by Nicholas Mele, Pax Christi USA Nuclear Disarmament Working Group Coordinator
for The Seattle Times
Events in Ukraine are far from Puget Sound and, despite real-time reporting and video from the conflict, often seem just another level of anxiety.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought the war much closer to home with his decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert. In fact, one reason for the cautious U.S. and European response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is concern about triggering any use of nuclear weapons. Residents of Western Washington should be similarly concerned.
One of the world’s largest stockpiles of deployable nuclear warheads sits in the U.S. Navy’s submarine base, Naval Base Kitsap. Is it conceivable that no Russian missiles are targeted on that arsenal? Last year, some members of Congress, including several of the Washington state House delegation, tried but failed to cut funding for new nuclear weapons programs. One target of their cuts was the intercontinental ballistic missile program — hundreds of missiles in silos in three Western states and two Midwestern states that have existed for decades.
The continued possession of nuclear weapons is predicated upon the long prevailing strategy of nuclear deterrence, also known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Putin’s nuclear threats and bullying behavior are an eerie echo of President Richard Nixon’s “madman” strategy, which was to convince potential enemies that he was so unpredictable they could never rule out the possibility of a U.S. first strike with nuclear weapons…