This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on April 6, 2022. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.
Far-right and authoritarian leaders in the US and Russia are pushing the planet toward “the most dangerous point in human history,” renowned scholar Noam Chomsky said in an interview published by The New Statesman Wednesday, pointing to Russia’s war in Ukraine and the planetary emergency.
Chomsky condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “criminal aggression” in Ukraine, where his forces have killed an estimated 1,430 civilians since their February 24 invasion according to the United Nations, and warned that the US must help to negotiate peace to avoid nuclear war with Russia.
After calling in 2021 for “enhanced military cooperation with Ukraine”—suggesting that NATO expansion to the former Soviet state was possible—the US should help protect Ukrainians from further suffering, Chomsky told senior editor George Eaton.
“We may move on to terminal nuclear war if we do not pursue the opportunities that exist for a negotiated settlement,” said the University of Arizona professor.
Chomsky’s comments came less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden alarmed peace advocates by appearing to suggest regime change in Moscow—sparking fears that his comments could further provoke the world’s largest nuclear power.
Some international observers have questioned whether the Kremlin has been negotiating in good faith during peace talks with Ukraine that have been taking place intermittently in the past month. Following the discovery of hundreds of civilian corpses in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha last week after Russian forces left the town—sparking accusations of war crimes—peace talks between Ukraine and Russia have been further complicated.
Chomsky, who is 93, said the current state of geopolitics brings to mind the “grim cloud of fascism” that hung over Europe during his childhood in the 1930s.
“It’s just gotten worse,” he said. “We are now facing the prospect of destruction of organized human life on Earth.”
Aside from the threat of nuclear war, he said, the world is facing the planetary emergency and the refusal of wealthy countries to mitigate the crisis by taking sufficient action to draw down fossil fuel emissions and shift to renewable energy sources.
With the Democratic Party in the US facing plummeting poll numbers and failing to deliver bold climate action and anti-poverty measures, the government could soon be in the hands of the Republican Party—which, because of the “fanaticism” of former President Donald Trump, Chomsky said, “barely regards climate change as a serious problem.”
“That’s a death warrant to the species,” he said.
Trump, who continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was “rigged” in favor of Biden, has begun holding campaign rallies where he’s doubled down on spreading the “Big Lie” about his election loss.
“I can remember listening to Hitler’s speeches on the radio. I didn’t understand the words, I was six years old,” Chomsky told The New Statesman. “But I understood the mood. And it was frightening and terrifying. And when you watch one of Trump’s rallies that can’t fail to come to mind.”
“That’s what we’re facing,” he said.
Chomsky noted that the advocacy of “young people dedicated to trying to put an end to the catastrophe,” including the global grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, has given him “hope for the future.”
“There are plenty of young people who are appalled by the behavior of the older generation, rightly,” he added, “and are dedicated to trying to stop this madness before it consumes us all.”