TFF PressInfo # 378: A new Cold War between Russia and the West?

By Jonathan Power

June 7th. 2016.

The second article in the TFF Series on The New Cold War

George Orwell, the author of “Animal Farm” and “1984”, was the first person to use the phrase “Cold War” in a 1945 newspaper article, written just after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He argued that “the surface of the earth is being parceled off into three great empires, each self-contained and cut off from contact with the outer world, and each ruled, under one disguise or another, by a self-elected oligarchy. He counted the US and Western Europe as one, the Soviet Union as the second and China as the third. He concluded that, “the atomic bomb is likeliest to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a peace that is no peace”.

I think he got it nearly right – or so it seems as a new Cold War erupts between the West and Russia and China spars with the US over the South China Sea and its islands.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. China and Russia have a fair relationship. China and the US are perhaps doing nothing much more than annoying each other and the bonds of commerce and student exchanges bind both the elites and the populaces close together.

To me a new Cold War is nonsense on stilts. Even more than the original one.

George Kennan, the US former ambassador to Moscow and the author of how to contain the Soviet Union, always insisted that Stalin had no intention of rolling his tanks into Western Europe. As Robert Legvold summarizes Kennan’s views in his interesting new book, “Cold War”, “The threat the Soviet Union posed was political, a threat accentuated by these countries’ vulnerability to Soviet subversion because of their economic frailty and political instability – a threat requiring a political and economic response, not a military one”.

In 1948 Kennan wrote, as he observed the creation of Nato, “Why did they [Western leaders] wish to divert attention from a thoroughly justified and promising program of economic recovery by emphasizing a danger which did not actually exist but which might be brought into existence by too much discussion of the military balance and by the ostentatious stimulation of military rivalry?”Read More »

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 aimedRead More »

Remembering the 1916 Rising

By Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate, Co-Founder Peace People, Ireland and TFF Associate

When the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, the Irish Military, Government Members, and many Irish people gathered in Dublin, on Easter Sunday 27th March, 2016 to remember the Easter Rising of l9l6, some of his challenging words were addressed to the young generation.

He encouraged them ‘to imagine and to dream‘ and he said ‘we wish them well as they make music and continue to dream’. The Leaders of l9l6 had political hopes and dreams. President Higgins said ‘For the leaders of l9l6, their political hopes and aspirations for what a free Irish Republic might be, were linked to a rich Irish culture which they cherished and promoted.

Within that vision, their ancient Irish language and culture, informed by our history and migration, was central to everything for which they hoped and fought.’

I believe the men of l9l6 had a democratic right to their dreams of Irish self-determination and to work for Irish Freedom, but the violent method by which they fought for freedom was ethically and morally wrong. Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 363: Can we give meaning to the destruction of Syria?

By Jan Oberg

Five years ago

In 2011 when it all began, an educated conflict analyst or otherwise conflict competent person would have said about the conflict in Syria that it was a very complex thing, caused by history, environment, traumas, external factors, the economic situation, etc. And that al-Assad and his government was certainly an important reason but far from the only one.

The conflict expert would have warned against at last four ways of thinking:

a) any interpretation that put all the good people on one side and all the bad people on the other – because there are no conflicts in the world with only two such parties;

b) any idea that the conflict could be solved by siding with the presumed good ones and going against the bad one(s);

c) every attempt to ‘weaponise’ the conflict and increase the level of violence, the duration of the conflict and the human suffering;

d) any and every idea that foreigners would know better than the Syrians themselves – government, opposition and citizens in civil society – what should be a solution.


Finally – the professional conflict and peace worker would have maintained that you can’t make peace by asking one person – not even brilliant ones like Kofi Annan or Staffan di Mistura – with a small team around him and some shuttle diplomacy to succeed with facilitation, consultations, brainstorming, proposal-making, mediation and, finally, some kind of negotiations leading to a peace agreement in what is undoubtedly one of the most complex and ‘hard’ conflicts on earth.

Peace-making requires a completely different approach to not just be a pawn in the wider war game – a game that according to Al-Jazeera today encompasses some 900 military groups – add to that government forces and all the political and civil groups that don’t carry weapons: 1500?

Five years later – at least 250.000 dead people, 3 million refugees and 6,5 million internally displaced people, cities, economy, cultural heritage destroyed – anyone can see that no one listened to such simple conflict rules of thumb.

