By Matthew Rothschild on April 15, 2014

As the crisis in Ukraine reaches new levels, the tension between Russia and the United States is rising dangerously.

After Putin’s moves to take over the Crimea, the United States sent six 5-15 fighter jets on NATO air patrols over the Baltic and delivered 12 F-16 fighters to Poland. It also deployed a U.S. destroyer to the Black Sea.

On Monday, a Russian jet came near that destroyer.

“Officials at the Pentagon on Monday protested what they described as a provocative flyover by a Russian attack aircraft that flew at close range for 90 minutes over a U.S. Navy ship that had been sent into the Black Sea,” the Washington Post reported.

These maneuvers raise the question as to whether U.S. or Russian leaders have put their nuclear weapons systems on higher alert, as happened during tense periods of the Cold War.

The Pentagon won’t confirm or deny whether U.S. nuclear forces have been placed on higher alert.

“In general, we don't discuss our force posture,” said one defense official. “DoD is closely monitoring the situation and remains in close contact with the State Department and interagency, along with our Allies, Partners and NATO.”

Nor would the U.S. Strategic Command confirm or deny any change in nuclear war-fighting posture.

"As a matter of policy, we do not discuss operational procedures, to include changes in alert status,” said a U.S. Strategic Command spokesperson. “U.S. Strategic Command conducts global operations and one of its priorities is to partner with the other Combatant Commands, Services and appropriate U.S. Government agencies to  defend the interests of the United States and its allies at the direction of the President."

Experts who monitor U.S. nuclear policy doubt that Washington or Moscow would be foolish enough to put their nuclear weapons systems on higher alert.

“It would be just mind-blowing if these guys did something like that,” says Winslow Wheeler, who is the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.

“I would be shocked if they were,” says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

And Bonnie Urfer at Nukewatch says she has seen no reports of heightened activities at the nuclear weapons sites.

But if the crisis escalates further, there is the possibility that Washington or Moscow might rattle their nuclear sabers, and that’s a highly risky game to play.

As Noam Chomsky warned, early in the Ukraine crisis, it “could lead to a nuclear missile confrontation.”

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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