Posts Tagged ‘Warsaw Pact’

TFF PressInfo # 385 – How did Western Europe cope with a much stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?

By Jan Oberg

TFF Series ”The New Cold War” # 6

How did Western Europe survive the much stronger Soviet Union & Warsaw Pact 30-40 years ago? A pact that had about 70% of NATO’s military expenditures where today’s Russia has 8%? How did we get on after the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia – and a Union with much more global military and political influence?

Europe did so through a well-maintained military capacity, or superiority, technical superiority and, of fundamental importance to security – confidence-building measures (CBM).

And through a political leadership by personalities who knew what the 2nd World War had implied and why it must never happen again. One towering figure of course being Willy Brandt, the German chancellor who had himself been a refugee in Norway during the war.

CBMs were meant to both uphold a high level of war-fighting capacity while also seeking military early information/warning, attending each other’s military exercises, etc. They resulted in the establishment of the very important OSCE – Organisation for Security and Co-operation (then C for Conference) in Europe with the Helsinki Final Act of 1 August1975. It contained politico-military, economic, environmental and human rights dimensions – ’baskets’ that were seen as related to each other and which served as dialogue points between the two blocs.

The visionary President Urho Kekkonen of Finland was credited as the main architect of the CSCE – and his Finland was neutral but upheld a co-operation agreement with the Soviet Union.

Finland was also the only country in the European space that could show opinions polls according to which the people felt equidistant to both blocs.

The simple but brilliant idea was this: We need dialogue to feel secure. It was also called Detente. And it implied a disarmament dimension – negotiations about how to mutually scrap weapons in a measured and verifiable manner that both sides had decided they no longer needed.

These negotiations included not only conventional weapons but also the arsenals of nuclear weapons.

In the domain of nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, was signed in 1970 and carried four very important provisions:

1) the world shall move towards general and complete disarmament and the nuclear weapons shall be abolished;
2) those who have nuclear weapons shall negotiated them down, in principle to zero and
3) as a quid pro quo for that all non-nuclear weapons shall abstain from obtaining nuclear weapons – and
4) countries who want nuclear energy shall be assisted to introduce this civilian energy technology.

All this happened in the era of Detente and CBM. How had that become possible? Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 377- Intro to a series: The New Cold War

By Farhang Jahanpour

The first article in a TFF Series on The New Cold War

There are many ominous signs that dark clouds are gathering over international relations, from the South China Sea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea to the Middle East, and to Ukraine and the Baltics. We are entering a new and perhaps a more ominous Cold War.

This is something that will affect all our lives and will plunge us into a new era of East-West confrontation that none of us wants and that all of us should try hard to prevent.

Many young people were born after the end of the Cold War or were too young to remember its horrors, and how the world was on a knife’s edge about a possible global confrontation between the two superpowers with thousands of nuclear weapons whose use could have ended human civilization. We, who remember those days, should make sure that we do not see a repetition of that dark period in human history.

Yet, sadly, a Cold War mentality is once again creeping back into political discourse.

The Second World War that killed more than 60 million people and devastated many countries had hardly ended when new hostilities emerged. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not so much the final act in the Second World War as the opening shot in the Cold War. Contrary to the stated justifications for the dropping of the bombs as a means of forcing Japan to surrender, it is now clear that Japan was ready to surrender before the use of those awful weapons.

Many historians believe that the real reason for the use of nuclear weapons was to prevent Japan falling into the hands of the Soviet Union, as the Red Army was poised to take on Japan’s remaining army in Manchuria, thus forcing Japan to surrender to Russia. Furthermore, it was a clear signal of the West’s possession of the new devastating weapons.

For instance, the scientist Leo Szilard who met with US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes in May 1945, reported later: “Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war … Mr. Byrnes’ view was that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable.” (1)

Therefore, far from wanting to save lives, the use of nuclear weapons was to demonstrate America’s overwhelming military might, and to issue a warning to Russia.

The war had hardly ended when in a speech in the British House of Commons on 16 August 1945 Winston Churchill referred to “the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain.”

It was in view of those ominous events that mankind decided to create international organizations that would “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” The Charter of the United Nations aimed Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 374: Close calls: We were closer to nuclear destruction than we knew (1)

By Gunnar Westberg

The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility”.

This unanimous statement was published by the Canberra Commission in 1996. Among the commission members were internationally known former ministers of defense and of foreign affairs and generals.

The nuclear-weapon states do not intend to abolish their nuclear weapons. They promised to do so when they signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970.

Furthermore, the International Court in The Hague concluded in its advisory opinion more than 20 years ago that these states were obliged to negotiate and bring to a conclusion such negotiations on complete nuclear disarmament.

The nuclear-weapon states disregard this obligation. On the contrary, they invest enormous sums in the modernization of these weapons of global destruction.
It is difficult today to raise a strong opinion in the nuclear-weapon states for nuclear disarmament. One reason is that the public sees the risk of a nuclear war between these states as so unlikely that it can be disregarded.

It is then important to remind ourselves that we were for decades, during the Cold War, threatened by extinction by nuclear war. We were not aware at that time how close we were.

In this article I will summarize some of the best-known critical situations. Recently published evidence shows that the danger was considerably greater than we knew at the time.

The risk today of a nuclear omnicide – killing all or almost all humans – is probably smaller than during the Cold War, but the risk is even today real and it may be rising. That is the reason I wish us to remind ourselves again: as long as nuclear weapons exist we are in danger of extermination.

Nuclear weapons must be abolished before they abolish us.

Stanislav Petrov: The man who saved the world

1983 was probably the most dangerous year for mankind ever in history. We were twice close to a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the USA. But we did not know that.

The situation between the USA and the Soviet Union was very dangerous. In his notorious speech in March 1983, President Reagan spoke of the “Axis of Evil” states in a way that seriously upset the Soviet leaders. The speech ended the period of mutual cooperation, which had prevailed since the Cuba Missile Crisis.

In the Soviet Union many political and military leaders were convinced that the USA would launch a nuclear attack. Read the rest of this entry »

Aage Bertelsen (1901 – 1980) – Danish educator for peace

By Jan Oberg & Johan Galtung*

Lund and Kuala Lumpur, July 2014


He was a tall man and a great man, a visionary, pacifist, civil resister, educator and philosopher. He took life more seriously than most and he could be playful and fun like a child. His life’s guiding principle was ”Engage in your time!” and while he wrote and talked a lot he also did it. His name was Aage Bertelsen, he was born in Denmark in 1901 and died on August 15, 1980.

Bertelsen’s imprint on history is two-fold. First, with his wife Gerda he was a prime mover of one of the groups, the Lyngby Group, which organised the rescue of altogether 7.220 Danish Jews into safety in Sweden in October 1943 during the German occupation of Denmark – more here. The Lyngby Group – Lyngby is north of Copenhagen – got about 1.000 of these in safety by organising their nightly transport onboard small fisher boats over the Sound between Denmark and Sweden.

In this he deserves a place in international contemporary history for its humanity, civil courage and as an example of non-violent struggle against occupation.

Secondly, Bertelsen was an educator of and for peace. His life work educational efforts included his family and friends, his pupils over 22 years at the Aarhus Cathedral School in Aarhus, Denmark, the general public as well as national and international leaders.

He lived in pre-Internet times and very little is publicly available today about this renaissance man. From two rather different, but compatible, perspectives we’ve taken it upon us to remind the world about him – friends and colleagues of his as we happen to be.

Headmaster Aage Bertelsen in 1961 Photo: Elfeldt, Copenhagen


Why now, over 30 years after his death? Read the rest of this entry »


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