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Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine?

Ralph welcomes nuclear weapons expert, MIT professor Theodore Postol, to give us his insights into the possibility and the ultimate consequences of Vladimir Putin employing “tactical” nuclear weapons in the Russian conflict with Ukraine. And our resident constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein, weighs in on the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Plus, Ralph answers your questions about the latest Boeing crash and money in politics.

Theodore Postol is Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and National Security Policy in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. He’s worked for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the Pentagon, and Argonne National Laboratory. Among other accolades, in 2001 he received the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses.

The Russian doctrine– in part built by Putin– in fact has focused on the potential use for nuclear weapons to stave off a disaster that would lead to the loss of Russia as a nation, the non-survival of Russia as a nation… The concept, it’s crazy. Let me just tell you what I think of it before I describe it to you so there’s no misunderstanding here. They call it “escalate to de-escalate.” The idea is simple, but wrong. The idea is that you use a low yield nuclear weapon–a tactical nuclear weapon… and the idea is that you use this weapon as a vehicle for showing how desperate you are, and you cause everybody to just stop.

Theodore Postol

The world is in grave danger. And we all need to hope and do what we can to influence our political decision makers to make wise decisions. So that we don’t get some kind of accident, or series of accidents that rapidly escalate into nuclear weapons use. Because it will kill us all… We have a man who has made a terrible, probably irrecoverable mistake, in Vladimir Putin. he’s going to be desperate. and we’ve got to try to find a way to help him back out of this corner without using nuclear weapons. And this is the test for our leadership, in combination with others.

Theodore Postol

We know that the [Supreme Court confirmation hearing] hours are calculated to enable them (the Senators) to get back to fundraise. They want to have time as well to get free advertising in their question-and-answer period. And so, they are orchestrated to raise the political issues that are useful for their constituents. But you’re right that there isn’t any need for 13-hour marathon sessions. But they only work three days a week anymore and fundraising is more important to them than hearings.

Bruce Fein

[Congress] members themselves typically focus on issues that are narrow parochial concerns to their particular political constituency. That is: irrelevant to the larger issues that are far more important to everyone. And that’s exemplified by the questioning that we’ve witnessed so far… they go totally unexamined in the hearings. You need public witnesses that have a broader perspective to bring these issues to the fore. And make it a far more educational process than what it is now, which is simply a campaign opportunity for Republicans and Democrats.

Bruce Fein

It’s dictatorial, that’s what it is. It’s dictatorial. Basically, two parties on the Judiciary Committee, they don’t challenge each other and rebut each other. They don’t allow citizen witnesses to sit in the chair and rebut the kind of stuff that’s coming from these Senators. And so basically you have an enclosure system, where Congress is a very profitable, corporate-funded cocoon.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 420 Transcript (Right click to download)

20 Comments

  1. BP says:

    4:00 – “Complete misjudgment”

    Yep. So, why are we listening to Postol again?

    We’re thinking about them ( nuclear weapons ) because the US Military Industrial Complex believes in this Ukraine imbroglio had an almost unanimous public opinion behind it, and the US is losing ground and needs desperately after Afghanistan to grab the control of the world ( as Russia is trying to grab control of Ukraine ), to remain relevant and is just itching to use nuclear weapons so the worldwide standoff and payout to the MIC can continue indefinitely.

    $20 billion dollars have been funneled to Ukraine in the last decades by the US/State Dept/CIA in order to flip Ukraine away from Russia, as per the never-ended Cold War, as the US has pushed NATO Eastward causing Russia to react “reactively” … that is, in reaction to being penned in with missiles on their borders. As Peter Hitchen’s recently said, he could think of no other cause that could unite Noam Chomsky and Henry Kissinger but their opposition to NATO expansion at the end of the Cold War, and rightly so, he added.

    And why? Because as a Rand Corporation study a the end of the Cold War concluded, the way to destabilize and topple Russia is through Ukraine. Ukraine was about 1/3 of the Russian economy, and this industries Rail manufacture, Shipbuilding, Automating, Aerospace … remember the Antonov … the biggest lift vehicle in the world … all these industries are being shut down by the West to remove value from Ukraine to Russia and lessen completion against the West,, causing massive unemployment and Ukrainians were already leaving Ukraine at the rate of about 1 million a year.

