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The Nuclear Dimension of the Balkan War


Dear friends,

I have held off relaying the many excellent items I have received on the Balkan war. The issue is extremely complex and drags scarce attention away from Y2K work. I felt that with so much disagreement among people I respected, I couldn't offer any clarity to all of you on my list. As with most wars, what I see most vividly is the application of force (and money for force) after years of failing to do intelligent bridgebuilding, healing, nurturance of democracy and human-to-human support (and failing to provide money for those long-term social investments). I also see those same failures in dozens of other places, where we will probably see wars in the near future -- unless we change our obsessively short-term, narrow self-interested thinking.

Anyway, I had concluded that Y2K would ultimately generate far more human suffering and social disruption than the Balkan war. Given the little time we have to prepare for Y2K -- and the fact that so many other people are attending to the war -- I believed that those few of us working on Y2K should keep our focus there.

The material below makes me doubt that judgment. It describes the nuclear threat associated with the Balkans. Although I am still planning to keep my focus on Y2K (and the transformational issues associated with it), I am less sure that Y2K will cause more disruption than the Balkan war. I pass this material on so that each of you can make your own judgment. These are indeed difficult times.

I was a peace activist during the sixties and eighties. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) -- the source of the first article below -- was one of the most respected peace groups around. It was co-led by Harvard cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown and Gorbachev's cardiologist Dr. Evgenie Chazov (who had also ministered to Gorbachev's two predecessors). Its work had a profound influence on Gorbachev, and thus on the end of the Cold War. It won the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a very trustworthy source.

I don't know the person who wrote the second article, but in light of the first one, it provides interesting complementary information. The picture painted by these two reports is great cause for concern. The new Russian hatred and fear of Americans, caused by the bombings of Serbia, was confirmed to me last night by a friend who has just returned from a year there.

It is time to use our voices.




Wendy Tanowitz
May 22, 1999
IPPNW statement--please read and circulate!

US-Russian relations at 'most dangerous juncture' "BOMBINGS REIGNITE NUCLEAR WAR FEARS" by Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford Times-Colonist MAY 13, 1999 page A15

I am writing with an enormous sense of urgency and dread. I have just been at a seminar in Moscow, followed by one at the Olof Palme Institue in Stockholm. The meetings have convinced me we are on the brink of nuclear war by the unintentional escalation of the war against Yugoslavia.

Only western press and television coverage does not portray the significance of the change in Russian policy regarding nuclear weapons. The media imply that Russian warnings of a looming world war, and their refusal to ratify START II, are the usual political threats to gain concessions from the U.S. and loans from the International Monetary Fund.

This analysis does not reflect the profound change in public opinion expressed even by Moscow members of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. One of our long-term IPPNW doctors, Dr. Davidenko, has changed from advocating nuclear disarmament to advocating nuclear deterrence for Russia.

Our meeting with Aleksander Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Defence Committee of the Russian State Duma, left us deeply concerned. Arbatov stated that U.S.-Russian relations, in the wake of NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, are at the "worst, most acute, most dangerous juncture since the U.S.-Soviet Berlin and Cuban missile crises."

He states that START II is dead, co-operation with NATO is frozen, co-operation on missile defence is out of the question, and Moscow's willingness to co-operate on non-proliferation issues is at an all-time low. Moreover, anti-U.S. sentiment in Russia is real, deep and more wide-spread than ever, and the slogan describing NATO action -"today Serbia, tomorrow Russia," is "deeply planted in Russian's minds." Arbatov was bitter about 10 years of wasted opportunities on both sides, with disarmament talks completely stalled even before this crisis.

Scientist, politicians, doctors and generals all told us the same thing - that NATO bombings of Serbia have set back disarmament 20 years. Some said that India and Pakistan are safe now they have nuclear weapons and that other states like North Korea will step up their nuclear weapons programs. Officials from Minatom, the Russian atomic energy agency, have indicated their great concern about some 22 nuclear reactors in the region of conflict. A bomb hitting a reactor by accident would cause a catastrophe worse than Chernobyl..

Government spokesmen told us repeatedly that Russia will not allow the bombings to continue for another month, and that because their conventional forces are in tatters, Russia must rely on its nuclear weapons. I must ask, "if these are idle threats, what distinguishes them from real threats?" The credibility of the people we spoke with has convinced me that the threats are serious.

Opinion is divided in most countries, even in peace organizations, about whether the NATO bombings were a humanitarian effort to stop a genocide or an act of aggression by NATO, but their impact on nuclear weapons policy is an extremely serious development. Most worrisome to us was the consistency of the statements from speakers at the Moscow seminar and those we met later in ministries of foreign affairs and health.

The single exception was Dr. Evgenie Chazov. He said we must renew our efforts for nuclear disarmament in this very dangerous situation. Dr. Chazov said we are back where we were in 1981 when he and American cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown founded IPPNW, but our work will be more difficult now.

