COMMENT by Tony Papard

Group member Tony Papard emailed the following to the Russian and Ukrainian Embassies, the Stop the War Coalition and Mr Gorbachev a couple of weeks ago:

I implore both sides in this tragic and dangerous situation to see the other side’s point of view, acknowledge errors and indeed crimes, call an immediate ceasefire and seek to resolve the current situation peacefully before more Ukrainians and Russians are needlessly killed.

Russia had genuine concerns but this is not the way to resolve them. As for Ukraine, it was foolhardy when Russian forces were on its borders not to promise neutrality and that it would never join NATO, which has expanded Eastwards to the very borders of the Russian Federation despite a promise that it would not do so. This naturally increases tension and makes Russia feel threatened. NATO should have been wound up when the USSR collapsed and granted independence to all the former Soviet republics. Russia should have been brought in from the cold then.

Ukraine has done itself no favours with the anti-Russian government installed after the Euromaidan events, with Western interference. Nor by incorporating neo-Nazi battalions into the Ukrainian National Guard such as the notorious Azov battalion. Why did Ukraine not grant autonomy within Ukraine for the two areas in the Donbas when they requested it, and why has it been shelling them for 8 years?

Crimea was always part of the Russian Federation till 1954 when Khrushchev handed it over to the Ukrainian SSR without consulting the Crimean population. Russia was wrong to just annex Crimea without a referendum monitored by an independent body. Maybe a solution would have been something akin to Northern Ireland where citizens could choose Russian or Ukrainian citizenship.

This war in Europe is very dangerous and could escalate into a nuclear exchange which would effectively end all civilization on this planet and affect any generations to come with cancers and deformities. Sending young Ukrainians and Russians barely out of childhood to kill each other is indefensible in the 21st Century. This madness must stop!

Zelensky encouraging Ukrainians to make Molotov cocktails to throw at Russian troops is extremely irresponsible, blurring the distinction between civilians and the military and making civilians military targets.

The roots of this current situation are manifold. 1. NATO’s broken promises as it moved its military forces to the very borders of Russia instead of bringing it in from the cold. 2. Ukraine saying it may join NATO and refusing to remain neutral. 3. Ukraine’s anti-Russian stance since the Euromaidan coup. 4. Russia annexing Crimea without an independently controlled referendum. 5. Ukraine conducting a war against the Donbas region for eight years and refusing to grant these areas autonomy within Ukraine. 6. Ukraine not disbanding the neo-Nazi Azov battalion in its National Guard.

There should now be a top-level meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Zelensky in a neutral country and an immediate ceasefire.

What if Putin goes Nuclear?

There may be a story behind why Jon Snow’s documentary with that title wasn’t screened on 15th March as publicised, but after the Channel 4 News the following Saturday. Was it considered too scary for an impressionable public?

The programme included black and white clips of “Protect and Survive” films, which the older among us will remember, and it was said these were widely mocked at the time. Interviewees accepted that during the Cold War the acronym “MAD” — the use of nuclear weapons would mean Mutually Assured Destruction — was a reliable deterrent. How reliable it is now, faced with an adversary with the instincts of a cornered rat and a will to win at any cost: this was the main focus of the documentary.

Two military men gave their points of view. Colonel Hamish de Bretton Gordon noted Putin’s record of using chemical weapons against individual targets and condoning their use in Syria. He said people generally think nuclear war destroys everything and would “wipe Britain off the earth. It doesn’t; it won’t.” With some basic preparation and training, “you’ve got a pretty good chance of surviving.”

Philip Ingram MBE, a former Colonel, spelled out the possible stages of nuclear escalation, e.g. Putin might engineer a nuclear accident or use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, calculating that it would not provoke a nuclear response from NATO. He doesn’t think we need to fear a nuclear attack on this country but we should “register the fact we have a global bully who has waved the nuclear stick and we should be preparing for the possibility however unlikely it is.”

Paul Ingram was Executive Director of BASIC 2007–2019 and is now Programme Manager for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. His immediate reaction to Putin’s putting nuclear weapons on alert was that he was just playing with our emotions: he aims to terrify. But with the incessant bombardment of civilian targets in Ukraine he sees a very dangerous escalation “which could end in some sort of nuclear detonation”. You could have NATO and Russia in direct confrontation which would be “really dangerous.”

The way out of the situation, he says, is to “draw the Russians into a relationship of collaboration”. Give them an incentive to cooperate with us. It will require compromise, understanding that while we have principles around self-determination those sit in a broader relationship with régimes like the Russians and the Chinese whom we may feel uncomfortable doing business with. “The name of the game, moving forward, for the sake of humanity, is collaboration.”

Alison Williams

Postscript to above article:

On 24th March, in Brussels, NATO members agreed to turbo-charge the Alliance’s strategic plans in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. CND General Secretary Kate Hudson calls for a new common security strategy to prevent further escalation.

“While we roundly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and call for Vladimir Putin to immediately withdraw his troops, NATO has spent the last three decades constantly expanding its reach as a nuclear-armed military power.

