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WHY LANGUAGE MATTERS WHEN TALKING ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS

PARANOIA AND DEFENSE PLANNING: WHY LANGUAGE MATTERS WHEN TALKING ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS, War on the Rocks, JEFFREY LEWIS AND AARON STEIN OCTOBER 10, 2018 The U.S. ambassador to NATO has, when one thinks about it, just one job. No matter who holds the job, the U.S. ambassador to NATO has many priorities, as one would expect for a role that involves dealing with dozens of countries and trying to get them to agree on a coherent defense policy. But one would think that not provoking a nuclear war with Russia would be at the very top of the ambassador’s list of priorities. This seems like a no-brainer, but it helps to focus on the simple things. The United States has a special obligation to be the “adult in the room” and to keep the alliance focused on constructive responses to collective threats.

The United States has had good and bad ambassadors to NATO, but each managed, one after the other, to navigate disputes such as the Berlin and Euromissiles crises, and to extend the postwar peace through seven decades. Then, in early October, Kay Bailey Hutchison — the U.S. permanent representative to NATO and erstwhile senator from Texas — put that streak in jeopardy for no good reason, threatening to preemptively attack Russia before it deployed a new cruise missile in violation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). In response to a series of questions from journalists, Hutchison used imprecise language, culminating in a strangely worded statement:

Getting them to withdraw [deployed missiles] would be our choice, of course. But I think the question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering. And at that point we would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska. So it is in all of our interests, and Canada as well, I suppose. So we have our North Atlantic risk as well as the European risk. …

This suggests a preemptive missile strike. Perhaps that’s not what she meant, but it is what she said. Hutchison has now issued a clarification, so perhaps someone has reminded her that her job is no longer riling up voters, but engaging in diplomacy. Threatening a nuclear-armed power is not something to be done lightly.

But the clarification, however welcome, does not undo the very real damage that Hutchison has done. The real issue is less the cavalier nuclear threat and more that Hutchison’s lapse risks feeding a particular strain of Russian paranoia. What Hutchison meant to do was convey a perfectly reasonable sense that our patience is not infinite when it comes to Moscow’s continuing violation of the INF Treaty……….

Russian Paranoia and Aggressive America: From Andropov to Putin and Reagan to Trump . …..https://warontherocks.com/2018/10/paranoia-and-defense-planning-why-language-matters-when-talking-about-nuclear-weapons/

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October 11, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war

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