Tag Archives: Ukraine

Editorials: Ukraine long war, Northern Ireland ‘Legacy’

The long war

It is dead (sic) easy to get into war but extremely difficult to get out of it.

The war in Ukraine is a classic ‘long war’ where no side can gain sufficient advantage to get into the situation where it can ‘win’. In that, and in its trench warfare, it is reminiscent of the First World War except with 21st century weapons and technology. So both sides continue to pour soldiers, civilians, and money, down the drain. And the more money and blood expended in the cause, the more difficult it is to sacrifice that ‘sacrifice’ to move to peace; Shakespeare put it eloquently into the mouth of Macbeth – “I am in blood / Stepped in so far that should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o’er” – ‘tedious’ here meaning difficult.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, said on 17th September (speaking to the EU Parliament) that “Most wars last longer than expected when they first begin. Therefore we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine.” He went on to say that ““There is no doubt that Ukraine will eventually be in Nato”* – a crazy thing to say when it was Ukrainian prospective membership of NATO which was a major cause of the Russian invasion. He also conflates or confuses future Ukrainian security with Ukrainian membership of NATO when the two are very much not the same thing; there can be guarantees of Ukrainian territorial integrity which are nothing whatsoever to do with NATO. *INNATE continues to use the upper case acronym ‘NATO’ rather than ‘Nato’ as we consider the latter an attempt to make it seem like a friendly neighbourhood organisation rather than a major war alliance with nuclear weapons.

Continuing the comparison with the First World War there is another, extremely dangerous, possible parallel with the First World War. The Second World War was a direct result of the First through the penalisation and victimisation of Germany. The disorder of the post-First World War years in Germany, which were brought about partly by economic and other penalties on Germany, led to the rise of fascism – and the rest, tragically, is history.

There is the danger that the West, especially the USA but others as well, want Russia to be humiliated through this war, not just to have a settlement that they and Ukraine can live with. For the West it is a proxy war. We have already seen what happened when NATO, against Russian warnings, continued to push its boundaries eastward – something which they undertook not to do at the time of the collapse of Soviet communism and control in Eastern Europe.

We have stated here previously, numerous times, that the USA and the West expected Russia to accept something which was totally unacceptable to the USA. In 1962 the world came close to the brink of nuclear war when Russia/the Soviet Union placed missiles in Cuba. This was ‘the enemy at the gate’ and the USA threatened nuclear annihilation if the situation was not remedied to its satisfaction. Russia compromised. And yet the USA and the West expected – expect – Russia to accept NATO weaponry, of all sorts, on its borders in Ukraine if it joined/joins NATO and/or the EU. The USA is a world superpower militarily and Russia now only a regional military power – admittedly flexing its muscles in Africa and the Middle East – but the situations are identical. The West misjudged the situation and expected Putin to roll over.

While what was said had its own nuances, Jens Stoltenberg in his September address to the EU Parliament https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_218172.htm?selectedLocale=en went on confirm many of the details of Putin opposing NATO expansionism. Putin in autumn 2021 “sent a draft treaty that they wanted NATO to sign, to promise no more NATO enlargement. That was what he sent us. And was a pre-condition for not invade Ukraine……So he went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO, close to his borders. He has got the exact opposite.” While Putin was looking for more than the above in terms of the withdrawal from NATO by countries in central and eastern Europe, it has to be recognised that their membership was contrary to promises previously given to Russia.

Not to have entered talks and negotiations with Russia was a monumental error and part of NATO’s belligerence and feeling of superiority; perhaps a modus vivendi could have been reached as opposed to the current modus morendi (way of dying). In terms of military thinking, Russia had a legitimate interest which was brushed aside by NATO. Russia’s demands might have seemed unreasonable by the standards of realpolitik but that is what discussion and mediative processes are about; the different sides put out their stalls and views and, then, collectively look at whether movement is possible. There could indeed have been ways to reassure Russia on its security but NATO did not bother to look. This is a substantial cause of the war in Ukraine – obviously not the only one with Putin deciding he could pull a fast one militarily but he got bogged down by Ukrainian military resistance.

Should Russia be humiliated in defeat, with consequences for the Russian state and society, it is quite possible that the same scenario could emerge as in Germany after the First World War – the emergence of leadership which makes Vladimir Putin look like a screaming liberal. Brutal and unnecessary as Russia’s war on Ukraine has been, the art of trying to put a conflict to bed and being able to move on is through giving both sides an ‘out’, not in penalising one side, the losers. In other words, Putin has to be allowed to save face, whether that is liked or not. We are not saying Russia and Russians should not face war crimes trials; we are saying Russia and Russians need to be allowed to move on to hopefully a more peaceful future.

There are many ways a settlement could come about while retaining justice for Ukraine. Crimea was mainly ethnically Russian and a possession of Ukraine’s based on a whim of Stalin, a move not too significant at a time when all were in the Soviet Union. Ukraine accepting the loss of Crimea would be a psychological blow but could be a price well worth paying. Accepting Crimea as Russian might seem to give in to ‘might is right’ but compromise may be necessary to avoid endless bloodshed. So far as the eastern provinces of Ukraine claimed by Russia, we have suggested Russia withdrawing but allowing all there to claim Russian citizenship. Attending to Russian interests in terms of security guarantees is part of meeting Russian interests rather than being put off by its positions and this was an important part of the Russian invasion to begin with, aside from arch-nationalist concepts of a ‘Greater Russia’.

A long war is in nobody’s interest except the arms companies who, as usual, are happy to make a killing (sic) from it. Attempting to get Russia into harmonious relationships with the rest of Europe has to be a long term aim, a possibility which was badly dealt with after the fall of the Soviet communist regime when the West did nothing. This does not mean excusing Russian crimes but nor should it mean excusing other countries’ crimes; Brown University’s study attributes 4.5 million deaths to the USA’s warmaking since 2022 https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2023/IndirectDeaths – and where are the penalties and sanctions on the USA? And there are carrots as well as sticks which can be used, even if better relations with Russia may have to await another leader than Putin.

Ireland, meanwhile has jumped on the bandwagon of military support for Ukraine through training for Ukrainian soldiers as well as ‘non-lethal’ support. Not only is this incompatible with neutrality but denies Ireland the opportunity, which it should be taking, to explore possibilities for bringing the war to a close, a war to which there is currently no end in sight. If you don’t look then you don’t see. If you don’t explore possibilities to end the war then it is permitting more and more death and misery. Those seeking peaceful solutions and resolutions should never be put off by the position adopted by the different sides but strive to find ways to meet sufficient of the belligerents’ interests that an end to the war becomes possible. Ireland is doing nothing in this regard.

– See also ‘Readings in Nonviolence’ in this issue which looks at different peace proposals and possibilities to end the war in Ukraine,

Northern Ireland:

A miserable legacy

Challenges to the British government’s Legacy Act, formally the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act, as it now is since it passed into law, are coming from from a variety of sources, national and international – including possibly the Irish government. So, just perhaps, it may not get too far. It offers a conditional amnesty to those accused of killings during the Troubles and will stop any new Troubles-era court cases and inquests being held.

However the whole sad saga presents an appalling picture of how the current British government treats Northern Ireland. To act against the will of every single political party in Northern Ireland takes some doing not only because of the way that represents the vast majority in the North but because such unity, such unanimity across the board, is so unusual. Even if the British government really did believe its Act is the way forward (which is dubious) it should have hesitated to act against such universal opposition; its actions smack of superiority and, dare we say it, colonialism.

The current system and possibilities are not ideal but all the Northern Ireland political parties and victims’ groups are certain it is preferable to the new Legacy Act. With the passage of time the chances are getting steadily slimmer of justice in the courts, or even for truth through the coroners’ courts, but this was considered preferable. Meanwhile, of course, the British government reneged on the deal which it had done in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement which did provide an agreed way forward and institutions to match. The government failed to implement the deal and then, in 2020, announced it would develop its own proposals – resulting in the Legacy Act of today.

Cui bono? Apart from a few commentators, only British military veterans’ groups are in favour and that gives a clue. But a major factor is surely not only protecting former British military personnel, it is even more protecting the state. We already have a certain amount of information about the actions of the state in running informers within paramilitary organisations but there are major questions about what agents of the state knew about forthcoming paramilitary actions where they could have prevented deaths but did not do so to protect their sources or agents, or for other reasons. And then there is the impunity given to informers who in some cases were involved in appalling actions. This is, of course, aside from where deaths and human rights abuses were perpetrated by soldiers and other agents of the state.

Human rights groups have been scathing about the Legacy Act, drawing comparisons with what was done in Chile introducing impunity for those involved with the Pinochet regime. The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) states, for example, that it “fails to honour the UK’s obligation under the ECHR to carry out proper investigations into deaths and serious injuries that occurred during the NI conflict“ – and indeed that the UK government is in serial breach of its obligations to do so. They also state that it would “shut down existing legacy mechanisms at a time when such mechanisms are increasingly delivering for families.”

The Troubles were a terrible time for many people living in Northern Ireland. Moving on from the Troubles, even 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement, has also been very difficult. For the British government to do a ‘solo run’ on the legacy of the past when there was a very reasonable collective agreement on the issue nearly nine years ago is quite bizarre and would suggest that they are acting primarily in their own interests to protect the British state. That is particularly sad for victims across the board – civilian, paramilitary, police, military, whoever. Justice delayed, or in this case negated, is justice denied but truth has a way of emerging in the end. And the judgement on those who closed off possibilities for justice will not be a warm one.

Readings in Nonviolence: Where are the peace proposals on Ukraine?

Introduction

If at first you don’t succeed…….then you haven’t been quite doing it right, and failing better may be necessary before finally, we may hope, breaking through to the goal. Various people have made peace proposals regarding the war in Ukraine but not, as this article writes, the EU – so much for the EU being a peacebuilding organisation, it is more concerned these days with building its own army and promoting its arms production (an act the Irish government is keen to get in on).

The war in Ukraine is the biggest military confrontation in Europe since the Second World War, so all the more reason that Europe in general and European countries that proclaim themselves to be peace-loving should be continuously exploring ways to bring the war in Ukraine to an end.

This article, from Transcend Media Service, looks at some of what has been happening and not happening and points a way forward including a proposal from some prominent German figures. Ukraine, Russia, Europe in general, indeed the world has a sword of Damocles hanging over its head, not just from the war in Ukraine but from nuclear weapons, global heating and other factors. Removing this ‘sword’ or indeed many swords hanging by a thread is not easy but if you don’t try you certainly won’t succeed – and some people (EU, Irish government etc) are certainly not trying.

A groundbreaking German peace proposal for Ukraine

Michael von der Schulenburg

It Could Save Us from an All-Out War

18 Sep 2023 – At the end of August this year, four highly respected German personalities (*1) presented a peace proposal for ending the war in Ukraine through a ceasefire and subsequent peace negotiations: https://zeitgeschehen-im-fokus.ch/en/newspaper-ausgabe-en/article-translated-in-english.html#article_1565 It is arguably the most comprehensive and groundbreaking peace proposal made by any government, international organization or, as in this case, any private party since the war began 18 months ago.

This peace proposal comes at an extremely critical time in the Ukraine war. With a possible failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and the resulting weakening of the Ukrainian armed forces, NATO could be faced with the decision in the next few months, perhaps even in the next few weeks, to either further escalate the war against Russia or to go down the path of negotiations. A decision to continue the war, however, carries the enormous risk that it could increasingly develop into a direct NATO-Russia confrontation. This would not only result in further suffering of the Ukrainian population, but it would also bring the world one step closer to nuclear war. It is only to be hoped that reason will prevail, and NATO, Ukraine and Russia will opt for a ceasefire with immediate peace negotiations. The detailed German peace proposal has now shown the way to this end. It is therefore of utmost urgency to draw the attention of political decision-makers around the world to this peace proposal and to win public support for it.

The African Union, China, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia have made peace proposals and a peace proposal was earlier developed at the invitation of the Vatican. In addition, Turkey and Israel have undertaken laudable peace initiatives. However, the European Union, that should be most concerned about peace in Europe and that itself is deeply involved in this war, has not yet made any proposal on how to end this war through a political solution. Moreover, except for a proposal for peace negotiations by former Italian Prime Minister Draghi a year ago, none of the EU member states has undertaken any form of peace initiative of its own either. Sadly, this is also true for the German government.

At a time, the Ukraine war presents Europe with a supreme peril, the European Union seems to have lapsed into political rigidity. Neither does it have an obvious strategy of its own for what it wants to achieve with its military support for dragging on the Ukraine war, nor has it developed any ideas of what a peaceful Europe might look like after this war. As if this old continent had learned nothing from the terrible experiences of the two World Wars, which, like the Ukrainian war now, were fought mainly on European soil, it still clings to increasingly unrealistic maximum demands and the shocking idea that these can be achieved on the battlefield. That in the process Ukraine is being bled dry in the truest sense of the word is apparently being accepted. EU policy also seems to be deaf to the political, social and economic consequences the continuation of the war will have for the people of Europe and around the world, and the enormous dangers that would emanate for humankind from its continuous escalation.

Against this background, it becomes clear why such a detailed German peace proposal is of such great importance right now. It breaks with the fatal belief that military victories could bring peace and, in contrast, outlines ways to achieve a peaceful solution to this war through political negotiations. In the present prevailing highly belligerent atmosphere in European politics, media and think tanks, this requires considerable personal courage on the part of the initiators to stand up for peace.

Their peace proposal is also based on the Western view that Russia has started an illegal war of aggression and that thus Ukraine has every right to defend itself militarily and to accept foreign military support to do so. However, they go a decisive step further by emphasizing that this “does not absolve the government in Kiev and its supporting states … from politically promoting the achievement of a just and lasting peace“. Now that this war has entered a highly destructive stage, in that there can be no more victors, their call on all warring parties and their supporting states that it is time to seek a political solution for peace has become even more urgent.

Thus, the initiators not only call for an immediate ceasefire along the existing frontlines, but also demand the simultaneous start of peace negotiations to prevent a ‘freezing’ of this ceasefire line and thus of the entire conflict. To avoid any delays through political rankling, they propose that these peace negotiations go straight to the core controversial issues of the conflict: a neutral Ukraine, security guarantees for Ukraine, the future status of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions as well as Crimea. For each of these controversial issues, they outline possible solutions that are based on the outcomes of the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in March 2022 and on Ukraine’s negotiating position at the Istanbul peace summit on March 29, 2022.

This peace proposal originating from Germany complements the peace proposals already being made by countries or regional organizations from outside Europe. Like those, it assumes that Russian security interests as outlined in Russia’s letter to NATO and the U.S. of December 17, 2021, must be considered. But in contrast to the views prevailing in the EU, the initiators of the German peace proposal share the assessment of non-Western countries that Russian President Putin is very much willing to negotiate peace. This does not yet mean that the negotiating positions have converged. As in all other peace negotiations, also in the case of the Ukrainian war, one will have to painstakingly negotiate over conflicting interests of the warring parties and their supporting states. This will, no doubt, be extremely difficult because there is no trust between the warring parties – peace negotiations take place between war enemies and not between friends. Nevertheless, the path now charted by Germany’s peace proposal for a negotiated peace represents a major advantage over any further attempt to achieve a militarily enforced solution.

Therefore, it should be in the self-interest of the EU and its member states to embrace this peace proposal wholeheartedly. For it will be the EU that loses in this war. Not only would the EU find itself at the frontline should this war escalate into a direct NATO-Russian confrontation, but it will also be left with all other adverse aspects of the fall-out of the war. This will not only include the present costs of the war but more importantly, the long-term costs of having to support a destroyed, impoverished, and depopulating Ukraine. While the U.S. has the option to withdraw back across the Atlantic, the EU, however, will continue to face many of the world’s crisis regions in its immediate neighborhood. It will also be the EU’s economy that will suffer most not only from its homemade sanctions but also from an increase in the cost of raw materials, from the loss of sales markets and the disruption of direct trade routes to the growth regions of Asia. And if one correctly reads the signs of the BRICS+ summit, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and now also the G-20 summit, one may conclude that it is not Russia that is internationally isolated, but rather that it is the EU that loses international influence over its Ukraine policies, its failure to have prevented the Ukraine war and now its unwillingness to end it. It is the EU that now desperately needs peace, and the German peace proposal should be accepted as a one-time chance that would allow it to switch its policies towards achieving this peace while moving away from supporting a continued war.

The German peace proposal relies heavily on a decisive role for the United Nations in its implementation. According to the proposal, the framework for a comprehensive cease-fire is to be decided in the UN Security Council while the monitoring of the demilitarization of the now Russian-occupied territories and the military separation of forces along the cease-fire line is to be guaranteed by UN peacekeepers. Subsequent peace negotiations should take place under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, or a High Commissioner appointed by him. Since the United Nations, the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General have played rather disappointing roles in this conflict, these proposals will certainly be questioned by many observers.

