Fixing a DC Peace Group’s Talking Points

A Washington DC-based “peace” group has been spreading around talking points. Let’s see if we can’t help improve them a little.

“We strongly condemn this premeditated act of aggression by Russia. While tensions in and around Ukraine have a long historical origin, there is no justification for this international act of aggression.  While the deployment of Russian troops to Donetsk and Luhansk merely makes public a presence that has persisted for years covertly, the potential for a dramatic expansion of war in Donbas and throughout Ukraine is dangerous and worrisome. The methodical and clear military preparations by Russia for this action over the last few months, despite extensive diplomacy to de-escalate and diplomatic offramps offered by the international community, make clear that any further conflict is a war of Russia’s choosing.”

This is a war of more than one government’s choosing. As the current CIA director said years ago (but would never say now) and as thousands of thoughtful people have said since Germany reunited, expanding NATO would amount to choosing this war. There was no war until the U.S. and NATO came to the rescue, influencing elections, facilitating a coup, pouring in weapons, militarizing the region, and insisting on adding Ukraine to NATO. If you take 8 busses to the far side of town and stand in front of someone’s door throwing eggs at it for weeks on end — while people inside post signs on the windows reading “Go away please” — until somebody finally leans out a window and hits you with a tomato, it will certainly be true that they did something awful, and that they chose to do it, and that they shouldn’t have done it. But there will always have been an obvious way to prevent them from doing it, namely to read their signs and go away, rather than pretending they were incommunicative lunatics who could only understand eggs.

“We urge all parties to immediately cease hostilities and seek a diplomatic resolution to the current conflict.  Diplomacy remains the only hope to avoid further catastrophic conflict, including the possible expansion of this war both throughout Ukraine and beyond its borders. An immediate ceasefire is the only way to mitigate the risk of full-scale war, and the U.S. should engage in robust diplomacy to secure one. Diplomacy can and should include broader issues of concern for the parties that enable not just a temporary ceasefire but ultimately a lasting and sustainable peace. It is key to ensure that civil society be included in conversations around a lasting and sustainable peace.”

Diplomacy that ignores the very reasonable demand to go away please, the very same demand that the United States would make if there were Russian missiles in Ontario, and did make when there were Soviet missiles in Cuba, is lousy diplomacy no matter whether you call it “robust” or not. Disrespectful changing of the subject to trivial matters and refusing to take any positive steps — which is what the U.S. has been doing — is hardly worthy of the name “diplomacy.”

“We are grateful for the Biden Administration’s persistent diplomatic efforts to avoid an unnecessary war and encourage him to lead a coordinated, multilateral response to Russia’s actions, including a humanitarian effort to support refugees fleeing any fighting. President Biden’s Administration has engaged in significant diplomacy, at the highest levels, over the past several months to try and prevent this outcome. Further diplomacy will be necessary to coordinate a multilateral response to Russia’s recent actions, any further escalation, and, importantly, to address humanitarian needs. Given the potential for further violence and escalation, including an unthinkable direct conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, the United States’ efforts should be driven by our diplomats with an aim towards de-escalation.”

Grateful to the government without which there would be no crisis for its responding to what it has provoked? Biden has treated Russia with contempt, shipped more weapons into Ukraine and Eastern Europe, sent in more troops, held more war rehearsals, aired unsubstantiated accusations, refused to support the Minsk 2 agreements or to recognize the self-governance accorded to Donbas therein. Biden or Ukraine or NATO or any member of NATO could defuse this crisis by declaring that Ukraine will not be added to NATO. That would be diplomacy. Screaming that Russia will invade each day is something else.

“We appreciate President Biden’s repeated commitment to keep U.S. military personnel out of any conflict in Ukraine and stress that any new military deployments must be done in full compliance with Congress’ constitutional war powers and the provisions of the War Powers Resolution.”

War is a moral outrage and a criminal act no matter which soldiers are used or which governmental branch takes responsibility. We do not need another catastrophic war risking nuclear apocalypse as long as Congress approves it. We need to turn all of our energies to non-optional emergencies like climate, covid, and the need to eliminate nuclear weapons.

