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Second Post: A ceasefire Now!
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Second Post: A ceasefire Now!

            Many years ago, when I was staying in his flat in New York, the late David McReynolds told me a bit about A.J. Muste[1], arguably the most influential pacifist in the history of the USA.  He said that Muste believed that once the USA had entered the Second World War there was nothing very effective that pacifists could do except look to the future post war world and begin to seek to influence that.  As a result, aware of the enormous levels of racial discrimination within the US Army as well as in American society generally, Muste began to campaign against segregation and discrimination within the military.  The war over, this became the genesis of the Freedom Bus rides in the southern states which triggered the wider civil rights movement.

We are now entering the second 100 days of the war between Russia and Ukraine.  And like so many others, I feel very powerless. It is not an easy war for a pacifist or peacemaker because the West was not the primary cause of the war, though I think its current policies, arming the Ukrainians, fast forwarding their membership of the EU and perhaps NATO, are open to challenge.

Unlike some, I make no excuses for Putin and his invasion.  Yes, NATO has broken its promises not to expand eastwards; yes the Russian minorities in Ukraine have been badly treated; yes, there is a growing fascist/nazi movement in Ukraine which should concern us all.  But none of this in my view justifies Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This is a war of aggression by Russia, not a war of self defence.

It is clear that most people in Ireland support Ukraine.  They want Ukraine to win and teach Putin a lesson.  You can see it in the little Ukrainian flags they attach to their twitter or Facebook accounts.  While UEFA and others can be criticised for the ease with which they abandoned so called sporting “neutrality” by allowing players to carry Ukrainian colours, there can be little doubt that this was a popular move in Europe.  As was Ukraine winning the Eurovision song contest (yes, it was a dreadful song!), though I suspect they have built up trouble for themselves in the future by such partisan displays.

I am no military analyst, but as I write it appears that though Russia has suffered some serious setbacks it is slowly conquering bit by bit more of Ukraine.  Weapons from the USA, the UK and elsewhere, are not actually giving Ukraine the decisive military edge but merely slowing down the rate of the Russian advance and prolonging the war.

So where does all this leave those of us who oppose all war, who believe that war does not (usually) solve problems but adds to them?  Or creates new ones.

I’m not sure there’s much we can do at the moment except await for the moment it dawns on the protagonists that a negotiated settlement is better than an imposed one.

Top of the list, therefore for peacemakers, is the demand for an immediate ceasefire followed by negotiations between the belligerents.  This will certainly mean Russia and Ukraine.  But it has been clear for some time that the USA, indeed NATO and the EU as a whole, have been belligerents, by proxy, allowing Ukraine to do all the fighting, bear all the costs and casualties, while the West’s arms industry provides a steady stream of highly expensive and very profitable weapons.

And here’s the rub.  While at the moment neither Putin or Zelensky seem that interested in negotiations, the USA, UK and EU seem even less interested. The West still appears to hope for a defeat for Russia.  Biden has called effectively for regime change, a standard policy for the USA whenever someone comes into conflict with the aims and objectives of USA policy.

Yet there are real dangers with prolonging the war. More and more of the land of Ukraine is potentially open to occupation and seizure by Russia.  More of its people and soldiers killed or seriously wounded. More destruction of factories and infrastructure.  Most importantly there are  real dangers of the war becoming nuclear which would be a monumental catastrophe for Russia, Ukraine and the West.

The forces for peace are weak at the moment.  The demand for a peaceful settlement is even under attack as those who want to prologue the war claim that only a Ukrainian victory should be the goal.  No doubt there are those in Russia who are saying the reverse

But as one of those who believes that wars rarely solves anything and that nothing is permanent, the demand for a ceasefire should be the immediate objective of peacemakers, and weak though the forces for peace are at the moment, overtime they will grow in strength.


5th June 2022



[1] A.J. Muste (1885-1967) From 1940 to 1953, Muste was Executive Secretary of the American Fellowship of Reconciliation. Later he was on the Executive of the War Resisters’ League.

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