    Is it really such a big mystery why Putin would feel Russia must at least stop NATO expansion and force it to be neutral? And how can he do that if Russia pulls completely out of Ukraine when he knows what the US CIA is capable of and has done? $20 billion dollars bribes a lot of government officials and supplies a lot of weapons. I think it was Lee Camp who recently opined that it was only $18 billion that paid for the US government to be the way it is now as Ralph continually reminds us.

    The US, in the name of the West … which … ( are we even a part of anymore, since we have nothing of the societies they have in the rest of the developed world ) , has been continuing to right the Cold War as Eisenhower said denying food to children, schools and hospitals to communities, and democracy to our own country now. The decision to “austeriterize” America was made undemocratically, in order to be the world cop – and the chief of police in this world-cop country is a complete wild-card, as undemocratically elected ( and I mean by money ) as Zelensky and others were in Ukraine. Who thinks what we can do with propaganda in Ukraine with “democracy” has not been done here?

    Ask yourself, is the MIC doing this, sacrificing the living standards of Americans and hollowing out our country to promote democracy in the world? Where is that happening? Do Americans make this choice willingly?

    Shouldn’t the military industrial complex, if they are really ideologically dedicated to democracy and right and the American way, forego Earthly reward and not pile up cash like Russian oligarchs, maybe serve the American people just a little? In WWII the Nazis dressed up gaudy and help huge rallies and pretty much told the world their plan with pride and arrogance. Seems like they learned from their mistakes. Seems like maybe they are in control of our MIC and these bombs, and if they will use the American people, and fight to the last Ukrainian in Ukraine, they won’t really balk at setting off a few nukes, especially if they can get Russia to do it first and justify it.

    — a little contrarian speculation, because our news certainly is not telling us the truth.

  2. Don Harris says:

    Ralph,
    Your answer to my question only was about what rights I have now, not what rights I would have after money is no longer considered free speech if the amendment were passed and ratified.

    Is there some other part of the Constitution that provides the right to make political contributions or is it only because of money in the form of political contributions being speech?

    If it only because of money being free speech then the amendment saying money is not speech would take away the right to make political contributions, wouldn’t it?

    And that would have an effect on all the rights I have now, wouldn’t it?

    Please address directly whether or not the amendment would take away the right to make political contributions and if not explain what other part of the Constitution provides the right to make political contributions.

    It’s baseball season. Please take another swing and maybe this time you will make contact with the issue of whether or not the amendment would take away the right to make political contributions that you whiffed on with your first swing.

  3. latherine dunford says:

    RIGHT ON!

  4. Joan Malerich says:

    I have listened only to the first 15 minutes of Theodore Postol’s ridiculous “analysis” of what is going on between Russia and Ukraine. I cannot believe what this man is saying. Did he read Putin’s speech before this “war” with Ukraine started? Putin is NOT the desperate one. That is absurd. Perhaps Mr. Postol should listen to and/or read some of the honest media that offers reality of the situation.

    One example is Global Research News Hour. For example listen to https://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-russia-proxy-war-revealing-signs-of-a-fading-america/5775462 Scott Ritter, UN weapons inspector who told Bush the Shrub Administration that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, was ignored, so the war could take place–it did, and over 1 Million children and adults were murdered by the US/allies, homes were destroyed, lives were devastated, babies were born deformed due to US use of DU etc. etc. Well, Putin is intellectually and morally able to deal with the US threats. As Ritter states: Putin is winning, NOT losing. Ritter has been on other alternative media, such as Tony Gosling’s radio show. His articles have been on globalresearch.ca. On the https://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-russia-proxy-war-revealing-signs-of-a-fading-america/5775462 link (given above), economist Michael Hudson also.

