The Lubavitcher Rebbe SHLITA, King Moshiach emphasizes over and over again that our generation is the generation of the Redemption, while also stating that the Redemption will come in goodness and mercy. In a well-known talk for the Shabbat chapter of Mishpatim in 1992, the Rebbe said: “In recent times there has been a universal desire for the final and complete end of world wars and for the beginning of a new period of world history in justice and fairness, peace and unity...”
Certainly, there will be those who will wonder: " There are still a lot of wars in the world, right now, aren’t there?" In order to answer them, let us at first remember the situation that existed in the world before the early 1990s.
The Cold War, a threat that no longer exists
As we know, the world powers for decades produced and stockpiled nuclear bombs and missiles by the tens of thousands units. These fantastic quantities of weapons were designed to ensure that the major powers could “strike back” — that is, retaliate with a nuclear strike, even if they were taken by surprise when an enemy attacked.
In those years there was a heavy atmosphere of mistrust between the world powers and a sense that a world war could break out at any moment, God forbid. This situation is referred to in history as the Cold War period. It was clear that the “cold war” at any time can quickly and inevitably turn into a “hot war”. This is almost exactly what happened during the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as in many other cases in which nuclear alert was declared by the powers. This was the case, for example, during the Yom Kippur War, when the United States declared a high level of nuclear alert.
However, during 1985-1987, a major historical change that many people didn’t expect — a new era of “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” was initiated in the Soviet Union.
Remarkably, one of the most important reforms of the “Perestroika” era, the Law on Cooperatives in the USSR, was passed in close proximity to 22 Shvat 5748 (see the conversation for the Shabbat chapter of Yitro of 1992, marking the beginning of a new period with regard to the concept of “dwelling in the lower world” — meaning making everyday and material possessions, etc., sacred).
This law (passed in May and enacted in the summer of 1988) granted Soviet citizens, for the first time in decades, the right of entrepreneurial activity in services, industry, manufacturing, foreign trade, etc., and finally resulted in an enormous qualitative change in the Soviet Union (previously all factories, trade, etc. had been concentrated in the hands of the ruling Communist regime). The similar changes directly contributed to the collapse and disintegration of the USSR in the next three years.
In turn, the collapse of the Soviet regime led directly to a sharp reduction in the threat of world war. At the same time, the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, a military alliance of Eastern European countries under Moscow whose purpose was to confront the NATO alliance with the United States, including militarily, in case, God forbid, a “third world war” erupted.
The massive strikes and demonstrations that broke out in Poland (at the beginning of Iyar 5748) led to Poland’s withdrawal from the “Warsaw Pact”. Since Warsaw, as you know, is the capital of Poland, this country’s withdrawal from the “Warsaw Pact” turned out to be obviously symbolic and soon led to the fact that all the other states that had previously been part of this organization left the treaty after Poland.
The Soviet Union lost its military satellites and the threat to world peace was further reduced. In the following years, the Soviet Union split up into 15 countries. Instead, independent states emerged: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, as well as 12 countries of the Baltic States, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Russia’s modern military force is much smaller than the former strength of the Soviet Union and its subordinates in Eastern Europe, which were part of the Warsaw Treaty Organization.
Disarmament of Nuclear Weapons
In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” (START I), under which the two world powers agreed to sharply reduce the number of nuclear weapons to 6,000 immediately operational nuclear weapons, instead of the 77,000 nuclear weapons they possessed at the peak of the Cold War (estimated to be about 45,000 warheads for the USSR, and about 32,000 for the US).
It is important to note that many of these nuclear warheads were actually “thermonuclear weapons” — meaning much more powerful weapons — several hundred or even several thousand times more destructive than the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
The thermonuclear bomb has such enormous destructive power that both world powers have done only very few experiments with it. In fact, the awareness of that power led to the understanding that a war fought with thermonuclear bombs could, G-d forbid, result in the destruction of the entire world, or at least could spread deadly nuclear fallout all over the planet!
Most notably, the man who is called the “father of the atomic bomb” was Robert Oppenheimer, an American theoretical physicist and nuclear scientist of Jewish origin. The man considered the “father of the thermonuclear bomb” was another American physicist, also of Jewish origin, Edward Teller.
