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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mutually Assured Survival for the 21st Century

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Last Saturday night the U.S. military tested a missile defense system designed to guard the United States from ICBM attack. I wish someone would explain to me why defending yourself against attack is wrong. The ABM was established at a time when nuclear weapons were how we defined power in the world. The ability to totally destroy the enemy became a potential reality (unlike in previous wars). So the race was on between the United States and the Soviet Union. What maniacs thought that "mutually assured destruction" was a good foundation for preventing nuclear war? We are living on a planet struggling to stay alive. The ecological impact of the modern world may kill us all. Certainly the detonation of more than a dozen nukes would go a long way to finishing the job. But mutual destruction has thousands of targets, not dozens. And the targets are U.S. and Russian. The new players in the nuclear weapons arena are eager to now have the ability to destroy their enemies. Is no one paying attention? What good is it for poor and developing nations to develop nuclear capabilities (including China)? I guess it is better to let your own people starve than to feel impotent because you dont have nuclear weapons.

When President George W. Bush announced the national missile defense plan, the threats were that this would start an escalation of the nuclear arms race. It seems to me that everyone who has enough money is already trying to build a nuclear weapons program or already has one. Of these new small nuclear powers (India, Pakistan, Iran, Libya and perhaps North Korea and Iraq), none are signatories to the ABM Treaty, including China. So they are not living by the motto of mutually assured destruction. What will be the response if, say, China launches a nuke against India, or Iraq against Israel? Here is your argument for theater missile defense systems. Or if Pakistan launches against Russia? Should Russia totally destroy Pakistan and the Earths environment in retaliation? What if China launches on Russia or the United States? Should we destroy the most populous nation on the planet and ourselves in the aftermath? Here is your argument for a missile defense shield.

The world has changed since nuclear proliferation meant we could mutually destroy one another and the only two players in a position to totally annihilate the enemy were the United States and Russia. So why dont we become better friends, reduce our nuclear arsenals, commit our resources to other projects and build a system that allows us to defend ourselves against nuclear attack? Sounds pretty simple to me.

I think the only people who dont like the idea of a missile shield are those who have thoughts about attacking someone else. This is a purely defensive application, so why should any other nation care if you develop a defensive capability? I mean, either the U.S. or Russia could destroy the rest of the world in a single day, so we already have offense covered. I would think that other countries would be glad to hear that we are thinking defensively and not offensively. How about a new motto for the 21st Century: mutually assured survival!

John Rieder

Ballwin, Missouri

Russias Modest Pride

In response to "Repressions Memorial Puts Russians to Shame," a comment by Andrei Zolotov Jr., June 26.

Your comment touches on many issues that bother me. I am a distant son of Russia. My great-grandparents left St. Petersburg and Moscow for Poland, England, France and, finally, the United States just before the revolutions of 1917. My father is an Orthodox priest in America. I have often marveled at the rich and beautiful tradition of umilenie, or endearment, and pokayanie, or repentance, in the Russian Orthodox Church. These are riches that cannot be expressed in words. Unfortunately, the Bolshevik "Revolution" and ensuing historical events seem to have removed any feeling for these concepts from the Russian national character.

Your article is an extremely rare and important discussion of the poverty of contemporary Russian consciousness. Elsewhere in The Moscow Times, Russell Working discusses the continuing refusal of the Japanese nation, as a whole, to come to terms with its monstrous actions, especially toward the Chinese and Koreans, during World War II. Mr. Working correctly contrasts this attitude with the far more developed approach of todays Germans to their Nazi past. In this regard Russians, unfortunately, are probably much closer to the Japanese than to the Germans. In my experience, Russians are so shocked from their "loss of empire" that they are unable to face up to the damage the Soviet era has inflicted on Russian consciousness, much less on non-Russians. To this day, Russians generally cant seem to understand why Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and others genuinely hate them. Although hatred, especially of an entire people, is never justified, it would help Russians tremendously to understand and come to terms with the animosity that they have generated among these and other peoples.

