Ukraine War Underscores Urgent Need for Nuclear De-escalation 

Interview with Norman Solomon, co-founder of, conducted by Scott Harris

Before launching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin reminded the world that his nation was a nuclear power. Once the invasion began, and the Russian military failed to quickly take control of Ukraine’s major cities, Putin placed his nuclear forces on high alert.

With western nations united in imposing harsh economic sanctions on Russia’s economy, a U.S. oil embargo and the call by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over his nation’s airspace, the risk of a wider and far more dangerous war has increased. Putin has told foreign countries not to interfere in his invasion of Ukraine, warning that such intervention could lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

Not since the darkest days of the Cold War has the world witnessed the specter of nuclear warfare, that if deliberately or accidentally launched, could destroy our world. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Solomon, co-founder of and author, who shares his views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and why he believes now is the time for a global movement demanding nuclear de-escalation.

NORMAN SOLOMON: A month ago, I could not have imagined that Russian forces would be bombing Kiev. I think that almost all Kremlin watchers were surprised, astonished, when Russian forces went beyond eastern Ukraine — which was what some would expect to that point — and really wanting to go after the whole country.

And these so-called tactical nuclear weapons, they’re a jump on a very conceivably quick escalator to all-out nuclear war. So it is frightening. I think, that the idiots who are calling for a no-fly zone, which sounds nice, it’s like a candy around poison. Oh, yeah. The U.S. or NATO should impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

That’s sort of asking for World War II. There are all sorts of Russian planes in that airspace. You want to go out there and shoot them down and get into dogfights? I’m not aware of any Russian-U.S. conflict militarily for almost a century. So why would we do that in terms of direct conflict? It’s a recipe for insanity.

And, clearly, Biden does not want that to happen. And he canceled a scheduled U.S. missile test. So not to rattle things further when Putin made his irresponsible announcement of putting Russian nuclear forces on alert. Biden did not do the same, which was smart.

SCOTT HARRIS: Norman, I did want to ask you about over the recent decades, we’ve seen existing nuclear treaties with Russia disappear. 


SCOTT HARRIS: The Intermediate Range Nuclear Treaty that we talked about. Also the ABM Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, I believe START Two is the only one that’s left in this climate with the war raging in Ukraine. It’s probably not the most opportune time to sit down with Russia to hammer out a new set of arms control agreements. But of course, it’s really that much more critical to do, with all that’s going on with a threat of war looming.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yeah, there was a report about a week ago that the U.S. had pulled out of their routine arms control negotiations with Russia. Hopefully, that’s very, very temporary. As you mentioned, the INF treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty that was implemented in the late 1980s, President Trump canceled it and pulled out. And that was one of the one of the many terrible things that Trump did and that came after President George W. Bush pulled the U.S. out of the ABM treaty in 2002.

So you know when you step back, I think the the major transgressor on nuclear arms and disarmament, arms control issues — it has been the United States. I mean, you know there are no saints in the Kremlin around this. And to have this nuclear arsenal on each side in both sides is horrible. That said, the you the U.S. government has been the main driver of the nuclear arms race. You would almost never know that from our mass media and certainly not from Congress.

And we have a lot of people like Chris Murphy in the Senate who are just going along with the Cold War program. It’s not only disgusting, but it’s very dangerous.

SCOTT HARRIS: One thing we don’t have today in this country is a powerful peace movement as we did in the 1980s when those intermediate range nuclear missiles were placed in Europe.

You’re very connected with the activist groups all across this country and internationally, Norman. What’s the possibility that this conflict in Ukraine could spark a re-energizing of a peace movement in this country and other nations around the world to really put the pressure on governments wherever they are, to take the risk out of a possible nuclear conflict that we would not survive?

NORMAN SOLOMON: The potential is there to organize really strong movements against war, against nuclear weapons, arsenals. It’s imperative we’re way behind the eight-ball right now because we don’t have such strong movements. Certainly, the seeds have been planted. There are some sprouts. People are doing a lot of organizing, not only at, but Code Pink and Just Foreign Policy, Progressive Democrats of America.

These groups are steadfastly trying to organize for nonviolent solutions in a very dangerous international situation right now. I think that we need to have a very clear set of perceptions and principles that condemn what Russia is doing in Ukraine and condemn NATO as well for its insistence on expansion and its militarism in the thrall of the arms dealers.

And so, there’s no allies here in Washington or in Moscow in terms of policy. As always, the creative, essential changes are going to have to come from the grassroots.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Norman Solomon (24:51) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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