The Weapon Called Nerve Gas

The Weapon Called Nerve Gas
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

On March 4, former Russian military intelligence specialist Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with nerve gas while in the midst of normal activity in the English city of Salisbury. Both were rushed to a hospital where they were found to be gravely ill. The incident led to widespread condemnations of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. Both victims of the attack eventually recovered after weeks of care in a British hospital.

US Navy gas mask exercise. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Two weeks after the attack, England’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson concluded that Putin himself had ordered the attempted murder. He relied on knowledge of past acts of retribution delivered to former Russian officials who had become critics of Russian policies and leaders. In rather blunt terms, Johnson stated: “Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin and with his decision – and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision – to direct the use of nerve gas on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov immediately countered Johnson’s condemnation of Russia and its president as “a shocking, unforgivable breach of diplomatic proprieties.”

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley joined in the condemnations of Russia with a statement delivered to the Security Council: “If we don’t take concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.”

Britain expelled numerous Russian diplomats and so did the United States. Russia responded by expelling American and British officials. The incident clearly interrupted a recent trend marked by peaceful, even friendly, exchanges between Russia and the West. But it also brought back memories of the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in Britain. A former Russian intelligence expert, he had defected to the West and was living in Great Britain when he became ill and died soon after ingesting tea laden with radioactive polonium. Other defectors from Russia have suffered and died as a result of similarly suspicious events.

Skripal had served Russia for years as a military intelligence colonel. Convicted in 2006 of selling secret information to British authorities, he spent several years in a Russian prison but was then sent to Britain in 2010 as part of an exchange of spies. He chose to live in Salisbury where he seemed to have steered clear of any further government intrigue.

In Russia, commentator Kirill Kleimenov issued a blunt warning over government-controlled Channel One television. He calmly stated: “Being a traitor is one of the dangerous professions in the world. Alcoholism, drugs, stress, nervous breakdowns, and depression are inevitable illnesses of a traitor. As a consequence, heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents, or suicide ultimately follow.” Statements such as his issued by Russia’s prominent media figures have the undeniable aura of government policy.

While no hard proof of Russia’s attack on the Skripals has emerged, the likelihood that President Putin or his close underlings are responsible is widely believed. Putin, it should be recalled, was the head of the dreaded KGB before succeeding in becoming his nation’s leader. He would know how to respond to critics who are deemed traitors.

Western leaders, certainly including U.S. President Donald Trump, should keep the Russian leader’s past, as well as his present, in mind when dealing with him. Leopards don’t change their spots and expecting former KGB bosses to become honorable is likely expecting what can’t be reality.

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McManus_2Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.


Oil, Ukraine, and a Sweet Deal for Putin

Oil, Ukraine, and a Sweet Deal for Putin
by JBS President John F. McManus

The Bakken energy field amounts to the largest domestic oil discovery since the one at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay. Stretching over North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana (also into Canada’s Saskatchewan province), the amount of recoverable oil in this region could do away with any need to import the precious commodity. Small cities in western North Dakota have been overrun with eager job seekers who are benefitting greatly from the need for more and more workers. But there’s a need for a pipeline to transport this oil to refineries in states to the south.

Not only is the Bakken capable of releasing OPEC’s hold on our nation, additional discoveries now known to exist under the Rocky Mountain states hold an estimated three to four times what is being tapped in North Dakota and its neighbors. Shortly after beginning his second term in 2005, President George W. Bush gave the order for extracting this treasure. But nothing has been done.

The Keystone pipeline project proposes to ship crude oil from the Bakken and from Canadian oil sands projects to refineries in our nation’s southern states. But hurdles are still blocking its construction. If the Keystone pipeline were constructed, there would be no need for imports from unfriendly Venezuela and unpredictable Russia.. Yes, our nation does import oil from these two countries while also continuing to receive imports from the Middle East.

Environmental groups continue to block development of known resources and needed pipelines. Is it possible that nations who benefit financially and diplomatically from impediments placed in the way of energy independence are financing some of these environmental organizations? Also, why does our own government continue to be a hindrance rather than helping America to become independent?

On the other side of the globe, we see that energy starved Ukraine is highly dependent on Russia for natural gas. But Ukraine is also in dire financial straits, owing many billions for energy already received from its eastern neighbor. American foreign aid, supplied to Ukraine in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, ends up in the coffers of Russia’s Vladimir Putin for natural gas payments. Is this why he ordered the occupation of Crimea? Should the American people fill Putin’s pockets?

The need for oil and natural gas is obvious. But, if our nation acts in proper self-interest, America can gain release from dependence on foreign energy suppliers. Will the Obama administration continue to drag its feet on energy matters? Will the environmentalists be told to get out of the way of progress toward energy independence? Time will tell. Energy independence can be had if U.S. leaders do what good sense calls upon them to do.


Building the Case for Nonintervention: What’s NATO?

