Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Quote of the Day

Since mutual mistrust lies at the heart of any security dilemma,* the [Ukraine/Russia/NATO] situation is further complicated when any of the parties is seen to act in bad faith. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently admitted that Western leaders had no intention of enforcing Ukraine’s compliance with the terms of the Minsk II agreement in 2015, and only agreed to it to buy time to build up Ukraine militarily.

The breakdown of the Minsk II peace agreement and the continuing diplomatic impasse in the larger geopolitical conflict between the U.S., NATO and Russia plunged relations into a deepening crisis and led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Officials on all sides must have recognized the dynamics of the underlying security dilemma, yet failed to take the necessary diplomatic initiatives to resolve the crisis.

Peaceful, diplomatic alternatives have always been available if the parties chose to pursue them, but they did not. Does that mean that all sides deliberately chose war over peace? They would all deny that.

Yet all sides apparently now see advantages in a prolonged conflict, despite the relentless daily slaughter, dreadful and deteriorating conditions for millions of civilians, and the unthinkable dangers of full-scale war between NATO and Russia. All sides have convinced themselves they can or must win this war, and so keep escalating it, along with all its impacts and the risks that it will spin out of control.

President Biden came to office promising a new era of American diplomacy, but has instead led the U.S. and the world nearly to the brink of World War III.

Clearly, the only solution to a security dilemma like this is a ceasefire and a peace agreement to stop the carnage, followed by the kind of diplomacy that took place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the decades that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which led to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and successive arms control treaties. Former UN official Alfred de Zayas has also called for UN-administered referenda to determine the wishes of the people of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.

It is not an endorsement of an adversary’s conduct or position to negotiate a path to peaceful coexistence. We are witnessing the absolutist alternative in Ukraine today. There is no moral high ground in relentless, open-ended mass slaughter that is managed, directed and in fact perpetrated by people in smart suits and military uniforms in imperial capitals thousands of miles from the crashing of shells, the cries of the wounded and the stench of death.

If proposals for peace talks are to be more than PR exercises, they must be grounded in an understanding of the security needs of all sides, and a willingness to compromise to see that those needs are met and that all the underlying conflicts are addressed.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies
Excerpted from “Ukraine Crisis Is a Classic ‘Security Dilemma’
– and It’s Urgent We Find a Solution

December 28, 2022

* Benjamin and Davies define a “security dilemma” as “a situation in which countries on each side take actions for their own defense that countries on the other side then see as a threat.”

They go on to say:

Since offensive and defensive weapons and forces are often indistinguishable, one side’s defensive build-up can easily be seen as an offensive build-up by the other side. As each side responds to the actions of the other, the net result is a spiral of militarization and escalation, even though both sides insist, and may even believe, that their own actions are defensive.

In the case of Ukraine, this has happened on different levels, both between Russia and national and regional governments in Ukraine, but also on a larger geopolitical scale between Russia, the United States and NATO.

NEXT: Reed Brody: Quote of the Day
– February 6, 2023

Related Off-site Links:
A Blueprint for Peace in Ukraine – Alfred De Zayas (CounterPunch, December 20, 2022).
We’ve Reached Peak Zelensky. Now What? – Robert Freeman (Common Dreams, December 28, 2022).
West Prepares to Plunder Post-war Ukraine With Neoliberal Shock Therapy: Privatization, Deregulation, Slashing Worker Protections – Jake Kallio and Ben Norton (Geopolitical Economy Report, July 28, 2022).
The Missing Piece About Putin and Ukraine – J.D. Warren (UC Riverside News, March 9, 2022).
The 2014 Coup in UkraineWorld Socialist Web Site.

UPDATES: Can NATO and the Pentagon Find a Diplomatic Off-Ramp in Ukraine? – Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies (Common Dreams, January 3, 2023).
Ukraine’s Zelensky Sends Love Letter to U.S. Corporations, Promising “Big Business” for Wall Street – Ben Norton (Geopolitical Economy Report, January 25, 2023).

For more on the crisis involving Ukraine, Russia, NATO and the U.S., see the following Wild Reed posts:
A “Post-Cold War Train Wreck Long In the Making”
Yanis Varoufakis: Quote of the Day – February 24, 2022
A Prayer for Ukraine
Jeff Cohen: Quote of the Day – February 28, 2022
Something to Think About – March 4, 2022
William Hartung: Quote of the Day – May 24, 2022
Phyllis Bennis On the Need For a Ceasefire in Ukraine
“Our Anti-Imperialism Must Be Consistent”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Norman Solomon’s “Objective Look at U.S. Foreign Policy”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – November 11, 2021
Rallying to End U.S. Militarism
Cultivating Peace

Image: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

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