Doctor of Law David Krieger is one of the most passionate and well-known in the U.S. advocate of non-proliferation, destruction and prohibition of nuclear weapons. In 1970 he was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War, but refused to serve, to approach the authorities with a statement that the war is immoral and participation in it is contrary to his convictions. But the authorities refused him. He did not give up and went to federal court. And he won. From 1982 until the present time, David Krieger is president of the NGO Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, lecturing at universities in the U.S., Europe and Japan. He was one of the leaders of the civil hearings in 2007 on the legality of U.S. actions in Iraq, and he was a member of the jury of public international tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005. He is author and co-author of dozens of books about the dangers of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation and elimination of it. His vision of the problems David Krieger shared with readers of "Rosbalt."
Yaroshinskaya: There is no information in Russian media, but I know in February 2012 you were arrested - along with your wife, Carolee, Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, Father Louis Vitale, and ten other activists – near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Tell, please, shortly to our readers what you did there and how authorities punished you after all.
Krieger: Several times a year, the United States Air Force conducts test flights of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), without their nuclear warheads, from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Base – the only one in the US that tests ICBMs – is about 70 miles from Santa Barbara where I live. To try to minimize protests, the Air Force usually schedules missile launches for the middle of the night. My wife and I joined Daniel Ellsberg and some 70 others in a protest that took place just before midnight on February 24th at Vandenberg. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was protesting because land-based nuclear-armed ICBMs are first-strike weapons. In a time of high tensions, they are weapons that a country must use or face the prospect of losing to another country’s first-strike attack. I believe that citizens should not allow testing of such weapons systems to go on as a routine matter. These tests should not be routine. They are warnings of the civilization-destroying threats that nuclear arsenals pose to all humanity, and should be ended while agreement is sought to dismantle the weapons and their delivery systems.
After midnight, 15 of us joined hands and walked toward the front gate of the Air Force Base. We wanted to deliver a message to the commander of the base. The message was that this nuclear insanity must end, and that the routine testing of ICBMs is a form of collective insanity. Before we had gotten close to the kiosk at the front gate, young Air Force security personnel formed a line in front of us and then arrested us, handcuffed us behind our backs, put us in several vans and drove us to a deserted place in the woods where they took our fingerprints and photographs and issued citations to us for trespass on military property. The Air Force then dropped us off in the middle of the night (around 4:00 a.m.) in a closed shopping center many miles from our automobiles. When we appeared in federal court, we all pleaded “not guilty” to the charge of trespass.
We were scheduled for trial last October, but on the day of the trial the government prosecutor moved to drop the charges against us and the case against all of us was dismissed. I think that they didn’t want the publicity of a trial and perhaps were concerned that they would lose the case. It was an honor to be arrested with Daniel Ellsberg, my wife and the others to protest the absolute insanity of continuing to threaten other countries and the people of the world with nuclear weapons and intercontinental delivery systems. By our protest, we were giving voice to future generations of children who deserve a chance to live in a world without the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over them.
Yaroshinskaya: Despite the fact that since the signing of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has been more than 40 years, it’s not diminished in the world. Few experts emphasizes that in this Treaty are registered also obligations of the nuclear club of the destruction of nuclear weapons. How are they implemented?
Krieger: The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the only existing arms treaty that contains obligations for nuclear disarmament. The treaty obligates the five nuclear weapon states that are parties to the treaty (US, Russia, UK, France and China) to negotiate in good faith for a cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date, for nuclear disarmament and for a treaty on general and complete disarmament. These negotiations have not taken place and, after 43 years, “an early date” has certainly passed. All five of the NPT nuclear weapon states are in breach of their obligations under the treaty. Their failure to act to fulfill their obligations puts the treaty, as well as the future of civilization, in jeopardy. These states are demonstrating that they believe nuclear weapons are useful for their security. In addition to being wrong about nuclear weapons providing security, they are being extremely shortsighted. Nuclear deterrence is not “defense.” It is a hypothesis about human behavior and is subject to failure. By their reliance on nuclear deterrence, the nuclear weapons states are not only running the risk of nuclear war occurring by accident or design, but are also actually encouraging nuclear proliferation.
