Russian Yars Flight Test
© Scott Ritter ExtraThe flight test of a Russian Yars ICBM, February 29, 2024.
I was planning on publishing Part 2 of my article on Alexei Navalny.

However, today Alexei Navalny's body is being laid to rest in a funeral service in Moscow attended by a few thousand well-wishers and supporters.

My wife has always cautioned me not to speak ill of the dead.

Especially on the day their mortal remains are being returned to the earth.

Instead, I am compelled to write about something else.

It is the funeral that will never be held.

The obituary that will never be read.

The eulogy that will never be spoken.

Who's passing do I lament?

My own.

My family.

My friends.

My fellow Americans.

Humanity.

Robert Oppenheimer
© Scott Ritter ExtraRobert Oppenheimer
The mechanism of our deaths will only too late be revealed, most likely in a blinding flash of light that will bring us to our knees, awaiting the shockwave that proceeds the unbearable heat that will transform our flesh and bones, instantaneously, to ash.

We cannot claim that we were not forewarned of our imminent demise — ever since Robert Oppenheimer proclaimed himself to be "Death, the destroyer of worlds," we have known that we possessed the mechanism of our own destruction, and yet we have done nothing to remove this danger from our lives.

Instead, we continued to perfect this most horrible of weapons, devising even more deadly warheads, and more efficient delivery systems upon which to deliver them to our enemies, all the while knowing that any large-scale use of these weapons would signal our own passing.

For an all-too-brief moment, the insanity of the course we had set became apparent, and we undertook to return the genie to the bottle, to reverse course, to save ourselves and our fellow human beings.

But hubris intervened, and when the source of our nuclear angst — the Soviet Union — faded into the pages of history, we sought to leverage our new-found status as uncontested nuclear-armed global hegemon by proclaiming an end to history, promoting ourselves and our political system, through an intellectual exercise that would have made Darwin proud, into the highest expression of human development.

But in a flash this moment was gone, evaporated along with the edifices of our capitalistic existence as remote corners of the globe pushed back against our arrogant self-coronation. We sought to conquer a world which no longer brooked being conquered, to dominate people who refused to bend the knee, all along shielding ourselves from the reality of our atrophied power by hiding behind an aging nuclear arsenal we fooled ourselves into believing was supreme.

In our arrogance we divorced ourselves from the processes of arms control we once used to secure our survival. We withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty which breathed life into the deterrence value of mutually assured destruction, believing that the only destruction which should be assured was that of our enemies, real and imagined.

SPRINT anti-ballistic missile base
© Scott Ritter ExtraSPRINT anti-ballistic missile base.
We withdrew from the intermediate nuclear forces treaty, forgetting that the reason we entered it was to remove one of the most destabilizing weapons in Europe in an effort to secure peace. Instead, we sought to reintroduce these destabilizing weapons, secure in our mistaken belief that our enemies would not be able to match our military prowess.

And we negotiated in bad faith a series of strategic arms reduction treaties, seeking strategic advantage when we should have been seeking strategic stability.

The target of our arrogance, Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, tried in vain to dissuade us from the path we were taking. In 2007, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Putin cautioned that Americas had "overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural, and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?"

As a result, Putin warned, "no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this — no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course, such a policy stimulates an arms race."

Pres Putin
© Scott Ritter ExtraVladimir Putin addresses the Munich Security Conference, February 2007.
We ignored him.

Instead, we convinced our European partners of the illusive dangers of an "expansive" Russia, all the while minimizing the real dangers of a Russian nuclear arsenal on the cusp of revival — all it needed was a push in the right direction, one we were only too happy to provide by ignoring Russian concerns about missile defense.

In 2018, the nuclear chickens came home to roost. Citing our disregard for the niceties of arms control, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was in the process of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons capable of overcoming any defense the United States was preparing to deploy. "You didn't listen to our country then," Putin said, referring to his past warnings about the dangers of an arms race. "Listen to us now."

We did not.

Instead, we worked our European allies into a frenzy, stoking the fires of conflict with exaggerations of both the threat posed by Russia, and Europe's ability — through NATO — to defeat this threat — especially if the vehicle for bringing Russia to its knees was a proxy conflict in Ukraine.

Our European partners played their part well — too well. Having been convinced that Russia posed an existential threat to the survival of Europe, and equally convinced of the security provided by the American nuclear umbrella, Europe fell victim to its own artificially constructed narrative, believing that a Russian victory in Ukraine really did threaten the very survival of Europe. They chose to minimize the dangers posed by Russia's nuclear arsenal, lulled into a false sense of security by America's own dismissal of the capabilities Russia claimed to possess, and opted to chart a path toward confrontation with Russia on Ukrainian soil, even though Russia had said this was a red line which, once crossed, would inevitably lead to a nuclear war.

German Taurus cruise missile
© Scott Ritter ExtraGerman Taurus cruise missile.
"There has been talk about the possibility of sending NATO military contingents to Ukraine," the Russian leader noted in an address delivered to the Russian parliament this past Thursday. "But we remember the fate of those who once sent their contingents to our country's territory. But now the consequences for possible interventionists will be far more tragic. They must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don't they get that?"

Apparently, they don't.

So here is to the American experiment.

Born July 4, 1776.

Died...we'll never know.

An imperfect union, it strove to be better, fighting a revolution to free itself from the tyranny of the British crown while preserving slavery as a constitutionally approved institution. America fought a bloody Civil War to end the evil of slavery and preserve the Union, all the while implementing its self-anointed God-given "manifest destiny" which drove into near extinction the indigenous people who populated the continent we conquered. We came to the aid of Europe not once, but twice, over the course of a century, helping defeat the forces of fascism and imperialism, before becoming fascist-like in our domestic policies that supported our imperialistic foreign policies.

America, the beautiful.

God shed his grace on thee.
The Castle Bravo nuclear test of March 1, 1954
© Scott Ritter ExtraThe Castle Bravo nuclear test of March 1, 1954
This is the eulogy I will never be able to deliver, because like the rest of you, I am fated to die in a nuclear holocaust of our own making. We have embarked on a collective journey whose only destination is death and destruction.

We have ignored, at our own peril, the efforts of those, at home and abroad, who have tried to get us to take an off-ramp.

I would have liked to have had the epitaph on my gravestone read, "Here lies a warrior for peace, who dedicated his life to the cause of making the world a safer place to live."

Alas, I, like all of you who are reading this, am doomed to die in a war that could have been avoided if we just tried a little bit harder to avoid it.

The shame is that, at that moment when the inevitability of our passing hits home, in the millisecond that will follow the flash of light and the comprehension of what it signifies, all of us will think "If I had just..."

But it will be too late because we did not.

We allowed the military industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about to become manifest.

We remained indifferent to the reality of its pervasiveness, even as our own government informed us that the reason for pursuing our suicidal path of destruction with Russia in Ukraine was so that our defense industry could profit.

But there is no profit in death.

Rest in peace, America.

And may God damn us all to hell for destroying that which he had bequeathed us.