Nuclear Threats Escalate as NATO and Russia Plan Nuclear War Games

As nuclear powers escalate tensions surrounding the Ukraine war, the U.S. NATORussia and China are conducting nuclear war games. Meanwhile, anti-nuclear activists are calling on lawmakers and world leaders to “Defuse Nuclear War.” Their calls come on the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “The Kremlin is making nuclear threats that are completely reckless. At the same time, there are things that the U.S. government can and should do that would reduce the chances of nuclear war,” says Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of Meanwhile, Democratic leaders “are simply going along with this autopilot heading towards a precipice of nuclear annihilation globally.” His recent piece for Common Dreams is headlined “Don’t Just Worry About Nuclear War—Do Something to Help Prevent It.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.

AMY GOODMAN:This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

As we reported in headlines, a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin said today the four territories of Ukraine Russia recently claimed to have annexed will fall under the protection of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Russia’s warning came as the United States and NATOIn the skies above Belgium and the United Kingdom, nuclear war games were launched. Russia’s military is set to stage its own annual large-scale nuclear exercise called “Thunder” along Russia’s northwestern coast.

This comes as anti-nuclear activists gathered Friday in dozens of cities in front of congressional offices across the United States, at the U.N. and elsewhere to demand leaders “Defuse Nuclear War.” The protests coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For more, we’re joined in Berkeley, California, by Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, co-founder of His most recent piece for Common Dreams, “Don’t Just Worry About Nuclear War—Do Something to Help Prevent It.”

Why don’t you take us back 60 years? Talk about what unfolded over a month, and then make that connection to what we’re seeing today, Norm.

NORMAN SOLOMON:The world was at the edge of nuclear war in 1962 for 13 days. There were nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union that had been placed in Cuba. And because Khrushchev and Kennedy, the leaders of the two governments, were willing to back down from a confrontation, that’s why we’re able to even be here right now. John Kennedy made a famous speech at American University after the confrontation and stated that it was crucial for the survival of the planet not to back another nuclear power into a corner.

Yet, what we are seeing this year is the exact opposite. As you alluded to in the latest news, what we’re seeing now is an escalation of a game of nuclear chicken. There’s only one way to win, truly win, a game of nuclear chicken, and that’s not to play it. The Russian government and United States government are trying to intensify and escalate a nuclear chicken game that is not called a game. What’s at stake is, according to the latest scientific studies, about 99% of humanity. If there’s a thermonuclear war, then we can expect only 1%, because of nuclear winter, only 1% of the human beings on this planet to survive.

When we hear and see the rhetoric and posturing from both sides, we can see how autopilot this insanity, insanity, is, insanity on both sides. We should make it clear that the Russian government’s actions in Ukraine are reprehensible. It is not justified. This is a continuing war crime by Russia in Ukraine. And they are making — the Kremlin is making nuclear threats that are completely reckless. There are things the U.S. government could and should do to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war. These actions would not only end the escalation but actually decrease it. Treaties that the U.S. has pulled out of unilaterally — the second President Bush pulled out of the ABMTreaty, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002; Donald Trump in 2019 pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Both of these treaties were crucial in reducing the likelihood of nuclear war, especially in Europe.

So, I would sort of sum up that what we’re seeing this week is further escalation. The war games, the nukes war games that America has led, started yesterday. NATOThis is completely irresponsible. These annual — why do it now? This is the worst time. We know that Russia, according to reports will follow suit this month.

So, that’s why is launching today a campaign where people around the country are contacting their senators, the representatives, and saying, “Speak out against this war game madness that the United States is enabling through NATO, and insist on genuine diplomacy to reach a ceasefire.” This is what we need from constituents.