Yaroshinskaya: Russia and the United States are the major players on the nuclear world stage. How do you assess (estimate) last Russian-American treaty on the reduction of nuclear capabilities – START-3, signed by Dmitriy Medvedev and Barack Obama in April 2010? What is your opinion - does US side ready to further reducing of nuclear weapons and finally to eliminate them at all as Barak Obama promised before his first presidential election?
Krieger: The New START agreement called for the reduction of deployed strategic nuclear weapons on each side to 1,550 and of deployed delivery vehicles to 700 by 2018. These numbers are still far too high. I believe that President Obama viewed the New START agreement as setting a new platform from which to make further reductions in the size of nuclear arsenals. However, it seems clear that the US deployment of missile defense installations near the Russian borders may make this difficult to achieve. In 2009, in a speech in Prague, Czech Republic, President Obama spoke of “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” But he continued, “I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.” In my view, there needs to be a greater sense of urgency to translate this commitment into action within a reasonable timeframe if we are to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
Yaroshinskaya: The former head of the Department of State Henry Kissinger spoke some time ago that the United States could lead the world’s nuclear disarmament. How realistic are these claims or it is nothing more than just politics games?
Krieger: Henry Kissinger no longer has political power. He has only the power of persuasion. He has joined with other US Cold War leaders – George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn – to call for nuclear weapons abolition. Like President Obama, however, they see this as a long-term goal. But I think it is correct that the US could lead the world in achieving nuclear disarmament. President Obama has also called for such leadership. If the US fails to lead, it is unlikely to happen. Of course, Russia could also step forward and demonstrate such leadership.
Yaroshinskaya: One of the most sensitive topics of Russian-American relations is American missile defense system in Europe. Do you personally believe that this system is directed only against countries such as Iran and North Korea, but not against Russia, as it declares the American generals?
Krieger: My personal belief is that the US missile defense system is primarily a means of funneling public funds to “defense” contractors. I doubt that missile defenses will ever actually be successful in stopping nuclear-armed missiles, and will certainly never be successful against a country, such as Russia, with sophisticated nuclear forces. Thus, I think it is correct that US missile defenses are aimed at less sophisticated countries, such as Iran and North Korea, rather than at Russia. It is easy to understand, though, why Russia is concerned. Surely, the US would also be concerned if Russia attempted to put missile defense installations near the US border.
Yaroshinskaya: What is your opinion with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat to the United States and the world? Does it actually exist? We remember about US mistake concerning Iraq nuclear program and we can see now the result of such mistake for people of that country.
Krieger: At present, Iran poses no nuclear threat to the US and the rest of the world. So far as I am aware, no national intelligence service concludes that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. What we know is that Iran has a program to enrich uranium and this could be converted to a nuclear weapons program. I believe it is important to discourage Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program, but this is made more difficult by the failure of the most powerful nuclear weapons states to make serious progress toward fulfilling their obligations for nuclear disarmament under the NPT.
Yaroshinskaya: And there is last question. I know that some time ago you entered into a correspondence with Vladimir Putin. If I may ask, what about do you wrote to each other?
Krieger: In February 2012, we sent an “Open Letter on NATO Missile Defense Plans and Increased Risk of Nuclear War” to President Obama, President Medvedev and other US and Russian officials. You can find this letter at http://wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?article_id=313. I received a letter back from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He stated in his letter to me in March 2012: “We fully share the view that the fact the North Atlantic Alliance refused to include Russia into a joint missile defense is the evidence of its unpreparedness to treat our country as an equitable partner. This appears to be specifically alarming against the background of enlarging NATO and pursuit of vesting global military functions into the coalition. One cannot help agreeing to a conclusion that deployment of missile defense system at the very borders of Russia as well as upbuilding system’s capabilities increase the chance of any conventional military confrontation might promptly turn into a nuclear war. We have numerously been outspoken that such steps taken by the US and NATO undermine strategic stability and make further progress in reducing and limiting nuclear arms problematic.” He also expressed his “hope for continuing this positive and unbiased dialogue.” The full text of the letter from Mr. Lavrov may be found at http://wagingpeace.org/articles/pdfs/2012_03_27_lavrov_reply.pdf. I hope such dialogue will indeed continue at the official level and lead to negotiations for a new treaty, a Nuclear Weapons Convention, for the total elimination of nuclear weapons in a phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent manner.
Alla Yaroshinskaya published this article in Rosbalt, a Russian news service.