    Has Mr. Postol watch Oliver Stone’s two documentaries? The first one was completed in 2016, and the second one was more recent. Here are two links: For Ukrine on Fire
    https://stillnessinthestorm.com/2022/03/rumble-uploads-oliver-stone-documentary-ukraine-on-fire-after-youtube-censors-it/ For later Stone doc “Revealing Ukraine” [investigations into the crisis following “Ukraine on Fire”]
    https://rumble.com/vvygeb-revealing-ukraine-investigations-into-the-crisis-following-ukraine-on-fire.html (

    It is the US that is taking a financial and military defeat. The US is losing on all fronts, and, I have to say, it is about time. The US has become nothing but an amoral imperialist empire. The US has destroyed and continues to destroy country after country–in the dozens x dozens. The US has destroyed or tried to destroy about every oil producing (or other form of energy) country.

    It is almost 4:00 AM and I am very tired. I would be very happy to speak with you about this situation –which requires more than notes in a comment box.

  5. Dale West says:

    Regarding the China 737 800 (NG) crash. Recall that all series of 737 variants do not have rudder cable protection against un-contained engine failures that can cause loss of control of the 737..

    REF:
    https://nader.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Subject-Matter-Specialist-Memorandum-9-30-20.pdf

  6. John Puma says:

    Re Postol segment: A rambling, incoherent ride, without a femtogram of history or context thus faithfully parroting the incorrigibly inane US mainstream media so prone to predictions based on its own information-less fantasies. Although sprinkled with technical, if irrelevant, minutiae, it was replete with untenable assumptions and total contradictions.

    First, context. “The situation is dangerous” Yes, indeed. But it would have been obviated up to about 6 weeks ago with a simple concession to Russia that NATO would expand no further. That is not to suggest that the situation arose quickly. The current problem is the “logical” consequence of the US campaign against Russia (USSR) since the end of WWII.

    When the USSR was dissolved (early 90’s), the US assumed victory in the “Cold War.” The US thought it had finally realized its ultimate goal with USSR/Russia: complete, unfettered control of its vast natural wealth. The Russian president at that time, Yeltsin certainly did nothing to disavow it of that dream as he invited in hoards of US “advisers” who began the process of acquiring control of Russian assets & resources. See “Failed Crusade” by Stephen F. Cohen.

    Putin’s primary crimes against the West are to 1) stop the give-way party to the benefit of the US and 2) strengthen Russia from the depths of the results of Yeltsin’s “friendship” with the West. In 2007 Putin told the West that he wanted it to honor its promises, made during the German unification, to not expand beyond the eastern border of the former E. Germany. A year later the Bucharest (i.e. 20th NATO) Summit delivered a firm slap in the face as it welcomed the two membership aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia agreeing that “these countries will become members of NATO.” Barely 4 months later came the Russia/Georgia war.

    In 2014 came the US coup in Ukraine. The new government passed a series of measures relegating its sizable ethnic Russia population to 2nd class citizenship and started a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the two republics on the Russian border (Donbass) which refused to accept the government chosen for it by the US.

    Russia brokered a cease-fire agreement “The Minsk Agreement” that Ukraine signed but has never had any intention to honor with regard to peaceful resolution of the conflict with the 10% of its population in the Donbass.
    The civil war continued without end for 8 years with 14,000 Donbass deaths, 80% civilians.

    The current “special operation” began as Russia’s requests were roundly ignored by the West for 1) adherence of Ukraine to the Minsk Agreement 2) written legal guarantees from West that Ukraine would not become a NATO member, nor would any other countries on Russia’s border. Russia also noted massing of Ukraine army troops in apparent preparation for an escalation of the Donbass civil war.

    Now nuclear reality.

    First the question of the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine is based solely on the USA main-stream-media claims that the Ukraine is prevailing against Russia in the war. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    (Information sources available on request.)

    One certainly must concede that the war the Ukraine IS winning is the information war … with the help of its puppet master the US and its robust propaganda machine. Putin is not desperate and therefore has no need to use nuclear weapons. The ONLY threat of nuclear weapons would be those used by US/Ukraine as a false flag operation. Note that the Western media has been preparing it credulous consumers that Russia is expected to use chemical/biological weapons.