And yet these proposals in particular could be of far-reaching significance for global peace. It would lead to the rehabilitation of this world organization that is so indispensable and central to the maintenance of world peace. It would mean that within the confines of the UN, the various peace proposals and peace initiatives of the member states could come together, not as competing but as mutually reinforcing forces for peace. Such a strengthening of the United Nations and the associated affirmation of the universality of the UN Charter would certainly be welcomed by the vast majority of member states. The German peace proposal could make a decisive contribution to this end.

The United Nations and the UN Charter once came into being in response to Germany’s awful war crimes and atrocities it committed during World War II. Germany should hence feel a special responsibility to upholding the UN-Charter’s obligation for all member states to seek peaceful solutions of conflicts and the prevention of wars. This groundbreaking peace proposal now presented by four imminent German personalities is a step towards Germany fulfilling its special responsibility. If the EU, and indeed the international community want to end the war in Ukraine peacefully and preserve global peace, there will be no alternatives to this peace proposal!

NOTE:

(1) Peter Brandt, son of the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, initiator of the Ostpolitik, formerly history professor and strong voice of the German peace movement, German trade Unions and the Social Democratic Party

Hajo Funke, formerly professor on antisemitism/rightwing populism and international conflicts at the Otto-Suhr-Institute, Germany’s leading political university think tank

Harald Kujat, highest ranking German General (rtd.), served as German Chief of Defense (Generalinspekteur der Bundeswehr) from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005 as Chairman NATO-Military Committee, Chairman NATO-Russia Council and NATO-Ukraine Commission of Chiefs of General Staff

Horst Teltschik, formerly chief foreign affairs adviser to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl during the end of the Cold War and the negotiations with the four powers leading up to the reunification of Germany in 1991.

– Article taken from Transcend Media Service, 25th September 2023, https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/09/a-groundbreaking-german-peace-proposal-for-ukraine/

Readings in Nonviolence: Leaks reveal reality behind U.S. propaganda in Ukraine

Introduction

In ‘the West’ we are fed a very distorted picture of the war in Ukraine – not as distorted as in Russia but very partisan and partial nevertheless. Truth may not always be the first casualty of war but it is certainly an early casualty, indeed it can be discarded well before hostilities begin. If we are not rooting for Putin then we should not be biding with Biden either.

This article by well known US peace activist Medea Benjamin and Nicholas Davies tries to look behind the headlines and between the propaganda lines at some of the dreadful reality of what is taking place and what the USA is up to. It does not however go into whether the USA is using the Ukraine war as a way to attempt the isolation of Russia and undermine its power as part of geopolitical one upmanship. Of course the USA may support Ukrainian freedom from Russian control but what else is going on?

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies – (TRANSCEND Media Service)

The U.S. corporate media’s first response to the leaking of secret documents about the war in Ukraine was to throw some mud in the water, declare “nothing to see here,” and cover it as a depoliticized crime story about a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman who published secret documents to impress his friends. President Biden dismissed the leaks as revealing nothing of “great consequence.”

What these documents reveal, however, is that the war is going worse for Ukraine than our political leaders have admitted to us, while going badly for Russia too, so that neither side is likely to break the stalemate this year, and this will lead to “a protracted war beyond 2023,” as one of the documents says.

The publication of these assessments should lead to renewed calls for our government to level with the public about what it realistically hopes to achieve by prolonging the bloodshed, and why it continues to reject the resumption of the promising peace negotiations it blocked in April 2022.

We believe that blocking those talks was a dreadful mistake, in which the Biden administration capitulated to the warmongering, since-disgraced U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and that current U.S. policy is compounding that mistake at the cost of tens of thousands more Ukrainian lives and the destruction of even more of their country.

In most wars, while the warring parties strenuously suppress the reporting of civilian casualties for which they are responsible, professional militaries generally treat accurate reporting of their own military casualties as a basic responsibility. But in the virulent propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine, all sides have treated military casualty figures as fair game, systematically exaggerating enemy casualties and understating their own.

Publicly available U.S. estimates have supported the idea that many more Russians are being killed than Ukrainians, deliberately skewing public perceptions to support the notion that Ukraine can somehow win the war, as long as we just keep sending more weapons.

The leaked documents provide internal U.S. military intelligence assessments of casualties on both sides. But different documents, and different copies of the documents circulating online, show conflicting numbers, so the propaganda war rages on despite the leak.

The most detailed assessment of attrition rates of troops says explicitly that U.S. military intelligence has “low confidence” in the attrition rates it cites. It attributes that partly to “potential bias” in Ukraine’s information sharing, and notes that casualty assessments “fluctuate according to the source.”

So, despite denials by the Pentagon, a document that shows a higher death toll on the Ukrainian side may be correct, since it has been widely reported that Russia has been firing several times the number of artillery shells as Ukraine, in a bloody war of attrition in which artillery appears to be the main instrument of death. Altogether, some of the documents estimate a total death toll on both sides approaching 100,000 and total casualties, killed and wounded, of up to 350,000.

Another document reveals that, after using up the stocks sent by NATO countries, Ukraine is running out of missiles for the S-300 and BUK systems that make up 89% of its air defences. By May or June, Ukraine will therefore be vulnerable, for the first time, to the full strength of the Russian air force, which has until now been limited mainly to long-range missile strikes and drone attacks.

Recent Western arms shipments have been justified to the public by predictions that Ukraine will soon be able to launch new counter-offensives to take back territory from Russia. Twelve brigades, or up to 60,000 troops, were assembled to train on newly delivered Western tanks for this “spring offensive,” with three brigades in Ukraine and nine more in Poland, Romania and Slovenia.

But a leaked document from the end of February reveals that the nine brigades being equipped and trained abroad had less than half their equipment and, on average, were only 15% trained. Meanwhile, Ukraine faced a stark choice to either send reinforcements to Bakhmut or withdraw from the town entirely, and it chose to sacrifice some of its “spring offensive” forces to prevent the imminent fall of Bakhmut.

Ever since the U.S. and NATO started training Ukrainian forces to fight in Donbas in 2015, and while it has been training them in other countries since the Russian invasion, NATO has provided six-month training courses to bring Ukraine’s forces up to basic NATO standards. On this basis, it appears that many of the forces being assembled for the “spring offensive” would not be fully trained and equipped before July or August.

But another document says the offensive will begin around April 30th, meaning that many troops may be thrown into combat less than fully trained, by NATO standards, even as they have to contend with more severe shortages of ammunition and a whole new scale of Russian airstrikes. The incredibly bloody fighting that has already decimated Ukrainian forces will surely be even more brutal than before.

The leaked documents conclude that “enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive,” and that the most likely outcome remains only modest territorial gains.

The documents also reveal serious deficiencies on the Russian side, deficiencies revealed by the failure of their winter offensive to take much ground. The fighting in Bakhmut has raged on for months, leaving thousands of fallen soldiers on both sides and a burned out city still not 100% controlled by Russia.

The inability of either side to decisively defeat the other in the ruins of Bakhmut and other front-line towns in Donbas is why one of the most important documents predicted that the war was locked in a “grinding campaign of attrition” and was “likely heading toward a stalemate.”

Adding to the concerns about where this conflict is headed is the revelation in the leaked documents about the presence of 97 special forces from NATO countries, including from the U.K. and the U.S. This is in addition to previous reports about the presence of CIA personnel, trainers and Pentagon contractors, and the unexplained deployment of 20,000 troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Brigades near the border between Poland and Ukraine.

Worried about the ever-increasing direct U.S. military involvement, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has introduced a Privileged Resolution of Inquiry to force President Biden to notify the House of the exact number of U.S. military personnel inside Ukraine and precise U.S. plans to assist Ukraine militarily.

We can’t help wondering what President Biden’s plan could be, or if he even has one. But it turns out that we’re not alone. In what amounts to a second leak that the corporate media have studiously ignored, U.S. intelligence sources have told veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that they are asking the same questions, and they describe a “total breakdown” between the White House and the U.S. intelligence community.

Hersh’s sources describe a pattern that echoes the use of fabricated and unvetted intelligence to justify U.S. aggression against Iraq in 2003, in which Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan are by-passing regular intelligence analysis and procedures and running the Ukraine War as their own private fiefdom. They reportedly smear all criticism of President Zelenskyy as “pro-Putin,” and leave U.S. intelligence agencies out in the cold trying to understand a policy that makes no sense to them.

What U.S. intelligence officials know, but the White House is doggedly ignoring, is that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, top Ukrainian officials running this endemically corrupt country are making fortunes skimming money from the over $100 billion in aid and weapons that America has sent them.

According to Hersh’s report, the CIA assesses that Ukrainian officials, including President Zelenskyy, have embezzled $400 million from money the United States sent Ukraine to buy diesel fuel for its war effort, in a scheme that involves buying cheap, discounted fuel from Russia. Meanwhile, Hersh says, Ukrainian government ministries literally compete with each other to sell weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers to private arms dealers in Poland, the Czech Republic and around the world.

Hersh writes that, in January 2023, after the CIA heard from Ukrainian generals that they were angry with Zelenskyy for taking a larger share of the rake-off from these schemes than his generals, CIA Director William Burns went to Kyiv to meet with him. Burns allegedly told Zelenskyy he was taking too much of the “skim money,” and handed him a list of 35 generals and senior officials the CIA knew were involved in this corrupt scheme.

Zelenskyy fired about ten of those officials, but failed to alter his own behavior. Hersh’s sources tell him that the White House’s lack of interest in doing anything about these goings-on is a major factor in the breakdown of trust between the White House and the intelligence community.

First-hand reporting from inside Ukraine by New Cold War has described the same systematic pyramid of corruption as Hersh. A member of parliament, formerly in Zelenskyy’s party, told New Cold War that Zelenskyy and other officials skimmed 170 million euros from money that was supposed to pay for Bulgarian artillery shells.

The corruption reportedly extends to bribes to avoid conscription. The Open Ukraine Telegram channel was told by a military recruitment office that it could get the son of one of its writers released from the front line in Bakhmut and sent out of the country for $32,000.

As has happened in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the wars the United States has been involved in for many decades, the longer the war goes on, the more the web of corruption, lies and distortions unravels.

The torpedoing of peace talks, the Nord Stream sabotage, the hiding of corruption, the politicization of casualty figures, and the suppressed history of broken promises and prescient warnings about the danger of NATO expansion are all examples of how our leaders have distorted the truth to shore up U.S. public support for perpetuating an unwinnable war that is killing a generation of young Ukrainians.

These leaks and investigative reports are not the first, nor will they be the last, to shine a light through the veil of propaganda that permits these wars to destroy young people’s lives in faraway places, so that oligarchs in Russia, Ukraine and the United States can amass wealth and power.

The only way this will stop is if more and more people get active in opposing those companies and individuals that profit from war – who Pope Francis calls the Merchants of Death – and boot out the politicians who do their bidding, before they make an even more fatal misstep and start a nuclear war.

lTaken from https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/04/leaks-reveal-reality-behind-u-s-propaganda-in-ukraine/

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace. Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, and a researcher with CODEPINK. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies are the authors of “War in Ukraine: Making sense of a senseless conflict”, OR Books, November 2022. The CODEPINK website is at https://www.codepink.org/ A photo of Medea Benjamin speaking at the 2018 Dublin conference on US/NATO bases appears at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/45250495004/in/photolist-2bWCBEm

Editorials: The art and skill of compromise / Northern Ireland – Calling it on the Protocol

Ukraine, the world, negotiation and compromise

The art and skill of compromise

What can we compromise, how do we compromise, and do we end up ‘compromised’? These are important questions for anyone (which equals everyone) ever involved in conflict. And conflict is part of life so knowing when to compromise is one of the most essential skills that we can learn. Negotiation is pointless without the possibility of compromise.

The first thing to say is that being able to compromise, without reneging on our core values, is part of being strong. Compromise is often portrayed simply as weakness (which is where the term ‘compromised’ comes from) whereas you have to be strong to make a principled compromise through recognising the other party’s arguments and position, and being willing to move on. Of course a ‘giving in’ compromise can come from weakness, that you simply cave in to another’s demands, but that is not what we are talking about here.

Intransigence is when one or more parties to a conflict refuse to consider negotiation and compromise, or have extreme or unrealistic demands and expectations. This can come from perceived strength but it can also come from weakness – before the Falklands/Calvinism war of 1982 neither Britain nor Argentine were willing to submit their claim to international arbitration because they were both so unsure of their claim to the islands.. You need to feel strong in yourself to engage in negotiation which can lead to compromise. And in such circumstances ‘weakness’ can turn into ‘false strength’ (in the case of the Falklands/Malvinas war).

To be able to negotiate and compromise properly you need a realistic assessment of the situation in general and the interests and positions of the other party or parties. You also need to be acting ‘in good faith’ and be persuaded that others are dong the same. That is why, in the EU-UK negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol, having the NI Protocol Bill in the UK Parliament is so ludicrous. It is a prime example of British exceptionalism because it is effectively saying “We’ll negotiate a deal with you but if we subsequently decide there is something we don’t like we will unilaterally change it”. That is absolute nonsense, and bad faith; an agreement involves at least two sides, not one side deciding by itself.. Some in the British Conservative Party think that something like the NI Protocol Bill makes them look strong when in fact it only serves to make them look really stupid. It is one way to lose friends and win enemies.

As with any mediation, a negotiated settlement should be in accord with human rights and justice. These may be open to very different interpretations but it should still be clear. And if there are competing human rights (as with many marching disputes in Northern Ireland) both sides rights need to be taken into account.

In Northern Ireland, for example, it is also necessary to distinguish between identity, and the freedom to express that identity (again subject to the human rights of others) and the position of the state. Few people in the world are lucky enough to belong to a state where they always agree with the positions and policies held by that state. The identity of someone as a nationalist or a unionist in the North should be respected but that does not mean that the state can or should mirror their own political viewpoint. Nationalists have had to live with that fact for years; it does not seem that unionists are yet willing to consider this despite ‘unionism’ no longer being in a majority position. However you should never have to compromise on your identity as opposed to the possibility of compromising on your position..This is also relevant to Ukraine, another divided society.

Being aware of the difference between interests and positions is also important, and not making red lines which will interfere with negotiations later on. Of course you will want to consider what your red lines are but publicising them and saying publicly “Less than this we will no accept” is unwise (as with a very public seven red lines which the DUP publicised in relation to the NI Protocol). Such red lines are unwise because if the other side makes you an offer which is in your interests but you have publicised lines you will not cross, it either makes you look weak if you cross those lines, or it means no successful negotiation is possible. This is a case where trying to look hard, by publicising your red lines, makes meaningful negotiation harder.

It is rare for any side to get all it wants in a negotiation but aiming for a win-win result is desirable. What is the minimum that my opponent needs to settle? Can it be given to them? And are there things which are in their longer term interests which could be part of a settlement and help to move things on? Are they willing to give me some of what I want and maybe need?

Negotiation skills can be taught but it is also an area where both experience and tactical common sense are needed. In the middle of negotiation, everything can seem in a mess and confusion can reign. Holding your nerve and trusting in the process to take you there are important. And, when it comes to the crunch, you need to decide whether you can stand over the prospective deal or whether the fall back, non-negotiated situation is better (and if there is not a negotiated settlement whether there is anything you can do to make the situation more acceptable for yourself).

In the last editorial we spelled out some leeway for possible negotiations with Russia to end the war and their onslaught on Ukraine – and questioned why Ireland should not be actively exploring such possibilities. Part of successful negotiation – and making it stick – is allowing everyone to save face. This may seem unpalatable but it is definitely essential. If Vladimir Putin is not overthrown in Russia, how are you going to get Russia to cut a deal? And even if the unlikely happened and he was overthrown, would his successor be any better? It may seem unjust to allow Putin to save face in any deal, but can there be a deal without this (barring Russian victory in Ukraine)? No.

There are many ways negotiation can take place – formally, informally, simply between the two or more parties, involving a mediator, shuttle diplomacy, or quite possibly a mixture of different models. Imagination and creativity are key. ‘Megaphone diplomacy’, where two sides shout at each other, is not negotiation but self-justification. Unfortunately in regard to the Russian war on Ukraine things are stuck at megaphone diplomacy and it takes courage and imagination to move beyond that.

It is not often that we quote Winston Churchill but in 1954 (in a saying often misquoted and a bit uncertain) he said “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war”. If an arch-militarist can say that it seems strange that the west is intent in showing its support to Ukraine through the supply of weapons, which kill and cause killing in response, and not at all in exploring how the war could be brought to an end by meeting some of Russia’s interests which are reasonable (e.g. no Ukrainian membership of NATO) and imaginative face saving.

Even more ironic than the above is the fact it would seem that Winston Churchill’s successor as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was instrumental in scuttling early negotiations which looked like they could be fruitful. https://jacobin.com/2023/02/ukraine-russia-war-naftali-bennett-negotiations-peace According to former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, there was a good chance of a breakthrough in negotiations early on but this was blocked by ‘the west’ – and Johnson said the west wouldn’t recognise any peace deal Zelensky signed with Putin. If this is true then Boris Johnson has a lake of blood on his hands.