Building the Case for Nonintervention: What’s NATO?
by JBS President John F. McManus

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was sold to the American people and the U.S. Congress in 1949 as an alliance needed to prevent the Soviet Union from gobbling up more nations to its West. With such an attitude prevailing, NATO won ratification in the Senate with only 13 negative votes. Opponents of entangling the U.S. in additional international pacts claimed correctly that membership in NATO would require U.S. involvement in disputes all over the world. Only a few knew that NATO was created as a “Regional Arrangement” authorized by Articles 51-54 of the United Nations Charter. Then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson didn’t attempt to hide this relationship and, in his March 19, 1949 speech to the U.S. Senate, he confidently proclaimed, “… it is designed to fit precisely into the framework of the United Nations” and is “an essential measure for strengthening the United Nations.”

The text of the very brief NATO Treaty, only 14 brief articles, actually mentions “the United Nations” five times. The treaty’s Article 5 pledges all signers to consider an attack on any member nation as an attack on all that must be met by all with a military response. In 1950, membership in NATO was cited by President Truman as his authority to send American forces into Korea to counter North Korea’s invasion of its southern neighbor. Later, the precedents established by NATO led to creation of a virtually identical treaty known as the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). President Lyndon Johnson pointed to it for authority to commit hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces to Vietnam. The two wars were the first waged by the United States without victory. And NATO is now the overall leader of the military action in Afghanistan where victory is seemingly impossible.

NATO has recently raised its voice in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean area of Ukraine, and to the further stationing by Russia of tens of thousands of troops near the Ukraine-Russia border. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that the Russian actions have “undermined the very foundations” of the relationship that NATO has been building with Russia. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined with officials of other NATO member nations in planning to build up air, sea and land forces for possible use in reversing Russia’s moves. Should force be employed against Russia, one can be certain that its main ingredient will consist of U.S. military might. But such a development is extremely unlikely inasmuch as it would have to stem from authorization supplied by the UN Security Council where Russia possesses a veto.

Seemingly lost in all of this headline-grabbing activity is the fact that the people in Crimea have already approved being annexed by Russia. At most, the situation involves only the two neighbors, Ukraine and Russia. In years gone by, such a low-level problem would involve only those affected by it. Now, thanks to the United Nations and its NATO subsidiary, any such dispute seems poised to become a regional or even a world conflagration. UN and NATO leaders seem desirous of injecting their organizations and their forces. And, if they succeed, existing treaty obligations will require the U.S. to participate, even lead the response.

All of which points to reasons why the United States should withdraw from NATO and its parent, the United Nations. Doing so would terminate the ongoing U.S. policy that has American forces acting as the policemen of the world. And respect for the United States would begin to rise again to heights previously enjoyed when our nation minded its own business.


Ukraine: U.S. Should Stay Out

Ukraine: U.S. Should Stay Out
by JBS President John F. McManus

As Ukrainians well know, being Russia’s neighbor can be frightening. One doesn’t have to go back too far in history to know that the 1930s saw Stalin’s forces led by Nikita Khrushchev create a famine in Ukraine that killed upwards of seven million. Food was either shipped out of the country or destroyed in one of the more barbarous crimes ever committed by man against man. It was even remarkably horrible for the Soviet Union’s monsters.

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1, 2014 (official White House photo by Pete Souza, via Obama White House Flickr).

Against the desires of a vast majority of the Ukrainian people, their country existed for most of the 20th century as one of the dozen Soviet satellite nations totally controlled by the Kremlin. At the founding of the UN in 1945, Stalin even inveigled a General Assembly vote for the Ukrainian SSR, something that would have been akin to awarding a vote for Puerto Rico that would, of course, have been controlled by the United States.

The southeastern portion of Ukraine contains the Crimean peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea. It is, for history buffs, the home of Yalta, the resort community where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met early in 1945. The three carved up Europe and the Far East precisely as Stalin wanted. Roosevelt aide Alger Hiss, a U.S. citizen who was a secret Soviet partisan, helped obtain for Stalin (his ultimate boss) everything the bloody-handed dictator wanted.

The two million living in Crimea today are more than 50 percent Russian-speaking. They would likely be happy to see their peninsula become part of Russia while the rest prefer to leave things as they have been for many years. But when the corrupt and ineffective Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was forced out of office only a few weeks ago, factions within the country saw their chances to prevail. So, too, did Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the former head of the Soviet Union’s dreaded KGB, see an opportunity to seize control. He sent more than 100,000 Russian soldiers to boost his chances.

U.S. media tell us of grave concern emanating from President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senators McCain and Graham (both of whom have long indicated their preference for using America’s military power almost anywhere), and others. Troops from Russia have moved in Crimea and a non-shooting face-off developed immediately between them and some outnumbered Ukrainian soldiers.

What should the United States do about this crisis on the other side of the world? How about nothing? How about merely expressing hopes that there be no shooting, that common sense will prevail, and that maybe the people who live there will end up deciding for themselves which country they belong to and who their leader will be.

The last thing needed is for the U.S. to flex its military muscles once again. American policing of the world has got to stop. Announcing such a new policy would be welcomed by the people of our country and by most of mankind. We believe it would also lead to a more peaceful world, not only in the Crimea but everywhere.

To learn more about the Ukraine’s inside players, visit this article from The New American.

To learn more about The John Birch Society, visit JBS.org.