For those pining for the good old days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and air raid drills, I have good news for you. IT’S BACK. Despite our delusions of safety and security, we have found ourselves in a new missile crisis. That we are in a crisis is apparent when we listen to the threats that have been coming from Russia. According to retired Air Force Colonel, Sam Gardiner, Russia had expected the US to intervene in Georgia and they were physically prepared to follow a doctrine that includes using tactical nuclear weapons. By invading Georgia, Russia wants RESPECT from the US (Col Gardiner Interview).
But there is more. Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons on Poland and Ukraine. One such threat has been made by General Yuri Baluyevsky, who is the Russian Armed Forces Chief Of Staff, last January 19 at a Russian military academy. It was made in response to what some Russians see as provocative actions made by the West such as moving on plans to place a ballistic missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic (Russia responds to provocations). Some see the American ballistic missile defense as threatening because it could be used as a first strike weapon (Chomsky on US missile defense system). General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the Deputy Chief Of Staff, recently made the same threat to Poland if they proceeded in accepting an American missile interceptor base (nuclear threat against Poland). And if that is not enough, last February, Vladimir Putin warned Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s President, that nuclear weapons would be aimed at Ukraine if they cooperated with America’s missile defense program (Russia responds to Ukraine's solidarity with the West). So though we may neither be hearing much about the severity of the threats on the news nor are we reinstituting air-raid drills where we hide under flammable wooden desks to protect us from a nuclear fireball, we are on track to repeat the risks we took during the Cuban Missile Crisis where the US military experienced its highest defensive condition status, Defcon 2, and barely avoided a nuclear war because of the refusal of a single Soviet submarine commander to use tactical nuclear weapons when his sub was under attack.
Our current missile crisis is comparable to the Cuban Missile Crisis in two ways. First, both missile crises center on the placement of missiles. The Cuban Missile Crisis was ignited when the US was able to photograph the placement of Soviet missiles with nuclear warheads in our neighbor south of Florida. Today’s missile crisis is mainly concerned with the future placement of an American interceptor missiles in what were former Soviet bloc countries. In addition, despite breaking a promise made by George H. W. Bush to then Russian President Gorbachev, NATO is expanding eastwards.
Second, the Golden Rule is providing a double-edged effect on the crisis. The Golden Rule, as stated by Jesus in Matthew 7:12, says that we are to treat others as we want them to treat us. The way in which the Golden Rule applied in the Cuban Missile crisis was that Russia’s placement of nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in October of 1962 was preceded by the placement of American Jupiter missiles in Turkey. So how the US threatened Russia by positioning missiles with nuclear weapons on Russia’s border was how Russia threatened the US by placing missiles in Cuba. In fact, the US response to the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba proved to be more risky than Russia’s response to the Jupiter missiles because unlike America, Russia did not conduct a blockade of Turkey.
The second edge of the Golden Rule’s sword here is that by actually treating others the way we want to be treated; the US alleviated the crisis by removing its missiles from Turkey and by promising not to invade Cuba. Russia agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba.
Our current missile crisis is grave. Though it is unlikely that we will have a showdown with the Russians over Georgia, the upcoming placement of US missile interceptor bases and other facilities in Eastern Europe will back the Russians into a corner. Not only will they be forced to maintain credibility by responding, they will feel sorely threatened. If Russia does attack Poland, NATO will be required to retaliate because Poland is a member; and if Russia’s attack includes nuclear weapons, then it will put the world on the verge of nuclear war. If Russia attacks Ukraine, then NATO might feel compelled to respond anyway because though Ukraine is not member, there are ties between the two. And if Russia attacks Ukraine with nuclear weapons, again the world will be on the brink of nuclear war.
Russia’s threats should not surprise us. After all, is not Russia treating us the way we have been treating others. Has not the US left the impression that Iran could be attacked and that assault could include nuclear weapons? And though the average American might see Russia’s fear of US missile interceptors being used in a first strike as incredulous, do not many see American fears that Iran would use its emerging weapon technology to attack Europe or Israel the same way? Add to the mix that America’s foreign policy has been violent and aggressive as seen in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, the placement of anti-missile technology in Russia’s neighboring states could realistically move Russia to act like a cornered animal.
The Golden Rule can either paint the picture of a dark and ominous future or it can serve as an escape pod from certain disaster. That is, a variation of the Golden Rule can tell us what to expect if we continue to attack and threaten others. But we can also use the Golden Rule to choose life by not threatening others. Just as we would not allow Mexico or Canada join the Russian Federation or accept Russian weapons, then we should not expect Russia to accept its neighbors to join NATO and house American weapons and bases. Either we will live in peace by cooperating in a positive reciprocity or we will die after arrogantly engaging in a negative one. Move over War On Islamofacists-terrorists-and-whatever-else-we-don’t-like, the big boys are back in town.