Plowshare Peace Center calls for an end to the killing in Ukraine. Thousands are dying; apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals are being shelled; several nuclear power plants have been captured; and millions of refugees are streaming out of the country. There is a danger of an escalation to a nuclear war between Russia and NATO members.
This conflict has a history that precedes the February 24th invasion by Russian troops. The complicated conflict began soon after the breakup of the Soviet Union when Ukraine became independent in 1991. In 2008, at the NATO Budapest meeting, Ukraine and Georgia were offered to join and Russia saw this as a hostile act. George Kennan, noted diplomat and historian, warned in 1997 that expanding NATO to Russia’s doorstep would be “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” Yet successive U.S. administrations chose to ignore that warning and now NATO has expanded to 30 countries, including Estonia and Latvia on Russia’s border. The threatened expansion of NATO’s military machine to Ukraine and NATO naval operations in the Black Sea are clear and direct escalations of military tensions between NATO and Russia. Russia fears nuclear weapons on its borders and has stated that it considers Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO a threat to its security.
These escalations culminated in 2014 with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, which at the time was a part of Ukraine. This aggressive action came on the heels of the US-influenced Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, a series of bloody clashes between Ukrainian protesters and security forces, which led to the president at the time being replaced by more anti-Russian politicians. The annexation of Crimea was a clear violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which “the United States, Russia, and Britain committed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against the country.” said Steven Pifer, a senior fellow at Foreign Policy in 2019. Under Russian occupation, the people of the Crimea, including Tartars, ethnic Ukrainians, political activists, and journalists have been subject to harassment and arbitrary detention at the hands of Russian officials according to watchdog agencies. The conflict continued between Ukraine and Russia in the Donbas region of Ukraine, which came to a ceasefire with the Minsk agreements in early 2015 although both sides have exchanged fire ever since.
Tensions in the region have increased in the past 30 years with the West’s admission of new members into NATO, but that does not constitute a provocation worthy of hostile invasion as retaliation. Plowshare Peace Center condemns that act as a war of aggression under Article 8 (1(a)) of the Rome Accords. However, we recognize that the massive, ruinous sanctions against Russia are not benign or aimed only at Putin and his allies. We remember that the sanctions against Iraq after the first Gulf War led to the deaths of 500,000 children. This is not the answer, nor is sending more offensive weapons to Ukraine or deploying NATO troops to Central European countries, particularly Poland which borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The latter could lead to another “endless war” whose effects would likely change budget priorities in many countries, leading to an increased focus on defense budgets, to the detriment of health, welfare, education, and the urgent need to focus on the global climate crisis. Both the Russian people and the Ukrainian people are yearning for justice and peace now.
Ukraine has seen countless wars in its history, from brutal conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and Russian Empire centuries ago, to the Nazi German invasion in World War II, to today’s horrifying warfare. Kyiv, Ukraine is the site of Babi Yar, a ravine where Nazi killing squads systematically murdered over 34,000 Jews in September 1941. These horrors cannot be forgotten. Russia, for its part, has a strong peace movement, but has seen a clampdown on any kind of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Musicians, opposition leaders and dissidents have been jailed or have disappeared; some have been poisoned.
Plowshare calls for the quickest possible ceasefire and for Russia to withdraw its soldiers from Ukraine, at least to Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine must be allowed to govern itself as an independent nation and its people must be assured of their right to self-determination under the UN Charter. We also call for the United States and its allies in NATO not to declare a “no-fly” zone above the city of Kyiv as this could lead to a wider war between nuclear powers. The reckless playing with people’s lives must end.
Plowshare calls for solidarity with the magnificent antiwar protestors in Russia. They are an inspiration to us. Plowshare calls for diplomacy to settle the war in Ukraine. We encourage all people to oppose war as a means of settling differences.
Say Yes to Diplomacy! Say No to War over Ukraine! Taxes for Climate, Not War!
3-17-22 Plowshare Board, Plowshare Peace & Justice Center, Roanoke, VA