Support Diplomacy, Oppose Escalation
Jon Rainwater / Peace Action
(April 6, 2022) — If you’ve already taken action and contacted your members of Congress about Ukraine, thank you! If you haven’t yet, please contact your members of Congress today to urge them to speak out for strong diplomatic solutions and against any further escalation of war-fighting.
The crisis in Ukraine underlines the need for a US foreign policy reset. This war should be a wakeup call that it is time to invest in peace and human security and redouble efforts to prevent political violence. No country should have to bear the horrors of war we are seeing vividly in Ukraine. At the same time, non-military challenges are proving to be our nation’s gravest threats.
One million people have died of COVID, yet we have underfunded our healthcare systems and done far less than we should to ensure global vaccine equity. At the same time, severe weather events caused by climate change are ravaging our communities. It’s time for a foreign policy that addresses our true security needs.
Thank you for helping bring peace for Ukraine.
Supplying More Weapons Never Ended a War
Jeff Jurgens / Peace Action
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing widespread, distressing human suffering. The images shown on the nightly news are heartbreaking. Already more than three million refugees have fled the country, and that could soar to over ten million according to the United Nations. The confirmed civilian death toll is already over one thousand and likely exceeds that by several times. The invasion has been marked by indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals.
Yet we know one thing for certain — this war won’t end with escalations in war-fighting. As such, the US should push for an immediate ceasefire and offer strong support for the diplomacy happening between Ukraine and Russia. There’s so much talk of military tools by the armchair generals on our TV screens. We need more talk of diplomatic off-ramps to this crisis. That is the only way to bring the bloodshed to an end.
In fact, despite the horror of this war, it’s reported that Ukraine and Russia are getting closer in their negotiations. The Ukrainians report that Russia appears to be moving away from the goals of regime change and “demilitarization.” Gaining a ceasefire and a settlement will be very hard, and there are legitimate concerns about how serious Russia is. But the tragic alternative would be continued and possibly escalating bloodshed. It’s critical that we build political support for a diplomatic settlement in the US.
US support for a settlement, which may include ratcheting back sanctions on Russia and potentially compromises over NATO and Ukrainian territory, will be critical at some point. It’s imperative that pro-peace voices push for peace and don’t get drowned out by the hawks on TV and at the Capitol.
While there aren’t enough high-profile voices promoting diplomacy, you’ve probably been hearing lately about establishing a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine ad nauseum. A No-Fly Zone is a terrible idea. No-Fly Zones are enforced by military interception of aircraft and missiles using deadly force, and sometimes include preemptive strikes to prevent potential violations.
In other words, a country that declares a No-Fly Zone must then be ready to enforce the protected space, putting the US in direct military conflict with Russia, thus escalating war between two nuclear powers.
For the United States and Russia, the only sane course of action now is a commitment to genuine diplomacy with serious negotiations, not military escalation — which could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world to the precipice of nuclear war.
Our thoughts continue to be with the people of Ukraine as they suffer the brunt of Russia’s violent aggression. At the same time, we’re inspired by many Ukrainians’ nonviolent actions to oppose the war. Ukrainians have been blocking convoys and tanks, and standing their ground even with warning shots fired in multiple towns. In the Ukrainian towns of Berdyansk and Kulykіvka village, people organized nonviolent peace rallies and convinced the Russian military to get out.
We are also inspired by the brave activism of Russian anti-war protesters, with reports of nearly 15,000 arrested. Here in the US we must continue the work to ensure that the US plays a positive and peaceful role in this crisis.
Key Tools for Ending the Ukraine Crisis:
Diplomacy, De-escalation and Aid
Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and gross human rights violations are causing immense human suffering. There is no viable military solution here, despite the unity displayed by the Ukrainian people. Diplomacy must not be paused during battle — in fact, it becomes even more urgent to stop the bloodshed and save lives.
While it’s unclear whether Russia is yet willing to negotiate diplomatic off-ramps, the US must seek to prevent the unthinkable alternative. The best way to save lives is to find a way to craft a settlement that would cause Russia to withdraw all its forces. As one European diplomat said recently: “It’s like the Sun Tzu thing of giving your enemy a golden bridge to retreat across. How do you get him to go in a different direction?”
Both Putin and Zelenskyy have broached neutrality and a solution should be explored that would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty while maintaining neutrality — akin to precedents with Finland or Austria. Arms control measures about nuclear weapons and missiles could also be part of a possible off-ramp.
Another complementary diplomatic move could involve sanctions. Samuel Charap writes that lifting some sanctions could “push Putin to abandon his core war aim of decapitating the Ukrainian government and installing a pro-Russian puppet. Using relief of the central bank sanctions, for example, to compel a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement would not only minimize human suffering in Ukraine, but it could also signal the limits of Western intentions, making clear the sanctions are not about overthrowing Putin’s regime.”
