Ask This General

Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack {Ret.}

Donald Trump is No Jack Kennedy. Or Khrushchev.

The president lacks the experience, character, credibility, and confidence to navigate our country through a Cuban Missile Crisis. We need Joe Biden.

The world teetered on the brink of nuclear catastrophe 58 years ago this month. The 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis in late October 1962 tested the maturity and wisdom of the nuclear-armed United States and Soviet Union at a time when mutual distrust and suspicion ruled the day.

One of us was a boy in Miami then and still has strong memories of how close we came to nuclear war. What ultimately saved us all was a deep appreciation by President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the unthinkable carnage that would be caused by a nuclear exchange. Both men served in World War II and witnessed first-hand the horrors of war; neither man took lightly his responsibility to safeguard humanity from annihilation.

President Donald Trump has proven during his tumultuous first term that he does not have the background, character, credibility, or confidence in him to navigate our country through a similar existential crisis. He should not be reelected on November 3.

Our concerns have only deepened as Trump continues to mishandle the COVID-19 crisis and much else. The president’s decision-making is mercurial, unpredictable, and ultimately driven more by transactional calculations than by serious concern about the pandemic and the public good. Based on what we have witnessed for the last four years, the odds are slim that Trump will respond with calm and clear thinking to a fast-breaking international crisis.

US and Russian Military Leaders Are Meeting Again, Breaking a Long and Dangerous Drought


Over three years had passed without direct senior-level contact between the world’s preeminent nuclear powers. The military leaders of the world’s most lethal nuclear-tipped states met in February, the first such meeting in three years. The two generals got together again earlier this month, once more in relative obscurity that belied their meetings’ tremendous importance. […]

Breaking Down US-Russian Distrust With Time, Talk, and Meals


A recent session of the long-running Dartmouth Conference shows how non-governmental dialogue can ease tense relations. I was a recent participant in the Dartmouth Conference, one of the few remaining Track 2 — that is, non-governmental — dialogues between the U.S. and Russia. Its results may be especially interesting in the wake of the recent victory of President-elect […]

In Aleppo, Echoes of Guernica and Global Disorder

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Nearly 80 years ago, a shattered town rang a death knell for international order. We must not let it happen again. In 1937, the Third Reich’s expeditionary Condor Legion obliterated the Spanish town of Guernica. This cynical proxy bombing, immortalized in Picasso’s iconic painting, was an early death knell of the League of Nations, and […]

Death of the GRU Commander

An American general remembers Russia’s complex military intelligence chief, who shaped the Ukraine incursion — and worked hard to bridge the East-West gap. In February 2014, contact ceased between U.S. and Russian military intelligence as part of an overall shutdown of defense relations in the wake of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. It was the […]

It’s High Time for US, Russian Militaries to Start Meeting Again

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It is increasingly dangerous in this cyber-fast world for the nuclear-tipped nations to have such a dearth of contact.  In January 2014, the U.S. and Russia’s highest military leaders and their staffs met in Brussels to discuss important security issues. The turmoil in Kyiv’s Maidan Square was intensifying, and the Sochi Olympics and Ukrainian President […]