“War is inherently violent, deadly, and destructive, and we are in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all those impacted by this conflict. Estimates of the human costs of a full-scale war in Ukraine are massive, yet not nearly enough has been done to prepare for and prevent the worst in terms of human suffering. We must not lose sight that real human lives are being harmed, whether as a result of fighting, displacement, or the impact of sanctions on Russia and their likely economic retaliation. While troop movements and fighting dominate the news, people are suffering and their stories should not be erased by a singular focus on the violence causing that suffering and the political leaders directing it.”

That’s why we need better talking points. Here are some:

End the expansion of NATO.
Rejoin with Russia in pursuing disarmament agreements.
Dismantle NATO.
Join the world’s major human rights treaties and the International Criminal Court.
Provide sustainable energy infrastructure to Ukraine.
Close foreign bases.
Ban war propaganda.
Ban war profiteering.
Move military spending to human and environmental needs.
Stop arming and supporting over 90% of the world’s most oppressive governments.
Then speak credibly about everything that’s wrong with Russia.

11 thoughts on “Fixing a DC Peace Group’s Talking Points”

  1. Even Iraq war cheerleader Thomas Friedman saw this coming back in 1998. The sheer ignorance of the American public is incomprehensible to me. Lie after lie, war after war, and the people keep coming back for more with bloodlust in their eyes. Freedom! Democracy! Children! Incubators! A few choice words repeated over and over again by proven liars and the cycle gets repeated. Sadly, this is a cycle that includes an outcome of global annihilation. Doesn’t seem to bother them.

    To which “peace group” do you refer?

  2. In 1994, Russia joined NATOs ‘Partnership for Peace’ (PfP) program’ and over the next 20 years cooperated on multiple security issues. This relationship ended in 2014 when Russia unilaterally annexed Crimea.
    FYI, Kazakhstan, is currently in the PfP, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of former Soviet states. These are not mutually exclusive associations.
    In 2014, Russia had a treaty with Ukraine for its base in Sevastopol until 2040, so why did Putin feel it necessary to take the whole peninsula?
    No one expects Ukraine to be admitted into NATO anytime soon, if ever. So why is Putin invading now?
    The current crisis is really about Russia’s fixation on Ukraine. Putin has made it very clear that he considers Ukraine an artificial state and a part of Russia and will not tolerate an independent foreign policy for Kyiv. This all goes back to Maidan.
    After reneging on the Budapest Memorandum, and now the Minsk Accord, what possible believable assurance could Russia provide to Ukraine for a diplomatic solution to the crisis at this point?

  3. Yes. Crimea was an autonomous republic within Ukraine. The base at Sevastopol was leased until 2040. What was the threat from Ukraine?
    If you google “Medal “For the Return of Crimea””, the Wikipedia page has a picture of the back side of the medal that shows the term of the campaign: February 20 — March 18, 2014. On February 20, Yanukovych was still in power in Kyiv. So, Putin had already made the decision to launch his campaign before the so-called ‘coup’ which he used as his excuse.
    In the light of this week’s invasion of Ukraine, it should be obvious that Putin’s goal has always been to control Ukraine. Putin has made no secret of his dismissal of Ukrainian sovereignty. His actions confirm it.
    Joe Kozak

    1. Thank you, Joe Kozak, for being a voice of reason.

      I am so deeply dismayed by the left’s refusal to acknowledge Putin for the thug that he is. And I am so sick of this goddamn binary thinking: one side always good, other side always bad. No nuance, no complexity, no complication.

      Yes, the US has propped up dozens of odious, violent regimes, and has started/participated in lots of indefensible wars. Yes. Yes. We all know this. We get it. That doesn’t mean that, therefore, everything that another regime — in this case, Russia — does is good. Where is the logic??

      Both things can be true at the same time: the US has done a lot of bad shit, and so has Russia. My god, I can’t believe I even have to spell this out.

