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Photo of anti-war protest in St PetersburgPeters

The war in Ukraine grows more dangerous every day. The US Congress is close to approving a massive new arms and aid package for Ukraine. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says “the war in Ukraine is our war” and “we will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said he wants to see Russia “weakened.”

These statements create the impression that the US and its allies intend to use the war to catalyse the collapse of the Russian state. If Russian leaders believe that to be the case they will think it worth running almost any risk to try to strengthen their position.

Western statements appear to be calculated to squeeze Russia between a rock and a hard place and block any prospect of negotiation. Meanwhile Russia is losing personnel and munitions at a rate that may push it towards contemplating the use of tactical nuclear weapons, with incalculable consequences.

Western leaders evidently intend to prolong and/or intensify the war. There will certainly be a high price to pay in Ukrainian and Russian blood and in global economic disruption, and therefore in all our living standards. But the price will become far, far higher if we are all catapulted into world war. Events could then escalate very quickly to an all-out exchange of nuclear weapons.

We in the UK, the US and elsewhere in NATO need to push our governments off the road to world war. That means that we must stand:

  • for a neutral Ukraine,
  • for US/UK support for immediate and serious peace talks,
  • against arms supplies for the war in Ukraine,
  • against the NATO force buildup in eastern Europe,
  • against all escalatory and provocative measures.

These are urgent demands on our government, not just aspirations for the future.

A couple of months ago (is the war already that old?), when I first shared these demands on facebook, it may have seemed utopian in the face of the prevailing stand-with-Ukraine fever to hope that they could be the basis for a mass anti-war movement. Russian protestors against the war were confronted by robust state repression, but protests in the west that opposed western government policy simply failed to gain enough political traction to matter.

With a new, more dangerous, phase of the war staring us in the face it now seems essential to confront our government with clear demands. And with some mainstream commentators beginning to worry about where the war may be leading, it also seems possible.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was an illegal act of aggression. The same point arguably applies to the  2001 US/UK invasion of Afghanistan and undoubtedly to the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq. States opposed to the US didn’t respond by pushing for the collapse of the US. It goes without saying that doing so would have been counter-productive to the cause of world peace. Russia has well-founded concerns over the threat posed by NATO expansion and an armed and hostile Ukraine. These concerns do not justify its aggression, but they do need to be addressed as part of a peace deal in Ukraine.

The Stop The War Coalition is calling not only for the withdrawal of Russian troops, but also for “an end to military escalation by the NATO countries and for efforts to be focused on finding a negotiated solution to this terrible war”. This is broadly the right position. The global day of action called by the Stop The War Coalition and others on Saturday 7 May deserves the widest possible support.

Photo: St Petersburg, Russia 02-24-2022: rally against the war with Ukraine, man holds a poster with the inscription in Russian “no war.” © Alexander Chizhenok/Shutterstock.com

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