    Then, with no justification at all, the topic jumped to the issue of Putin attempting a first strike on the US with a nuclear ICBM payload. First, we heard the recounting of the 1995 nuclear scare due to Russia’s alleged lack of reliable early-warning system. This reveals the US’s imperial contempt for Russia that is THE reason for the “dangerous situation”: here demonstrated by the implication that Russia is too stupid to recognize its deficiency and, even if it did finally realize it, and could understand the reason to correct it, is, nevertheless, totally incapable of doing anything about it … in the intervening 27 years!!!

    Postol suggests that the utter danger of Putin is that he is convinced the US anti-ICBM defense system is useless. Then, just a few minutes later, Postol reveals that Putin may well have gotten that notion from Postol’s (and other experts’) very own public writings to the same conclusion?!? That diabolical Putin!, having the damn nerve to 1) seek out the public utterances of his adversaries and 2) giving them the implicit respect that they are to be believed. This certainly NOT the approach of President Joe “Dirty Harry” Biden and his sidekicks Blinken and Nuland !!!

    • Skro35 says:

      John, please listen to our previous episodes with Bruce Fein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Lawrence Wilkerson that cover the contextual political piece of this war. We invited Postol on to describe the horrors of escalation to a potential nuclear exchange. Just another angle.

      • John Puma says:

        I listen to EVERY podcast. I’m just not sure that can be said for everyone who happened to tune into Postol this time !!!

        • Skro35 says:

          True. And thank you for listening. We can’t cover every aspect of an issue this big in a half hour interview. We book specialists in each area and focus on their area of expertise, whether it’s the politics with vanden Heuvel, the constitutional law with Bruce Fein, the diplomatic area with Wilkerson and with Postol it was shining a light on the potential for nuclear war and the insane “escalate to de-escalate’ philosophy.

    • John Puma says:

      PS.
      Ralph later embellished a point made in this podcast in which was mentioned a 1995 “nuclear scare” due to the then inadequacies of Russia’s ICBM early warning system. Russia’s current early-warning system (SPRN) is state of the art, combining space-based technology and over-the-horizon radar. On the following week’s program (There Are No Accidents) a 2015 scare was conjured (at about 51:40). I invite Ralph to give details, as I have searched and have found no mention of a 2015 incident.

      I will not attempt to prove an apparent negative proposition but will note that in the 2016 Worldwide “Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” to the Senate Armed Services Committee by James Clapper NO mention of the alleged 2015 “scare” was noted. Adequate information is available to show that the US itself is not without its own nuclear scares and accidents … many of which are domestic, i.e., unprovoked and potentially gravely harmful to US residents. Any REAL concern of the US over a valid weak point in the international system of mutually assured destruction would be demonstrated only by sincere diplomatic efforts to rid the entire world of nuclear weapons.

      Instead, at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, we currently have a hysterical neocon dash to attempt regime change in Russia, as admitted by Biden, which has 1) more nuclear weapons than even the US and 2) a functional ICBM defense/intercept system … which Mr Postol admitted the US does NOT have.

      The danger of the US’s self-perceived (AND arrogantly self-avowed) “exceptionalism” is no more clearly exhibited than in its systematic, institutional underestimation of the capabilities of powerful adversaries (here, for whatever reason, promulgated by Mr Nader !?!) with the attendant notion that it is thus entitled, and able, to confiscate and profit from that adversary’s resources. This applies, of course, in addition to Russia also to China.

  7. Don klepack says:

    I really enjoy the Wrap-Up part of the show which is light hearted and sometimes more revealing. Specifically the discussion with Bruce Fein on the senators questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson . As a young boy I watched the entire confirmation of Clarence Thomas. What I learned from the Clarence Thomas confirmation – The dumbest people in the hearing room including the Candidate, Witnesses and accusers were the US Senators because they have little knowledge of the law. I also felt that Chairmen Joe Biden was more knowledgeable than the other Senators. Now more than 40 years later it is far worse. Maybe the senators should take a test on the constitution before they can ask questions?

  8. If other listeners are looking for more education on the Supreme Court I’d highly recommend the five to four podcasts. It’s 3 lawyers reviewing Supreme Court cases from a progressive viewpoint, and the conclusively explain why the Supreme Court sucks.

