Massachusetts Peace Action Statement
On Sunday, March 16, the people of Crimea voted by a 95+ % margin (more than 80% of voters participated) to re-unite with Russia. On March 19, Russia formally accepted reunification and peace is in the balance. To resolve profound disagreements over the future of Crimea and Ukraine, the US should pursue negotiations, not sanctions or war threats.
Though the immediate future has a potential to lead to more violence, we are confident that serious negotiations can prevent further deterioration of the crisis. In a world of increasing interconnectedness among nations, the US can play an important role in furthering peace, but only if it changes its policies of interference with the internal affairs of others as it did in Kiev and refrains from force, sanctions and threats. Fortunately, some in the administration seem intent on limiting sanctions, restraining the flamboyance of the West’s Kiev proteges, and acknowledging Russia’s concerns.
President Putin of Russia, an autocrat who has firmly crushed his domestic opposition, is enjoying an impressive surge in popularity and is able to pose as a defender of the aspirations of peoples in the Crimea. Yet while welcoming Crimea back to Russia, he clearly restated that he does not believe the same logic of reintegration applies to other Russian majority areas of Ukraine. While he has mercilessly pointed out the hypocrisy of his European and US adversaries, he has kept open channels for negotiation. Yet Russia has conducted maneuvers and mobilized forces on its territory bordering Ukraine.
A relationship of respectful negotiation between Russia and the US is critical to any hope ending the nuclear threat to human existence. As part of the US peace movement it is our responsibility to raise our voice to our leaders to ask them to turn toward that relationship and turn their back on escalating rhetoric, sanctions and worse. It is time to step back, hit the pause button, and and recommit to negotiation of differences. The world can ill afford a new Cold War.
The U.S. has increased its military presence in the Black Sea and nations bordering Ukraine and Russia. Bellicose senators from both parties are demanding crippling sanctions and military signals. Vice President Biden is visiting states bordering Russia and holding discussions about US troop deployment there. The U.S. and European Union have already begun imposing sanctions, beginning with small ones but threatening more. Some in President Obama’s administration have correctly expressed concern that Russia might respond with economic measures of its own. The world economy, still weakened from the “great recession”, could see its fragile recovery shatter.
Whatever the legalities of the referendum in Crimea, none dispute that the lop-sided vote reflects a genuine wide-spread sentiment in the Crimea for reunification with Russia. Together with the reciprocating acts of Russia, the reunion is basically a fait accompli, but the unique contexts of the arbitrary cession of the peninsula to Soviet Ukraine by administrative fiat in 1954 should deflate fears it might serve as a precedent for solving problems of other Russian minorities.
The regime in Kiev (the birth of which was sponsored in part by the full-throttle meddling of U.S. policy makers bent on regime change) is at least as dubious in its legitimacy as its Crimean nemesis. Russia has called for the formation of a contact group of nations to work with the various factions in Ukraine to negotiate for an inclusive, possibly federal Ukraine with an inclusive government and non-aligned foreign policy. The U.S., France, Britain, and Germany have also called for negotiations. All claim they have no desire for a new cold war.
In 1945 as World War II began to turn in the allied direction, President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met in Yalta, on the Crimean peninsula to discuss fashioning a world system based on peaceful resolution of dispute and negotiations. We need to return to that spirit of negotiation to resolve the current Crimean crisis .
– March 19, 2014
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