Let me summarize this by saying silence equals death. We know that from AIDS activism going back decades. This is global death and silence and passivity. That’s what the U.S. mass media encourage, and what the American political bipartisan establishment encourages in the United States. We’re supposed to sit back and watch while these irresponsible 535 people in Congress say virtually nothing about the need to cancel these nuclear war games.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ:Norm, I would like to know where the Democratic leadership stands regarding this issue. As you know, Donald Trump and George Bush were the Republican Presidents who renounced prior treaties at least limiting or reducing the number of nuclear weapons. But there’s been virtual silence from even supposed pro-peace members of Congress on where we’re heading right now. Some in the Third World believe that this is a European conflict, just as World War I was a European conflict that drew other countries into their wars. And I’m wondering what your sense is of where the progressives are in the Democratic Party right now?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yeah, it’s a European war that’s threatening people all over the globe.

The Democratic Party leadership does not provide leadership. They’re simply going along with this autopilot heading towards a precipice, really, of nuclear annihilation globally. Both parties are led in part by people, and Congress is populated by people who have been checked out. They are part and parcel of the mentality that we all go along to get along military-industrial complex. These major contractors make billions and billions every month in profits. So, you know, we used to say during the Vietnam War, “War is profitable. Invest your son.” Well, now we could say that nuclear war preparation is profitable. These corporations in the aerospace industry are making massive killings to prepare for omnicide. So, this is what’s so troubling to so many people.

I would say that, although it is important, we have a fascistic Republican Party. They must be defeated in the midterms. However, it is important to be clear that the Democratic Party, as the Republican Party, is governed by people who lead us towards a nuclear brink. And it’s especially injurious because we’ve got a Democrat in the White House. And as I mentioned, that’s why at we’re launching this campaign to tell every member of Congress, from constituents, we want you to demand an end to these war games and have genuine negotiations. That demand should also be directed to the Biden White House. It is absurd for progressives to give the Democrats in Congress a pass. Many Democrats, including those in the leadership of Progressive Caucus won’t speak out against the rush towards nuclear chicken, escalating the game by the Biden White House. This is completely irresponsible. I’m old enough to remember Senator Wayne Morse. I went to a hearing in 1964 and skipped school. He was a Democrat and called out the madness of a Democrat in Oval Office. Where are the senators or representatives in Congress who are willing and capable to do that, even though the president is part of their party?

This is a suicide approach. It involves everyone in, and increases the risk. We will start by talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Experts say this is at least as serious as the 1962 crisis, and possibly even more so. It’s spread out over a longer period of time. So, just because somebody has a “D” after their name, just because they’re a member of the Progressive Caucus, that doesn’t change the fact that their silence is deadly.

I would like to urge all constituents to not only visit but also to message your senators or representatives within one-minute about the need to end war games and have real diplomacy. Then, call them up. And I’m very sorry to say that in almost all instances you will find that your senators and representatives, in their current mindset, will say, “Oh no, we can’t interfere with NATO.” Well, this is a kind of madness. And if —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Norm Solomon, what do you —

NORMAN SOLOMON: — those leaders won’t lead, then we have to have leadership —


NORMAN SOLOMON: — from the grassroots.

AMY GOODMAN: Norm, what do you say to those who say it’s Putin who’s threatening nuclear war? You have, of all things, President Biden at a Democratic fundraiser claiming that we are facing Armageddon. You wrote a piece with Dan Ellsberg, “To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles—Eliminate Them.” What do you say to those who say this is not in the U.S.’s control because Putin is the one threatening this?

NORMAN SOLOMON:Absolutely, Putin is being reckless, irresponsible as well as extremely dangerous. That doesn’t change the fact that the United States is also in a game of nuclear chicken. That’s reflected in these NATORight now, there are nuclear war games. This is not a zero sum game in which we gain propaganda and the other side loses. There are concrete steps that the United States government can take today to lessen the likelihood of nuclear war. This is clearly in everyone’s best interest, both in this country as well as around the globe.

AMY GOODMAN:Five seconds.

NORMAN SOLOMON:Yes, we could take ICBMs off the hair-trigger alarm. We could also reopen treaties that Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. away from. We can do this.

AMY GOODMAN:We want to thank Norman Solomon, the Institute for Public Accuracy and Forever Kindly for being here. And we’ll link to your piece, “Don’t Just Worry About Nuclear War—Do Something to [Help] Prevent It.” I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Juan, Happy Birthday!