I would like also to consider the word "pride," gordost. There is genuine what Ill call "modest" pride, and there is insecure what Ill call "empty" pride. I believe that Russians should be proud of their heritage and traditions. But the best Russian traditions are born of umilenie, pokayanie and dushevnost. Russians should be "modestly" proud of Russias national treasures in art, music, spirituality and scientific and technical achievements. These all bear witness to the vast spirit ("soul") and profound intellect of Russians. Russians have little to be proud of, however, in the spheres of politics, economics or what Americas founders called the "commonweal" in creating and fostering a just and prosperous society for all citizens. Instead, Russians attempt to take what I consider "empty" pride in the relics of Russias lost derzhava, or powerful state. There are many barriers to a fuller understanding of this blind spot in the Russian national character, however. And it will take many years generations for Russia to achieve a fuller understanding of how to create an ordered life for its citizens.

This fuller understanding cannot be forced on Russians, of course. It will need to come from within. Toward this end, I can only hope that your recent article, and many others like it, will be written in the Russian language, by Russian writers, and for Russian readers.

Vladimir Berezansky Jr.

In response to "Is the Pope the Easts Friend or Foe," a comment by Sergei Chapnin, June 25; "Patriarch vs. Pope," a letter by Max L. Castillo, July 6; and "Religious Security Fears," letters by Pablo Eizayaga and Benedict Carter, July 13.

Much of the correspondence reacting to Sergei Chapnins comment is characterized by a tone of superior scorn. Obviously everything in NATO is much better than here. Our Western priests understand the duty of pastoral care. We get articulate sermons. We know about liberation theology and ontological arguments.

The Russian Orthodox Church is very different and is treasured by Russian believers. Their priests acknowledge the great wonder of creation and the daily miracle of life as a mystery. They know that if something is true and good, it must also be beautiful. In awe they sing to worship God. The Orthodox priests also enhance the power of blessing. Believers may leave a church feeling truly blessed, loved and comforted. Such notions would be strange in the West.

There are obvious faults in Patriarch Alexys administration. As with all organizations, there is the raw exercise of power. How else can we explain the vulgar decorations in the new Facsimile Cathedral of Christ the Savior? But the religious reality can be experienced in the faces of the people and in the simplicity of, say, the Church of St. Simon Stylites on Novy Arbat, or the small church a short walk from the tourist markets of Izamailovsky Park.

We have already obscured much that is beautiful and original in this country by imposing Mars bars advertising under the self-righteous ideology of Darwinian economics and free market forces.

The correspondence on this theme may want us all to have a nice day and pursue happiness, but there are many here who know their suffering would be acknowledged by God, who, it is claimed, in his body and soul knew earthly pain, and whose gift surprises Russian believers with joy.

In contrast from this distance a foreign church has external power, wealth and authority and is attractively Western. And reasonable. I can understand Mr. Chapnins concern that something special and Russian can be lost.

The Moscow Times, by publishing such a spectrum of opinion, allows readers to sense the different mindsets behind the viewpoints. Thank you.

David Wansbrough

Cowboys Call

I have been called a Russian cowboy since I drove a horse and carriage across the United States. On that trip, I met farmers, workers, unemployed people, as well as governors and senators. Afterward, I wrote a book called "America Through the Eyes of a Russian," which is on sale in local bookstores.

In 1999, I rode two camels across Australia and wrote a book about that called "Australia Through the Eyes of a Russian."

Now I am living in St. Petersburg and organizing another expedition, "From St. Petersburg to Moscow in the Footsteps of Radishchev," dedicated to St. Petersburgs tricentennial. I plan to drive a horse and carriage to Moscow via Novgorod and to arrange meetings with officials and the public along the way.

After Moscow, I may consider continuing to Paris, following the route of Napoleons Grande Armee. If I cant find a horse and carriage, then Ill ride a bike.

I think that it would be wonderful to have an American citizen or journalist accompany me on my trip and would be happy if anyone who is interested contacted me by phone at 7(812) 314-5582 or by e-mail at

Anatoly Shimansky
St. Petersburg

Sin of Chechnya War

This is an open letter to President Vladimir Putin. Orthodox Peace Fellowhip, which counts among its members noted Orthodox theologians and writers from Europe and the United States, is the first Orthodox Christian organization to call for a negotiated solution in Chechnya.

