The Reagan Administration’s 1980s crazy talk of “winning” nuclear war with “only” 20 million US dead produced a lot of anti-nuclear activism — all over the world. In Europe, hundreds of thousands marched against the placement of US Cruise and Pershing II missiles in NATO countries.
Fear of nuclear war and anger over presidential ignorance of it also produced the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF. The treaty banned nuclear-armed missiles in Europe with a range of 270-to-2970 miles. About 2,700 missiles were destroyed by 1991, a deal that weapons salesmen like President Trump don’t like.
What the British, German, Dutch and Belgian marching masses were so alarmed about was NATO’s plan to destroy Europe in order to save it. Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt explained it this way: “So-called ‘flexible response’ …. means that the West … says to the Soviet Union: ‘We threaten you with a military defense strategy which foresees the early use of so-called tactical nuclear weapons.’ That means for the Germans that the West in its self-defense would destroy Germany.”
Schmidt’s description was no exaggeration. In an Oct. 5, 2018 report by the Congressional Research Service, “flexible response” was explained similarly. “NATO’s strategy of ‘flexible response’… is designed,” the C.R.S. wrote, “to allow NATO to … be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, with the intent of slowing or stopping [opponents] if they … advanced into Western Europe.”
Now, President Trump says he will withdraw from the INF treaty because he claims Russia is in violation of it. Russia denies this, noting that research and development is not banned, that its new land-based cruise missile “fully complies” with the treaty’s requirements.
These questions could all be settled with negotiations, but President Trump wants to get contracts for new missiles signed the and the gusher of military spending pumping, so that electoral votes are bought and paid for this year, and in 2020. Last Feb. 12, the Prez boasted, “We’re increasing arsenals of virtually every weapon. If they’re not going to stop, we’re going to be so far ahead of anybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before.” Never mind that the president cannot speak English; he and Congress are handing hundreds of billions of your tax dollars to their friends.
• Boeing took down $14.6 billion for the year 2015, and last February, won a $6.5 billion contract from the Missile Defense Agency to complete an “a new missile field with 20 additional” ground-based interceptor rockets at Fort Greely, Alaska, according to the Washington Post. While missile defense systems have never worked, the Pentagon said the total Boeing contract would reach $12.6 billion through 2023.
• Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms merchant, is buried in money with $29.4 billion coming to it in 2015 under 66,000 contracts.
• Raytheon was obligated to get $12.3 billion that year, including $31.8 million 464 Excalibur cannon-fired munitions that will also be sold to Sweden, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.
• General Dynamics drank up $11.8 billion building warships.
• Northrop Grumman took down $9.5 billion, including the year’s portion of the (projected) $55 billion Long-Range Strike Bomber.
• United Technologies nailed a cool $1 billion for a few more F-35 fighter jet engines, but was obligated to get $6.6 billion for its 24,000 contracts in 2015.
With the public demanding affordable health care, better public schools, energy efficient cars, mass transit, and safe energy production, weapons builders could instead be putting their engineering expertise to good use. Enough of our wartime frenzy of bomb-building waste and fraud may again move millions to demand a reversal.
Martin Schulz, leader of the German Social Democrats who campaigned against Angela Merkel last year, was being reasonable in September 2017 when he said, “As chancellor, I will commit Germany to having the nuclear weapons stationed here withdrawn from our country. The cap on nuclear weapons in our country must be zero.”