Over the last couple of months, the talk of nuclear war has heated up. In September, as the U.S. continued to issue financial aid to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stern warning to the West. He raised the threat of a nuclear response, declaring, “This is not a bluff.” Now top economist Jeffrey Sachs has weighed in.
“Here we are near the brink of nuclear war… because the United States just can’t keep its goddamn nose out of anyone’s backyard,” he said in an interview that was posted on Twitter by Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
In an opinion piece for Common Dreams, entitled “The Urgent Need for a Draft Ukraine-Russia Peace Agreement,” he said one of main reasons the world might be on the brink of nuclear war is because the U.S. doesn’t mind our business when it comes to conflicts in other parts of the world. The push by the U.S. for the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is most often behind the U.S.’s interference, he noted.
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Sachs is known for his work on sustainable development, economic development, and the effort to end world poverty. He serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he holds the rank of University Professor, the university’s highest academic rank, according to his website. Sachs was director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University from 2002 to 2016. He is president of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Chair of the Lancet covid-19 Commission, co-chair of the Council of Engineers for the Energy Transition. From 2001-18, Sachs served as Special Advisor to UN Secretaries-General Kofi Annan (2001-7), Ban Ki-moon (2008-16), and António Guterres (2017-18).
Sachs has authored and edited numerous books, including three New York Times bestsellers: “The End of Poverty” (2005), “Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet” (2008), and “The Price of Civilization” (2011).
According to Sachs, tensions are so high between the U.S. and Russia, the “fraught situation can easily spin out of control, as the world has done on so many past occasions—yet this time with the possibility of nuclear catastrophe.”
He calls for peace between the two powers. “It’s urgent for both the U.S. and Russia to exercise restraint before disaster hits,” Sachs wrote.
Behind the frosty relationship is the U.S. push for Ukraine to move closer to NATO. The U.S. promotion of NATO has caused world strife before, Sachs pointed out. he goes through various points in history that this has happened.
When the U.S. invaded Cuba in 1961, Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro reached out to the Soviet Union for support. “The U.S. was not much interested in Cuba’s ‘right’ to align with whichever country it wanted – the claim the U.S. asserts regarding Ukraine’s supposed right to join NATO,” Sachs wrote.
The invasion failed but it “led to the Soviet Union’s decision to place offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962, which in turn led to the Cuban Missile Crisis exactly 60 years ago this month,” Sachs wrote. This occurrence is similar to the situation today as that “crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war,” wrote Sachs.
Despite this the U.S. continued its NATO expansion quest.
When President Bill Clinton was in the White House, NATO expanded to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 1999. Under President George W. Bush, Jr., NATO expanded to seven more countries: the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), the Black Sea (Bulgaria and Romania), the Balkans (Slovenia), and Slovakia. Then with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, NATO expanded to Albania and Croatia in 2009. President Donald Trump saw Montenegro join NATO in 2019. Now, President Joe Biden wants to welcome Ukraine into the NATO fold, something Russia is adamantly against.
“Russia’s opposition to NATO enlargement intensified sharply in 1999 when NATO countries disregarded the UN and attacked Russia’s ally Serbia, and stiffened further in the 2000s with the US wars of choice in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, President Putin declared that NATO enlargement represents a “serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust,” Sachs explained the history of Russia’s opposition to NATO.
The contentious environment is reason for concern. As Sachs declared, “We are again on the brink of nuclear catastrophe.”
Photo caption: Economist Jeffrey Sachs speaks at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, Sept. 29, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) / The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from Plesetsk in Russia’s northwest, April 20, 2022. (Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service via AP)