Dear President Putin:
We appeal to you as an international association of Orthodox Christians concerned with promoting peace and reconciliation. Just as we were deeply troubled by NATOs bombing of Serbia, we would like to express our profound concern about the continuing tragedy in Chechnya.

While we recognize all of the obstacles Russia faces in Chechnya, from the collapse of civil society, to dire poverty and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, we urge you to make a more concerted effort to find a solution by peaceful means.

We understand the difficulty of finding suitable partners with whom to negotiate, but in the current situation there appears to be no other means of making progress toward a peaceful resolution.

This does not mean avoiding the truth. It is almost impossible to do so after the widely publicized indiscriminate detention and torture of Chechen civilians in recent "mopping-up" operations in Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk.

After such events it is hard to believe Justice Minister Yury Chaikas words that the legal system in Chechnya has been fully restored. It is most unlikely now that Akhmad Kadyrov could repeat his previous assurances that all Chechen refugees in Ingushetia will be home by winter. We hope that it will be possible, but it cannot happen until refugees have confidence they will be safe at home. As the ongoing hunger strike of many refugees shows they have no confidence.

Whatever position one takes on the Chechen conflict, it is clear that until it ends, the moral, physical and spiritual degradation will continue on both sides. And even when it ends it will take years to repair the damage done to Chechnyas civilian population both Chechen and Russian and to the Russian military and its servicemen, who "dont know whom and what they are fighting for," according to the testimony of Colonel Yury Budanov at his trial for the murder of an 18-year-old Chechen girl. (We are, of course, aware of the many grave crimes committed against the innocent by Chechen fighters.)

Not having been to Chechnya, I cannot personally, independently confirm reports of mass graves found earlier this year, which international human rights organizations assert contain the bodies of disappeared Chechens killed by Russian troops. Nor have I spoken personally with the relatives of the dozens of Russian civilians who, according to accounts by responsible journalists, have been reported shot to death in Grozny in recent months.

But all of this, from Colonel Budanovs words to frequent reports of atrocities in Chechnya, speaks of the tragedy of Chechnya and Russia and of the urgent need to reverse direction and seek reconciliation. From time to time you have spoken out against the dangers of nationalist hatred. We are very heartened by your recent condemnation of the death penalty. Let history credit you with the restoration of peace in Chechnya and moral stability in Russia rather than the memory of devastation and war crimes.

Positive measures have been taken by your government in this direction, such as the efforts of the Culture Ministry to revive Chechnyas main theater and dance troupes for now outside of Chechnya, but it is a start and to bring Chechen theater students to Moscow for their studies.

We encourage such exchanges as a means of fostering relationships which will overcome the hatred of war. We hope you will also support the grassroots efforts of activists in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov and other cities to bring Russian and Chechen children together. Many of the Chechen children who are ending a three-month stay in Nizhny Novgorod are from Assinovskaya. They have been given clothes and shelter in Russia and have made Russian friends. When they return home, their experience of hospitality and love will help assuage some of the horror and pain felt by the people of Assinovskaya.

It would be wonderful if such efforts could expand and spread across Russia. The idea might seem too painful, but what a wonderful thing it would be if Chechen children from Grozny, Sernovodsk, Samashki and other towns could come to Perm, Pskov, Sergiyev Posad, and other cities that have lost so many young Russian men in the fighting and find a common language with children there. Both sides have suffered and both must learn to forgive.

We pray for Father Anatoly Chistousov, killed in Chechen captivity, and we recall his words to journalists who encountered him in January 1995 at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Grozny. When asked who is to blame for the war, he said we are all sinners and we are all to blame.

President Putin, as a practicing Orthodox Christian we are confident you will understand Father Anatolys words. We look forward to working and praying for peace together with you.

With respect, and with the promise of prayers for you,

Jim Forest, Secretary,
Orthodox Peace Fellowship.
Alkmaar, The Netherlands