      Repeat: Putin is a thug. Putin is a dictator. How the hell can we not acknowledge that fact? He’s fkng bombing Ukraine. Hello?? And my compatriots on the left think that he’s amenable to, for example, “banning war propaganda, banning war profiteering, and moving military spending to human and environmental needs”??

      Again, thank you, Joe Kozak. I feel like I’m living in Bizarro World.

      1. The invasion of Ukraine has dredged up the same feelings of helplessness and disgust that I felt during the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush/Cheney and the bombing campaign of Serbia under Clinton.
        My only advice to those on the left who want to give Putin a pass is to listen to the progressive voices in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. These are the people who are bravely fighting for democracy, human rights, civil society, environmental justice, diversity, etc.. at considerable cost. It is to those that we should be showing solidarity.

        1. Indeed. Even some of the Russian soldiers themselves don’t want to be fighting.

          From historian Heather Cox Richardson:

          ‘Protesters in Russia took to the streets to oppose the war; many were arrested. According to Nastassia Astrasheuskaya, a Financial Times reporter in Moscow, the Kremlin had expected the public would support the attack on Ukraine. Prominent celebrities, including those who rely on the state to make a living, also came out against the war.

          ‘On Facebook, the commander in chief of the armed forces of Ukraine, Lieutenant General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, posted that a Russian platoon surrendered about 85 miles north of Kyiv. He said the platoon leader believed they were a reconnaissance team. “No one thought that we were going to kill. We were not going to fight, we were collecting information.”’

    2. Joe, Look at a map of Sevastopol, the Sea of Aziz. And the Don River 2008 Bucharest NATO summit declaration. NATO taking over the naval base at Sevastopol would be like Russia taking over the entrance to the St. Lawrence Seaway. And the NE border of Ukraine is not much more than 300 miles from Moscow – I’m guessing not more than five minutes of flight time to Moscow for a nuclear armed short range ballistic missile fired from the NE border area of Ukraine. Ukraine s a part of NATO is an existential threat to Russia. Everything else is garbage. You seem to have some internalized biases that are seriously clouding your vision. As the de facto leader of NATO, the US is just as responsible for the invasion of Ukraine as is Russia, if not more. Yes , more. The US has driven every part of the crisis and could have ended it at any time with a declaration that the US will oppose NATO membership for Ukraine. That’s all. Because the US is the center of the greatest capitalist empire in History, it is appropriate to consider possible sources of profit. At least two major cash flows will result from this crisis if Russia is completely divorced from Europe: Billions in arms sales to Europe for US weapons manufacturers and billions in US sales of fracked and liquefied natural gas to Europe. The US has triggered wars for less.

      1. Eduardo,
        I don’t need to look at a map. I spent a week cruising the Black Sea as a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Standley in March of 1977.
        Besides the base at Sevastopol, Russia has a large naval base in Novorossiysk, on the Russian Black Sea coast north of Sochi. And, of course, any ship going to/from the Black Sea must go through the straits at Istanbul controlled by NATO member Turkey, which already hosts tactical nuclear weapons at its Incirlik Air Base.
        The Sevastopol base contract, extending the lease until 2042 was indeed controversial. But during the negotiations, then Prime Minister Putin complained about the cost to Russia, saying “No military base in the world is worth that much money. We could build several such bases for that amount.” During Maidan, cancelling the base lease was never a demand.
        Additionally, if you look at a map, Ukraine’s border is no further from Moscow than Latvia’s, which joined NATO in 2004.
        Ultimately, the existential threat, not just to Moscow, but to the whole world has been the nuclear Sword of Damocles hanging over all of our heads for over 60 years. Because of this, the US does have a mutual responsibility for global peace, as does the other 8 (soon to be 9?) nuclear powers. But, in a tightly integrated global economy, I question your overly-simplistic rationale for the US wanting war in Ukraine. The economic fallout will hit everyone.
        The US has a lot to answer for, but this one is Vladimir Putin’s war.

  4. Why does paragraph formatting not work here? I included paragraph breaks in my comment. Yet it appears as one big, hard-to-read block.

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