We stand on the brink of a war in Ukraine involving world powers that control 90% of the world’s existing nuclear weapons. That statistic, in itself, represents a threat to the entire planet. Yet, both major US political parties—with major differences on almost every facet of domestic policy– seem to have given in to hawkish positions as U.S. troops are deployed to the region.
At the same time, we see that President Putin has amassed huge numbers of troops and weaponry along the border of Ukraine. He recently staged cruise missile tests. Ukraine has become a pawn in the struggle for geopolitical security.
We can be skeptical of the motives of Putin in world affairs and still recognize that on the current issues, Russia and its President have a reason to feel betrayed by our past actions. Despite promises following the fall of Soviet bloc in eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany that the NATO military alliance would not be expanded, 14 new members have been added already. At the same time, the United States maintains nearly 800 military installations in more than 70 countries, including 13 European NATO countries. Russia is literally surrounded by U.S. military bases. The U.S. would undoubtedly be as concerned if Mexico or Canada were to enter into a military alliance hostile to its interests today. We were when Cuba tried.
President Putin is also demanding that the U.S. decrease the number of nuclear missiles in Europe. The U.S. has 100 nuclear missiles in NATO countries. The U.S. is expected to have a new missile interceptor base operational later this year in Redzikowo, Poland. The Kremlin believes these missiles could be used to shoot down Russian rockets or modified to fire missiles at Moscow, which is only 800 miles away. The U.S. political leadership has not—again, as in Cuba– and would not tolerate Russian nuclear missiles or a Russian military installation anywhere near our borders.
Time is short, but there is and must be room for flexibility, compromise and diplomatic solutions, all of which must respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. If readers feel frustrated by the march to war, with the potential of catastrophic nuclear conflict, we urge that you join with the Louisville Chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and a coalition of more than 100 national and local organizations in calling on the US to modify its negotiating position and agree to a long-term moratorium on any NATO expansion.
We also urge listening to Ukrainian voices. A statement by the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement speaks to the impacts on and needs of the Ukrainian people and is posted at https://worldbeyondwar.org/statement-by-the-ukrainian-pacifist-movement/ . The full statement of the Coalition to Prevent War with Russia and its signatory organizations are posted at louisvillefor.org. For those who want to investigate this issue further we suggest The New York Times article, “On the Edge of a Polish Forest, Where Some of Putin’s Darkest Fears Lurk,” authored by Andrew Higgins and published Feb. 17, 2022.
Authors: Jim Johnson, Mark Meade and Ike Thacker are members of steering committee of the Louisville Chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). FOR, an interfaith pacifist organization, has been pressing worldwide for justice and alternatives to war since 1915.