Benjamin Abelow: Direct Russia-NATO conflict may trigger nuclear risks
Updated 19:03, 17-Jul-2023
Reality Check

Editor's note: A further escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict could potentially result in a dangerous nuclear war, warns Benjamin Abelow, author of the book "How the West Brought War to Ukraine: Understanding How U.S. and NATO Policies Led to Crisis, War, and the Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe." To delve deeper into the topic and also explore the contrasting approaches of the West versus the Global South countries including China's 12-point Ukraine peace plan, CGTN's Sr. International Editor Abhishek G. Bhaya spoke with the American author.

CGTN: In your book, you allude to the dangers of a potential nuclear catastrophe if we do not see a de-escalation. Do you believe we are really on the brink of a full-blown nuclear war if this conflict continues from here on, and where even a minor miscalculation could have disastrous consequences?

Abelow: I think there is a real risk of nuclear war. I wouldn't characterize as being on the brink right now. But I do think it's true that at any moment, a miscalculation or an accident could lead to unintentional nuclear war. Further, I believe that if the war continues, there is an increasing risk of nuclear use.

The RAND Corporation, I did not include this in my book, which was written well before this, but in January this year, January 2023, the RAND Corporation, which is a think tank, funded by the U.S. military, has stated that the longer the war goes on, the greater the risk of a direct NATO-Russia conflict, and with that, the greater the risk of nuclear war. And they also state that once a nuclear weapon is used there is no reliable way to contain the expansion and the escalation of that war to the level of strategic nuclear exchange.

So, the RAND Corporation in fact, their report was titled "Avoiding a Long War." So, I think not only because the duration of a Russo-Ukraine war with Western support brings with it a growing risk of direct NATO-Russia conflict and a Russian nuclear war, I think even in the moment right now there is a possible risk of accidental or miscalculated nuclear war.

CGTN: Taking a bird's eye view or an objective view of the conflict, it would appear that the U.S., NATO and European allies, in choosing a side and by providing weapons and military aid to Ukraine, have succeeded in making themselves a party in this conflict against Russia. On the other hand, there are other countries like China for instance, India and even Turkey, that have called on both sides to resolve the matter through diplomatic negotiations.

Abelow: Yes, I think you're right. It's quite striking that the U.S. and its Western allies and NATO and the European capitals seem to be committed to continuing the war. And in fact, I would even say they seem to be committed to continuing the war until they "defeat Russia."

In contrast, the proposals and the ideas that seem to be coming out of other parts of the world, sometimes referred to as the Global South, or the global majority, seem to be much more committed to the idea of achieving a peaceful resolution to this conflict, and trying to settle it on the best terms possible for all parties, and in a way that can create a stable peace in Europe as well. So, I have to say that as an American citizen, it's quite disappointing to see the positions that are being taken by my government.

CGTN: China has also presented a 12-point peace plan for political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. What are your views on this?

Abelow: I've looked over the this 12-point peace plan quite carefully. And although, of course, we call it a peace plan, it's not actually a peace plan. It's a set of principles that can be used to guide the construction of a peace plan. And I have found them to be exceptionally well thought out and wise. I can't find almost anything in there that I would disagree with.

But what I do know is that the longer the war goes on, the worse it is for Ukraine, the worse it is for the whole world, the worse it is for Russia, and it's terrible for the Ukrainian people. And it's risking and putting the whole world at risk of nuclear war. It's not going to get better. It's only going to get worse as the war continues. So as a first step, I think the principles instantiated in Mr. Xi Jinping's, peace principles, and some of the specific proposals for an immediate end to the war are really the right way to conclude things.

CGTN: While the global focus is pinned on this particular conflict, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, there are other flash points in this world, between other different countries and regions. What lessons do you think other countries, particularly smaller and medium powers, learn from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to avoid becoming proxies in geopolitical rivalries between major powers?

Abelow: I think certainly one of the lessons of this war not just for the small and medium sized powers you're referring to, but for really everyone is that these proxy wars do not end well. You know, Ukraine has entered into and allowed itself become involved in a proxy war. Ukraine is a deeply split country, and they allowed their own internal civil splits to become militarized and internationalized. And the end result is that their country is being destroyed.

So, I think that that those kinds of interventions are those kinds of allowing a domestic conflict to become militarized and internationalized can easily have the effect of destroying the countries that perceive themselves to be benefiting from those kinds of interventions.

So, I would hope, and I'll add simply here, if you look at what's happened to the Middle East, which has been to a large extent destroyed through interventions by the U.S., which the U.S. probably intended to be beneficial in some way, and that some of the countries involved either wanted the intervention or did not want the intervention. But either way, the militarization of those largely domestic conflicts has been extremely disruptive. So, I think there are lessons there for all of us.

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