beginning, is also not currently engaged in peace talks with Moscow. Things are accelerating faster and faster toward the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen, and as far as we know nobody's got a foot anywhere near the brake pedal.
Meanwhile, everyone has gone insane. The propaganda blanket has been laid on so thick since this war started that it has become the mainstream position that only continual escalation is acceptable. Public calls for de-escalation and detente are met with accusations of Kremlin loyalty, as we just saw with the vitriolic responses to Elon Musk's online proposal of possible terms to end the war.
There's a popular post going around Twitter right now by a pro-Kyiv pundit named Thomas Theiner which sums up the delusional sentiments we've been seeing on this front.
"I grew up during the Cold War. I studied the Cold War," Theiner writes. "When the russians/Soviets say: 'We will use nuclear weapons!', the only answer must be: 'Try and die.' All else is seen as weakness by the kremlin and will lead to the russians using nukes."
Theiner is wrong, and has made no serious study of the cold war (or to be more precise the last cold war, since we're in another one now). The only reason we survived the most dangerous part of that era was because of compromise and a sincere commitment to de-escalation, not because anyone was yelling "Try and die" at Moscow.
Back in 2013 The Atlantic published a solid article titled "The Real Cuban Missile Crisis," subtitled "Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong." Its author Benjamin Schwartz details how the crisis was peacefully resolved not because JFK was on the phone yelling "Try and die" at Nikita Khrushchev, but because he secretly cut a deal to remove the Jupiter missiles the US had stationed in Italy and Turkey which provoked the 1962 incident in the first place.
Moscow perceived that the only reason why that type of midrange weapon would be placed in such a way would be if the US was planning a nuclear first strike to disarm Russia, and Schwartz writes that that suspicion was entirely well-founded: the Kennedy administration had indeed strongly contemplated such a strike during the Berlin crisis of 1961. In response to this threat, as well as the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, Khrushchev moved ballistic missiles to Cuba, whose discovery led to the tense standoff which brought us far closer to nuclear annihilation than most of us care to contemplate. A secret deal was struck whose nature wouldn't become public knowledge until decades later, resulting in both sides removing their offending missile placements.
You and I are alive today because Kennedy backed down from the brink and struck a compromise (as well as our sheer dumb luck at having one cool-headed Soviet officer on a nuclear-armed submarine refuse to deploy the weapon while being bombarded by the US navy during the standoff between JFK and Khrushchev). Kennedy conditioned his acquiescence to Moscow's demands on assurances that his doing so would be kept secret, because then, as now, there were tremendous political pressures not to be seen as "backing down" and "looking weak" before the enemy.
But as history tells us, it's not caveman chest-thumping that has allowed us to remain alive on a planet full of stockpiled armageddon weapons. It's the sensibility to know when to compromise and relent rather than pushing continuously toward the edge.
Detente used to be a household term. It was a routine subject of mainstream political discourse; mainstream politicians were expected to have a clear and articulate position on the diplomatic easing of tensions with the USSR. Now people don't even know detente is a thing. I say that word to people and it's clearly the first time they've ever encountered it, and the concept itself is completely alien to them. People I talk to tend to believe the only options on the table are either (A) continuing to escalate this insane game of nuclear chicken with Russia, or (B) giving Putin everything he wants. They're completely unaware that a third option of negotiation, compromise and de-escalation exists, much less that it has historically been viable and successful.
This is entirely by design. People don't know that detente is an option because the political/media class virtually never mentions it anymore. The news media are supposedly responsible for helping to create an informed populace, but because their real job is propaganda they generally end up doing the exact opposite. If the public were permitted to become widely aware that these games of nuclear brinkmanship are not a necessity but a choice that is being made on their behalf, and that their leaders are rolling the dice on their lives and the lives of everyone they know and love for no other reason than to work toward securing unipolar planetary hegemony, they would no longer consent to this madness.
If people really understood how much is being risked here, and how little it benefits them, Washington DC would be on fire right now. That's why their understanding is continually manipulated and obscured by the managers of empire.
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Feature image via the JFK Library and Museum.