As Peace Movement Sleeps, U.S. takes a Giant Step toward Nuclear War over Ukraine

Peace Advocate June 26th

Silent vigil in Palo Alto on ending the war in Ukraine and in supporting the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Image: via Wikimedia Commons

by Paul Shannon

Biden starts moving down a road that leads inevitably to the precipice of nuclear war.

The situation in Ukraine has never been more dangerous. On May 30 the New York Times reported that President Biden authorized Ukraine to use U.S. missiles to conduct strikes inside Russia “opening what could well be a new chapter in the war for Ukraine”. This decision marks the first time in history that an American President has allowed military responses inside the borders of a nuclear armed-adversary.

The president insisted that these sophisticated U.S. weapons could only be used against Russian targets connected to Russia’s recent military push into the Kharkiv region of Ukraine — and not for long range strikes deep inside Russia. But no sooner had Biden ordered this restriction than Secretary of State Blinken indicated that the U.S. might ignore it and might allow Ukraine to use U.S. missiles to strike targets deeper inside Russia if it’s necessary to “adapt and adjust” depending on shifts in the battlefield. In other words if Russia keeps on winning the war, Biden will once again remove restrictions on U.S. involvement in Ukraine that he originally said might bring about World War 3. 

These developments take place in the midst of other ominous military events. First, in response to earlier permission that the United Kingdom gave to Ukraine to fire long range missiles deep into Russia, President Putin made it clear that since NATO personnel would have to be involved in order to fire these sophisticated, satellite-guided missiles, Russia would feel free to strike not only bases in Ukraine involved in their use, but to reciprocate against sensitive western targets outside Ukraine. Then what would happen?

Second, in fact Ukraine has been attacking Russian cities and targets all along with drones and weapons of unclear origin. That’s nothing new. But at the very end of May Ukraine conducted drone attacks that damaged a radar station deep inside Russia which is part of Russia’s early nuclear warning system to detect nuclear missile threats. If one of these long-range missiles had been used and had put the radar system out of commission, Russia would have had to decide to launch its strategic nuclear weapons (the real big ones) in case a nuclear attack was imminent. Then what would happen?

Third, The May 17 NY Times front page headline reads, “NATO considers Sending Troops to Help Ukraine”. Theoretically they would be there to train 150,000 Ukraine troops on the front line or to provide defensive lines in western Ukraine to free up Ukrainian soldiers there to go to the front lines. Biden once again has said no. But our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says, “We’ll get there eventually over time”. Russia has indicated it would feel perfectly free to fire on the NATO soldiers. Then what would happen?

These ominous military developments take place in the midst of other frightening political news. On June 13 Biden and Zelensky announced a 10 year bilateral security treaty agreement, giving Ukraine military guarantees equivalent to the ones we give Israel. The agreement is a step in the direction of Ukraine’s enrollment in NATO, a move that guarantees increasing U.S. involvement over at least the next 10 years. But what if Russian is about to destroy the Ukrainian army this year? Then what would happen?

In addition pronouncements by Biden and NATO insist that the only negotiations they will enter with Russia is surrender. They are preparing the country for the war to go on indefinitely. There is not even a peep about ceasefire and negotiations. If they were actually interested in helping Ukraine maintain its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, they would not have prevented Zelensky from signing a treaty with Russia 2 months into Russia’s invasion in 2022 that (except for  Crimea) would have guaranteed Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. 

Instead, in order to “crush Putin” the U.S. decided to prevent Zelensky from signing that initialed agreement and keep the war going even though that war may very well put an end to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Now the whole world may be about to pay for that decision.

The last thing right now that the U.S. and NATO want to hear is talk of ceasefire and negotiations based on the situation on the ground and the preservation of much of Ukraine’s independence. And yet, ceasefire and negotiations this summer might be the last chance we have of keeping us away from the threshold of first, direct war with Russia, followed by nuclear war. It is for that reason that the peace movement must unite now behind that demand. 

Is this call alarmist? Hopefully it is. Maybe it will be. But do we really want to find out?

No one can do everything. But there are some things that everyone must do. One of those things is the Gazan genocide. The other is Ukraine. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The time is now to negotiate both to preserve most of Ukraine and to spare the world – including you and me – terminal nuclear war.

Paul Shannon is chair of MAPA’s Ukraine: A Time for Peace Campaign and of MAPA’s Middle East Working Group, a member of the board, and chair of the Raytheon Antiwar Campaign.