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Secure Elections and True National Security

The Nation, America’s leading source of progressive politics and culture, today published a rare open letter cosigned by over 20 prominent cultural and political figures—Democratic party loyalists and former Republican politicos alike—imploring public officials to implement a pronounced shift in the US’s approach to Russia.

Timed to mark President Trump’s attendance at this week’s NATO summit, and his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, the open letter encourages robust public debate, seeks common ground for the sake of democracy, and points a way forward for diplomatic relations between the two nuclear superpowers.

Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security is an open letter by Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, John Dean, Governor Bill Richardson, Walter Mosley, Michael Moore, Valerie Plame, and others.

Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest and most dangerous point in several decades.

For the sake of democracy at home and true national security, we must reach common ground to safeguard common interests—taking steps to protect the nation’s elections and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

Whatever the truth of varied charges that Russia interfered with the election, there should be no doubt that America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process is in urgent need of protection. The overarching fact remains that the system is vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere.

Solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails. As a nation, we must fortify our election system against unlawful intrusions as well as official policies of voter suppression.

At the same time, the U.S. and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course. Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria and in skies above Europe.

Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack.

These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.

The United States should implement a pronounced shift in approach toward Russia. No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false. Concrete steps can and must be taken to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.

  • Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus, Boston University
  • Phyllis Bennis, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
  • Noam Chomsky, Professor, Author, and Activist
  • Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, NYU and Princeton University, and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord
  • John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel
  • Phil Donahue, Journalist and Talk-Show Pioneer
  • Thomas Drake, Former NSA Senior Executive and Whistle-blower
  • Daniel Ellsberg, Activist, “Pentagon Papers” Whistle-blower, and Author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
  • Jack F. Matlock Jr., Former US Ambassador to the USSR and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord
  • Walter Mosley, Writer and Screenwriter
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–Winning Novelist
  • Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, CUNY Graduate School
  • Valerie Plame, Former Covert CIA Operations Officer and Author
  • Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
  • Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico
  • Patricia Schroeder, Former Congresswoman
  • Norman Solomon, National Coordinator,
  • Gloria Steinem, Writer and Feminist Organizer
  • Adlai Stevenson III, Former US Senator and Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation
  • Alice Walker, Writer, Poet, and Activist
  • Jody Williams, Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute

Signers have endorsed this Open Letter as individuals and not on behalf of any organization.


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