One way or another, the signing of “START I” resulted in a massive process in which tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, dozens of nuclear submarines, hundreds of strategic bombers (including 365 B-52 bombers that were cut to pieces and completely dismantled), and many hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles were neutralized under the mutual control of the world powers.
In addition, after decades of intense military nuclear development, during which the Americans conducted more than 1,000 experiments with atomic and thermonuclear weapons, the U.S. stopped any such nuclear tests (the last one they conducted more than 27 years ago, on Elul 25, 5752).
Following the signing of “START-1”, in 1992, the eve of the holy Sabbath on which we recite the Mishpatim chapter of the Torah, the leaders of all the major powers met in New York at the United Nations and issued a joint statement of intent to reduce the production of weapons and to direct the freed resources into a better economic situation throughout the world. In other words, the famous prophecy was fulfilled, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares...” (See the Rebbe’s discussion of the Sabbath chapter of Mishpatim on Shvat 27, 5722).
As already mentioned, the Rebbe on that Shabbat focused his talk on explaining that the reason for this meeting of world leaders and their decision to disarm was the action of King Moshiach himself, working to change in a positive way the nations of the world, which in turn means that we are “at the peak” of the coming of the righteous Moshiach.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe King Moshiach, may the days of his life be blessed, also explained that the reason for conducting the meeting in New York City (in the UN building) is because it is the city of the “head of the generation,” or, directly quoting his holy words: “And it should be emphasized that this meeting, decisions and statements in the city of our head of generation... there is a hidden indication that all this has resulted from the actions... performed and carried out by our leader, Moshiach...”.
It is worth noting that the disarmament process did not only involve the United States and Russia. France, which at the peak of the Cold War had 540 nuclear weapons, now has less than 300. Britain, which had about 520 nuclear warheads at the time, has reduced their number to about 215.
As far as we know, China has also reduced its nuclear arsenal. In 1993 China had about 434 nuclear warheads, but today only approximately 260 are remaining.
It should also be noted that the process of neutralization of nuclear weapons continues and is carried out under the mutual supervision of the representatives of the world powers through organized visits to the relevant facilities by inspectors and experts in charge of nuclear disarmament.
Elimination of Chemical Weapons
Eight years ago, Russia and the United States announced that the vast majority of their chemical and nuclear arsenals had been successfully neutralized. And about five years ago, Russia also announced that it had completed the full process of destroying all 40,000 tons of chemical weapons in its possession, moving ahead of the United States.
All of these processes of destroying the chemical weapons stockpiles were carried out within the framework of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (CWC), signed by 192 countries of the world on 20 Tevet 5763. The countries that signed this convention agreed to destroy all of their chemical weapons. In fact, out of all the UN member states, only three countries — Egypt, North Korea and Sudan — have not signed the CWC. Israel has signed the treaty, but has not ratified it.
According to international organizations working in this field, the process of neutralization of chemical weapons is being organized in a number of countries of the world, and by now more than 95% of the stockpiles of these WMD on the planet have already been neutralized.
The countries which formerly possessed especially large stockpiles of the chemical weapons and destroyed a considerable part of them include India (which neutralized about 1 000 tons of chemical weapons), South Korea (completely destroyed 3000-3500 tons of chemical weapons), France, Great Britain and China (which in its turn transferred 17 tons of chemical weapons to Albania, now also neutralized).
In the Middle East, the destruction of chemical weapons took place in Iraq and Libya, which lost all their former stockpiles, as well as in Syria, which was forced to neutralize its arsenal of chemical weapons after Bashar Assad’s regime had used them in attacks against thousands of civilians in the ongoing civil war there. According to Israel’s Military Intelligence Agency (AMAN), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has managed to neutralize about 98 percent of Syria’s chemical arsenal.
Reduction and Disarmament of Armies
Simultaneously with nuclear disarmament, in November 1990 in Paris, the major powers signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), an international agreement between 16 NATO alliance member countries and six countries of the “Warsaw Pact” (including the Soviet Union) which initiated massive reductions of armies and weapons of all the above mentioned countries, as well as tens of thousands of tanks and anti-aircraft guns being withdrawn from service. Thousands of guns and missile launchers, thousands of fighter jets and attack helicopters, hundreds of warships and submarines were also removed from service. The processes of downsizing armies and disarmament is still going to this very day.