The Russian speakers deplored ethnic cleansing and did not support Milosovic, but Dr. Serguei Kapitsa, a scientist famous for his weekly television show, stated that Russians feel a sense of betrayal by the West and a profound loss of confidence in treaties and in the United Nations because NATO took this action outside the UN.

Previously confident that Russia was moving toward integration with Europe, they focused their security concerns only on their southern and eastern boundaries. Now they perceive their primary threat from the West.

Officials in Foreign Affairs (Arms Control and Disarmament) told us that Russia has no option but to rely on nuclear weapons for its defence because its conventional forces are inadequate. When I said that if Russia used even a single nuclear weapon the U.S. would respond with hundreds or thousands of missiles, they nodded and said "Yes, it would be suicidal, but how else can we defend ourselves?"

As I left Moscow, I felt the same dread I experienced in the Reagan years, with a similar sense of unreality. While the Russians are comparing this situation to the Cuban missile crisis, journalists in the West tell me that the war is almost over now that negotiations including the Russians are under way. Why are they reassured when Milosevic has not agreed to anything, and the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade has added even greater tensions to this war?

Even if the bombings stop now, the changes in Russia's attitude toward the West, its renewed reliance on nuclear weapons with thousands on high alert, and its loss of confidence in international law leave us vulnerable to catastrophe.

Those of us who live in NATO countries must convince our governments to stop the bombings until negotiations can bring about a settlement. This crisis makes de-alerting nuclear weapons more urgent than ever. To those who say the Russian threat is all rhetoric, I reply that rhetoric is what starts wars.

The global situation is the most urgent crisis of our time. We must mobilize all or networks to stop this bombing before we slide into the final world war.

[Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford is co-president of the Nobel Peace Prize IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War)



By Carol Moore

"I told NATO, the Americans, the Germans: Don't push us toward military action. Otherwise there will be a European war for sure and possibly world war.'' Russian President Boris Yeltsin, April 6, 1999

"In the event that NATO and America start a ground operation in Yugoslavia, they will face a second Vietnam, I do not want to forecast what is going to start then. I cannot rule out a third world war.'' Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, April 17, 1999

"If NATO goes from air force to ground force it will be a world catastrophe. (Russia) has never felt such anti-Western, anti-European feelings." First Deputy Russian Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, April 25, 1999.

"You have to understand that if we want to cause you a problem over this, we could. Someone, we don't know who, could send up a missile from a ship or a submarine and detonate a nuclear weapon high over the United States. The EMP (electromagenetic pulse that destroys electronic and computer equipment) would take away all your capability." Vladimir Lukin, Chairman of the Russian State Duma Foreign Policy Committee, late April, 1999 [NOTE: This quote was sourced by Carol Moore in another email as coming from Representative Kurt Weldon (R-PA) who led an early May delegation of U.S. congressional representatives to meet with members of the Russian State Duma to discuss ways to end the US-NATO bombings. According to Moore, Weldon relayed this Lukin statement in a Q&A response after his luncheon speech at the May 18th Cato Institute conference on "NATO's Balkan War" which Moore attended.]

"Just let Clinton, a little bit, accidentally, send a missile. We will answer immediately. Such impudence! To unleash a war on a sovereign state. Without Security Council. Without United Nations. It could only be possible in a time of barbarism." Boris Yeltsin, May 7, 1999

Despite these explicit threats from top Russian officials, the United States and NATO is considering putting ground troops into Yugoslavia. Can nuclear war be far behind? Below are four reasons besides the threats, which some dismiss as bluster, that US-NATO aggression towards Yugoslavia may result in the deaths of two or three billion people worldwide--as well as, if there is any justice, the dissolution of the United States and Russian governments.


During 1998 President Clinton threatened or ordered bombing attacks on Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan that coincided with initial allegations of adultery, his admission of adultery, the House of Representatives' vote on impeachment and the televising of Juanita Broaddrick's credible allegation that Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton raped her in 1978. Although Clinton escaped impeachment, he continues to face jeopardy: leaked FBI files that he had raped three other women and assaulted a number of others; reporters hounding these women to speak out; federal investigators interrogating former Clinton business partners and Chinese government-linked campaign contributors; a forthcoming Congressional report on Clinton's laxity in stopping Chinese government spying at U.S. weapons facilities; reports that Clinton allowed China to legally import nuclear weapons manufacture equipment.

Clinton doubtless saw a double benefit in warring against Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic-he could distract the press and public from his scandals and create the historical legacy of a great leader in wartime. Despite military and CIA warnings that bombing Serbia would drive Serbs to expel hundreds of thousands of Albanians from Kosovo and kill thousands more, Clinton ordered the bombing. Serbia responded as predicted. Yet most Clinton news stories now focus on his role as military leader of the humanitarian effort to help Kosovo's Albanians. Clinton's wagging the dog has destabilized the area and enraged Russia, which still has 6000 plus nuclear weapons, mostly pointed at the U.S. Wars have a habit of escalating faster than their participants planned or anticipated. Clinton's habit of wagging the dog could escalate to worldwide nuclear war within a few short weeks.


