Understanding the Background of the Russia-Ukraine War

US Militarism and NATO Expansion as Major Drivers of this Conflict

Although Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine was on February 24, 2022, the conflict started much earlier. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine declared independence and neutrality. At that time Russia’s level of concern about NATO expansion increased and, as part of the negotiations to unify Germany, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher stated “As I said, NATO has no intentions of expanding to the east.” This was confirmed by many during the course of negotiations. However, the West did not keep its verbal promise. Since that time, the US and NATO have aggressively moved to expand NATO to Russia’s borders. The US supported an illegal transfer of power in 2014 that removed Ukraine’s elected government that was committed to a neutral Ukraine and replaced it with a government that sought membership in NATO and repressed Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. These events resulted in a civil war among Ukrainians that killed thousands from 2014 to 2022. In addition, fearing the loss of its biggest naval base to NATO, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014 which had been ceded to Ukraine by the old Soviet government and which was internationally recognized as part of anindependent Ukraine despite opposition from Crimeans.

In December 2021, Russia advanced two draft treaties that contained requests for what it referred to as “security guarantees,” including a legally binding promise that Ukraine would not join NATO. NATO rejected these requests, and in February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine. Even after the war started, peace was still possible as Ukraine and Russia negotiated a draft proposal for Russian withdrawal, a neutral Ukraine, and autonomy for Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine. But before the draft was drawn up into a final agreement, the United States and the United Kingdom insisted that President Zelensky abandon these negotiations and use massive western military aid to defeat Russia militarily. The goal was to weaken Russia for decades and lead to the change of Russia’s government. And billions and billions of weapons poured in, Russia transitioned to a war economy, and the killing, destruction, and ecological and nuclear dangers intensified.

By supplying Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars more in weapons without a commitment to push for immediate negotiations for a ceasefire and settlement, the U.S. is just prolonging the war and the international crisis. It is up to all of us to pressure our government to change its policy. In Ukraine it is a time for peace — before it’s too late.

Jeanne Trubek is a member of the Ukraine: A Time for Peace campaign