Commentary. Now, with Trump, the threat that a cold nuclear war may go hot is back. And not just as a quaint vintage item from the ‘80s—we are talking about pure terror, something that goes far beyond jihad.

Nuclear escalation is not a remote possibility under Trump

So much for dismantling the nuclear bombs. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, in an impromptu remark during a political rally for the midterm elections, announced that the US may withdraw from a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia—not just any old agreement, but probably the most important and decisive treaty ever signed after the Second World War. It was signed in 1987 between Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan, de facto ending the Cold War, resulting in the destruction of 2,692 nuclear missiles, 846 American and 1,846 Russian, and marking the start of the thawing of relations between East and West (the revolutions in 1,989 also came partly in its wake).

This treaty opened the way to a global rebalancing, which soon marked the start of the age of a new Europe that came out with a strengthened leadership and which, from that moment on, would no longer be merely a base for setting up missiles aimed at the Soviet Union. It was a blow to the many “Dr. Strangeloves” who were always willing to use atomic weapons as a deterrent, as already “tested” on human subjects at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as at various uninhabited testing grounds, resulting in the devastation of the natural environment. Now, the specter returns to haunt us once again.

Communication in the Trump age is itself part of the reality it is ostensibly about.

This is shown as Trump, almost showing his cards in the underground clash that the West has fought with Moscow ever since 1989, is accusing Putin’s Russia of not respecting the treaty because of their development of new weapons systems, which, according to Moscow, are not prohibited by the treaty at all. But everyone knows what set the stage for that development: as is well-known, it was only an answer to the fact that for many years—at least since the presidency of George W. Bush, and under the convenient pretext of fighting terrorism after Sept. 11—the United States has been deploying an anti-missile shield in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, close to and surrounding the territory of Russia itself, not just what was the former USSR.

The move toward full encirclement has continued through NATO’s unwise strategy of enlargement toward the east. The Atlantic alliance against the USSR not only still exists, but ever since 2004 it has incorporated, one by one, all the countries of the former Warsaw Pact (which no longer exists) except for Russia, and it is starting to discuss the possibility of Ukraine and Georgia joining, which are former Soviet territories.

What is actually being discussed, and questioned, is peace itself—already frayed at the edges by the many wars that the West has sown all around, and now with the threat of a possible atomic rearmament hanging over it. The nuclear arms race might soon return to a Europe which is likely to go back to being nothing more than a menacing launch base for deadly nuclear warheads, and might also come to an Asia where Beijing has not missed the fact that Trump’s announcement hints at nuclear rearmament with an anti-China aim, fighting against its new power and economic hegemony.

This news, as the analysts are saying, was already in the air. Indeed, what led up to it was a development happening out in the open, by the silence of the European governments and the movement of hundreds of atomic bombs for more than a decade on the territory of the old continent—no longer mere remnants of the Cold War, but now parts of a valuable military arsenal, technologically modernized or undergoing modernization after bipartisan-approved US investments worth tens of billions of dollars.

The arrival of presidential adviser and warmonger John Bolton in Moscow on Monday was expected to directly communicate the decision by the White House to withdraw from the treaty. One also cannot overlook the fact that Trump’s announcement comes two weeks before the midterm elections, which will prove decisive on the fate of his presidency, as his real Achilles’ heel is Russiagate, the scandal that accuses him of having received help from Moscow to win his surprising election victory two years ago. Now, who will still have the courage to keep accusing him of being a Russian shill as he is burning the bridges with Russia, and so stridently and irresponsibly to boot?

In any case, the return of the nuclear threat—which, knowing Trump, is almost inevitable now—weighs heavily on the fate of Europe, much more so than the tariff wars of which it is likely the inevitable corollary: it will immediately shift the calculations, directing and influencing the new projected scenarios for military expenses and defense budgets in EU countries. This comes because Europe has failed to become the “common house” open to all the democratic dynamics to its east, as Mikhail Gorbachev wanted in 1987-88—who, unsurprisingly, strongly criticized Trump’s intention to withdraw from the treaty, saying that this “will undermine all the efforts that were made by the leaders of the USSR and the United States themselves to achieve nuclear disarmament.”

Right now, Europe is fighting not to fall in the abyss of conflicting national sovereignisms, tethered to the vicissitudes of its currency and financial markets, while sweeping the true social focal points of its crisis under the rug and struggling to represent itself as a united democratic team. It looks more and more like an appendix of a consolidated NATO, living off its economic and military closeness to the US.

Now, with Trump, the threat that a cold nuclear war may go hot is back. And not just as a quaint vintage item from the ‘80s—we are talking about pure terror, something that goes far beyond jihad. And there is no longer any alternative vision, or alternative world power, on the horizon that would stop it—which was how the new pacifism was being hailed just 15 years ago.

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