The west’ has thus acted irresponsibly in a variety of ways; preventing a possible agreement early on in the war, pushing NATO eastwards when in 1989 they had promised not to, refusing to consider a neutral Ukraine, and not pushing for the implementation of the Minsk accords. All these facts, and the west’s handling of the 2014 Maidan revolution in which a democratically-elected government was overthrown, even if it was violent and corrupt, were part of what led to Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. There is no excuse for that invasion and resultant bloodbath and Putin bares the primary blame along with his right-wing ‘Greater Russia’ ideology. But it is clear the west had contributed significantly to what has happened,

We can fully understand why Ukraine chose to resist the unjustifiable Russian invasion militarily. That does not mean it was the wisest choice or that other countries should simply back that stance up with weapons which are adding fuel to the fire. The fire needs put out, not stoked. Compromise is possible without anyone being compromised but for that to happen there has to be a belief that things can be made different through negotiation. And negotiation has to be brought about but where there is a will there is likely a way. And carrots are more likely to be successful in this than sticks (i.e. incentives rather than threatened penalties).

We are sad that a supposedly neutral country such as Ireland has had such a lack of imagination as to what is possible and has been unquestioning of the EU and NATO military responses..The Irish constitution commits the state to the pacific settlement of international disputes; the Irish government has shown no inclination or effort in that direction, a shameful dereliction of its duty.

Northern Ireland:

Calling it on the Protocol:

Brake even point?

What is fair to all sides in the North in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol? This is a big question which raises many other big questions, not least as to whether this deal could not have been arrived at a year or two ago if the UK had engaged properly with the EU; the claim by unionists and the DUP that they have caused the changes made is somewhat spurious or at best less than half true.

On the other hand we have previously stated that unionists deserve to have their views on the Protocol properly considered and this has now happened. But despite their prominence in Northern Ireland and in relation to the issue, the DUP is a small fish in the UK pond. For them there has been a perceived loss of British sovereignty in Northern Ireland, as well as issues to do with the economic effect, particularly in terms of imports from Britain to the North..However it would seem the EU has been fairly generous – and both the EU and UK possibly clever (e.g. with the ‘Stormont brake’) – in the changes made. The UK government has, in its opinion, more important matters to settle than doing precisely what NI unionists want.

How can we put this into context? With difficulty, given the complexity and history. Brexit, which was enthusiastically supported by the DUP and most unionists, has had, as with many such moves, unintended consequences, one of which was the NI Protocol; the adage to “Be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.

It is true that Northern Ireland continuing in the EU single market does represent a slight diminution of British sovereignty in Northern Ireland in relation to the economic sphere – but it is also true that business, despite wanting certain issues ironed out (some of which will be dealt with under the new agreement), have generally welcomed the advantage for Northern Ireland in easier trade with the EU. It is also appropriate that there there should be Northern Irish input regarding the regulation of such matters; it is regulation, not taxation, without representation. Whether the ‘Stormont brake’ in being able to reject EU legislation could prove a hostage to fortune, it was an astute move since it can only be implemented with the Northern Ireland Assembly functioning – though the final say is with the UK government, not Stormont. How meaningful this is and whether this overcomes any democratic deficit on the issue is questionable – but then Northern Ireland is not a sovereign state, its top level government is in London.

There are wider issues however. An arithmetic majority in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. A majority in the North have wanted issues in relation to the NI Protocol ironed out but not the Protocol to be abandoned. Most people want Stormont back to decide on the critical issues facing the North (and issues to do with the health service are literally critical) – getting more effective decision making in the Assembly is another issue and another day’s work. Unionists are no longer in a majority in Northern Ireland – but then neither are nationalists and there are questions here about the rights of ‘equals’ or ‘minorities’.

What ‘sovereignty’ means in today’s world is also a moot point. At one stage when the cattle trade was threatened by disease in Britain, Rev Ian Paisley declared that the people in Northern Ireland were British but the cattle were Irish! That is flexibility in relation to economic interests – and if the North prospered through easier access to the EU that could make people less likely to vote for a united Ireland. Voters list health and the economy as their primary concerns with only 22% in a recent poll putting the NI Protocol top. Referring to the Act of Union (between Britain and Ireland) being broken two hundred and twenty years later is important to some unionists but is not going to impress others, particularly when said Act only came about through massive bribery and corruption, ’buying out’ the Irish parliamntarians of the time.

There are points which can be made on both sides but the sovereign government of the UK entered into a binding agreement with the EU and, eventually, has renegotiated details of the Northern Ireland Protocol which nevertheless remains in place.. The fact that Boris Johnson had no intention of implementing whatever he didn’t like is irrelevant. The EU was slow to attempt to address problems but is well disposed towards Northern Ireland and it would seem has been as generous as it can be in the so-called Windsor Framework (the name seemingly an attempt to dress up the altered Protocol agreement in fancy clothes).

The British government has been torn between pragmatists who wanted to get the matter settled and Brexit irredentists who wanted to push the English nationalist boat out. Presuming Sunak gets it through the House of Commons in London with few Tory rebels opposing then he will have pulled off a considerable feat.

The DUP and Jeffrey Donaldson are in no rush to judgement on the new agreement – although at this stage it is not looking very like they will give approval. They will have a tight call but given they only changed their stance on the Protocol to outright opposition when it was clear they were losing support to Jim Allister and the TUV, it is fair to assume that the bottom line for them is whether they risk doing the same if they back the new proposals. However some DUP figures have already protested, e.g. Ian Paisley stating that the British government should not have ditched their ‘bargaining chip’ of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which would have given the British government the ‘right’ to ditch whatever they didn’t like in the agreement – which, particularly as it was a binding international agreement between the EU and UK, shows how little he knows about negotiation. Ian Paisley has also clearly stated that the new deal does not meet the DUP’s ‘Seven tests’ (which, as stated in the other editorial, they DUP were unwise to publicise).

If the DUP continues to boycott the Assembly at Stormont that is their prerogative but a wiser course of action would be to go back in but continue opposition to what is unwelcome to them from within. They could at least then start to deal with the urgent issues piling up – and Northern Ireland remains part of the UK, just with some differences. It has always been a place apart, the only part of the UK with ‘home rule’ for a century, and the only part of the UK having a land border with another jurisdiction. And DUP support for a hard Brexit, and rejection of Theresa May’s proposals keeping all of the UK in the single market, was a substantial reason for the whole issue being such a mess – and Northern Ireland being treated differently to Britain to begin with.

And if the DUP decide to continue their Stormont boycott then direct rule over Northern Ireland from Britain could be the order of the day for a decade or more. That is not a great birthday present for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (which has always been shaky anyway) and it would represent not just a failure of politics but an encouragement to those who think militarily rather than in terms of democratic politics. It is hard to see what more the EU could give without the EU and UK going back to the drawing board on their relationship – and especially after the debacle of the last number of years that is not going to happen.

The longer this debacle goes on, and the DUP stays out, the weaker unionism will be since there there are far more young cultural Catholics than cultural Protestants with an ongoing decline in the number of the latter. The largest unionist party throwing its rattle out of the pram does no one, not even themselves, any favours. Seeing Michelle O’Neill donning the mantle of First Minister would also be a bitter ill for unionists but if they are democrats then it is one they should swallow – and get on with the job, including representing their constituency.

If ‘Stormont’ does return then this is highly unlikely to be the last major crisis or cessation. The “other day’s work” referred to above is to sort out a more effective decision making system for the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. The people of Northern Ireland deserve better but getting agreement on reform will be difficult – and much more than “a day’s work”.

Ukraine – The causes and lessons of war

by Peter Emerson

Introduction

There are numerous electoral systems in the world, quite a few decision-making voting systems, and several forms of governance. The first vary enormously. The usual forms of the latter two, however, do not; decision-making is usually taken by majority vote, occasionally in autocracies and theocracies, but nearly always in democracies; while elected parliaments are invariably ruled by a majority – a majority party or coalition. Politics therefore is adversarial, for majority voting allows the voter only to be either ‘for’ or ‘against’, and even in plural societies like Belgium, consociational voting ensures that decision-making remains dichotomous. Governance may sometimes involve all-party power-sharing, as in Switzerland and Bosnia, but here too reliance is placed on binary decision-making; a form of rule based on preferential decision-making has yet to be practised.

Likewise, when self-determination is exercised, binary voting is the norm. It implies that a minority may secede if a majority of that minority so decides… but that act of secession might produce another minority: when Ireland opted out of the UK, NI opted out of opting out, and remained in the UK. So too in the Caucasus, when Georgia left the USSR, Abkhazia and South Ossetia tried to leave Georgia; it was the same again in Yugoslavia, with Bosnia, and then Republika Srpska; and now too again with the USSR: Ukraine, Donetsk and Krasnoarmiisk.

Fearful that such referendums could lead to the break-up of the Russian Federation, and mindful that their Balkan ally, Serbia, opposed any referendum in Kosovo (as they spell it), Russia used to call the practice of holding these plebiscites ‘matryoshka nationalism’ after their famous dolls: every majority contains a minority, next a smaller one, and maybe too a miniscule one. Little wonder that when the first ethnic clashes in the USSR occurred, in 1988 in Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus, a headline in Moscow read “This is our Northern Ireland,” {Вот наш Ольстер (Vot nash Olster).}

As noted, binary vote decision-making is ubiquitous. In October 1991, at a cross-party conference in Belfast, one of the guests was a native of Sarajevo, Mr Petar Radji-Histić: a war was already raging in Croatia, despite or rather because of their two referendums; so we opposed any binary referendum in Bosnia which was, after all, 40:30:20 Moslem:Orthodox:Catholic – so there was no majority anyway! Alas, via the Badinter Commission, the EU (EC) insisted that Bosnia hold such a poll, and on the day of the vote, the barricades went up in Sarajevo. Looking back, “all the wars in the former Yugoslavia started with a referendum,” (Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo’s famous newspaper, 7.2.1999). The same quotation now applies to Ukraine.

Democratisation

In 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, western advisers advocated ‘majoritarianism’, {even though the Russian word for ‘majoritarianism’ is ‘большевизм’ (bolshevism)}. Not least because of all this advice, Moscow’s new polity consisted of the French two-round electoral system, the ubiquitous binary vote in parliamentary decision-making, and a form of governance based on majority rule. The problems were only beginning…

most especially with self-determination. Nevertheless, despite the 1989 violence in Baku and Tbilisi, the west continued to support Gorbachev, but not after the 1991 fatalities in Lithuania. The West now changed its mind and backed the populist, Boris Yeltsin; it was a huge mistake. The latter supported the break-up of the USSR (because he wanted power) but opposed any ‘matryoshka nationalism’ for the break-up of the Russian Federation: (not unlike another Boris), of principles he had none. There followed the wars in Chechnya and, in 1999, the emergence of Vladimir Putin. And because Yugoslavia was considered to be similar to the USSR, western support for the nationalist Serb, Slobodan Milošević, was transferred to another extremist, the Croat Franjo Tudjman, and this second western U-turn exacerbated the wars in the Balkans.

But back to the newly independent and now majoritarian Ukraine. In 1991, in a referendum on independence, every oblast (region), including Crimea, voted in favour. Using the same very divisive two-round electoral system, presidential elections in 2004 led to a final between the two Viktors, Yanukovich and Yushchenko. Thus the one country of mainly Slav Christians divided into two ‘halves’: the largely pro-Russian, Russian-speaking Orthodox to the South and East, as opposed to the mainly pro-EU, Ukrainian-speaking, Catholic or Uniate others. Yushchenko won, albeit by a whisker and his right to majority rule was supported by the EC/(EU).

The Caucasus was still rumbling. In 2004 in Georgia, the more diplomatic Eduard Shevardnadze lost the election in Tbilisi in what was called the Rose Revolution, but the ‘changing of the guard’ was only the result of the ballot. Then, however, the new, more pacifist premier, Zurab Zhvania, was murdered… maybe on the orders of the new President Mikhail Saakashvili, or so many Georgians think, and power was now the monopoly of the latter.

Moscow itself now did a huge U-turn: despite Kosovo, Russia chose to support (matryoshka) referendums – some of them anyway – backing South Ossetia to opt out of Georgia… whereupon, of course, a Georgian enclave called Akhalgori (Eredvi) – like Northern Ireland – tried to opt out of opting out: more matryoshki, and yet more violence! Saakashvili waited for Putin to go to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics… and then invaded. Putin responded in the only way he knows how, and the result was war.

Two years later in Ukraine, the other Viktor, the pro-Russian Yanukovich – as noted, he had lost the 2004 contest – won the 2010 election, again by a whisker, the pro-western bloc having divided into Yushchenko versus Julia Timoshenko. (*1) There followed the protests in Maidan which, in February 2014, turned horribly violent. The EU then performed its own U-turn: democracy, apparently, was no longer majority rule, it was now power-sharing! A delegation rushed over to Kiev… and arrived on the very day that Yanukovich ran into exile.

Putin doesn’t like losing. So in March, he ran a second referendum in Crimea. As mentioned above, Crimea had already voted to be in Ukraine; but now, supposedly, it changed its mind. (The Belfast Agreement caters for a similar vacillation, every seven years or so.) (*2) In May came referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk… and the word Scotland, Шотландия (Shotlandiya) – (2014, of course, was also the year of Scotland’s referendum) – was used by Russian separatists in Luhansk, to ‘justify’ the unjustifiable.

Thus, just as the UK doll had splintered into Ireland and then Northern Ireland, so too the Ukrainian matryoshka broke into the small and infinitesimal: part of Ukraine tried to opt out and become an independent Donetsk, supposedly; whereupon the Dobropillia and Krasnoarmiisk region (*3) tried to opt out of opting out and to opt back into Ukraine, in another referendum! Nearly three million people voted, and 69.1% chose Ukraine.

This particular vote Putin chose to ignore. (Just as many westerners had ignored the first referendum in Kosova, in 1991. Another instance was when Croatia voted to leave Yugoslavia, the Krajina (*4) voted to leave Croatia – as in South Ossetia, this was another pair of mutually exclusive referendums!)

Next, in 2022, Putin changed his mind: he now wanted Donetsk to be, not independent (of Ukraine), but something quite different, to be incorporated (into Russia). And apparently, by some strange coincidence, in yet another (bloody) referendum, a majority of the people of Donetsk had, it is said, done the same.

Lessons

At worst, then, the majority vote is (and always was) a means by which the powerful can manipulate those with less power: at worst, both in parliament and/or in a referendum, it can be false flag, a provocation to violence. Accordingly, if only for the sake of Ukraine, those in Scotland (*5) and Ireland who might wish to change their own constitutional status should campaign for multi-option or better still preferential ballots. (How else can a W-I-S-E option, such as a Wales-Ireland-Scotland-England federation, get onto the ballot paper?)

There is another reason. If it is seen that the 2014 and then 2022 binary referendums in Donetsk etc. do in fact succeed, it will encourage others elsewhere who are already rattling their sabres and ballot boxes, like the current and former presidents, Milorad Dodik in Republika Srpska and Anatoly Bibilov in South Ossetia, respectively; a poll in either could easily lead to yet more violence and war. What’s more, tensions in Kosova (to use the Albanian spelling) are yet again on the rise.

Meanwhile, the biggest lesson for the two governments here in these islands (and elsewhere) is as follows: both the House of Commons and Dáil Éireann should practice that which they preach: governance in both – indeed, governance in every democracy – should be based on broad coalitions, governments of national unity, forms of power-sharing based on preferential decision-making. If only for the sake of Ukraine.

Furthermore, as I first wrote in Fortnight in 2005, Ukraine itself should adopt a form of power-sharing.

Postscript

To every violent horror, there is always a pacifist response. Putin has ‘declared war’ (or special military operation) and thus, apparently, he now has the ‘right’ to kill. Those countries opposed to such violence should ‘declare peace’, so to say that until Russia withdraws from Ukraine and ceases all acts of violence therein, they will ignore all the norms of peaceful coexistence and diplomacy, and that their personnel in Russia – ambassadors and so forth – shall be at liberty to join the anti-war protests in Pushkin Square and elsewhere, for as long as such protests remain non-violent.

In addition, any (old) persons of influence outside Russia – the Pope, a retired Archbishop of Canterbury, an Imam and a Rabbi, along with a former US president perhaps, a British former prime minister, an ex-film star, whosoever – could endeavour to undertake a Gandhian protest of some sort, either in Moscow, or if that’s not possible in Minsk, or maybe just on the Belarus border: a silent vigil, a protest, a fast. It might be a policy which achieves nothing yet risks the lives of those involved; in contrast, other policies have put the lives of Ukrainians at risk.

Peter Emerson

Director, the de Borda Institute

www.deborda.org

A Russian-speaker; an OSCE election observer, six times in Ukraine, twice in Georgia and once in Russia; a member of the EU Monitoring Mission in Mtskheta for South Ossetia, 2008-9, and author of The Punters’ Guide to Democracy, (Springer, Heidelberg).

Footnotes:

(*1) Her bloc’s acronym was spelt B (for block), YU (for Julia), T (for Timoshenko), so to spell BYUT (‘short’ for beauty).

(*2) A procedure best called a ‘never-end-’em’.

