Russia proposed, in August meetings with US arms control negotiators, that each country agree to cut its supply of missile-ready nuclear bombs from 5,000 down to 1,500 strategic nuclear weapons. The Russian offer would allow for a full accounting of all warheads and provide for early de-alerting of bombs poised at hair-trigger readiness, which would considerably ratchet down the nuclear danger to our planet.

Were the US to follow through on this generous Russian proposal, we would have an extraordinary opportunity to bring all the nuclear weapons states to the negotiating table for a treaty to ban the bomb, just as the world has banned biological and chemical weapons. France, UK, China, Israel, India and Pakistan all have less than 500 warheads in their respective arsenals and are not prepared to come to the table so long as the US and Russia have stockpiles of bombs which number in the tens of thousands.

The US response has been appalling. Seeking to squeeze the final bitter cup of humiliation from Russia, which is still smarting from the expansion of NATO up to the Russian border, the continued unilateral bombing of Iraq without UN approval, and the unauthorized NATO bombing of Yugoslavia without Security Council sanction, the Clinton administration persists in demanding that Russia yield to our scheme to abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and move full speed ahead with “Son of Star Wars”.

It is little reported that the Bush administration promised Gorbachev that if Russia did not oppose the admission of a reunified Germany into NATO when the Berlin wall crumbled ten years ago, we would not expand NATO. Nor is it widely known that the US Committee to Expand NATO, which lobbied furiously on the Hill to disregard our pledge to Russia, was chaired by the Vice-President of Lockheed-Martin, working demonically to expand its lethal market to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. NATO’s 50th Anniversary Summit last April was hosted by corporate sponsors, including Boeing, Raytheon, and the like, who paid up to $250,000 to mingle and peddle their deadly wares to the 19 Foreign Ministers in attendance.

These merchants of death are driving the Star Wars revival as well. In an illustration of a laser beam from space zapping a target, the US Space Command’s report, Vision for 2020, unashamedly trumpets, “US Space Command dominating the space dimensions of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict”. There is no way that Russia will cooperate with us to eliminate nuclear weapons while it is unable to match the billions of US dollars being poured into the militarization of space. Ironically, the greatest threat to our national security today is the Russian nuclear arsenal. How long will Americans continue to allow the ignorant boys with the dangerous toys to play Russian roulette with the fate of the earth? Who’s minding the store?

Write to President Clinton, your Senators, your Member of Congress, the new Presidential candidates. Urge them to take up, in good faith, the Russian offer to go to 1500 warheads and to give up the warped and imperial dream of dominating space with a new arms race to the heavens. This may be our last chance to reap the benefits of the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

* Alice Slater is President of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) and a founder of Abolition 2000, a global network working for a treaty to ban the bomb.