by Yurii Sheliazhenko
Transcript of a presentation delivered at the International Peace Bureau’s webinar on the dangerous US/NATO/Russia/Ukraine maneuvers 5 May 2021. (Video from the webinar: webinar-discussion-about-the-dangerous-us-nato-russia-ukraine-maneuvers-2021-05-05-video/)
My main point is to urge you against seeing whole problem only in the Ukraine crisis. Let’s see the big picture. War in Ukraine started in the interests of superpowers. It is a war for status quo, for a cold-war-like world.
United States and Russia treat Ukraine and European Union like a chessboard using local actors for petty battles between themselves, demonstratively mistrusting and disregarding (or manipulatively using) any independent and peace-loving voices and initiatives.
We observe hybrid multi-layered conflict each side of which tells the world less than a half-truth, many powerful stakeholders hide quietly in the shadow of popular unawareness and deafening propaganda, such as those involved in arms production and fossil trade.
Discussing the politically dangerous situation in the world and in Ukraine today, we should rely on facts, not on fears.
There are, indeed, more and more ceasefire violations in Eastern Ukrainian armed conflict between NATO-backed government forces and Russian-backed separatist forces. However, the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, ad-hoc branch of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), reported more than 60 000 ceasefire violations between January and March in 2020 and less than 9 000 ceasefire violations in 2021 for the same months.
Relative reduction of hostilities is a result of measures to strengthen the ceasefire agreed in summer last year. It was a miraculous achievement of European diplomacy against all odds, despite Minsk peace agreements are instrumentalized for apologetics of war, despite Ukraine refuses to negotiate with separatist republics of Donbass as Russia demand.
From August to November 2020, there were less than a thousand breaches of ceasefire per month. Now, as we see, conflict escalates again in the focus of international media, telling about Russian aggression, struggle between superpowers, and threat of nuclear war.
In return, Russia accuses the West in organization of fascist coup d’état against former Ukrainian regime loyal to Russia.
And here we are, discussing dangerous maneuvers of Russian, Ukrainian and NATO military forces accompanied by propaganda of war, sanctions, mutual threats, and soothing promises that nobody willing to begin a full-scale war.
All this is threatening, but we should not lose our minds.
When I read on antiwar resources that half of Ukrainian budget is spent on weapons, or when I see photo of German lieutenant-general Reinhard Gehlen mistakenly described as Stepan Bandera in Nazi uniform, it is contrary to the facts and it undermines trust in well-informed, constructive world peace movement.
Truth-seeking should be the first and foremost response of pacifists to loud warmongering lies. We should not allow the truth to become a victim of war or, even worse, its weapon.
We know painful truths about Ukraine. There are indeed neo-nazi with torchlights marching at our streets like during the shameful commemoration of Waffen SS war criminals from Galicia Division in Kyiv on 28 April 2021.
In January, a fascist mob attacked pacifist and conscientious objector Ruslan Kotsaba, his mother and his lawyer near the Kolomyia City District Court of Ivano-Frankivsk Region where his internationally condemned retrial is continued for video blog criticizing military mobilization to armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Prosecution calls Ruslan a traitor and demands to sentence him to 13 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property. Neo-nazi attackers were not arrested.
We know that president Zelensky changed his politics from promotion of peace to warmongering and mobilization under neo-nazi pressure, street riots after any peaceful gestures, their hate speech when so-called protesters of “No to Capitulation” movement turned into dirty word Steinmeier Formula of peace process proposed by the Federal President of Germany.
Neo-nazi hate the word PEACE. Illegal nationalist armed groups on the frontline refused to president Zelensky in his request to stop shooting. He doesn’t dare to make them accountable. Zelensky took their side!
Ukrainian military spending is indeed on the rise, our government intends to buy in United States patrol boats with a total cost of 600 million dollars, which is comparable with all Ukrainian public spending on culture, or one and half of Odessa city budget.
NATO supports plans to build two naval military bases in the Black Sea region. U.S. Congress approved annual military aid for Ukraine in the sum of 300 million dollars, and we know that Raytheon and the other merchants of death are interested to profit from war in our homeland.
Don’t forget about the Russian military-industrial complex; Reiner Braun has a point when he mentioned Russian militaristic policies in his article. And even if the Russian economy and military many times weaker than the U.S. vis-à-vis, we should remember that Putin controls a strong shadow economy and secret military infrastructure ready to pursue illiberal imperialist agenda, trying to hold Ukraine as a Russian colony.
In our realm of poverty costs of war are more flesh and blood than money.
Conscription in Ukraine and in Russia profoundly disregarding the human right to conscientious objection to military service is a barbarous legacy of Soviet militarism very similar to its Third Reich counterpart.
Of course, the conscription fuels the war. But international law, calling for peace, also allows conscription and allows so-called just war.
So we have three dubious versions of peace:
– saber-rattling Pax Americana, or collective security of Western nations, buying weapons in the United States, trusting in NATO and common market;
– saber-rattling Russian peace, ambition to lead into authoritarian traditionalist heaven post-soviet space, maintaining economic, cultural, and geopolitical hegemony in Eurasia;
– and saber-rattling Ukrainian peace, asking to let us alone when we build for American money our proud ethnic nation-state and shut up all critical voices with the help of neo-fascists whose parents and heroes were agents of Gestapo, SS, SD, and later picked up by CIA.
I don’t think, though, that Ukraine is failed state, at least more failed than other states.
Almost all nation-states today are machines of war and legal robbery, propaganda of hatred, structural violence, and predatory taxation for the sake of insanely abundant military spending. They are unable and, frankly, unwilling to stop violent corporations intending to divide and conquer the world. Furthermore, neo-imperial superpower nation-states provide expedient cover-up for private war enterprises, deceptively advertising the ultimate greed as peacemaking ambitions in populist campaigns. Smaller nation states usually follow superpowers like remora attach to sharks.
We should understand that fossil concepts of the nation state and collective security are morally bankrupt. Any state which has army, conscription, nuclear weapons is a morally failed state.
All nation-states and international organizations feeding merchants of death, military contractors, are evidence of moral bankruptcy of so-called ideals of peace in a nation state or through collective security.
To conclude, the war in Ukraine is a failure of superpower politics status-quo, the projects of continental hegemony of Russia in Eurasia and global hegemony of United States, domination of Western military alliance over the world, profiteering from bloodshed.
We know alternatives, but are we taking it seriously? Remember Bart de Ligt’s Plan of the campaign against all war and all preparation for war. Remember Kantian project of perpetual peace based on personal autonomy, universal moral reasoning, and world citizenship. These peace plans are starting point.
We need a new plan for peace as dynamics of life free from violence based on peace in our minds, science and technologies of peace, peace culture, peace politics, peace economics.
We need groundbreaking innovations to change the status quo, state of war, permanent competition of powers, and war of all against all mistakenly called just war. We need peoples of peace instead of aggressive nations and sources of peace instead of war-inflaming markets fueled by blood.
No superpower, no nation-state, no military or authoritarian alliance can bring us peace on Earth. Only universal movement of free minds, active and peace-loving, can manage to organize universal peace.
We need a realistic plan of building universal peace by nonviolent means as an answer to many war strategies poisoning humanity.
So, instead of fear and awe before superpower struggles, let us think and discuss a contemporary strategy of perpetual peace.
*Yurii Sheliazhenko, LL.M., executive secretary of Ukrainian Pacifist Movement (section of War Resisters’ International)