The Russian economy is a shambles, dominated by a few politically-adroit bankers and a huge class of criminals who plague honest businesses; government, businesses and individuals rely heavily on bartering goods and services. Government services regularly fail to pay employees, pensioners, military officers and conscripts-even those who control its nuclear weapons. Russia's conventional forces and weapons are deteriorating and its armies are poor and hungry; only its massive arsenal of 6000 plus nuclear weapons poised for delivery gives it military credibility. (The U.S. has over 8000 nuclear weapons.)

The Russian people have been infuriated by NATO attacks on their longtime friend and ally Yugoslavia. Thousands have demonstrated in the streets; one group attempted to launch a grenade attack against the American embassy. Russia is promising humanitarian aid to Serbia and sending a spy ship to the Adriatic ocean off Albania. Russians are volunteering to fight on the Serbs' side. Rumors that Russia will send Serbia weapons abound. Russian Premier Boris Yeltsin has threatened to re-target nuclear weapons on Europe, brought out plans for battlefield nuclear weapons and repeatedly warned of the possibility of world war. Russian, China, India and other nations are discussing banding together against the U.S. and NATO in new security alliances.

Authoritarian and ultra-nationalist leaders, both communist and fascist, promise Russians that if elected in the year 2000 they will right the economy and punish NATO and U.S. aggressors. This forces Russia's current leaders to take a strong stand.


The U.S. and Russia both have a nuclear policy of "launch on warning." This means that less than 15 minutes after detecting a possible missile attack, their militaries must launch all 14000 nuclear weapons or possibly loose them to a first strike by the other side. U.S. leaders have less than 15 minutes to decide if satellites and warning systems are detecting a real attack or merely detecting an innocent phenomena, including a minor glitch in one of hundreds of computers or thousands of software programs. As we shall see, Russian leaders have even less time. (China has nuclear weapons but does not have launch on warning.)

In the last 30 years there have been several incidents which would have led to nuclear war had not clear thinking human beings decided the warning systems were in error. In 1979 a nuclear war simulation tape in a NORAD computer was interpreted to be a real nuclear attack and for 6 minutes emergency preparations for nuclear retaliation were made until the error was discovered. In 1980 a flawed 64-cent chip in telephone switching hardware at NORAD started sending alarming messages to U.S. command centers that a nuclear attack was under way. Defense Department memoranda and a General Accounting Office report have described numerous data, equipment, and software errors in missile warning systems over the last two decades.

In 1983, a Russian satellite interpreted sun glare off clouds as a U.S. nuclear attack and only a lower officer's decision the U.S. had no reason to attack prevented him from reporting such an attack. In January, 1995, Russian President Yeltsin was alerted after radar detected an unexpected missile launch and was close to a decision to launch when the missile went out to sea. It was discovered military leaders had failed to pass on Norway's alert that it would be launching a scientific satellite that day.

Today Russia has only three operational satellites and an outdated ground-based radar system which together fail to cover all possible missile entry routes from land and sea. This makes the Russian military and leaders particularly paranoid and gives them as little as 5 minutes to decide if they are under nuclear attack and launch missiles. Any international situation which makes the Russians or U.S. nervous makes it more likely that the next missile warning error will send 14000 nuclear missiles aloft.


On January 1, 2000 a large portion of Russian satellites and tracking devices may go down for days, weeks or months because of Year 2000-related computer problems; so may their already shaky command and control and communications systems. Those of the U.S. also may be compromised to a lesser extent. Both sides probably will experience a number of false warnings of nuclear attacks. Recognizing this problem, Russia and the U.S. were working on a missile-warning plan that would reassure both sides that an attack was not underway. However, after the bombing of Serbia, angry Russians vowed not to cooperate with the U.S. Without such cooperation, unsure of how their computers will function after January 1st, and watching NATO and American troops fighting Serbs and Russians in Kosovo, both sides' militaries could be tempted to pursue a first strike against the other's military targets before January 1-a Y2K "use it or lose it" strategy. Even if negotiations end the war in Yugoslavia, we could have an accidental nuclear war unless all nuclear weapons are de-alerted and the launch on warning strategy is abandoned.

There may not be much time left to prevent WWIII!! Protest to Survive!!

For more information about Clinton's scandals go to:

Progressive Review (search "rape" or "China" and "Clinton"):
CapitolHillBlue (search "rape" or "China" and "Clinton"):
"Clinton Scandals" includes articles on rapes:
Go to Washington Post and search "China" "nuclear" "Clinton":

For more information about near-nuclear war accidents go to:

Nuclear Weapons and Y2Kpage and links
"Factsheet on Nuclear Arsenals and Y2K: Potential Y2K Vulnerabilities in Nuclear Operations" Michael Ryan Kraig
"20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War" by Alan F. Phillips, M.D.
"The Bug in the Bomb" paper by Michael Kraig. Published by British American Security Information Council

L.A. Times column by Robert Scheer "Cold War's End Leaves Danger of Nuclear War: Russia's disintegration threatens our security more by inadvertence than by design."

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