(*3) It included seven cities such as Mariupol, and altogether its population was about four times the size of the Northern Ireland krajina (see footnote 4).

(*4) Three areas of Croatia which had long since been populated by Serbs as a bulwark against the Ottomans. The word ‘krajina’ shares the same etymology as ‘Ukraine’ – borderland.

(*5) The SNP used to be in favour of multi-option referendums, in 1992 advocating the alternative vote AV, (STV without PR). A little later on, the Scottish GP supported the preferential-points system of voting, the modified Borda count MBC. Now that these two parties are in power, however, (now that they can choose the referendum question), their support for the more inclusive methodology has waned, as has their desire to talk about it.

Editorials: 1) Dangers of war – and nuclear war 2) Choices for and about unionists in Northern Ireland

The dangers of war – and nuclear war

If you look at war from the beginning, military resistance seems plausible and a possible solution. If you look at it from the end, the `military solution´ is a disaster.”

The above is a quote by someone from the Balkans, who would have lived through the wars there, at a recent Church and Peace https://www.church-and-peace.org/ conference which took place in Croatia. Most wars begin with optimism about the result – on all sides – and a belief in the cause, usually in the European and some other contexts blessed by the churches. But hope turns to fear, dread, regret, mourning and a thousand other negative feelings – but once warfare begins it is difficult to end as chauvinism and stubbornness kick in. We face Macbeth’s dilemma, in Shakespeare’s words ““I am in blood / Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o’er”. And there is the feeling that some benefit from the war must be shown for ‘the blood of the martyrs’, those who have died for ‘our’ cause.

It is totally understandable why Ukraine decided to resist the Russian invasion with military means. In Mohandas Gandhi’s hierarchy of responses to injustice, inaction comes bottom, violent reaction next, and nonviolent resistance is preferred. But how may will be killed, in Ukraine and Russia, at the end of the war? How many will have had their lives ruined or disrupted? How long will it take to rebuild anything like normality?

And what dangers have we yet to pass through? We have previously spoken about the dangers of even mentioning the threat to use nuclear weapons, as Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian figures have done. We also have stated that it is simply holding nuclear weapons that is the danger and the UK, for example, has no ‘no first use’ doctrine – in other words they would use them if they felt it necessary. The problem with a war like the war on Ukraine by Russia is that we do not know what escalation might happen, and how it might happen, and it remains a very real danger. If Russia used a tactical nuclear weapon then NATO would respond strongly and militarily and we could be on the road to a European, and possibly wider, armageddon. There is a strange sense of deja vu to be contemplating the horrors of nuclear war once again – for those old enough to remember the 1950s, 1960s, or 1980s.

Carl von Clausewitz may have said that war is the continuation of politics by other means but while it may be an attempt to do so the result is very different. Politics as such does not necessitate the filling of body bags. Politics does not destroy whole cities and displace whole populations. Politics does not precipitate the hate and venom that war does. Politics, we should hope, creates few orphans and widows. Of course some politicians may see war as a continuation of politics – and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a political misjudgement of mammoth proportions, and an attempt to get by force what he had been unable to get through diplomatic and political pressure, insofar as he tried those.

But Putin was not the only one to miscalculate. NATO’s promise to Russia on the fall of communism in eastern Europe not to expand eastward was broken again and again. The failure to have Ukraine state categorically it would not join NATO was another crass mistake, as well as the failure to implement the Minsk agreements which would have given relative autonomy to eastern provinces of Ukraine; even if Russia was not keeping to its side of the bargain, the move to implement its obligations by Ukraine would have pulled the rug under further moves by Russia.. Len Munnik’s cartoon on the transfer of ‘foremost enemy status’ from the USSR to Islamist militant militant fundamentalists after the end of the Cold War was very perceptive (see NATO entry at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ ) – but the problem is now that ‘foremost enemy status’ has switched back to Russia, and the west has had a large role in turning an erstwhile friend into a deadly enemy.

The risks of war, and managing a proxy war like that in Ukraine (NATO supplying Ukraine with war equipment but not itself fighting) include not only the destruction of the people and territory involved but also a significant risk of escalation. We have referred to nuclear risks above. The world is actually lucky not to have had nuclear exchanges (see e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/27/cuban-missile-crisis-60-years-on-new-papers-reveal-how-close-the-world-came-to-nuclear-disaster ) and it has been a very close run thing at times, not to mention the many accidents which could have been catastrophic. These dangers continue in a very real way. Nuclear power is another, although somewhat related. Matter but we see its danger in the war situation in Ukraine as well.

The only way to eliminate the threat of nuclear war and nuclear blackmail, by all sides, is to work for universal nuclear disarmament. Some will say that goal is utopian. We would say that goal is realistic in that this is the only way to eliminate the ever real danger of nuclear war – and we may not always be as lucky to avoid that eventuality as we were in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis between the USA and USSR. Of course nuclear disarmament is only likely to come about through wider international rapprochement and the creation of human and ecological security way beyond what exists today. But the alternative to moving forward on disarmament is to move backwards to greater human insecurity and misery – and the denial of wellbeing to billions because obscene amounts of money is spend on weapons and the military. There is a long road to travel.

Choices for, and about, unionists in Northern Ireland

It is understandable that unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland feel cheated or even threatened by the Northern Ireland Protocol between the UK and the EU. Whether it affects their standing in relation to the Good Friday Agreement is a moot question but it has changed part of the economic relationship between the North and Britain, whatever about the constitutional position – though in relation to that, Northern Ireland still ‘feels’ and functions as part of the UK even if culturally distinct from Britain.

If unionists were sold out in any way then they were sold out by their own government and there is no one else they should blame apart from their own role in the debacle. It was an English nationalist move both for Brexit and especially a ‘hard’ Brexit which created the issue of an EU single market boundary. A hard Brexit was a move which had staunch DUP support and led directly to the NI Protocol.

Any system of government in Northern Ireland has to have broad support across both major political entities, unionist and nationalist, ‘cross-community’ (there are issues in relation to a vote for a united Ireland and constitutional change in this context which we have explored and will explore again). At the moment ‘the system’ clearly does not have such cross-community support. We doubt whether the DUP boycott of Stormont is justified given the severe issues which face the North, as well as the fact that the NI Protocol is a UK-EU issue; although boycotting is a classic nonviolent tactic it is not always for positive reasons or results. The whole matter is also caught up with internal unionist brinkmanship and showing that ‘we are stronger on the Union than you’ within the unionist community which is an unfortunate game of ‘chicken’ (and more like a game of ‘Dodo’).

Realities have changed in Northern Ireland but other realities remain the same. A new election would be pointless, the two largest parties might gain a seat here or there but the result would be the same stalemate. What are needed are substantive talks which involve all sides in the North. Yes, the issue may be a UK-EU one but where there is a will there is a way, and there is no reason why parallel, simultaneous talks cannot take place which provides input from, and feedback to, the Northern parties while the EU and UK do some final bargaining. This would be the most democratic option with the inclusion in some form of all sides in the North.

There are various parts to the current reality. One is that Stormont is only a part-time partial success; whether you judge this to be a ‘total failure’ is an open question, but even when functioning it has not dealt successfully with many issues of which education is a glaring example. It could have better decision making mechanisms which encourage compromise and at least partial consensus. But some republicans and nationalists are very unwise to recently talk about ‘joint authority’ (between Britain and Ireland, Republic of) as an alternative ‘backstop’ to the Stormont assembly, either as a threat or possible reality – apart from any issues of practicality it is not in accord with the Good Friday Agreement and such talk gets loyalist paramilitaries preparing to go on the warpath – not that they should exist or be in position for any warpath.

But the more major, societal change which has a major bearing is the demographic one that unionist parties are no longer in a majority, but then neither are nationalists. The DUP is reputed to have spent less than half an hour deciding to back Brexit, showing a very considerable lack of strategic thinking. Unionists need to think strategically about what will ensure, for their constitutional preference, the continuation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.

So what is the best way for unionists to ensure the continuation of the ‘UK’? Clearly it is by making it as attractive a place to live for people – especially nationalists, ‘others’, and not-naturally-unionists’. How? By making Northern Ireland an economic success, which it clearly is not at the moment – and by making people feel ‘at home’.

And how can the North be made an economically successful ‘homely’ place? For one, providing political stability, making the system (whatever it is) work, and building on the privileged access which the NI Protocol gives to exporters to the EU (including continuing to grow sales to the Republic). Certainly there are issues and problems with the NI Protocol in the EU having been overly strict but then the UK has been overly lax in meeting its obligations. The EU is well disposed towards Northern Ireland so a bit of effort by the British government, plus compromise and creativity, on both sides, should get a win-win-win result (for the EU, UK and NI itself), and this ongoing sore settled.

As to making people feel ‘at home’ in the current constitutional situation, unionists need to think ‘what do other people want’ – and if possible give it to them. A specific Northern Ireland human rights act (as promised as long ago as the Good Friday Agreement) – certainly. Support for the Irish language act – yes. Creativity and generosity of spirit would go a long way. And perhaps some awareness might be warranted that nationalists in the North do not have the constitutional arrangements that they desire – and this might temper unionist anger at perceived changes under the NI Protocol. Both sides need to think what it is like to walk in the other side’s shoes; it is actually to their advantage to do so..

Please note that we are not saying ‘we support a united kingdom’, what we are saying is we support the coming together of the people of the North, whatever the constitutional situation. And unionists have usually been their worst enemies when it comes to strategic thinking. That may have worked relatively well for them when unionism was in a clear numerical majority but not any more – and even less so in future. If they choose ideological purity over practical progress then everyone will certainly lose – including themselves. But for anything to work there needs to to a stable and relatively strong unionist voice (not necessarily from one party)..

There are many myths about ‘the Protestant work ethic’ (and that is certainly not a runner in the Ireland of today and it never was an unvarnished fact) but there was a reason many Quaker businesses thrived in Britain and Ireland in the past. Apart from any hard work and creativity on the part of the proprietors, they were known to be trustworthy and reliable, and they treated their workers well by the standards of the time. Unionists could do worse than learn from this by thinking of everyone and not just themselves. Compromise can seem a dirty word to some but it can also be the means to achieve a lasting result which is found acceptable to all.

But current unionist concerns need addressed and a way found to do so. Thinking of others includes thinking of unionist concerns by nationalists and the British and Irish governments.

Ukraine and democracy, Ukraine and unarmed resistance, Jesus and nonviolence

Ukraine: Was our adversarial democracy part of the problem?

Beware the ambitious”

by Peter Emerson

The de Borda Institute   www.deborda.org

His name was Boris. He had no ideas, no beliefs, no principles… but he did have ambition. So he adjusted his policies to suit this ambition, stabbed his mentor in the back, caused the break-up of the union, and all for the one fixed goal: to get the top job. There were two such individuals, and both were called Boris.

We go first to Moscow, the capital of a federation of numerous ethnicities, only one of which is Slav. Most of the latter live in Europe, in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine etc., and many of them too are in European Russia, along with the Komis and Udmurts, for example, two of a few non-Slav peoples who are also west of the Urals, as well as the Chechens and Dagestanis etc. in the northern Caucasus. And there are other ethnicities – the official figure in Soviet times was somewhere between 60 and 120 – ranging from the Buryats near Lake Baikal to the Chukchis on the Bering Straits, non-Slavs the lot of them.

Now in 1985, remember, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power talking of liberalisation, privatisation and democratisation. At the time, the West (a) respected all borders, implying that none should change; this was partly because of the Helsinki Agreements for peace and stability and all that, (about which there was lots of grand rhetoric), and partly because of… er… oil, (umm, better say nothing). At the same time, there was (b) the right of self-determination, which meant that borders can change. So (a) contradicted (b). More silence. In effect, the law is an ass.

Now democracy, we said, was majoritarianism – (the Russian word for which, by the way, is ‘bolshevism’; it comes from ‘bolshinstvo’ (большинство), meaning majority, so a ‘bolshevik’ is ‘a member of the majority’, while a ‘menshevik’ is in the minority, ‘menshinstvo’ (меньшинство). In effect, therefore, the right of self-determination means that a border can change, even if only 50% + 1 want it to. But “why should I be in the minority in your state, when you could be in the minority in mine?” asked one Vladimir Grigorov in what was still Yugoslavia. Democracy, as defined – or rather as undefined but practised – was and still is part of the problem; it is just so adversarial, so divisive, and so primitive.

Secondly, self-determination is a bit like those famous Russian dolls, the ‘matryoshki’ (матрёшки): inside every big doll (majority), there’s a little doll (minority). So if Ireland, Georgia or Bosnia opts out of the UK, USSR or Yugoslavia… then maybe Northern Ireland, South Ossetia or Republika Srpska can opt out of Ireland, Georgia or Bosnia… and maybe West Belfast, Akhalgori (*1) and Srebrenica could opt out of opting out and… ad infinitum.

The law really is an ass. (*2)

The first inter-ethnic clashes in the USSR took place in Nagorno-Karabakh in August 1988. “Vot, nash Ol’ster!” (Вот, наш Ольстер!) was the headline in Pravda (*3) the next morning: ‘This is our Northern Ireland.’ And it was indeed true! There followed, initially in the Baltic States and the Caucasus, later in Ukraine and Central Asia, and even abroad in the Balkans, other calls for self-determination… arguments over borders… more clashes… and deaths.

There was violence in Baku and Tbilisi, and in 1991, the disturbances reached Vilnius, albeit at a lower level than down in the Caucasus. At this point the West changed its mind, from (a) to (b). In effect, it now supported the break-up of the USSR, so it decided to support the break-up of Yugoslavia as well. The two were considered to be very similar: after all, both were communist, both were federations, (both were spelt with the letter ‘you’), and so on.

So the West ditched Gorbachev and supported Boris Yeltsin instead. It was a huge mistake. But (while I argued with the Irish Times correspondent), the latter and other western journalists sang Boris’s praises, and this adulation was definitely a factor in his subsequent election. Simultaneously, the West ditched Slobodan Milošević in Belgrade, after all, he was an extreme nationalist, and supported Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb instead, who was an extreme nationalist. It was another huge mistake; the two, Gorbachev and Milošević, were not at all similar.

In Russia, the Boris coup was (not the but) a cause of the 1994 and ’99 wars in Chechnya, and the rise to power in Moscow during that second war of another autocrat: Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, in the Balkans, referendums were held, sometimes on the insistence of the EU, and Yugoslavia imploded. On the more positive side, along with all the other former Republics in the USSR, Ukraine became independent in 1991; and the Russian/Soviet empire was now ‘only’ a Russian empire, stretching all the way from Belarus to the Pacific Ocean. Its demise is a historical necessity.

The word ‘Ukraine’, by the way, comes from the same root as the Yugoslav (Serbo-Croat) word, ‘krajina’ – ‘kraj’ (край), meaning borderland. There were three krajinas in Croatia, areas first settled by Orthodox Slavs as a bulwark against the Ottomans. But – {rule (b)} – self-determination meant that Croatia could opt out of Yugoslavia; in 1991, a referendum was planned; by the same logic, surely, the krajinas could opt out of Croatia, so another referendum was planned, in the Krajina, one week before the big one in Croatia as a whole. The result of these two mutually contradictory ballots was war.

Worse was to follow. The 1991 Bosnian election (or sectarian head-count), a single preference two-round system TRS election – ‘this candidate’ good, ‘those’ not good; here too voting was Orwellian in its simplicity – had split a unified secular state into three – 40:30:20, Moslem:Orthodox:Catholic – although all of them, Bosniak, Croat and Serb, share the same Slav ethnicity. Now, look at the maths: 40:30:20. So there was no majority. But any two – 40+30, 40+20 or 30+20 – could beat the other one. Short division. The EU’s Badinter Commission nevertheless demanded a (binary) referendum – how mad can you get? – which, sure enough, started the war: on the day of the vote, the “barricades were thrown up” in Sarajevo (Glenny 1992: 163). {Our own efforts to warn of this danger – the New Ireland Group invited a native of Sarajevo to a cross-community conference in Belfast in Oct. 1991, six months before the referendum – were ignored.} Robert Badinter said afterwards, in effect, je ne regrette rien. (*4)

But back to Ukraine, where ‘democracy’– majoritarianism – had other consequences. In 1991, just as the West would have wanted, Kiev adopted the French TRS electoral system and the ubiquitous majority vote decision-making system, for binary majority rule. Initially, throughout eastern Europe, emerging democracies started off the democratic process with a plethora of political parties, and if the electoral system allowed (as TRS does), maybe too a large number of independents. Ukraine’s 1994 parliamentary election was no exception: while half of the seats went to a second round, the first-round successes saw 14 parties gain representation; the largest one won a mere 13% of the seats; six parties had only one or two MPs; and the ‘winner’ was a group of independents, who amassed 51% of the seats, a majority, a disparate bunch of individuals from all over. This rather put the kibosh on those westerners who advocated majority rule and coalition government. For parliamentary elections, Ukraine therefore moved to a parallel system in 1998, half FPTP and half PR; to a system of all PR, PR-list, in 2006, so no more independents; but back to a parallel system in 2012, when just a score or two of independent candidates were again in the mix.

