Amid Heightened Tension, Senators Feinstein, Markey, Sanders & Merkley Propose to Jumpstart Strategic Talks with Russia – Mainstream Press Fails to Cover Story

Four United States senators are urging a new approach to U.S.-Russian relations based on renewed arms control efforts, but you probably haven’t heard about it from the mainstream media, Gilbert Doctorow and Ray McGovern report.

In a sad commentary on the parlous state of the U.S. media, a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from four United States Senators dated March 8 calling for opening arms control talks with the Kremlin ASAP is nowhere to be found in mainstream newspapers a day after its release on the Senate home page of one of the authors, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Nothing in the New York Times.  Nothing in the Washington Post.  And so, it is left to alternative media to bring to the attention of its readership a major development in domestic politics, a significant change in what its own senior politicians are saying should be done about Russia that was brought to our attention by …..the Russian mainstream media including the agency RIA Novosti, RBK, Tass within hours of initial posting.

Wittingly or not, the Gang of Four has just opened a breach in the wall of contempt and loathing for Putin and Russia that has been building in Washington for months if not years now. The immediate task is for word of this development to go out to the broad public and for the relics of our once formidable arms negotiations teams to be brought out of mothballs to face Russian counterparts who have been waiting keenly for this moment.

In a message to supporters, Sharon Tennison of the Center for Citizen Initiatives wrote that the four senior “Senators (Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Merkley and Edward Markey) must have sweat blood over their decision to go against the grain of their colleagues and the backdrop of ever-present Neocons to request Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to jump start new Strategic Arms Talks with Russia.”

This is HUGE, and no doubt, in response to Putin’s unveiling of Russia’s new class of weaponry. He says that these weapons will not be used unless Russia’s territory is hit first. So, are these new weapons defensive or offensive? Putin says defensive, which makes little difference at this point. He’s got them, which must make war profiteers shake in their boots about any notion of a ‘first strike.’

The request from the Senators must have caused a ‘chasm in the psyche’ of the powers behind U.S. leadership, such that it hasn’t even been mentioned in the mainstream media.

I just checked the Internet at 9 pm on the 10th, two full days later, and there is still NO MENTION of the urgent Senatorial request. It seems any trivial word about Mueller, Comey, Clapper, etc., gets rehearsed ad nauseam. Yet when top lawmakers of America make a sound request which could save the planet from nuclear war, the idea is verboten and not mentioned at all to the American people.

What does this mean to those of us who are citizens of this land? What is it about such negotiations that makes them off limits to even mention? What are we to draw from this – that negotiations are bad and war is good? God forbid … What have we come to?


Gang of Four Letter to Tillerson


March 08, 2018


The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson

Secretary of State

U. S. Department of State

Washington, DC


Dear Secretary Tillerson:

We write to urge the State Department to convene the next U.S.-Russia Strategic Dialogue as soon as possible.

A U.S.-Russia Strategic Dialogue is more urgent following President Putin’s public address on March 1stwhen he referred to several new nuclear weapons Russia is reportedly developing including a cruise missile and a nuclear underwater drone, which are not currently limited by the New START treaty, and would be destabilizing if deployed.   There is no doubt we have significant disagreements with Russia, including Russia’s brazen interference in the 2016 U.S. elections; continued violation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF); invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea; and destabilizing actions in Syria.  However, it is due to these policy rifts, not in spite of them, that the United States should urgently engage with Russia to avoid miscalculation and reduce the likelihood of conflict.

First, we encourage the administration to propose alternative solutions to address Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).  Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov admitted to the existence of this ground launched cruise missile (GLCM), but contended that the system was INF Treaty compliant.

Senior officials from the United States and Russia have said that the INF Treaty plays an “important role in the existing system of international security.”  As such, we urge the State Department to resolve Russia’s violation through existing INF Treaty provisions or new mutually acceptable means.

Second, we urge the United States to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).  The Trump administration’s own 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) references Russia’s robust nuclear modernization program as a main justification behind the U.S. need to recapitalize its three legs of the nuclear triad.  An extension of New START would verifiably lock-in the Treaty’s Central Limits – and with it – the reductions in strategic forces Russia has made.

The New START Treaty, which entered into force in 2011, provides transparency and predictability into the size and location of Russia’s strategic nuclear delivery systems, warheads, and facilities.  New START’s robust verification architecture involves thousands of data exchanges and regular on-site inspections. The United States confirmed in February that Russia met New START’s Central Treaty Limits and it stated that “implementation of the New START Treaty enhances the safety and security of the United States.”  These same Central Treaty Limits could also govern two of the new types of nuclear weapons referenced by President Putin on March 1st – a case the United States can argue through the Treaty’s Biannual Consultative Commission (BCC).

Lastly, as the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review notes, Russia maintains a numerical advantage to the United States in the number of non-strategic nuclear weapons. The Senate, in its Resolution of Ratification on New START in 2010, took stock of this imbalance and called upon the United States to commence negotiations that would “secure and reduce tactical nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner.” Attempts by the Obama administration to negotiate an agreement on this class of weapons met resistance from Russia.  However, even absent the political space for a formal agreement or binding treaty with Russia, we urge the State Department to discuss ways to enhance transparency on non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Extending New START, resolving Russia’s INF violation, and enhancing transparency measures relating to non-strategic nuclear weapons will also help quiet growing calls from many countries that the United States is not upholding its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations.  The Treaty’s three mutually reinforcing pillars: non-proliferation, peaceful uses of the atom, and disarmament can only be advanced through U.S. leadership on all three.

There is no guarantee that we can make progress with Russia on these issues.  However, even at the height of Cold War tensions, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to engage on matters of strategic stability.  Leaders from both countries believed, as we should today, that the incredible destructive force of nuclear weapons is reason enough to make any and all efforts to lessen the chance that they can never be used again.



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