Far from the US, the war in Ukraine is close in terms of its costs, impacts and effects.
In under 200 pages, Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies dissect the conflict that has brought manifold crises to a world already trying to address climate chaos and more.
The book is fact-filled, well written, and important if upsetting.Upsetting because the war has caused such destruction and pain, the displacement of millions, and led to an international food crisis and possible nuclear confrontation. All with extensive US support for hostilities, even as much of the world supports a cease-fire and negotiations.
The dynamic Medea Benjamin co-founded the women’s peace organization CODEPINK following the attacks of September 2001 and US wars that followed. In early October she spoke at area colleges and was interviewed by the Recorder’s Bella Levavi: “The entire world is affected” (October 10, 2022).
So why a “senseless conflict?” Senseless, because it did not have to happen. The roots go back to the long and shared history of the two peoples. Ukraine, part of the Soviet Union, voted for its independence after the USSR dissolved in 1991.
The end of the Cold War with the dissolution of the Soviet Union was, the authors state: “a golden opportunity for the United States, Europe, Russia, and indeed the whole world to finally reduce military spending and reinvest our resources in building the better world we all know it’s possible.
“But the ‘peace dividend’ that most of the world hoped for was trumped by a ‘power dividend,’ as the US military – industrial complex, NATO, and other Cold War institutions reinvented themselves to take advantage of the collapse of the USSR and expand their military dominance.”
Led by the US, NATO expanded, with new member countriesand missiles stationed close to Russia’s borders. This despite warnings from 1991 to 2007 and beyond, that the western military alliance’s advance close to Russia’s borders would inevitably lead to conflict.
Ukraine was caught up in this power struggle.
The political upheavals in 2014 that saw fighting between Ukrainians and Russians in the eastern provinces are laid out as clearly as possible. As the rivals fought over control of the areas, the US was a player.
After the death of some 1400 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians from 2014 to 2015, a cease-fire was reached with the internationally supported Minsk II peace plan. Only it wasn’t implemented.
The authors explain the conflict with Russia over its neighboring Ukrainian provinces but condemn the February 2022 Russian invasion as “not only criminal but also a catastrophic move and a terrible miscalculation… the invasion was an illegal crime of aggression. But it was not by any means ‘unprovoked,’ as US officials repeatedly claimed.”
From 2014 to 2021 the US trained soldiers and sent $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine.
Then as the invasion began, the US played a role in rejecting a cease-fire and negotiations to end hostilities.
“Benjamin explained wars are easiest to resolve in the early stages,” the Recorder reported. “She feels the United States and England played a negative role in the negotiations because leaders encouraged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to keep fighting.
“Unfortunately, our Congress and White House have agreed to keep sending an endless stream of money,” Benjamin said. “As this drags on, both sides are hardening their positions.”
During Medea Benjamin’s speaking tour, a 20 minute video presented the book’s basic arguments. The link to this, as well an interview on Democracy Now! are on the front page of the Traprock website.
Now the dangers of a nuclear confrontation continue to mount – whether a planned attack or accident related to the fought-over 6 reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear station.
As foreign policy expert Phyllis Bennis told Democracy Now on Oct. 27: “A cease-fire is not sufficient. A cease-fire is not a guarantee you’re going to be able to end the war in a just way anytime soon, but it sets the stage that you can begin the process of negotiations.”
This readable work makes a convincing case for caring citizens of the world to demand a ceasefire and start to negotiations to end this horrible war. Why wait until there is nothing left of Ukraine but charred buildings with ever more deaths, on both sides?