For presidential elections, however, it was still the divisive TRS. Accordingly, in 2004, Ukraine divided: the one country of mainly Christian Slavs split into two halves, one of Orthodox Russian-speakers, the other of Catholic/Uniate Ukrainian speakers. This is a gross over-simplification which ignores the fact that, in any case, these differences are miniscule. But, in majoritarianism, no matter how small or relevant, any difference will do. The winner, by a mere whisker, was Viktor Yushchenko; he was pro-West, so Brussels thought everything – 50% + 1 and all that – was just fine.

He led a coalition government, but they argued, and split… as do so many groups which rely on the divisive majority vote. As a result, in 2010, the main pro-western candidate was now Yulia Timoshenko who headed her own political party, Block Yulia Timoshenko, (because its acronym spelt BYuT, as in ‘beauty’ – one of a few English words, sex, love, ok, macdonalds, which every Ukrainian knows), but she lost, and by a similarly tiny margin Viktor Yanukovich now won, … and he was pro-Moscow.

There followed the protests in Maidan, which in Feb. 2014 turned violent, whereupon the EU changed its mind, again, totally, another (a)-to-(b)-type swing from one policy to its opposite: it no longer supported majority rule, no no, it advocated power-sharing. The western ‘definition’ of democracy is another great big ass – partly because it doesn’t exist, and politicians tend to ‘define’ and ‘redefine’ the word (*5) as they go along. But, too late; the EU delegation arrived in Kiev on the very day that Yanukovich ran into exile.

Now we already knew that our own 1973 NI border poll had been at least unwise; and secondly, that “all the wars in the former Yugoslavia [had] started with a referendum,” (Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo’s famous newspaper, 7.2.1999). Sadly however, as a general rule, western media and academia do not question binary vote decision-making, and a binary referendum is still regarded as perfectly democratic… in Ireland, Scotland, Catalonia, Taiwan and elsewhere. In March 2014 – events were moving fast – yet another ‘false flag’ plebiscite was held, this time in Crimea. We also knew that the Crimea had already held a referendum, in 1991, when all of Ukraine, the entire country, oblast by oblast (county by county), all voted in favour. Well, they now had another referendum – the sort of thing that is catered for in the Belfast Agreement, repeat referendums or a ‘never-end-em’. (*6)

There then followed some other referendums, in Donetsk and Luhansk. Well, if Ukraine (Ireland/Croatia) can opt out of the USSR (UK/Yugoslavia), then surely Donetsk (Northern Ireland, Krajina) can opt out of Ukraine (Ireland, Croatia); and, by the same logic, surely an even smaller unit called Dobropillia and Krasnoarmiisk (West Belfast or Akhalgori) can opt out of Donetsk (Northern Ireland or South Ossetia) and go into Dnepropetrovsk. They tried. The law really is an ass. More to the point, in 2014, as I mentioned in Nonviolent News 297, the word ‘Scotland’ (Shotlandiya) was used by Russian separatists in Luhansk; (at the time, Scotland was due to hold its referendum in September). We are all part of the problem!

It really is extraordinary. Many people criticise the horrible acts of violence which are part of the war in Ukraine, but say nothing against those practices which were a cause of that violence, especially if to do so might cause a scintilla of inconvenience here at home. There has now been yet another call for a referendum in Luhansk, this time by Leonid Pasechnik, (the ‘leader’ of the ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’) who wants to break up Ukraine; other calls in Republika Srpska by its leader Milorad Dodik, who wants to break up Bosnia, and he too is rattling his sabres; and yet other moves for a referendum in South Ossetia to join Russia, and that could reignite the war there. Yet all too few in Ireland and Scotland, (or Catalonia, or Taiwan), or in the UK generally, are prepared to question the fact that a binary referendum might actually be a false flag… a cause of war.

Which brings us now to London and the other Boris. Oh but you know about that braggard already.

References

(*1) A valley in the eastern side of South Ossetia, largely inhabited (or was at the time of two referendums in 2006), by Georgians. The first ballot was pro-Ossetia so the Georgians abstained, while in the valley the Ossetians abstained… in a land where, yet again, as always, umpteen families are mixed.

(*2) Interestingly enough, the Russians used to call the right of self-determination ‘matryoshki nationalism’, because they were worried about the Buryats and Chukchis etc… but that was before they themselves saw the ‘advantage’ of a referendum vote as a ‘democratic’ false flag.

(*3) The Russian newspaper founded by Lenin; the word means ‘the truth’.

(*4) Private correspondence.

(*5) My article – Democracy, the most Undefined word in the World – was published in Ukraine’s national University’s journal, Maгiсteрiym, in 2002.

(*6) Come the vote, the Crimean Tatars abstained; after all, there were only two options, neither of which respected their aspirations

Glernny, M, 1992, The Fall of Yugoslavia, Penguin, London.

– – – – – –

Ukraine and unarmed resistance

Ukrainians could defeat a Russian occupation by scaling up unarmed resistance

By Craig Brown, Jørgen Johansen, Majken Jul Sørensen, and Stellan Vinthagen

As scholars of nonviolent resistance, we see four key ways Ukrainians can organize and expand the civil resistance that’s already happening.

As peace, conflict and resistance scholars, we ask ourselves the same question as many other people these days: What would we do if we were Ukrainians? We hope we would be brave, selfless and fight for a free Ukraine based on the knowledge we have. Resistance always requires self-sacrifice. Yet there are effective ways to resist invasion and occupation that don’t involve arming ourselves or others, and will lead to fewer Ukrainian deaths than military resistance.

We thought about how — if we were living in Ukraine and had just been invaded — we would best defend the Ukrainian people and culture. We understand the logic behind the Ukrainian government’s appeal for weapons and soldiers from abroad. However, we conclude that such a strategy will only prolong the pain and lead to even greater death and destruction. We recall the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and Libya, and we would aim to avoid such a situation in Ukraine.

The question then remains: What would we do instead to protect the Ukrainian people and culture? We look with respect at all soldiers and brave civilians fighting for Ukraine; how can this powerful willingness to fight and die for a free Ukraine serve as a real defense of Ukrainian society? Already, people all over Ukraine are spontaneously using nonviolent means to fight the invasion; we would do our best to organize a systematic and strategic civil resistance. We would use the weeks — and maybe even months — that some areas of western Ukraine may remain less affected by military fighting to prepare ourselves and other civilians for what lies ahead.

Instead of investing our hope in military means, we would immediately set about training as many people as possible in civil resistance, and aim to better organize and coordinate the civil resistance that is already happening spontaneously. Research in this area shows that unarmed civil resistance under many circumstances is more effective than armed struggle. Fighting an occupying power is always difficult, no matter what means are used. However, in Ukraine, there is knowledge and experience that peaceful means can lead to change, as during the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Maidan Revolution in 2014. While the circumstances are very different now, Ukrainian people can use the coming weeks to learn more, spread this knowledge and build networks, organizations and infrastructure that fight for Ukrainian independence in the most effective way.

Today there is comprehensive international solidarity with Ukraine — support we can count on being extended to unarmed resistance in the future. With this in mind, we would focus our efforts on four areas.

1. We would establish and continue relations with Russian civil society groups and members that are supporting Ukraine. Even though they are under severe pressure, there are human rights groups, independent journalists and ordinary citizens taking big risks in order to resist the war. It is important that we know how to keep in touch with them through encrypted communication, and we need knowledge and infrastructure on how to do this. Our greatest hope for a free Ukraine is that the Russian population overthrow Putin and his regime through a nonviolent revolution. We also acknowledge the brave resistance to Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko and his regime, encouraging continued connection and coordination with activists in that country.

2. We would disseminate knowledge about the principles of nonviolent resistance. Nonviolent resistance is based on a certain logic, and adhering to a principled line of nonviolence is an important part of this. We are not just talking about morality, but about what is most effective under the circumstances. Some of us might have been tempted to kill Russian soldiers if we saw the opportunity, but we understand that it is not in our interest in the long run. Killing only a few Russian soldiers will not lead to any military success, but is likely to delegitimize everyone involved in civil resistance. It will make it harder for our Russian friends to stand on our side and easier for Putin to claim we are terrorists. When it comes to violence, Putin has all the cards in his hand, so our best chance is to play a completely different game. Ordinary Russians have learned to think of Ukrainians as their brothers and sisters, and we should take maximum advantage of this. If Russian soldiers are forced to kill many peaceful Ukrainians who resist in a courageous manner, the morale of the occupying soldiers will greatly decrease, desertion will increase, and the Russian opposition will be strengthened. This solidarity from ordinary Russians is our biggest trump card, meaning we must do everything we can to ensure that Putin’s regime does not have the opportunity to change this perception of Ukrainians.

3. We would disseminate knowledge about methods of nonviolent resistance, especially those that have been used with success during invasions and occupations. In those areas of Ukraine already occupied by Russia, and in the event of a prolonged Russian occupation, we would want ourselves and other civilians to be prepared to continue the struggle. An occupying power needs stability, calm and cooperation in order to carry out the occupation with the least amount of resources. Nonviolent resistance during occupation is about noncooperation with all aspects of the occupation. Depending on what aspects of the occupation are most despised, potential opportunities for nonviolent resistance include strikes in the factories, building a parallel school system, or refusing to cooperate with the administration. Some nonviolent methods are about gathering many people in visible protests, although during an occupation, this can be associated with great risk. It is probably not the time for the large demonstrations that characterized Ukraine’s previous nonviolent revolutions. Instead, we would focus on more dispersed actions that are less risky, such as boycotts of Russian propaganda events, or coordinated stay at home days, which could bring the economy to a standstill. The possibilities are endless, and we can draw inspiration from countries occupied by the Nazis during World War II, from East Timor’s independence struggle or other countries occupied today, such as West Papua or Western Sahara. The fact that Ukraine’s situation is unique does not preclude us from learning from others.

4. We would establish contact with international organizations such as Peace Brigades International or Nonviolent Peaceforce. Over the past 40 years, organizations like these have learned how international observers can make a significant difference to local human rights activists living with threats to their lives. Their experience from countries such as Guatemala, Colombia, Sudan, Palestine and Sri Lanka can potentially be developed to fit the circumstances in Ukraine. It might take a while to implement, yet over the long term, they could be able to organize and send Russian civilians to Ukraine as “unarmed bodyguards,” as part of international teams. It will be more difficult for Putin’s regime to commit atrocities against the Ukrainian civilian population if Russian civilians witness it, or if witnesses are citizens of countries that are maintaining friendly relations with his regime — for example China, Serbia or Venezuela.

If we had the Ukrainian government’s backing for this strategy, as well as access to the same economic resources and technological expertise that now goes to military defense, the strategy we propose would have been easier to implement. If we had started preparing a year ago, we would have been much better equipped today. Nevertheless, we believe unarmed civil resistance has a good chance of defeating a potential future occupation. For the Russian regime, carrying out an occupation will require money and personnel. Maintaining an occupation will be even more costly if the Ukrainian population engages in massive non-cooperation. Meanwhile, the more peaceful the resistance, the more difficult it is to legitimize the oppression of those who resist. Such resistance would also ensure good relations with Russia in the future, which will always be the best guarantee of Ukraine’s security with this powerful neighbor in the East.

Of course, we who are living abroad in safety have no right to tell Ukrainians what to do, but if we were Ukrainians today, this is the path we would choose. There is no easy way, and innocent people are going to die. However, they are already dying, and if only the Russian side is using military force, the chances of preserving Ukrainian lives, culture and society are much higher.

– This piece was published at https://wagingnonviolence.org/rs/ on 28th March 2022. Used by permission.

– – – – – –

Jesus and Nonviolence

By Rev. John Dear

This is the text of a talk which was presented remotely at a Belfast seminar as part of the Four Corners Festival https://4cornersfestival.com/ on 1st February 2022.

Let me begin with four basic theses, and then I will walk through the life of Jesus from the perspective of Gandhian/Kingian nonviolence.

First, we have to connect the dots between every form of violence. We are up against one big global pandemic of violence, one big global spectrum of systemic, structured, institutionalized violence, which has infected all of us in all its forms from interior violence, violence in our relationships, violence against creatures and Earth to racism, sexism, gun violence, executions, corporate greed, extreme poverty, permanent war, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction. Violence is everywhere and in everyone.

Second, nonviolence is the way forward. Violence has failed us; it doesn’t work, so we need to figure out how to become nonviolent people, to use Gandhi’s clumsy word, and to create a culture of nonviolence, to educate every human being on the planet in nonviolent conflict resolution as well as the theology and spirituality of nonviolence, and fund & build new structures of nonviolence. The only way real positive social change happens is through bottom up, people power, grassroots movements of nonviolence. Nonviolence is not a utopian ideal or impractical; it is very practical, the only realistic way forward. Study the great scholar Dr. Erica Chenoweth and her book “Why Civil Resistance Works.” Her book proves nonviolence works.

Third, the scandal of the Gospel is that Jesus was totally nonviolent, that God is a God of total nonviolence, universal love, boundless compassion and infinite peace; and that the Gospel of Jesus demands that we all become totally nonviolent too, as nonviolent as Gandhi, King and Day. That means, as I wrote in my book “The Nonviolent Life,” we have to be nonviolent to ourselves, toward all people, all creatures, and Mother Earth, and join the grassroots movement of nonviolence as our practice of discipleship to the nonviolent Jesus.

Fourth, the church is supposed to be a global community of nonviolence, a global community of followers of the nonviolent Jesus, not a church that supports war or violence of any kind. But since 315, when the Roman emperor became Christian and legalized Christianity, which had been a nonviolent underground movement, we have rejected the Sermon on the Mount, and created some pagan justification for mass murder called the just war theory. If the church approves and blesses the bombing and killing of children, which it has for 1700 years, then it does not care about child abuse or women or racism, or the destruction of the earth. Once Catholics and Christians bless war and nuclear weapons, then all hell breaks out. We are trying to change the church, or rather, help the church return to its earliest days as a movement of active Gospel nonviolence. That means, we all have to turn back to the nonviolent Jesus, non-cooperate with the culture of violence, and spend the rest of our lives working for a new culture of nonviolence, and also teach our priests, ministers, bishops, families and friends that Jesus is nonviolent.

If Jesus was violent, I submit, we don’t need him; he’s no help whatsoever; he’s not saving us. He’s just another violent messiah. So we created a church of violence, that worships a false god of violence; that teaches a false spirituality of violence and war; the just war theory, saying violence and warfare are justified, and that led to a kind of holy nationalism and fundamentalism, and then every other kind of insane, absurd religious endorsement for killing.

I propose that it’s the only thing we can say for sure about Jesus–that he practised total nonviolence, that he taught total nonviolence, that he announced God was totally nonviolent, and that he called all of us to be totally nonviolent, and therefore that the church is a community of total nonviolence. No one before him in history spoke about nonviolence like him; we know for example that there is no recorded writing in history before the Gospels of anyone ever saying the words “Love your enemies.”

Gandhi once said that Jesus was the most active practitioner of nonviolence in the history of the world, and then went on to say in effect, and the only people who don’t know Jesus was nonviolent are Christians. When Gandhi says Jesus was nonviolent, he means Jesus never hurt anyone, never supported hurting or killing anyone, and then because he was totally nonviolent, he was and had to be totally against the Roman empire, which killed millions of people, and the religious establishment, which collaborated with the empire, blessed its wars and occupations, and helped oppress millions of people and steal their money in the name of God. And because he was totally nonviolent, he could not be passive, he practised active nonviolence and built a campaign of active nonviolence to resist injustice and so he was arrested and executed.

Anyone can be violent; but it takes courage and power and trust in God and Godliness to be totally nonviolent. That’s what Jesus was all about and that’s what we are called to be about too, to follow Jesus on the path of total nonviolence and become, like him, people of deep inner nonviolence, people who are gentle and humble of heart, and agents of nonviolent change, for the disarmament of the world, for justice for the poor, for racial equality and dignity, for an end to the killings and guns and weapons and poverty and greed and destruction of the environment. We don’t have to be successful or have lots of big results; we just have to be faithful to his way of nonviolence.

When I was about 22, I asked my friend Daniel Berrigan the meaning of life, and he said: “All you have to do is to make your story fit into Jesus’ story.” That was one of the great teachings of my life, and that’s what I want us to reflect on, to take another look at the story of the nonviolent Jesus, and then to make whatever changes so our story fits into his story. I have a new organization, “The Beatitudes Center for the Nonviolent Jesus,” with zoom workshops about Jesus, which I hope you will visit www.beatitudescenter.org

So I have 10 points about the life of Jesus and Gospel nonviolence for your consideration. As I’m going through them, here are my questions for you: how are you trying to make your story fit into Jesus’ story of spectacular, total nonviolence? Where does the nonviolent Jesus touch you most, what is he saying to you, what he is calling you to do, what are you afraid of?

