Russian President Putin warned this past week of the potentially dangerous consequences if Washington and Moscow do not negotiate an extension to the New Start Treaty, which limits the total number of deployed warheads, missiles and bombers in both countries. It expires at the end of 2021. Democracy Now! reported a quote from Putin on the matter:
President Vladimir Putin: “No one has spoken with us. No formal process of talks is taking place. And it will all end in 2022.”
As discussed in my last blog post, the head of the DIA last month publicly accused Russia of conducting low-yield nuclear weapons tests in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. No evidence was provided to substantiate the allegation and representatives of a watchdog group subsequently refuted the accusation.
The accusations seem designed to provide justification for the U.S. to work on its own low-yield usable nuke. In related news, a revised version of the defense policy bill was introduced at the beginning of June that would prevent funding of such a nuke. Antiwar.com reported the following details:
A new version of the defense policy bill was introduced today in the House Armed Services Committee, and looks to stop all development of low-yield nuclear warheads, while severely limiting development of a new ballistic missile.
The Pentagon has been interested in the development of low-yield nuclear weapons for some time, and President Trump has also been interested in developing nuclear arms which would be practical to use as tactical, not strategic, arms.
The usability factor is why the developments are so controversial. Many are concerned that these developments would greatly lower the threshold for a US nuclear strike, and in the long run might make attacks involving nuclear weapons more commonplace worldwide.
The bill would also ban the system known as Conventional Prompt Global Strike Weapon, which would allow the U.S. to strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
The Atlantic recently reviewed a new documentary in which veterans of the atomic bomb tests during the Cold War era break their long government-decreed silence on the trauma and illness their experiences caused. The film is called “The Atomic Soldiers” and is directed by Morgan Knibbe.
From 1946 to 1992, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms.
After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.
In Knibbe’s film, some of these atomic veterans break the forced silence to tell their story for the very first time. They describe how the blast knocked them to the ground; how they could see the bones and blood vessels in their hands, like viewing an X-ray. They recount the terror in their officers’ faces and the tears and panic that followed the blasts. They talk about how they’ve been haunted—by nightmares, PTSD, and various health afflictions, including cancer. Knibbe’s spare filmmaking approach foregrounds details and emotion. There’s no need for archival footage; the story is writ large in the faces of the veterans, who struggle to find the right words to express the horror of what they saw during the tests and what they struggled with in the decades after.
Knibbe discusses how he got interested in the topic and how he came to make the film, including seeking out veterans to interview. There were several disturbing discoveries along the way, including the fact that the soldiers were apparently used as guinea pigs to find out the psychological and physical effects of atomic weaponry on humans, but he describes what struck him as the most shocking:
What appalled Knibbe the most was how the U.S. government failed the veterans. “Until this day, a lot of what has happened—and the radiation-related diseases the veterans have contracted and passed on to the generations after them—is still being covered up,” Knibbe said. “The veterans are consistently denied compensation.”
Watch this devastating 23-minute film here.
The campaign to help fund the publication of my forthcoming book “The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia and U.S.-Russia Relations” is ongoing. Thank you to Bob Spies for his $100 donation.
We still have a ways to go to reach the goal. All donations, large or small, are greatly appreciated in helping me get this book out to the world. Thank you.