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Why I am Going to Russia

Posted by Ryan Hall
06.15.16

By David Hartsough // Currently traveling to Russia with a citizen peace delegation organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives

The US and Russian governments are pursuing dangerous policies of nuclear brinkmanship. Many people believe we are closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

Thirty-one thousand troops from the US and NATO countries are engaged in military maneuvers on the Russian border in Poland – together with tanks, military planes and missiles. The US has just activated an anti-ballistic missile site in Romania which the Russians see as part of an American first strike policy. Now the US can fire missiles with nuclear weapons at Russia, and then the anti-ballistic missiles could shoot down Russian missiles shot toward the west in response, the assumption being only the Russians would suffer from nuclear war..

A former NATO general has said he believes there will be nuclear war in Europe within a year. Russia is also threatening use of its missiles and nuclear weapons on Europe and the US if attacked.

Back in 1962 when I met with President John Kennedy in the White House, he told us he had been reading The Guns of August describing how everyone was arming to the teeth to show the “other nations” they were strong and avoid getting embroiled in World War I. But, JFK continued, arming to the teeth was exactly what did provoke the “other side” and got everyone embroiled in that terrible war. JFK said to us in May 1962,”It is scary how similar the situation was in 1914 to what it is now “(1962) . I’m afraid we are back in the same place again in 2016. Both US and NATO and Russia are arming and engaging in military maneuvers on either side of Russia’s borders – in the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and the Baltic sea to show the “other” that they are not weak in the face of possible aggression. But those military activities and threats are provoking the “other side” to show they are not weak and are prepared for war – even nuclear war.

Instead of nuclear brinkmanship, lets put ourselves in the Russians’ shoes. What if Russia had military alliances with Canada and Mexico and had military troops, tanks, war planes, missiles and nuclear weapons on our borders? Would we not see that as very aggressive behavior and a very dangerous threat to the security of the United States?

Our only real security is a “shared security” for all of us – not for some of us at the expense of the security for “the other”.

Instead of sending military troops to the borders of Russia, let’s send lots more citizen diplomacy delegations like ours to Russia to get to know the Russian people and learn that we are all one human family. We can build peace and understanding between our peoples.

President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “I’d like to believe that the people of the world want peace so much that governments should get out of the way and let them have it.” The American people, Russian people, European people – all the world’s people – have nothing to gain and everything to lose by war, especially nuclear war.

I hope that millions of us will call on our governments to step back from the brink of nuclear war and instead, make peace by peaceful means instead of making threats of war.

If the US and other countries were to devote even half of the money we spend on wars and preparations for wars and modernizing our nuclear weapons stockpile, we could create a much better life not only for every American, but for every person on our beautiful planet and make the transition to a renewable energy world. If the US were helping every person in the world have a better education, decent housing and health care, this could be the best investment in security – not just for Americans, but for all people in the world we could ever imagine.


David Hartsough is the Author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist; Director of Peaceworkers; Co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce and World Beyond War; and participant in a Citizens Diplomacy delegation to Russia June 15-30 sponsored by the Center for Citizen Initiatives:  see www.ccisf.org for reports from the delegation and more background information.

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