Do We Face August 2023 … or August 1914? Stepping Back From the Brink of Nuclear War
Part 1 of 2
Longtime writing partners John Zmirak and Jason Jones, fixtures at The Stream, have a dialogue about the right approach for sane conservatives to take toward the war in Ukraine.
John Zmirak: We’re taking on a profoundly complex question, where the stakes could not be any higher: Avoiding a Third World War that might end civilization. Why can’t we come up with a quick and easy solution, which picks out the “good guys” and “bad guys,” and gives us a straightforward set of action points to demand from our leaders?
Jason Jones: I have one action point we can demand from our leaders immediately. We need a chorus of voices demanding a ceasefire. This disastrous, brutal, illegal, and clumsy Russian war of aggression must end. As President Trump said in his CNN town hall, “I want everyone to stop dying, Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying.” What is truly startling is that there has not been a single establishment voice calling for a cease-fire.
We hear calls for more weapons systems (which don’t punch me, John, I support), but what the people of Ukraine need is a cease-fire, a lasting armistice. And because this war has the potential to start WWIII the countries of the world, not just the G-7, not just NATO, but truly the countries of the world need a seat at the table. A lasting, just peace needs to be hammered out — with words not cluster bombs, or God forbid tactical nuclear weapons.
The loudest and clearest voices for peace are coming from populists like Trump, Tulsi Gabbard, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Cornel West, but to the embattled ears of Ukrainians, still ringing from Russian artillery shells, they sound more like Russian apologists than advocates for peace.
I think those of us who want an immediate end to the war need to begin by acknowledging the dignity, courage, and long-suffering of the people of Ukraine. They are the victims; no matter how you slice it, the people of Ukraine are being immolated for the ambitions, interests, and avarice of people who live a world away from Kyiv. Ukraine does not want to be in the war. That is why after occupation of Crimea, Donets and Luhansk in 2014, Kyiv did nothing to take those territories back.
But to your main point. What makes this challenging is the array of seemingly contradictory facts. Yes, over the past 25 years, NATO has marched steadily eastward, closer and closer to the Russian border. Former Soviet states have become NATO members, and the historical routes used to invade Russia all now, except Ukraine, fall under NATO’s umbrella.
Russians remember what most Americans never knew; they almost lost their country five times over the past several centuries: the Polish occupation of Moscow in 1610, the Swedish invasion of Russia in 1708, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, and the German invasions in 1914 and 1941. Russia’s ruling elite truly believes that if there is no Russian empire, there will soon be no Russia.
Russian Aggression, American Interference
John Zmirak: Not an irrational belief on their part, given the fanatical Russophobia among American elites. Russia was scapegoated for “stealing” the 2016 election for Trump. Then alleged Russian subversion was wielded as a club during the fraudulent Russia Collusion investigation. Meanwhile, China gave us COVID, and we apologized to them for dying of it.
Jason Jones: It’s true that NATO has moved ever eastward. But that is because Russia’s neighbors understand that Russian aggression westward is inevitable. If Putin’s goal was to keep Ukraine out of NATO, it was completely wrongheaded and ignored Ukrainian public opinion. In 2013, 18% of Ukrainians supported NATO membership. In 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of the Donbas, less than 48%. In 2019 before the war, only 40%. Today 83% of Ukrainians want to join NATO.
Ukraine was demilitarized by us. President Clinton insisted. He demanded that Ukraine dismantle all its nuclear weapons. Ukraine had the third biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons (after the USA and Russia). Up through 2008, Ukraine was destroying most of its air fighters and rockets. Why? At the insistence of the U.S. and its Western partners. If Ukraine still had all that armed potential now, Russia would never have invaded.
Avoiding War with Russia: Priorities 1, 2, 3 …
John Zmirak: As far as I’m concerned, avoiding a war with Russia is priority #1. It’s also #2, #3, #4, and so on down the line till maybe we hit #33 or something. You and I ran into a war-happy jingoistic neocon in D.C. at the Museum of the Bible. He was willing to risk a nuclear exchange with Russia to avoid that country “dominating Eastern Europe.” Russia isn’t now spreading atheistic Communism with international appeal, but mindless Slavic nationalism. I told him I’d rather see Russian troops occupying all of Western Europe from Scotland to Malta, from Ukraine to Gibraltar, than see one American city obliterated by nukes. If the Europeans (especially the Germans) don’t want to defend themselves from Russia, why should we risk the lives of millions of our citizens? What am I missing here?
Jason Jones: That neocon hack’s giddy, childlike confidence was the most interesting thing about him. It was as if he had been placed in a cryogenic chamber in 2002, woke up, and staggered over to the Museum of the Bible to entertain the both of us. The “great powers” are dancing on a minefield of strategic nuclear weapons, and more people are paying attention to Dancing with the Stars. The dancing needs to stop. We need a cease-fire in Ukraine. The shelling needs to stop, and the talking needs to begin.
To your question, I do think you are missing something. Rolling over to Putin’s aggression is not a safe path to peace and will increase the likelihood of a nuclear exchange. I know you were trolling the neocon orc with your comments on Russian troops in Scotland, but remember, France and the U.K. have over 200 nuclear weapons. And yes, Europe, especially Germany, need to shoulder more of the burden for their defense, and the Russian invasion seems to have kicked Germany into a higher gear.