Here are some examples of the reduction of armies:
The army of the Soviet Union before its dissolution had about 5 million regular soldiers; after its dissolution (in 1992), the Russian army had between 2.7 million and 3 million soldiers; today that army is estimated at about 1.2 million.
The land forces of the Soviet Union and the “Warsaw Pact Organization” together possessed more than 40,000 tanks designed to conquer and occupy all of Europe.
With the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the joining of most of its constituent countries into the NATO Alliance, the Soviet Union was left with about 20,000-25,000 tanks.
Today the number of combat-ready tanks in the Russian Army is about 10-12 thousand. In the meantime Russian army keeps putting out of service hundreds of tanks annually, taking into service only about 50 new ones.
The number of strategic bombers (designed primarily to carry nuclear weapons and cruise missiles with a range of thousands of kilometers) available to the Soviet Union reached 800, while the number of such bombers in the current Russian Air Force is only about 150-200.
The number of U.S. armed forces has also decreased significantly, reaching its lowest level in recent decades.
Reductions in the IDF
The downsizing of armies around the world over the past 30 years did not bypass the Israel Defense Forces. According to estimates by various intelligence services around the world, the IDF’s armored forces by the early 1990s were estimated to have around 4,000 tanks: about 1,200 Israeli-made “Merkava” tanks of various types, about 2,400 British Centurions (nicknamed “Shots” in Israel) and American M-60 (called “Magachs”), and about 400 Russian trophy tanks of various old models (in Israel they were called “Tirans”).
However, already after the first Gulf War (in 1991) and the collapse of the huge Iraqi army, the IDF began to plan and evaluate the processes of its own reduction.
After the strategic situation stabilized and the realization that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Iraqi army had led to a radical change in the threat landscape, 400 Tiran tanks were withdrawn from service. Several armored brigades were subsequently disbanded, and entire tank divisions were removed from service.
One cannot ignore the fact that the reductions were actually initiated in 1992, the same year in which the Rebbe gave his speech “They shall beat their swords into plowshares...”.
Immediately after his appointment, the previous IDF Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, announced that he intended to reduce the number of reservists drafted into service by 100,000. At the same time it was announced that seven reserve tank brigades were disbanded, several artillery divisions were also disbanded, and several warships were put out of service.
In recent years, the IDF has officially announced the complete retirement of the “Magach” and “Shot” tanks. In fact, as already mentioned, these models began to be removed from service more than two decades ago. This consistent process resulted in a reduction of another 2,400 tanks!
According to foreign publications, the IDF has also decommissioned all the obsolete Merkava 1 tanks and even all the Merkava 2 tanks! Thus, according to the estimates of foreign military institutions, the IDF today uses only the Merkava-3 and Merkava-4 tanks, the number of which is about 1500.
In other words, we are talking about a reduction in the number of tanks by more than two and a half times, compared with 1991!
Significant reductions have also taken place in the Israeli Air Force over the years. At one time the number of combat aircraft in the IAF was 600, but today, according to foreign publications, there are only 350 in service!
Five years ago, it was announced that as part of the army downsizing process, the Israeli Air Force had completely removed all Cobra helicopter squadrons from service. And about three years ago, it turned out that all the F-16s (“Nets” models), which had been put up for sale, had been completely withdrawn from service as well. Today, the Israeli Air Force uses only the F-16 of newer models, the “Barak” and “Sufa”.
The removal of the “Cobra” model attack helicopters from service was not accompanied by the purchase of new attack helicopters to replace them. Thus, in fact the number of combat helicopters in the IAF has been reduced from about 100 to about 50.
It was also reported that Israel has already signed a deal to sell some of the Barak jets — dozens of fighters of this model have already been removed from the service of our Air Force.
It should be noted that the number of fighters and helicopters taken out of service in recent years has exceeded 150 units, while the number of new high-powered aircraft taken into service is quite small (about 30). In other words, it is obvious that we are talking by no means only about replacing old models with more modern ones.
