Friday, January 25th, 2019 at 6 p.m., Lake Forest Park’s Third Place Book will present Betsy Bell, author of Open Borders: A personal story of love, loss and anti-war activism. On the program with her will be Anne Stadler, author of an essay included in Open Borders. Bell’s is the story of how a middle-aged wife and mother finds herself in a world on the brink of nuclear destruction. Anne’s is the story of creating the first Space Bridge simultaneous television broadcast between the US and the USSR, 1985. A powerful presentation about ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things to prevent nuclear war. An inspiration for our time.
A New York Times report is worth publishing here, fellow campaigners. The threat of nuclear accident is far greater than I imagined or understood. Take a look at this:
WASHINGTON — After the United States delivered an ultimatum to Russia last week that it was preparing to abandon a landmark weapons treaty, drawing a combative response from President Vladimir V. Putin, the specter of a rekindled nuclear arms race was widely seen as a rewind of the Cold War.
But that encompasses only one slice of the problem — and perhaps the easiest part to manage.
The United States and Russia no longer have a monopoly on the missiles that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev agreed in 1987 to ban with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or I.N.F., agreement. Today, China relies on similar missiles for 95 percent of its ground-based fleet, and Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Taiwan are among the 10 states with similar, fast-growing arsenals.
In a reflection of the Trump administration’s view of how to navigate a new, more threatening global order, Washington seems uninterested in trying to renegotiate the treaty to embrace all the countries that now possess the weapons, which can carry conventional or atomic warheads. Instead, it is moving to abandon the accord and, with an eye on China, deploy in Asia the sorts of arms it pulled from Europe in the perilous days before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The administration blames Russian violations — denied by Moscow — for the demise of what until now has been considered one of the most successful of the Cold War arms control agreements. But the bigger issue is that President Trump wants to throw off what he sees as constraints from countering other rising powers, principally China.
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., then the commander of United States forces in the Pacific and now ambassador to South Korea, underlined that concern in testimony before Congress last year. “We are being taken to the cleaners by countries that are not signatories,” he said.
The treaty, he said, restricts the United States from building a new class of conventional and nuclear weapons to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific, while Beijing, the adversary it now worries about the most, faces no such limits.
But the fear among arms control advocates is not just that the I.N.F. treaty will unravel. A much larger one — the New Start agreement, which brought American and Russian nuclear weapons to record-low levels of 1,550 deployed intercontinental ballistic weapons when it went into full effect this year — could also soon collapse. That accord, negotiated by President Barack Obama, expires a month after the next presidential inauguration. On Thursday night, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph F. Dunford Jr., raised doubts for the first time that it would be extended.
“It’d be best if Russia would comply with the I.N.F., which would set the conditions for a broader conversation about other arms control agreements, to include the extension of Start,” he said at an event at The Washington Post. “It’s very difficult for me to envision progress in extending Start II,” he added, misremembering the name of the existing treaty, “if the foundation of that is noncompliance with the I.N.F. treaty.”
The Trump administration said last week that Russia had 60 days to come into compliance with the I.N.F. treaty. After that period, the United States will feel free to “suspend its obligations” under the accord, the American ambassador to Russia, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., said at a briefing for reporters on Thursday.
“Russia must return to full and verifiable compliance, or their failure to do so will result in the demise of the I.N.F. treaty,” he said. “But we should be clear: Russia has not shown any indication so far that it seeks to return to full compliance.”
Yet Mr. Huntsman and Andrea Thompson, the under secretary for arms control and international security, made no mention on Thursday of any plans to amend the treaty to include the host of new players.
In response to the American ultimatum, Mr. Putin, hours before the funeral on Wednesday of George Bush, the American president who dismantled thousands of tactical nuclear weapons that were designed to fight a Soviet invasion, declared that he was ready to retaliate in kind.
“It seems our American partners,” Mr. Putin said, “believe that the situation has changed so much” that the Trump administration now wanted to build its own arsenal of intermediate-range nuclear weapons. “What’s our response?” Mr. Putin asked rhetorically in televised remarks. “It’s simple. In that case, we will also do this.”
Administration officials have said that they see no indication that either side will blink, or even talk to each other, about the implications of an impending reversal. Some officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say that the descent into reflexive animosity is the inevitable result of Mr. Putin’s determination to restore his country’s arsenal and Mr. Trump’s paralysis on Russia, since the accusations swirling in the special counsel inquiry raise new suspicions about every conversation or negotiation he enters into with the Kremlin.
The treaty’s origins were rooted in the Soviet deployment in 1977 of a mobile missile called the SS-20, devised to target Europe. Each missile had three nuclear warheads — each of which could be aimed at a different city — and many more missiles of varying ranges emerged. Negotiations started under Jimmy Carter, but gained momentum under Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.
When the two leaders signed the I.N.F. treaty in 1987, its scope surprised almost everyone: It banned all land-based missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or 310 to 3,420 miles, both nuclear-tipped and conventional. As a result, Washington demolished 846 missiles, and Moscow 1,846 — and Europe breathed a sigh of relief.