First, he walks into the empire and announces, “The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the Gospel.” Remember after every Roman victory, the Roman troops would come into a town and announce the Gospel of Caesar, we’ve killed another thousand people and taken over their town. But here he’s saying there really is good news: the days of the culture of violence and war are over. The empire is falling. A new world of nonviolence, the kingdom of God is at hand, here and now if we want it. Turn away from the culture of violence, and war and empire, and live in the kingdom of God, and believe this Gospel. As he went around proclaiming this, he also modelled it by healing people wounded by the culture of violence; he expelled the demons of violence; he formed a community of nonviolence, and he welcomed all the outsiders, the disenfranchised and marginalized. He hung out with all the wrong people and broke every rule and law and custom there was. How are you living full time in the Kingdom of God, and how are you announcing it?

Second, all his teachings call us to total nonviolence. He commands us to love our neighbors, love one another, show compassion to everyone, seek justice for the poor, forgive everyone, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, Turn the other cheek, take up the cross in the struggle for justice and peace, and lay down our lives in love for humanity. Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me. You can get my book on the Sermon on the Mount, called The Beatitudes of Peace, or listen to my podcasts, but let me just point out the climax of the Beatitudes “Blessed are the peacemakers; they will be called the sons and daughters of the God of peace.” This is our vocation, this is our core identity, we are the sons and daughters of the God of peace, so for the rest of our lives we try to be peacemakers and end war.

Then he goes on in the Sermon on the Mount, with his various commandments of nonviolence: “You have heard it said, thou halt not kill; but I say to you, do not even get angry at another. Instead, go be reconciled. You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you: ‘offer no violent resistance to one who does evil.’ Tolstoy spent the last 25 years of his life preaching that one verse. Gandhi read this commandment every day for the last 45 years of his life. Wow. Then Jesus says, “You have heard it said, love your countrymen and hate your enemies, but I say love your enemies and pray for your persecutors then you will be sons and daughters of the God who lets the sun rise on the good and the bad and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

Notice he does not say: “However, if they are really bad, and you follow these 7 conditions, bomb the hell out of them.” Notice too that in this the most political sentence in the entire bible, which not only outlaws war and killing and the whole nation state system but commands universal nonviolent love, Jesus describes the nature of God as totally nonviolent. Here again he calls us to our true identity: if you practice universal nonviolent love, then you will really be the beloved sons and daughters of the God of universal nonviolent love. This is what you and I are called to do, and practice and teach. So how do you offer nonviolent resistance to evil and love your enemies? Is your God a God of peace and universal love? Do you think God is totally nonviolent?

Third, he organizes a campaign of nonviolence, like a nonviolent military campaign, like Gandhi’s Salt March, like Dr. King in Birmingham and sends 72 people ahead of him, saying, “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” He forms a grassroots, underground, nonviolent movement. We’re to heal all those wounded by the culture of violence; expel all the demons of violence, get rid of their allegiance to the empire or America, to war and weapons, free them into the new life of nonviolence; and proclaim that God’s reign of peace and nonviolence is at hand and invite everyone to start living in total nonviolence. So that is our job description: we go forth innocent, gentle and nonviolent as a lamb into the midst of wolves to proclaim God’s reign of total nonviolence and universal love. How’s that going for you?

Fourth, as he gets closer to Jerusalem, he breaks down sobbing and says “If today you had only understood the things that make for peace.” So that is what we are trying to do, from now on: to learn the things that make for peace. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70. Today Jerusalem has become the whole world, and we are trying to destroy the whole world with war, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, so we have to learn and teach the things that make for peace. What are they for you? I think they’re all about nonviolence.

Fifth, he walks into the Temple, the center of systemic injustice, where the religious authorities work with the imperial forces to get people to pay all their money to worship god in a total racket, and turns over the tables of the moneychangers in nonviolent civil disobedience. He doesn’t hurt anyone, kill anyone, or bomb anyone, but he is not passive. He takes direct nonviolent action against imperial systemic injustice and accepts the consequences. This is what his followers are supposed to do. If he was upset by the Temple, what would he say about our wars and destruction of the earth? What bold public nonviolent action are you going to take as a disciple?

Sixth, it’s Passover, they’re in the upper room, he takes the bread and says “My body broken for you.” He takes the cup and says, “My blood shed for you.” If he were a good Roman, a good American, a Russian dictator, he should have said, “Go break their bodies for me; go shed their blood for me.” No, he says, “My body broken for you, my blood shed for you, do this.” Every time we share in the Eucharist, we enter into the new covenant of nonviolence, that’s the methodology of Jesus. So how are you making the Eucharist from now on a sharing in the mission of Jesus’ nonviolence?

Seventh, he’s in Gethsemani, the soldiers arrive, and Peter thinks, “They’re going to arrest our guy, we can’t let this happen; we’ve got to protect the holy one. If there was ever a just war in history, if violence was ever divinely sanctioned—this is the moment,” and he’s right. And just as he takes up the sword to kill to protect the holy one, the commandment comes down, “Put down the sword.”

Dear friends, these are the last words of Jesus to his community, to the church, before he was killed; it’s the last thing they heard him say; and it’s the first time they understood how serious he is about nonviolence, so they all run away, they all abandon him. So Jesus is arrested, mocked and tortured by 600 drunken soldiers, and never once retaliates or even gets angry. The nonviolent Jesus was the bravest, most courageous person who ever lived. How have you run away from Jesus because of his serious nonviolence? How do you need to put down the sword?

Eighth, in front of Pilate, Jesus explains everything clearly: “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Judeans. But as it is my kingdom is not here.” This is the only difference between the world of violence, war and empire, from Pilate to Trump, and Jesus and the reign of God. Your world of empire and war uses violence; my world of peace and love uses nonviolence. My attendants are not allowed to fight; they are nonviolent, because I am nonviolent and God is nonviolent and God’s reign is a new realm of total nonviolence and universal love.

Question: do you want to be an attendant of the nonviolent Jesus? A disciple? If so, then like the nonviolent Jesus, we have to practice total nonviolence. I think this is the best thing we can do with our lives, become nonviolent attendants of the nonviolent Jesus.

Ninth, the empire executes him and he dies in perfect nonviolence, saying, “The violence stops here in my body. You are all forgiven, but from now on, you are not allowed to kill.” And God raises him from the dead and he returns as gentle and nonviolent as before and says, now you carry on my campaign of nonviolence.

So Jesus teaches us NOT how to kill or wage war or make money or be afraid, but how to love, how to make peace, how to be compassionate, how to forgive, how to be nonviolent, how to pray, and how to suffer and die. So as Christians we practice peace, love and nonviolence; we don’t kill anyone, we don’t support killing. We don’t kill those who kill to show that killing is wrong. From now on, our position is: there is no cause however noble for which we will ever again support the taking of a single human life. In fact, like Jesus, we try to give our lives to stop the killing and the forces of death. We prefer to undergo death rather than inflict it on anyone.

Lastly, Jesus rises from the dead and offers us his resurrection gift of peace. The whole world has rejected that gift, but you and I want to accept it, and welcome it, take it to heart, and try to live in that peace from now on.

Resurrection means having nothing to do with death, or violence. Resurrection means nonviolence! With the resurrection of the nonviolent Jesus, we know that death does not get the last word; that our survival is already guaranteed, that total nonviolence is the way forward into the fullness of life, and that the more we practice and deepen into nonviolence, the more we practice resurrection. So as disciples of the risen, nonviolent Jesus, from now on we pledge to be as nonviolent as possible and to go forward into the world of violence and war, proclaim the way of nonviolence and peace, and do what we can to disarm one another and the world, to make the world more nonviolent.

****

Rev. John Dear is an internationally recognized voice and leader for peace and nonviolence. A priest, activist and author, he served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA and been arrested some 85 times for nonviolent civil disobedience actions. He helped draft Pope Francis’ J 1st January 2017 World Day of Peace message on nonviolence, and is the director of www.beatitudescenter.org where he offers and hosts zoom workshops on Gospel nonviolence. His many books include: The Beatitudes of Peace; They Will Inherit the Earth; The Nonviolent Life; Walking the Way; A Persistent Peace; Living Peace; The Questions of Jesus; The God of Peace; Jesus the Rebel; and Peace Behind Bars. Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. See: www.johndear.org

Another paper presented at the same seminar by Johnston McMaster, on Jesus and nonviolence in Ireland, is available on the Corrymeela website at https://www.corrymeela.org/news/220/jesus-and-nonviolence-a-new and a photo of another presentation of the same paper is on the INNATE photo site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/51988133747/in/dateposted/

Nonviolent resistance to invasion, occupation and coups d’état

by Rob Fairmichael

References are given at the end to facilitate follow up and further reading.

Introduction

Where is the discussion of the possibilities of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance to be seen in relation to the war on Ukraine and after that started? Almost nowhere. (*1) And yet you had the ludicrous example of a few people asking why Ireland (Republic) was not sending arms to Ukraine, as if anything Ireland could have sent would have made any difference in the military fight between it and Russia. And arms components from Belfast firm Thales are being used on both sides of the war in Ukraine! Most people are simply and totally unaware of the possibilities of nonviolent resistance, or, if they even think of it, dismiss it out of hand, particularly in relation to ‘hard’ situations like an invasion.

But people do not dismiss violent resistance out of hand, even where it fails, dismally or heroically, or would fail – as with Irish military resistance to invasion by a major power. In Ukraine violent resistance has been heroic in the military tradition and certainly successful in slowing the Russian invasion (which was very poorly planned), and even able to push back in some areas, but it has also been also costly in terms of lives lost and homes and infrastructure destroyed as well as massive displacement of people, either as internal or external refugees. The trauma is massive. We don’t know how the war in Ukraine will end but at the moment it is not looking good for avoiding Russian control in eastern and south-eastern Ukraine. Nonviolent resistance needs to be judged by the same measurements as violent. And it needs to be brought out of the shadows to be able to stand in the position it deserves.

I wrote an 8-page paper on “An alternative defence for Ireland: Some considerations and a model of defence without arms for the Irish people” in late 1983 (*2), some years before the fall of Russian communism. Little did I think that almost four decades later I would be writing a piece about the same matter in the context of a war started by still autocratic but crony-capitalist Russia. I also attended and wrote about a WRI-IFOR conference on the less-statist concept of ‘Social defence’ (see definition later) in Bradford in 1990. (*3) However this article has two main geographical points of reference, to two very different situations and locations within Europe, Ukraine and Ireland. I would stress that it is a relatively short exploration of the matter and much further work can be done or referred to.

What is nonviolent civilian resistance and social defence?

Perhaps we need a few definitions at the start. But it also needs clarified that, as always, different people can use the same term differently, or even the same people give a different emphasis from time to time.

Civilian-based defence is non-military defence of a state or territory. Adam Roberts (*4) in a classic 1960s study states that he made certain assumptions about its implementation “that it is accepted as government policy; that it is adopted on its own rather than in combination with military defence; and that it is employed in defence of a country with a reasonably high degree of social cohesion and with independent political parties, trade unions and press.” Particularly considering the first phrase of this quote, this places it quite close to ‘social defence’ as defined below.

Gene Sharp has said of the policy of civilian-based defence that “the whole population and the society’s institutions become the fighting forces. Their weaponry consists of a vast variety of forms of psychological, economic, social, and political resistance and counter-attack. This policy aims to deter attacks and to defend against them by preparations to make the society unrulable by would-be tyrants and aggressors…..In addition, where possible, the defending country would aim to create maximum international problems for the attackers and to subvert the reliability of their troops and functionaries”. (*5)

Social defence is a term which has tended to be used, perhaps mainly within the peace movement, to mean “the nonviolent protection of a society and its way of life, either from an outside invader or an unjust domestic situation” (*6) This definition highlights the key difference in social defence as opposed to civilian-based defence in that it pinpoints the importance of people being able to resist internal repression as well as external aggression; it explicitly includes being used for dealing with despotic rule internally as much as external aggression and invasion.

This point about the internal (within a state or territory) relevance of social defence is well explored in the best recent book on social defence, by Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin. (*7) In this its is stated “Social defence involves increasing the capacity of ordinary people to resist external aggression, and this necessarily means increasing the capacity to resist their own government. Hence social defence provides a guide for community empowerment that can challenge many different types of domination….”

But their more general definition is that ““Social defence is nonviolent community resistance to repression and aggression, as an alternative to military forces. “Nonviolent” means using rallies, strikes, boycotts and other such methods that do not involve physical violence against others. Social defence has other names, including nonviolent defence, civilian-based defence and defence by civil resistance.” (*8)

Transarmament is another useful term which can be defined as “the gradual transition from one type of defence – armed and nuclear – to another type of defence – popular and nonviolent.” (*9) ‘Nonviolent resistance’ can be used in the context of invasion and occupation but it can be applied to any nonviolent action against injustice and oppression.

In Mohandas Gandhi’s categorisation of resistance to violence and injustice, there were three broad categories; passivity or cowardice, violence, and nonviolence. He went so far as to say “where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence” but qualified that by saying “I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence…” (*10) and a sign of strength and certainly not weakness. While the term ‘passive resistance’ has been used for nonviolent resistance (Gandhi’s ‘satyagraha’ = ‘truth force’ is a strong contrast) it is very misleading as the concept is anything but ‘passive’ – it is active, engaged and challenging; the term ‘passive resistance’ is therefore best avoided.

Parameters and historical experiences of nonviolent civilian and social defence

It is clear that in Russian occupied parts of Ukraine currently, Ukrainians have still been able, in very difficult circumstances, to assert their right to independence and, while not to get Russian troops out of the country, to get them out of the immediate environs of their town or village. (*11) The allegation that nonviolent action is impossible in difficult and repressive circumstances is simply not true as Basil Liddell Hart wrote in relation to interrogation of German generals following the Second World War: “Their evidence also showed the effectiveness of non-violent resistance as practised in Denmark, Holland and Norway – and, to some extent, in France and Belgium. Even clearer was their inability to cope with it. They were experts in violence, and had been trained to deal with opponents who used that method. But other forms of resistance baffled them – and all the more as the methods were subtle and concealed.” (*12)

The second volume of Gene Sharp’s landmark publication “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” (*13) on “The Methods of Nonviolent Action” largely consists of historical examples of nonviolent action fitting his 198 “Methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion”. Some speak of incredibly brave and imaginative actions in very difficult circumstances. But others are of more mundane examples – even letter writing or petitions – which can take on much greater significance than normal because of the context. In relation to Russian control of Eastern Europe, once control had been ceded at the Yalta allies conference, there was no chance of the successful military overthrow of such control; nonviolent resistance, however, in Czechoslovakia in 1968, in Poland subsequently, and eventually in the successful overthrow of control by the USSR from 1989 during glasnost, was the best method people could use with the highest chance of success.

Some people thought that Russian control of Eastern Europe was a permanent feature of geopolitical life; it wasn’t and was overthrown by largely nonviolent action and organisation. Some people thought that the apartheid system in South Africa could only be overthrown by violence; it wasn’t and it was largely nonviolent action and organisation, at home and abroad, which made the transformation to democratic rule.

In Johansen and Martin’s book on social defence they conclude in relation to one of their historical examples, Czechoslovakia resisting a Russian invasion in 1968 when Russia was trying to keep control of this part of their eastern European empire, that “(1) remaining nonviolent is crucial; (2) resistance organised by the people is stronger than resistance directed by the government;(3) fraternisation is a powerful technique; (4) resilient communication systems providing accurate information are vital: (5) maintaining unity of the resistance is vital: (6) leaders need to understand the dynamics of nonviolent resistance.” (* 14)

There is of course the possibility of combining military and civil resistance, but there are dangers in this such and Johansen and Martin make the point “remaining nonviolent is crucial”. One of the dangers in combining the two is that civil resistance “often depends on a reluctance by the authorities to resort to wholesale repression, a reluctance that may itself spring from an uncertainty about the effect on the morale of their troops and security forces of being ordered to attack civilians. But these inhibitions and constraints can quickly break down where there is the constant danger of ambushes, assassinations, bomb attacks and so on, and above all where the distinction between combatant and non-combatant begins to disappear” (*15)

A nonviolent response also facilitates fraternisation as a positive policy to influence invaders. In Czechoslovakia in 1968 some Russian troops had to be withdrawn, and replaced by far-eastern USSR troops who were not Russian speakers, so successful had citizen interactions with soldiers been in persuading them that they were not liberators but oppressors. And in the context of the Cold war the well known British Christian minister and peace activist Donald Soper said “Russians who appear to be impervious to threats and the Cold War may well be susceptible and responsive to friendliness and the warm heart” (*16)

Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweths famous study (*17) of the comparative success rates of violent and nonviolent resistance is instructive here too. They state “Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns. There are two reasons for this success. First, a campaign’s commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target……..Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backfire against the regime…..” (*18) They state that “Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom that violent resistance against conventionally superior adversaries is the most effective way for resistance groups to achieve policy goals.”