John Zmirak: The only way to make the Europeans act like adult men is to stop treating them like bullied tweens and protecting them, with money we borrow from China.
Why Does Biden Want a Bloody Quagmire?
John Zmirak: The best outcome for everyone but the Biden crime family would have been an honest election in 2020, which kept President Trump in office and kept Putin out of Ukraine. Failing that, I would have preferred a swift and relatively bloodless Russian conquest of the territories occupied by Russian speakers. Then a peace treaty that kept Ukraine neutral.
But we got neither. Instead, we have a bloody quagmire which is making Blackrock and other war profiteers richer. And that is what the Biden administration, via General Milley, has openly suggested that it wants. A result, the killing of thousands of Christians. What do you think the motives of U.S. policy makers really are? How much of this is the result of the Biden family being subject to blackmail by Ukrainian elites with which it did corrupt deals?
Jason Jones: We need to be clear. The Biden family was not bribed. According to the confidential FBI source consulted by the head of Burisma, the Biden family was shaking down Ukraine like the Cosa Nostra shaking down an Italian grocery store in Queens in 1963. The Biden family’s dealings with Burisma reveal the bottomless avarice of our elite and why we failed to create the hoped-for Pax Americana in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union.
Our classless “elite” class, devoid of nobility, roams the world with a shopping cart like it’s Black Friday at Walmart. The James O’Keefe undercover video capturing the childish recruiter from Black Rock matter-of-factly stating, “Ukraine is good for business … . Russia blows up a Ukrainian grain silo; this is good for business. War is good for business … . It is exciting when things go wrong.”
Who Benefits? Not Ukrainians, But Corrupt and Heartless Americans
Jason Jones: So plainly stated, Ukrainian farmers being turned into pink dust puts a little more money in the pockets of thousands of ghouls’ pockets from Westchester, N.Y., to Northern Virginia. A lot of people are getting rich from this war, and they don’t live in Zaporizhzhia or Lviv; they live in Moscow and Great Falls, VA.
So, what are the true motives of U.S. policymakers? Like most people, most of them thoughtlessly go about their day advancing their own interests, working to impress their bosses, attempting to please their editors, trying to leave work early to beat rush hour traffic.
One would hope our President, Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of Defense would show some signs of being thoughtful of our security and the national interest. The Biden administration seems to take only two things concerning Ukraine seriously, prolonging the war and profiting off arms sales.
So what is our role as writers, my role as the director of a Christian human rights organization? To inspire solidarity with the people of Ukraine, not only so they get the weapon systems they need to defend themselves from Russian aggression but to go further and work for an immediate cease-fire. With the Presidential election looming, we have an opportunity to punch way above our weight and bring the killing to an end.
Why Does NATO Even Exist?
John Zmirak: You’ll agree, I think, that NATO (goaded by American neocons and neoliberals) grossly violated the terms by which Gorbachev peacefully pulled out of Eastern Europe. Instead of disbanding NATO (as you and I and Pat Buchanan called for at the time), we pushed it right up to Russia’s borders. How is a Ukraine aligned with nuclear-armed NATO any less provocative than a Cuba full of Russian missiles — which JFK was willing to risk a nuclear war to prevent? Are Russia’s sins any worse than NATO’s here?
Jason Jones: First, as stated above, NATO has relentlessly pushed eastward; to put it mildly, this inevitably upset Russia. But Russia shares much of the blame. Considering Russian brutality to the occupied republics of the Soviet era, the words and actions of Russian generals, political leaders, and thought leaders have only exacerbated fear of Russian aggression from Estonia to Romania.
Beginning around 2008, we saw a dramatic uptick in rhetoric from the Kremlin, denying the existence of the Ukrainian state and even its culture and ethnicity. Alexander Dugan, “Putin’s brain,” has called for destroying Ukraine to “the last person.” Dugan went on to call for attacks on Ukrainian civilians directly. This is what Russia is doing. Just this past week, Russian missiles fell on a Ukrainian apartment building in Lviv, western Ukraine, far from the battle front. In an address to the Russian press, Putin used a vulgar Russian expression (“Like it or not, take it, my beauty!”) for raping a corpse to describe what he planned on doing to Ukraine.
Of course, this war can easily and quickly escalate and that must be prevented at all costs. But the comparison with Cuba fails when we remember the relentless abuse the people of Ukraine have suffered at the hands of Russia. Castro did not fear the genocide of the Cuban people. The Cubans did not suffer genocide at the hands of Americans as the Ukrainians suffered during the Holodomor, a loss of at least 8 million lives in Stalin’s engineered famine. The people of Ukraine understandably fear annihilation “to the last man” at the hands of Russia. So yes, Russia’s sins are much worse.
John Zmirak: We could talk about how the futile and pointless U.S. invasion of Iraq, which devastated that faraway country and unleashed multiple genocides, compares to Putin’s war. But let’s continue this next time.
Part II coming soon.
Jason Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream. He is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”