At the time of the treaty’s signing, China was barely a consideration. It had a handful of intercontinental missiles that could reach the United States and a few dozen intermediate-range missiles. But in the intervening decades, that changed drastically, as Beijing sought to intimidate Taiwan, exert influence across East Asia and try to keep American ships far from Chinese shores.
One question has come up at all four of the book launch events since Open Borders came out Oct. 16th: what can I do to prevent nuclear war? The question is slow to surface as audience members old enough to remember begin to relive the frightening times in Seattle in the 1980s when children were practicing duck and cover in their classrooms and bomb shelter signs appears on the walls of buildings downtown.
What can one do? Get involved in the anti-nuclear weapon movement through Washington Against Nuclear Weapons WANW, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibiltiy, Earth Care not War Fare and Ground Zero to name a few. Find their next meeting on the calendar under the menu tab “calendar”.
Where does the money come from to keep the nuclear war machine going? Following the money may be the most effective way to reverse current policy. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons recently published a study revealing the money path. I encourage you to take a look at their findings. One darling of personal finance and family investment (my husband and I began building our nest egg with a $25 a month contribution back in the 1970s) is Vanguard. In fact, I just counseling my grandson to begin his investment program with a Vanguard account and promised to match his monthly contributions. I was shocked and dismayed to find Vanguard in the top ten of the companies investing in nuclear weapons.
ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn: “If you have been wondering who benefits from Donald Trump’s threats of nuclear war, this report has that answer. These are the companies that stand to profit from indiscriminate mass murder of civilians. We grow less safe while they cash in on chaos by banking on Armageddon.”
What can I do to prevent nuclear war? Call your broker. Then write to the company after you pull your money out and explain why you have left them. Even if your account is only a pittance, your opinion will sting, register a welt that burns the skin. Enough of these welts make even a very large company uncomfortable. Perhaps even uncomfortable enough to change.
Thirty excited and curious people turned up last Tuesday, Oct. 23rd, 2018 at the University of Washington bookstore in the U District to hear Betsy Bell talk about her family’s experience during the final decade of the Cold War, 1980-1990 as written in her memoir, Open Borders: a personal story of love, loss and anti-war activism.
If you missed this program, come to St. Mark’s Cathedral Shop, 12:15, Nov. 11th Or Homestreet Bank, SW Alaska branch in West Seattle, 6 – 7:30, Nov. 14th Presentations and book signing.
Professor Eric Johnson began the program with a talk anchoring the historic context of Open Borders within the larger frame: the end of WWII to the arrival of the first nuclear submarine in Puget Sound.
Lack of trust and mutual understanding of how nations should be governed –communism or capitalism — divided the West from the Socialist Soviet Republics within months of the Allied forces defeat of the Axis powers.
Russia detonated an Atomic Bomb and the arms race was on. It was September, 1949.NATO on the west and the Warsaw Pact on the east. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile bases, US Naval fleets, Strategic Air Command and the building of the Berlin wall in 1961 divided the world.
Even those of us who lived through these frightening developments appreciated the historic overview. The younger people in the audience had only learned of these events in their high school world history classes.
Betsy took the mike to describe the response of Seattle citizens, friends and fellow parents, teachers, lawyers, doctors, ordinary people who are the characters in her memoir. (May I speak of myself in the third person for the purposes of this post?)
The reader of Open Borders travels with the band of tourists who venture behind the Iron Curtain to greet hosts in Moscow and Seattle’s Sister City, Tashkent. Our trip in 1983 unleashed a plethora of friendship exchanges between the USSR and Seattle. Dr. Rosh Doan was on hand to speak of his family’s residential stay in Tashkent, Seattle’s Sister City in 1985 as part of the medical exchange.
It was a wonderful evening, rich with discussion about what can be done; indeed, what a new group of people must do now to reverse this new and more threatening Cold War. We must end nuclear weapons as a military option.
Do good work,
Please share this post with your friends around the country. I hope to take this book on the road.
October 23rd, 6 – 8 p.m. University of Washington Bookstore, 4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105. Meet the author, Betsy Bell, and engage in a conversation about Citizen Diplomacy in the face of nuclear war in the 1980s. Joining her on a panel will be Prof. Eric Johnson of the UW history department and Dr. Roscius Doan, founder of a medical exchange program in Tashkent in the 80s. Please join us.
November 11th, 12:15 – 2 Saint Mark’s Cathedral Shop, 1245 10th Ave. E, Seattle, WA 98102. Meet the author, Betsy Bell, and engage in a conversation about memoire and history with Dick Carter, one of the essayists included in Open Borders and UW Professor Elena Campbell, History Department.
November 14, 6 – 7:30, Homestreet Bank, 4022 SW Alaska Street, Seattle, WA 98116 co-sponsored by the West Seattle Chamber of commerce.
Please pre-order the book at Amazon, Elliott Bay, Third Place Books or the Indiebound store nearest you. If you are interested in reading a proof copy and writing a review on any of these sites, including Goodreads, please notify me for either an electronic version or a hard copy. I’d appreciate your reviews prior to the events. Thank you, thank you.