Given that Stephan and Chenoweth studied campaigns from 1900 to 2006 this is a fairly comprehensive study. It is to be noted that their conclusions apply to democratic and non-democratic societies. They also indicate that it is irrelevant whether the nonviolence comes from strategic (pragmatic) as opposed to principled nonviolence (*19) although “the vast majority of participants in nonviolent struggles have not been devoted to principled nonviolence”. There is a slight risk in their terminological use of ‘principled nonviolence’ in relation to people who have a religious or ethical commitment to nonviolence that those who just use it pragmatically could be ‘unprincipled’ but that is obviously not their intention. Their point that “Nonviolent resistance achieves demands against the will of the opponent by seizing control of the conflict through widespread noncooperation and defiance” is a short statement illustrating the power of nonviolence.

However it can be objected that they were looking at ‘organised civilian populations’ interacting with states and not international warfare. This is certainly a qualification to Stephan and Chenoweth’s conclusions, certainly in relation to inter-state warfare. However it can also be said that many of the cases studied were of a scale and in situations which replicated some of the conditions of inter-state relations. In considering the situation in relation to the war in Ukraine it can also be said that Russia and Ukraine are two countries with close relations, historically and personally, and therefore have less of the ‘distant’ feeling about an opposing country than international warfare can have; the people of the two countries are, literally and metaphorically, cousins.

It cannot be assumed that just because resistance is nonviolent that the regime being opposed will keel over. Stephan and Chenoweth’s relative success for nonviolent campaigns is often in the context of long and arduous struggles. Gene Sharp put it this way about what he termed some ‘naive conceptions’: “It is not true that if opponents of a regime struggle nonviolently the oppressive regime will be nonviolent too, and quietly acquiesce. It is not true that by being nonviolent one avoids suffering and sacrifices. It is not true that if the opponent reacts with brutal, violent repression, the struggle has been lost and the movement defeated. It is not true that the nonviolent way is an easy way.” (*20)

Nevertheless Sharp, in name and perceptions, also covers the weaknesses of dictatorships. (*21) The crucial task of identifying the weaknesses in any regime is key to success; what may work in relation to one may be water off a duck’s back for another. Intense engagement with the cultural norms and parameters of the culture concerned may be required, and obviously using the weaknesses that exist to maximum effect.

One of the more general issues in relation to violence and nonviolence is the perceived lack of choice in ‘having to’ choose violence. Helen Steven put it this way: “The problem is that so often we are presented with an apparently clear choice: use military intervention or do nothing – “Let Bosnia/Kosovo/East Timor burn”. The nonviolent choice is never between doing violence and doing nothing. Nonviolence is about finding the creative alternative and always standing up against evil and oppression….” (* 22)

Ukraine

Ukrainian military resistance has worked better than almost anyone believed, and the Russian military attack has been more shambolic than almost anyone believed. The result has been very limited success for Russia although its greatest success has been in the east and south-east where it is most interested in success (apart from its stalled attempt to take Kyiv/Kiev). However the longer the war goes on the more that Russia, with its air and artillery dominance can batter Ukraine’s towns and cities, and their people, into the ground.

The situation is quite disastrous for Ukraine. If ten to fifteen thousand Russian soldiers have been killed to date, the total Ukrainian casualty list is probably not too far behind, counting both soldiers and civilians.

It is for the people of any country to decide how they should defend their autonomy. The danger for Ukraine is that a long war of attrition will lead to more Mariupols in terms of death and destruction. Vladimir Putin is obviously willing to sacrifice however many of his soldiers he thinks necessary to attain whatever he considers are his minimum demands in Ukraine although these have not been clear. If it is almost certain that he expected a speedy victory in Ukraine, it is then true that military resistance has led to him and Russia having to scale back their expectations and demands but Russia can continue to inflict brutal pain on Ukraine for a considerable time.

It is in this context that nonviolent resistance could be considered by Ukraine after a ceasefire, either in relation to the whole country or in relation to possible attempts to cleave off parts of the south and south-east to be ceded to Russia. Neither path is easy, violent or nonviolent, but nonviolent resistance would arguably have a greater chance of success in the long run given the superior military strength of Russia compared to Ukraine, notwithstanding Ukrainian relative success to date in withstanding Russian onslaughts. It would certainly prevent massive death rates and destruction. There would not need to be a time limit on nonviolent resistance because it could be hoped that ‘normal’ aspects of civilian life which were not seen to be compromised by the Russian invasion could continue.

One problem in switching to nonviolent resistance is that it could be conceived by those fighting the Russians, and by the general population, as capitulation and defeat. Instead it should be seen as switching to a different means of struggle and a new chapter in resistance.

Neutrality for Ukraine needs to be defined and accepted by Ukraine, Russia and NATO. Neutrality should have been a policy adopted back in time. The expectation that Russia should accept NATO on its doorstep flies in the face of what the USA would accept in its vicinity; in 1962 the USA threatened nuclear obliteration to get Russian missiles removed from Cuba. ‘Neutrality with guarantees’ could have been an alternative in general in Eastern Europe to NATO going against its fall-of-Russian-communism promise not to expand eastwards in Europe. It is certainly understandable that certain countries might want to join NATO but that does not mean it was the correct decision in building peaceful détente in Europe (aside from other questions about NATO’s general role in the world, nuclear policies, and first use of violence). It is NATO which has been most responsible for the militarisation of Europe.

Ireland

The war in Ukraine has raised numerous debates about Irish neutrality and whether it is still justified. There are many issues involved. One such issue is the strategic position of Ireland. A published letter writer pointing out in horror that Ireland (Republic of) would have no defence against Russian ships manoeuvring in the Atlantic coming in to take Irish ports was expressing a naive view that Ireland could or should have such a defence. The reality is of course that Russia has no interest whatsoever in getting control of Ireland – it has major problems in winning a war against Ukraine on its doorstep. However, as in the Second World War, successful Irish military resistance against any major power invader is unrealistic even today if it met PESCO-warranted expenditure on the military and dramatically increased the strength of the Irish ‘defence forces’.

There are two major issues here. One is how can Ireland minimise the remote chance of invasion, or deal with such an event. The other is how it could, and should, provide solidarity to other countries and work for peace in the world.

Concerning Irish strategic security, I would argue that a planned nonviolent defence of the country, along with a positively neutral and peaceful foreign policy, is the best defence the country could have. A positive neutrality would avoid making enemies as much as possible, not as an aim, because the aim should be international justice, but as a by product.

The policy would include civilian preparation and training; this would involve the general civilian preparation for such an eventuality but also specific tasks for certain groups and organisations in the event of invasion. It would also include the scuttling/destruction or putting beyond use of key facilities and resources that any invader might want to use. The preparedness of the population to use nonviolent resistance, and deny use of facilities to an invader, would be publicised (though not specific details). Other measures would include food and energy security so that in times of trouble internationally, Ireland could be self sufficient.

If any major power did decide to take Ireland militarily it would likely only be in the context of a major military conflagration where there was basically another world war. The chances of anyone wanting to have a military invasion of Ireland in other contexts is slim but there is no harm, and perhaps more peace of mind, in being prepared. I strongly believe that a nonviolent civilian defence policy, allied to a positive neutrality, is the best choice in relation to this.

Now for the question of international solidarity. Those who favour joining NATO tend to speak of the ‘mutual protection’ aspect of it, i.e. an attack against one is considered an attack against all. There are problems with this argument, and more generally with NATO policies and the idea that because the Republic is in the EU it should ‘defend’ its neighbours. But what if, as I believe, NATO policies frequently exacerbate tensions, as with Russia, and its nuclear warfare policy is part of a threat hanging over the whole of humanity? Do we want to hide under a nuclear umbrella? Do we want to engage in confrontational military policies? Do we want to support militarist solutions to the world’s problems when the military are often the problem (and an issue in terms of their expense which denies expenditure on the things which humanity needs)?

There is a simplistic belief about that to be ‘good Europeans’ we have to support whatever direction the EU is going in; this is simple nonsense, and the EU is increasingly becoming the European arm of NATO. We should do what we consider good for humanity and a militarised EU risks being another belligerent in resource wars in the later 21st century.

A belief in human security rather than military security would entail dealing with issues of injustice, political and economic, and settling on tacking health inequalities worldwide (e.g. Covid vaccinations) and transitioning to green energy and ecological living as fast as possible to avoid the disasters of global warming.

Ireland has played a positive role on the world stage at different times, including Eamon de Valera with the League of Nations. Ireland has contributed significantly to nuclear non-proliferation work and to the banning of landmines and cluster weapons. A general question regarding NATO is whether you believe peace can be achieved through the barrel of a gun or the controls of a military drone. If the best humanity can achieve is armed stand-offs of highly militarised countries this has many risks, not least that if countries have expensive weapons systems and strong armies that they feel they should be used occasionally. Humanity had enough experience of the threatened terrors of armed conflict during the Cold War, and on a number of occasions narrowly missed nuclear conflagration. How can this situation be considered ‘safe’ or involvement in NATO be seen as contributing to Irish safety? The opposite is the case.

But a question for Ireland is also whether it wants to be just another cog in a big military machine (NATO and/or its European presence in terms of an increasingly militarised EU) or to take a different and far more rewarding, peaceful path, a path less chosen perhaps but with great potential. Why has Ireland not been involved in a mediation process regarding Ukraine? Or Yemen? Why does Irish foreign policy slavishly follow the EU? What can we do for peace not just in Europe but worldwide?

As a former colonised country on the edge of Europe, without many axes to grind in geopolitical terms, why is Ireland not saying “We can strive to be a peacemaker”? The Irish constitution refers to affirming its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes – what does this mean in concrete terms? How can that be operationalised – what can we do about it? No, joining a military alliance and ‘picking sides’ militarily is not adding to this in any way, very much the opposite.

The world needs neutral countries to stand aside from military conflicts and build peace. As Irish involvement in welcoming Ukrainian refugees shows, you can exercise solidarity in non-military ways. We need to build a world of solidarity without militarism and continually looking for ways to get rid of the risk and costs associated with it.

Ireland has the opportunity to have a non-military defence policy. At the very least it should develop its peacemaking capacity while maintaining a non-offensive defence policy (joining NATO would destroy that). Ireland is small but we can be not just an example but a builder of peace in a real way. It is also a question of whether we believe in a better, more just, demilitarised world or a fearful world of unjust armed blocks. The choice is ours.

Conclusions

It suits those who believe in militarism to speak of those who reject the ways of violence as people who simply want to roll over and accept whatever injustice is meted out, and they may also use a term like ‘simplistic’ for those supporting such a nonviolent option. It can be argued that it is those who slavishly think that violent resistance is the only possible methodology in difficult circumstances are the ones who are really being simplistic. Nonviolent resistance and social defence, as this article attests, can be a highly sophisticated form of social and political action which has the greatest chance of success. But it also bears the seeds of breaking into circles and cycles of violence to build a more peaceful world and avoid visiting another cycle of violence on our children, grandchildren and successive generations.

Historical nonviolent resistance to invasion and occupation has tended to be spontaneous rather than planned well in advance, before the occupation took place. It can be rightly argued that if significant preparation or civilian resistance and defence is made before any such invasion it will a) have a deterrent effect, and b) if invasion does take place, be more successful because the underground networks and preparation have already been fashioned, the strategy and tactics worked out and citizens are not having to simply improvise under very trying circumstances.

Nonviolent civilian resistance is a real and effective option for Ireland which has a strong civil society and collective identification. Not to see that reality is to have militarist-shaded spectacles on and most likely to be simplistic in a belief in the efficacy of violence and its western advocate and practitioner, NATO. We can do much, much better.

References and further reading

(*1) And on the rare occasion such coverage happens the media may not permit discussion and follow up e.g. The Irish Times article by Breda O’Brien 19/3/22 https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/non-violence-is-not-naive-unrealistic-or-useless-1.4829737 on “Non-violence is not naive, unrealistic or uselesshad no follow up letters published.

(*2) An alternative defence for Ireland: Some considerations and a model of defence without arms for the Irish people, Dawn magazine No.95-96, December 1983. Available in the pamphlets section of the INNATE website at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/ In that 1983 piece I give some consideration to Northern Ireland’s position in relation to UK membership of NATO; however in this article I have deliberately not done so in order to allow the length to be manageable and keep the main focus. But the North being in NATO is an issue.

(*3) “Social defence” in Dawn Train No.10, page 18, 1991, available on the INNATE website at https://innatenonviolence.org/dawntrain/index.shtml I quote Gene Sharp at this Bradford conference saying he used the term ‘civilian based defence’ rather than ‘social defence’ which he indicated was used for anything and everything nonviolent. The WRI/War Resisters International, co-sponsors of the conference with IFOR/International Fellowship of Reconciliation published the book “Nonviolent Struggle and Social Defence” in 1991, edited by Shelley Anderson and Janet Larmore; the text is available at https://wri-irg.org/en/nonviolence/nvsd.shtml

(*4) ”Civilian Resistance as a National Defence: Non-violent Action Against Aggression”, ed. Adam Roberts, page 249, Pelican, 1969, first published by Faber and Faber 1967.

(*5) Gene Sharp, “Making Europe Unconquerable: The potential of civilian-based deterrence and defence”, page 2, Taylor and Francis, 1985. Sharp includes consideration of Czechoslovak resistance to Russian control/invasion in 1968-69, page 47, stating that (he was writing in 1985) it “constitutes perhaps the most significant civilian struggle for national defence purposes. Ultimately, the attempt was defeated, but not quickly. For eight months, the Czechs and Slovaks prevented the Russians from achieving their political objective – a regime responsive to Soviet wishes.”

(*6) Quoted from IFOR’s “Reconciliation International”, date unknown, cited in (*2) above.

(*7) “Social defence”, by Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin, Irene Publishing, 2019, page 158, reviewed in Nonviolent News 282 https://www.innatenonviolence.org/readings/2020_09.shtml

(*8) Ibid, page 13.

(*9) Translated from Hugues Colle in “Non-violence politique”, No.60, June 1983; the same definition was used by Gene Sharp.

(*10) https://www.mkgandhi.org/nonviolence/phil8.htm

(*11) E-mail information from Yurii Sheliazhenko and also https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/26/russian-soldiers-release-ukraine-towns-mayor-and-agree-to-leave-after-protests

(*12) Basil Liddell Hart in Civilian Resistance as a National Defence”, ed. Adam Roberts, Pelican, 1969, pages 239-240.

(*13) Gene Sharp, “The Politics of Nonviolent Action”, 3 volumes, Porter Sargent, 1973.

(*14) Johansen and Martin, 2019, page 56.

(*15) Defence without the Bomb: The report of the Alternative Defence Commission” (Britain), page 229, Taylor and Francis, 1983.

(*16) Quoted in “What to do about Hitler – a pacifist symposium”, privately published by Philip Dransfield, England, 1989.

(*17) “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflictby Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare, 320 pages, and online article from International Security”, Vol.33, No.1, Summer 2008, pages 7-44 for which word search ‘stephan chenoweth civil resistance’. ‘Readings in Nonviolence’ in Nonviolent News 277 https://www.innatenonviolence.org/readings/2020_03.shtml gives a review summary.

(*18) Ibid, pages 8 – 9 of online article.

(*19) Ibid, page 10

(*20) Gene Sharp, “Social power and Political Freedom”, page 167, Porter Sargent, 1980.

(*21) Gene Sharp, “From Dictatorship to Democracy”, pages 39-40, Serpent’s Tail, London, 2012; this is his work most associated with the ‘Arab Spring’ and it has appeared in various editions and languages.

(*22) Helen Steven in No alternative? Nonviolent responses to repressive regimes”, ed. John Lampen, page 110, Williams Sessions Ltd, 2000. Incidentally, East Timor is one of the cases considered by Stephan and Chenoweth.

Another short work worth looking out for is “Capital defence: Social defence for Canberra”, a 72 page pamphlet written by Jacki Quilty. Lynne Dickins, Phil Anderson and Brian Martin”, Canberra Peacemakers, 1986, which is a clear and concise exploration of possibilities in a particular, Australian, context.

A significant amount of the material above is from the 1980s and 1990s because there was more of a focus on the issue at that time – however it is also an idea whose time is coming again.

Editorial: War in Europe again

It seems scarcely believable to be talking about war taking place in Europe once again, now in the year 2022, and yet that has been the recent reality. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unjust, violent, and colonial. To inflict the terror of full scale warfare on anyone, let alone a whole country, is a crime against humanity.

How did we get here? There have been a huge number of factors at work, just some of which are explored below and in this issue of Nonviolent News. And what lessons can be learnt? The most perceptive lessons are not those which have tended to be expressed most dominantly in the media since the invasion of Ukraine when bellicosity has been dominant. If the first casualty in war is truth, actually trying to establish what is ‘truth’ is a very difficult task. But one truth is indisputable; invading Ukraine was unjust and unjustifiable.

The militarist approach has failed; it could not protect Ukraine from a Russian invasion. Bellicose responses from the EU are not helpful though strong opposition, sanctions and so on are appropriate. A strategic analysis is needed, even within military thinking, as to the extent to which Ukrainian military opposition to Russian invasion can or could succeed or whether it will simply lead to more deaths of Ukrainians and destruction in a war which, as this is written, is getting more violent and lethal. This also raises questions about the supply of arms to Ukraine at this stage. Of course it is for the Ukrainian people to decide how they resist Russian invasion but the ‘fighting to the last man’ (woman and child) approach may be brave but also foolhardy.