“CND — along with the rest of the international peace movement — has long argued for a new common security concept for Europe and beyond, that moves away from militarisation. We will be making the case for this at the Madrid Peace Summit which runs alongside the NATO summit in Madrid.”

Overstretched and Underfunded

Overstretched and underfunded. the UN is close to breaking point. That’s UNA-UK’s message where it requests support on the Home Page,

CND has a far larger paid-up membership, and even though one gets “does it still exist?” responses now and then I don’t feel the need to explain that acronym as I do with UNA. That’s bad news for CND as well as UNA because we all depend on an effective UN to achieve our global objectives.

UNA is now embarking on a new membership scheme: the long list of subscription categories has been replaced by a subscription-free membership with request for donations. All going well, UNA will attract such a massive membership the government will see a British electorate seriously committed to international Peace, Justice and Sustainability and sign up to the Ban Treaty.

Like the rejuvenated UN itself these days, UNA is sure to be giving voice and opportunities to young people. Its Climate and Oceans Council recently released a report — “Our Climate Crisis: Youth in Action” — on an online event held last year with 60 countries represented.

Check out the UNA-UK website. I hope it will persuade you to join and help create the game-changing numbers needed.

Alison Williams

Babs Knivett

WDC/CND members were saddened to learn of the death of Babs Knivett, a peace activist and a founder member of CND. Babs was for many years secretary of Mitcham CND, but she supported many Wimbledon CND events, in particular the Fête of the Earth, which she attended every year, accompanied by her daughter, Ann. She also attended our Hiroshima Day commemoration for many years.

A loyal and dedicated CND member, Babs took part in all CND marches, from Aldermaston onwards. She only ceased being active when she became too frail to continue; even then, she would continue to argue the case for peace with great passion and conviction. She was 93 years old when she died on 1st February.

Maisie Carter

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on 16th March after nearly 6 years’ detention in Iran. Her husband Richard Ratcliffe and Amnesty International (including the local Wimbledon and Merton AI group) campaigned ceaselessly for her release. Anoosheh Ashoori, who also had been in detention in Iran, was also released and flown back to the UK on the same flight that arrived at RAF Brize Norton about 1 a.m. the following morning.

Local Amnesty group contact: Richard George on

Christine Bickerstaff

London CND AGM: Report

The meeting was held on 14th March, on Zoom. Guest speaker was Emma Dent Coad, who spoke about the Russia/Ukraine conflict and its effect on local residents, many of whom have approached her with their fears about a nuclear attack. She also urged continued protest against the Nationalities and Borders Bill, stressing the links between war, refugees and arms.

Carol Turner spoke to her Annual Report: Particularly heartening was the group’s enhanced profile on social media platforms, thanks to the work of Julie Saumagne, the Coordinator. The increase in numbers in Youth and Student CND was also encouraging, and advancing this group is one of the priorities for the coming year. Other campaigning priorities were re-affirmed as the scrapping of Trident, seeking to increase support for the UK signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, continuing to oppose UK participation in the USA’s pivot to Asia, and opposing military conflict in Ukraine.

The need to expand London Region’s regular income was acknowledged, and it was proposed to increase the on-going financial commitment from individual and organisational supporters, appropriate to their means, with the scheme to come into operation from January 2023, allowing time for consultation with local groups and others.

Current Co-Chairs Hannah Kemp-Welch and Carol Turner were willing to stand again, as were the other members of the current committee. There were no new nominations, and they were all duly re-elected.

Sue Jones

Nuclear Fusion

The main way that nuclear fusion technology differs from nuclear fission is that it does not have the terrible legacy of extremely long-lasting radioactive products. Fusion energy has the potential to supply safe, clean and nearly limitless power.

Nuclear fusion is the source of the sun’s energy. Hydrogen is in such extreme conditions, including high temperature, that some of it fuses, producing helium and an excess of heat. Helium is a stable, non-reactive and non-radioactive gas. Scientists have been trying to mimic this process for over 80 years. They have been able to do it, but once started, it continues in an uncontrolled manner. That is the technology of the hydrogen bomb, where the fission of a small radioactive starter bomb is used to force the fusion of hydrogen.

The technology for controlled fusion has proved much more difficult to apply. Most efforts use large magnetic fields to accelerate a very hot plasma (so hot that the electrons are separated from the nuclei of the atoms) and confine the plasma so that it does not touch the usually doughnut-shaped containing vessel walls (which would decelerate, cool it and destroy the walls).

So far, fusion experiments, such as those at the Joint European Torus at Culham in England, have managed to contain the plasma in controlled fusion, but they have required more input energy than output energy. A much bigger facility, ITER, is being built at Cardarache in South West France by a consortium comprising China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States.

This is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion on a large scale, to be the first controlled fusion device to produce net energy for long periods of time, and testing technologies, materials and physics regimes for commercially produced fusion-based electricity. Unfortunately, the first fusion will not be until 2025 and there will then be a decade of ramp-up of the machine before the first Deuterium-Tritium (D+T) Operation begins. (D+T fuel reaches fusion conditions at lower temperatures compared to other elements and releases more energy than other fusion reactions). Once that is proven, then actual commercial production sites can be built and commissioned.

Christine Bickerstaff

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