Conflict and peace illiteracy

The self-appointed and completely un-educated, peace-makers of the international community – presidents, prime and foreign ministers of the US, NATO, Russia, etc. – did about everything else.

It seems to not even occur to them or to the media that Read More »

Religious Fundamentalism-Extremism-Violence

By Johan Galtung

To navigate these difficult conceptual waters we need some rules. Here are three suggestions (the violence can be direct – as sometimes prescribed by the Abrahamic religions – or structural as by Hinduism):

1. Anchor “religious fundamentalism” in religious scriptures taken literally according to the fundamentalists, not as “interpreted”;
2. Anchor “extremism” in violent action, verbal or physical;
3. Anchor “religious extremism” in violent action justified-legitimized by religious scriptures, by fundamentalists or not.

Fundamentalism has to do with inner faith, belief. Extremism has to do with outer violence against Other, and against Self (like flagellation for being a sinner). Keep them separate. And be careful.

We can have fundamentalism without extremism. The fundamentalist may believe much, beyond the beliefs of others, yet not cross the border to violence. We may say: let him-her do so; it is not obvious that fundamentalists are more violent than non-fundamentalists.

We can have extremism without fundamentalism. Most people exercising violence believe in nothing, beyond “doing their job”.

There are two criteria for “religious extremism”:Read More »

On NATO S-G Stoltenberg’s wish for dialogue and NATO’s 2015 report

By Jan Oberg

February 9, 2016

Commenting on NATO S-G Jens Stoltenberg’s wish for dialogue with Russia – a bit odd after all the other provocative initiatives he has spearheaded the last good year or so.

I felt like saying something more general about this outdated paradigm – and why it is dangerous for us all – referring also to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955.

You may also see it as my statement countering the NATO Annual 2015 Report which lacks every intellectualism, theoretical/conceptual clarity, empathy, peace thinking and – naively – equates military build-up with ‘security’.

Sweden soon at war? Yes, perhaps, if in NATO

By Jan Oberg

It was a few days ago when Swedish Army chief, Major-General Anders Brännström stated in a (leaked) internal document that ‘Sweden could be at war within a few years.’

This is, of course, nothing but ‘fearology’ and very bad judgement. He may be a great soldier but a victim of his own system’s bizarre threat perceptions – always pointing as they do to the Russians.

As I explain here, this is part of a much larger picture – and it isn’t good. The statement – that is not and has not been backed up by any analysis – ought to be enough for general Brännström to be replaced.

But that is something both mainstream media and scholars are too diplomatic to suggest. Had he stated something about Sweden being drawn into a war if it were a NATO member it would certainly have caused quite a media debate and discussions about his qualifications.

US and China clash at sea

By Jonathan Power

The US has done a daring and – some would say – dangerous thing. Towards the end of last month it sent a destroyer to sail within 12 nautical miles of two man-made islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. China was outraged. The Blogosphere went wild with nationalist denunciations of American attempts to encircle their country. The press wasn’t much quieter.

It’s all about control of the seas, not about who owns the islands, but it is laced with a good deal of bad behaviour on both sides. As with Taiwan China reaches into the past – as President Xi Jinping did recently – to justify a present day claim. In fact the past is a little murky. Besides, it has been overtaken by the UN Law of the Sea, of which China is a member. This makes clear that China has no right to forbid foreign warships’ passage within 12 miles of an artificial island. Nevertheless, China is right to point out that the Law of the Sea is neutral on claims that existed before it came into effect.

The Law of the Sea also makes clear that artificial islands – which some now are – do not give China control of the surrounding seas. Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 343: Can nuclear war be avoided?

By Gunnar Westberg

The Canberra Commission had as members former leading politicians or military officers, among others a British Field Marshal, an American General and an American Secretary of Defence and a French Prime minister.

The commission unanimously agreed in their report in 1996: The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never be used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility. The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again.

So that’s it: Nuclear weapons will be used if they are allowed to remain with us. And even a “small” nuclear war, using one per cent or less of the world’s nuclear weapons, might cause a world wide famine leading to the death of a billion humans or more.

Lt Colonel Bruce Blair was for several years in the 1970s commander of crews with the duty to launch intercontinental nuclear missiles. “I knew how to fire the missiles, I needed no permission,” he states. In the 1990s he was charged with making a review for the US Senate on the question: “Is unauthorized firing of US nuclear weapons a real possibility?”

Blair’s answer was Yes, and the risk is not insignificant.Read More »