There is the danger that Ukraine falls into the trap of what a French general said during the battle of Balaclava in 1854 during the Crimean War of 1853–56, “C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre” – ‘It’s magnificent but it isn’t war’ – when he watched the ill-fated British ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, due to a misunderstood military order. In other words, there are certain things you do in war and certain things you don’t; taking a course of action which is certainly leading to your death and destruction is not wise and is not ‘war’. Continuing to resist militarily by Ukraine when they cannot defeat the Russians is not wise if it leads to their death and destruction. Ending the fight at this stage does not mean accepting defeat in the longer term; it may be to accept reality and ‘live to fight another day’, whether militarily or nonviolently. We need to think outside the militarist box. Ukrainian pride in standing up as a nation can take a different path.

When Ukraine is defeated militarily, and accepts or rejects whatever terms are meted out to it, despite whatever resistance is put up, the focus should switch to nonviolent resistance which can, of course, also be disguised disobedience. They may of course choose guerrilla military action. The Ukrainian people face a hard time indefinitely and it is difficult to see that Putin-controlled Russia will permit Ukraine to escape its orbit again in the near future. It is impressive that in the many demonstrations that have taken place against the war, large numbers of Russians have taken part – and those within Russia who have done so will pay a high price including loss of employment in cases.

Opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine must be medium to long term to succeed. What Putin’s plans are we can guess but presume will include the incorporation of some majority Russian speaking provinces into Russia. How Putin will try to control or instal a puppet government in the remains of Ukraine remains to be seen. But the effects of Russia being made a pariah state will be hard on the Russian people and difficult to cover up with propaganda about ‘the west’ out to get Russia when the vast majority of the globe has the same view.

Nonviolent resistance is difficult to deal with for military and militarist leaders; they don’t know how to respond. See e.g. https://wagingnonviolence.org/2022/02/ukraine-secret-weapon-civilian-resistance/ and https://mailchi.mp/320ff13d52bb/press-release-nonviolent-alternatives-must-be-pursued-in-ukraine-to-deescalate-war?e=c8353e9ef5 The power of various forms of nonviolent resistance is well established, even in Nazi occupied Europe in the Second World War, though not necessarily popularly known. The problem is largely that when people think of resistance to invasion they think only in military terms. This can be disastrous and when there is a major power imbalance, as there is between Russia and Ukraine, there is likely to be only one victor, certainly when they are neighbours, i.e. supply lines are close.

With nonviolent resistance it is much more difficult to justify repression, or, in the case of Ukraine, to attempt to justify action on the basis of ‘denazification’; there are fascists in Ukraine but their number is small even if they have been active and visible, and their significance is disputed. But it is also highly ironic that Putin should accuse Ukraine, which has relatively free elections and a fairly thriving civil society, of being fascist when Putin does not permit free elections and has decimated civil society in Russia. However atrocities have been committed against Russian speakers in Donbas, Odessa for example, by the Ukrainian regime and its allies, so it is not all a one way street and there was enough there for Putin to support separatism militarily.

There was a viable peace deal agreed in Minsk in 2015 which would have given autonomy to the east of Ukraine. Such measures are a standard practice and relative autonomy for different ethnic or language groupings is one way to deal with such inter-group tensions. But it never happened and if it had had support from the USA – which had its own ambitions in the area – and others then Ukraine could have been at peace now.

However it needs clearly stated that in Ireland we do not have our hands clean. It is difficult to even express the irony of Ireland closing its airspace to Russian planes (we are not saying they shouldn’t) when the Irish government gives carte blanche to the US military to pass through and use Shannon airport as a base en route to its illegal and neo-imperialist wars which have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions. Clearly there is one law which applies to some people and another entirely different law which applies to others – others when the wars involved are outside Europe it might be said — even when both are engaged in highly destructive wars without justification.

Where were the boycotts of the USA and UK when they invaded Iraq? Where was there action taken against the USA when it invaded Afghanistan? What is the difference in terms of death, destruction, displacement and human misery to what is happening in Ukraine? Is it simply ‘our’ wars are just and theirs not so? And to say such wars were ‘altruistic’ in intent is simplistic in the extreme; they were illegal in international law, and arms and security companies made a mint, apart from, for example, US and UK oil companies taking a slice of the action in Iraq. The USA and UK acted against massive worldwide expressed opinion wishing to avoid war in Iraq; ‘they’ knew better and contributed to horror and destabilisation on a massive scale.

And where is ‘Irish neutrality’ in any of this reaction in Ireland, let alone the Irish constitutional commitment to the pacific resolution of conflicts? Even if not ‘buying in’ directly to the EU supply of arms to Ukraine, as a net contributor to the EU, Ireland is helping finance them and this new military departure for the EU.

Many mistakes have been made by ‘the west’ and NATO in relating to Russia. Weak and impoverished after the fall of communism, the regime in Moscow was initially favourable to the west. But the promises given by NATO and the USA not to expand NATO eastwards were forgotten, and a weak Russia was ignored. NATO helped to turn a friend or potential friend into an enemy. In all of this, too, there was an expectation that Russia would accept what the USA certainly would not; ‘enemy’ arms on its doorstep. The USA threatened global annihilation in 1962 to avoid Russian missiles being based in Cuba.

You can certainly understand why countries bordering Russia might want to be part of NATO as a bulwark against Russian expansionism – and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made more likely what he was trying to avoid, a NATO build up on Russia’s borders. But why would anyone think that Putin’s Russia, in nationalist mode and remembering not just the Second World War but other western military incursions, would accept this, something which the USA would not? We are not excusing anyone’s militarist thinking but saying ‘the west’ expected Putin’s Russia to react in a way which they (i.e. the USA) would not accept. Russia’s demand for Ukrainian neutrality was not unreasonable in the context of power politics..

On a relevant but also slightly tangential note, transition to a green economy is essential to rid ourselves of dependence on fossil fuels which are highly tainted not just by their contribution to global warming but also for giving profits to those who do not need our money. The faster we can transition, the faster we will avoid the risk of a woefully overheated world and a contribution to despots and autocrats (whether in Russia or the Gulf states).

It is time to try a different approach. And for Ireland the message is that a smaller country cannot defend itself militarily against a highly militarised larger one so that again imagination is required in taking a different path; the path of active neutrality, peacebuilding and peacemaking, and civilian-based defence.

We have a choice in the world. Militarisation and highly charged stand-offs between armed blocks and countries is the way the world is going. In this approach there will be periodic wars but also, even in peacetime, enormous waste of resources which are needed to establish real human security against global warming and the risk of pandemics, as well as all the other human needs that exist. The risks include global destruction in nuclear war. With climate change the risk of resource and other wars increases, and highly armed countries make this prospect more likely. The other, rather different, possibility is that countries, whether armed or not, use non-offensive defence and neutrality, or perhaps sophisticated civilian-based non-violent defence, as their territorial security.

The world can be a dangerous place. It may be counter-intuitive for most people, but arming ourselves to our teeth is the way to risk war and invite war to take place, because our perceived enemies also feel they have to arm themselves to the hilt and in this dangerous balance it only takes one slip to unleash the terror of war. In no way are we saying we should roll over to violence and aggression; we are saying that we need to be clever in how we confront it. At the moment we are simply reacting in ways which encourage the violence and war which we say we want to avoid.

Readings in Nonviolence: In the new cold war, we have no future

by Yurii Sheliazhenko

Introduction

Truth may or may not be the first casualty in war but in an atmosphere of perpetual war and rumours of war then truth is extremely vulnerable, and everyone risks being deceived. Perceptions of truth can also be a bit like ‘our’ speaking accent; ‘we’ tend to think we don’t speak with an accent, it is people different from us that have an accent. In the same way, we can be so immune and inured to our own society and its propaganda, so familiar with its ways, that we feel we are presented with the truth, even if nothing can be further from the truth.

Western relations with Russia have been a developing nadir of the post-Cold war period. ‘The west’, particularly by taking NATO to the edge of Russia, has contributed considerably to poor relations between countries and to the development of authoritarianism and xenophobia in Putin’s Russia. Please note that we would be highly critical of Russian repression of civil society internally, and of Russian military actions in the region, e.g. the Crimea (annexation) and eastern Ukraine (disguised attempts at annexation), as well as in Syria.

So it is always a breath of fresh air when we are given an account of situations as they are, free from the blinkered, tinted spectacles of one side or another. This is the case with this report from Ukraine by Yurii Sheliazhenko. Thank you to VredesMagazine and War Resisters’ International/WRI for this piece.

– – – –

* A manuscript published in Dutch translation under a title "A pacifist voice from Ukraine: in the hybrid clamp between NATO and Russia" in VredesMagazine, vol. 14 iss. 4, 2021. Vredesmagazine is a joint publication of half a dozen different peace-oriented organisations in the Netherlands. 

-

As Ukraine became a battlefield of the new cold war between United States and Russia, our peaceful life was torn apart by militant domestic nationalism and both competing aggressive imperialisms. We should get out from a dead corner of permanent war, economic and democratic decline, but it is not easy to pursue hopeful future.

STUCK IN THE PAST

Many of our troubles are caused by a fact that whole world stuck in the past. This hot summer revealed it vividly.
Summit of NATO, this relict of cold war epoch, positioning itself as the strongest democratic alliance in history and a leading contributor to international security, endorsed new nuclear arms race against Russia and proclaimed opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was supported by the majority of United Nations.
Zbigniew Rau, Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Dmytro Kuleba, foreign ministers of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, signed a declaration claiming common historical heritage of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It mentions “European identity of Belarusians, Lithuanians, Poles, and Ukrainians” suggesting they fought in the past and should fight again “despotic Russia,” and Ukraine should join NATO.

Then President of Russia Vladimir Putin wrote a long doctrinal article about “historical unity” of Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians as descendants of Ancient Rus, which should stay together against supposedly hostile United States and European Union. He emphasized that those who turn Ukraine in the enemy of Russia “will destroy their own country,” threatening: “we will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia.”

Dark histories invoked by politicians weaponize dangerous half-truths. Building the myth of “us” against “them,” high-ranked storytellers try to erase from popular memory biological unity of all humans, intercultural capacities to find common ground, and long historical periods of relative peace when feelings of universal brotherhood and sisterhood were widespread.

ENDLESS HYBRID WAR

Strong rhetoric rooted in violent history always ends badly. When NATO launched missile defense system in Europe and welcomed planted “aspirations” of Ukraine and Georgia to became NATO members in 2008, Russia claimed post-Soviet sphere of influence by military force in South Ossetia and political mobilization of Russian diaspora around former USSR.

People of Ukraine were cornered by these great power tensions and forced to decide what side should we take. Ironically, instead of the dead corner metaphor we prefer to be optimists and call it opportunity for democratic choice, made by public gathering at square (“maidan” in Ukrainian), in particular Independence Square in Kyiv.

In 2013-2014 admirers of Nazi era ideologist of Ukrainian ultranationalism Stepan Bandera in Western-funded right-wing Ukrainian civil society networks, so-called Maidan movement, started series of massive protests and riots against former pro-Russian president Yanukovych, broke EU/Russia mediated agreement about peaceful transfer of power to pro-Western opposition, and pressured for prohibition of Russian language usage in local self-government bodies.

Simultaneously, admirers of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in Russia-backed right-wing civil society networks, so-called anti-Maidan movement, rioted against strengthening pro-Western ultranationalist political elite, supported Russian military takeover in Crimea and hybrid warfare in Eastern Ukraine.

Seven-years’ war in Donbas between Ukrainian and pro-Russian combatants killed and wounded tens thousands of civilians and deprived of home more than two million. Both sides, according to OSCE reports, almost every day violate ceasefire established by Minsk agreements, and Ukraine refuse to negotiate peace with separatists, as Russia demands, claiming they are agents of Russian occupation.

Geopolitical ambitions prevail over concerns about life of people. Consequences are tragic, as in situation when separatists fighting Ukrainian military aircraft with Russian Buk missile system shot down civilian airliner MH17, killed 283 passengers and 15 crew members.

In Crimea seized by Russia people suffer irrespectively of their (non-)allegiance to Ukraine, either from political repressions by de-facto authorities or from international and Ukrainian economic sanctions, including water blockade.

Great powers play with fire, organizing frightening military operations in and around Ukraine. NATO and Russia send troops to secure their interests on the ground, simulate naval war with each other during dangerous drills in Black Sea. In arms race with Russian nuclear-capable navy in Crimea, NATO plans to build two naval military bases in Ukraine.

Each side in the hybrid war tells compelling but yet a half-truth, or, to say sincerely, a false story, why it is “just war” of self-defense. These stories are good illustration of 1921 Bilthoven statement of principles adopted by war resisters: we should not support any kind of war, “aggressive or defensive, remembering that modern wars are invariably alleged by Governments to be defensive.”

MILITARIZATION AND DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY

Hybrid war corrupts and blows up all usually peaceful spheres of life. Ruthless populist networks, far-right sentiments, and propaganda of hatred provoke more and more bloodshed. Neo-Nazis fought on both sides of Donbas war, Russian National Unity and Varyag Battalion for separatists, Right Sector’s Ukrainian Volunteer Corps and Azov Battalion for government. Returning home, they teach kids to hate and fight in militarized summer “patriotic education” camps.

News is not news anymore, media aren’t media; they are Russian or Western propaganda subject to information war and censorship. The same problem with education and science, battle of historical half-truths is good example. Law is turned to lawfare: instead of human rights, we protect politically expedient rights of “our people” and punish “enemies” as severely as “we” can.

Ukrainian civil society was polarized and weaponized by the notions of exclusive identity, awaken by the new cold war. Ukrainian nationalists refuse to tolerate any tradeoffs to Russia, gather rioting crowds against implementation of Minsk agreements, violently silence opponents. There are also right-wing proponents of Russia and Soviet past; formally, they call for peace, but in fact it is call to take side of Russia in the new cold war.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, elected after promising peace, stated that peace should be “on our terms” and shut up pro-Russian media in Ukraine, like his predecessor Poroshenko blocked Russian social networks and pushed official language law forcibly excluding Russian from public sphere.

Zelensky’s party Servant of the People committed to increase military spending to 5% of GDP; it was 1,5% in 2013, now it is more than 3%. With majority in parliament, presidential political machine concentrates political power in Zelensky team’s hands and multiplies militarist laws, such as draconian punishments for evaders from conscription and creation of new “national resistance” forces, increasing personnel of armed forces in Ukraine by 11 000, creating military units in local governments for mandatory military training of millions of people aimed to mobilize whole population in the case of war with Russia.

According to the 2019-2020 EBCO annual reports “Conscientious Objection in Europe,” those who refuse to kill have a little chance to legal recognition and protection of their beliefs during conscription in Ukraine and Russia, not to say in separatist “people’s republics.” Alternative non-military service arrangements are hardly accessible, discriminatory and punitive in nature.

HOPE FOR PEACE AGAINST ALL ODDS

Public opinion polls paradoxically show that majority of people demand peace, but trust Armed Forces of Ukraine more than any of political institutions. Faith in “peace through victory” is result of political illiteracy and lack of peace culture.

Peacebuilding projects funded by international organizations heal some wounds of war, but strategically are focused on social cohesion around militant national identity. Many of them avoid to use the word “peace” itself because of patriotic reasons: right-wing propaganda equates it with “Russian world.”

There is no strong public voice of common sense in Ukraine denouncing in principle and impartially toxic militarist policies and identities, like Stalinist and Banderite, or generally denouncing all war and preparations for war. Main churches, while sometimes praying for peace, made clear unequivocally what side they took in the geopolitical battle.

Consistent pacifists, religious or secular, in our society are tiny minority treated like dreamers, in the best case, but usually as heretics and traitors.

Pacifist Ruslan Kotsaba who denounced mobilization to Donbas war in 2015 YouTube video was jailed for treason, acquitted and released, put on trial again with mobs of haters surrounding the court during every hearing. Recently neo-Nazi assaulted him on railway station, he lost sight on one eye because of splashed brilliant green. Police failed to arrest perpetrators.

Netflix sci-fi war film “Outside the Wire” prognoses endless violence will turn Ukraine into wasteland during coming decades. The only way to prevent such grim future is to learn how to achieve peace by peaceful means, but very few people believe in such perspective and work on it.

Despite challenging environment, we try to build peace in minds and in real life of people on the basis of consistent pacifism, according to War Resisters’ International declaration, using our limited opportunities and resources. It seems that whole worldwide anti-war movement do the same. For progress in this cause, we need to develop and enact universal peace plan more effective and realistic than strategies of the new cold war.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Yurii Sheliazhenko is executive secretary of Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, member of the Board of European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, member of the Board of World Beyond War. He obtained Master of Mediation and Conflict Management degree in 2021 and Master of Laws degree in 2016 at KROK University, and Bachelor of Mathematics degree in 2004 at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Apart from participation in the peace movement, he is journalist, blogger, human rights defender and legal scholar, author of tens of academic publications and lecturer on legal theory and history.

– – – – – –