Disarmament of nuclear weapons in recent years
It is important to note that the process of nuclear disarmament continues today. For example, about ten years ago — on 27 Tishrey 2012 — the United States announced the accomplishment of the total neutralization of its most powerful thermonuclear bombs of the B-52 model (each 600 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima).
It is notable that the “Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms” (START-III), which was a successor of the same START-I agreement, which the Rebbe spoke about in his talk to the weekly Torah chapter “Mishpatim”, was signed on 21 (probably on the night of 22) Shvat 5771 — that is, the same week of the last year of the Second World War. i.e., the same week that we read the Torah chapter of Mishpatim, only 19 years later!
Under this agreement, the US and Russia must reduce their nuclear capabilities to 1,550 operational nuclear weapons on each side. This is a rather drastic reduction in nuclear weapons, reducing the number of operational warheads by about two-thirds, and obviously directly leads to a further reduction in the threat of world war.
The reduction of nuclear weapons has continued throughout recent years. And this despite growing tensions between the United States and Russia. The very first phone conversation between Presidents Trump and Putin discussed issues related to nuclear disarmament and the possibility of extending the treaty on that. As a result, during the Trump years, nuclear disarmament continued as agreed and the U.S. military dismantled dozens of additional intercontinental nuclear missiles.
This continued after the election of Biden. Already in his first week in office it became known that he discussed with Putin the possibility of extending the nuclear disarmament agreement. As a result, an agreement was reached between them to extend this treaty for another 5 years.
Development and Production of Modern Nuclear Weapons
The fact that Russia, as well as the United States, continues to develop certain types of nuclear weapons does not contradict everything mentioned above, it reflects the current situation in the world, characterized by the continued existence of mutual threats. Therefore, many states, including Israel, continue to develop new types of weapons. However, it is not even possible to compare the scale and number of weapons available today with those possessed by the opposing blocs (Western and Soviet) in the past. This is the natural result of all the aforementioned reductions in regular military arsenals, chemical, atomic and thermonuclear weapons, and in countries’ budgets for developing new types of weapons.
One can, for instance, look at how many bombers (specially adapted to carry nuclear weapons, launch cruise missiles and long-range bombing) have been produced in the US and Russia in the thirty years from 1992 to the present. The numbers explain everything:
Russia has produced a total of 5 bombers (model “Tupolev-160”), the U.S. produced the same number of bombers B-2!
At the same time, for 32 years prior to 5752 (that is, from about 1960 to 1992), the situation was quite different:
The USSR produced about 1,450 strategic bombers: 400 Tupolev-95, 200 Tupolev-16, 300 Tupolev-22, 93 M-4 bombers (of which 19 were under nuclear alert), 500 Tupolev M-22 and 30 Tupolev-160.
The U.S. at the same time produced: about 700-800 strategic bombers: 245 B-52, 104 B-1, 110 B-58, 30 A-5, several hundred F-111s with high range and nuclear strike capability, and 15 B-2s.
Thus, the two powers together made about 2,200 bombers from 1960 to 1992, and only 10 strategic bombers in the next thirty years!
These facts well illustrate a simple and clear fact. Both Russia, including under Putin, and the U.S. have reduced their nuclear weapons dozens of times. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks”
One of the objectives that will be achieved with the coming of the Redemption is that “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.” (Book of Yeshayahu 2:4, Book of Michah 4:4).
International disarmament agreements are a clear evidence of this Redemption objective and another clear indication that we are very close to true and complete Redemption.
What is particularly surprising is how some retired weapons systems, as part of the ongoing conversion, have actually been modified for use in agriculture: trucks that previously carried nuclear missiles have been converted to carry agricultural products, and many tanks have been converted to tractors. This, in fact, was the most obvious “modern” evidence of the objective described by the prophets, who predicted that the tools of war would be turned into tools of agriculture.
It is no coincidence that one of the innovations of recent years has been the growing use of military technology and products for civilian purposes. For example, it was recently reported that based on the famous sophisticated helmet for fighter pilots created by Elbit, a smart helmet for professional cyclists was developed, combining both maximum physical protection and internal display (on the helmet specs) of a variety of data — speed, distance traveled, etc.