    Regarding an institution that could educate congress people before they get in, there is an institution that does that. It’s the Federalist society, and it exists to create a bad faith conservative reading of the Constitution to accomplish their fascist goals. A counter institution is desperately needed.

  9. stan moore says:

    Ralph you didn’t ask Ted Postol, for whom i have a great deal of respect, where does he get the information to pierce so easily, it seems, through the “fog of war”? Former intelligence officer, Scott Ritter, tells us the CIA is embedded in the Ukrainian Information Agency, the source of much of the information is used by the US media. You might consider interviewing those people reporting from the Russian controlled areas, some of whom (like Patrick Lancaster) who has been in Donbass region since 2014.

    • Beto says:

      ah, yes, those evil CIA men who control Ukraine, whose people otherwise would not mind being Putin’s sheep.

  10. Noelle Gillies says:

    I wrote Biden about the nuclear threat in this war, that he should aim for nuclear arms reduction treaties, ultimately to abolish nuclear weapons.
    What response I got back was disappointing to say the least. He wrote that we support the war for democracies vs. authoritarianism. Whoever is in charge of responding to citizen correspondence is probably some young person who has no direct experience of the terror of the threat of nuclear arms that we had before the end of the cold war. How our world just went to sleep regarding this issue boggles my mind.

  11. Don Harris says:

    Bruce Fein is right that we need to get to politicians before they are co-opted and before they get there.

    But educating has nothing to do with it. They do not avoid doing things because they don’t know how, they avoid doing things because the big money interests don’t want them to do it and the politicians are smart enough to know which side of the bread the butter is on.

    If we want to get to politicians before they get there we have to get to them before they are co-opted by taking big money to run their campaigns. Once they take that money the ballgame is over.

    We need to demand small donor candidates and enforce that demand with our votes. if you keep voting for big money candidates you will keep getting big money legislators.

    You have said that politicians want our votes more than big money so let’s find out if this is true by making this demand.

    If politicians can’t stand up to big money interests by not taking their money before the election then they will not stand up to the big money interests after the election.

  12. David Faubion says:

    There is a conspiratorial-like palliative to Emeritus Professor Ted Postol’s studied and reasonable dire warning. My pacifier comes to me prepackaged via the engineers of the capitalist global economy, which includes all wars. In short, the capitalist geeks are manufacturing the scare about nuclear bombings, too. It’s their ploy to gin up consumption and procreation. Consequently, we have the persistent cycle of overcrowding, widening inequality, and other economic instabilities due to overproduction and over-consumption. The human race and higher life have been living on borrowed time in cowering fear of the capitalist doomsday machine since 1945. The MIC and other industrial complexes are the sharpened tools to keep their atypical, necrotic capitalist overgrowth ever burgeoning.
    Most psychologists subscribe to the theory that being aware of one’s mortality is a healthy cognizance. Does that hold true for our sense of our shared, catastrophic mortality? My sibling sisters and I grew up using the big bad bomb scare as a tool to make our rules for play. “I get the best spot until the bomb comes.” What a way to grow up preoccupied with doom. Yet, in many studies, indigenous societies have a reverence for, and a sense of wonder and awe about death. Would they include frying the planet to their sense of mystery and wonder? I doubt it. The anti-indigenous warmongering capitalist reveres their power of death over life in the morose, criminal sense.

  13. David Carlson says:

    Steve, Pardon me for jumping in here on the Postol interview. I studied briefly on Wikipedia and from memory Russia has 4x the population, 10x the GDP and10x the Defense Budget of Ukraine,….and that’s before you consider “Foo Foo” ! I am not an expert but I am guessing that Tsung Tzu would recommend that Ukraine surrender. Yet Postol(and the Western Media) believe that Ukraine can win!…..If we are planning on being Ukraine’s Lafayette, we are in for a world of hurt!….thanks for listening, Dave

  14. robert dresdner says:

    It is boggling and sad. The current nuclear force levels are alot lower than what they were at their peak in the 60s and there has been some nuclear force reduction by unilateral disarmament, but these reductions have been swamped by build ups. The world is terrified and protesting and the Congress is sleep walking sending 760 billion annually “for defense”!