MISSION CRITICAL: BUILD A FIREWALL AGAINST ESCALATION
Our representatives must speak out publicly and tamp down escalation to prevent a potentially catastrophic world war. They can reinforce Congressional war powers, making it clear that they do not support sending US troops or pilots into the battle and opposing escalatory tactics like a “No Fly Zone.” A “No Fly Zone”, and other direct US interventions, are euphemisms for a shooting war between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
Loose militaristic talk about “bloodying Putin’s nose” should not be reinforced. The US should be working to protect Ukrainian lives, not treating the people as a vehicle to confront the Russian autocrat. Instead we need “deconfliction” and de-escalation. The US should, as the Arms Control Association recommends, “avoid new and destabilizing military deployments, dangerous encounters between Russian and NATO forces, and the introduction of new types of conventional or nuclear weapons that undermine shared security interests.”
CENTERING CIVILIAN PROTECTION: HUMANITARIAN AID & REFUGEE ASSISTANCE
As the crisis grows we will need increased humanitarian and economic aid and assistance for displaced Ukrainians at a more generous level to meet this challenge. Diplomatic pressure should be brought to bear to support the Ukrainian effort to facilitate humanitarian corridors.
US support to Ukraine over the last years has had a lopsided military emphasis. With roughly 10 million displaced persons and counting, we need to increase resources for humanitarian aid, refugee assistance, and resettlement. Globally, we are facing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. The US cap should be significantly increased to protect at least 250,000 refugees. Congress should support programs reflecting racial equity on a scale sufficient to meet the challenge.
Centering civilian protection means ensuring that sanctions with economy-wide impacts don’t lead to humanitarian harm. Holding the Russian government and the individuals responsible is important right now. But Congress must perform oversight to make sure the US is not engaging in “collective punishment.”
Sanctions’ economic impact can cause dire public health consequences, including malnutrition and increased infant mortality. It would be ironic indeed if sanctions were to punish the ordinary Russians who have shown such extraordinary courage in openly opposing their leaders’ brutality. More broadly, sanctions have become a “tool of first resort” for the US — their use has gone up by 933% over the last two decades. Congress must enact reforms to evaluate the impact of sanctions and remove those that are harming civilians.
THE UKRAINE CRISIS DOESN’T JUSTIFY INCREASED PENTAGON BUDGET GROWTH
Since the start of the war in Afghanistan, Pentagon spending has totaled roughly $14 trillion dollars with one-third to one-half of the total going to military contractors. Increased spending was sold as needed to “deter Putin” and “defeat the Taliban”. It didn’t work.
Congress must ask that the Pentagon make whatever adjustments necessary, without what analyst Bill Hartung warns might lead to “an open-ended commitment that would boost US military involvement in Europe back towards Cold War levels, or create a loosely regulated slush fund like the account that was used to finance the Iraq and Afghan wars.” This crisis also shows just how dangerous nuclear weapons are, we need to redouble efforts for nuclear arms control and disarmament, not invest in new weapons systems and a new nuclear arms race.
THIS CRISIS UNDERLINES THE NEED FOR A US FOREIGN POLICY RESET
This war should be a wake-up call that it is time to invest in peace and human security and redouble efforts to prevent political violence. No country should have to bear the horrors of war we are seeing vividly in Ukraine.
At the same time, non-military challenges are proving to be our nation’s gravest threats. One million people have died of COVID, yet we have underfunded our healthcare systems and done far less than we should to ensure global vaccine equity. Weather events caused by climate change are ravaging our communities.
When it comes to conflict prevention and conflict resolution, diplomacy and nonviolent measures are underpublicized, underutilized, and underfunded tools. The Pentagon budget is 13 times larger than the combined budgets of the State Department and USAID. Many top US diplomats and analysts warned of the risks of increased tensions or war that NATO expansion posed and the need for a sustainable peace and security architecture for Europe.
While Russia is 100% responsible for its unconscionable invasion, critical opportunities were missed to de-escalate tension between NATO and Russia and work harder to prevent war.
The US also must ensure that our own policies do not fuel conflict and instability through military intervention and weapons sales to oppressive governments. Greater moral consistency, by opposing the bombing of Mariupol and ending support for the bombing of Sana’a in Yemen, would be a powerful foreign policy tool.
THINGS THE PUBLIC AND THE US CAN DO
TO SUPPORT UKRAINIANS AND END THE WAR
- Support continued funding for Ukraine and Ukrainians including humanitarian aid and refugee assistance and resettlement. Support debt cancellationfor Ukraine to strengthen the country.
- Support direct US diplomacy to end the war including being willing to ratchet down US sanctions on Russia in exchange for Russia ending the war and all troops leaving Ukraine.
- Oppose escalatory steps that could spread the dangerlike no-fly zones, US troops getting involved, or escalator changes to nuclear posture and policy. Contact your members of Congress and urge them to speak out for strong diplomatic solutions and against any further escalation of war-fighting.
- Block military contractors and the Pentagon from using the crisisto grow the bloated military budget.
- Oppose open-ended sanctions that cause widespread humanitarian damage to Russian civilians.
- Magnify the voices of Ukrainians and Russians who are engaging in non-violent civilian resistanceagainst this war.
- Lift refugee caps to make more generous room for refugees from Ukraine. This must be done in an equitable way that includes equally deserving refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, etc.
Encourage representatives to cosponsor H. Res. 877 — the Foreign Policy for 21st Century Act