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30 Nonviolent Things Russia Could Have Done and 30 Nonviolent Things Ukraine Could Do

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The war-or-nothing disease has a firm grip. People literally can't imagine anything else people on both sides of the same war.

Every time I suggest that Russia might have done anything nonviolent to resist NATO expansion and the militarization of its border or that Ukraine might do anything nonviolent right now, my inbox fills up in almost exactly equal measure with rather angry missives denouncing the idea that there was or is anything that Russia, in the case of half of the emails, or that Ukraine, in the case of the other half of the emails, could possibly do other than kill.

Most of these communications don't seem to seriously be asking for a response and of course I've pre-responded with a mountain of articles and webinars but some of them rhetorically insist that I "name just one!" thing Russia could have done other than attack Ukraine or "name just one!" thing Ukraine could do other than fight the Russians.

Never mind that what Russia has done has strengthened NATO beyond anything NATO could ever have done on its own. Never mind that Ukraine is dumping gasoline on the fire of its own destruction. Supposedly there was and is no choice but the counterproductive choice of violence. Nothing else is even thinkable. However . . .

Russia could have:

  1. Continued mocking the daily predictions of an invasion and created worldwide hilarity, rather than invading and making the predictions simply off by a matter of days.
  2. Continued evacuating people from Eastern Ukraine who felt threatened by the Ukrainian government, military, and Nazi thugs.
  3. Offered evacuees more than $29 to survive on; offered them in fact houses, jobs, and guaranteed income. (Remember, we're talking about alternatives to militarism, so money is no object and no extravagant expense will ever be more than a drop in the bucket of war spending.)
  4. Made a motion for a vote in the UN Security Council to democratize the body and abolish the veto.
  5. Asked the UN to oversee a new vote in Crimea on whether to rejoin Russia.
  6. Joined the International Criminal Court.
  7. Asked the ICC to investigate crimes in Donbas.
  8. Sent into Donbas many thousands of unarmed civilian protectors.
  9. Sent into Donbas the world's best trainers in nonviolent civil resistance.
  10. Funded educational programs across the world on the value of cultural diversity in friendships and communities, and the abysmal failures of racism, nationalism, and Nazism.
  11. Removed the most fascist members from the Russian military.
  12. Offered as gifts to Ukraine the world's leading solar, wind, and water energy production facilities.
  13. Shut down the gas pipeline through Ukraine and committed to never building one north of there.
  14. Announced a commitment to leaving Russian fossil fuels in the ground for the sake of the Earth.
  15. Offered as a gift to Ukraine electric infrastructure.
  16. Offered as a gift of friendship to Ukraine railway infrastructure.
  17. Declared support for the public diplomacy that Woodrow Wilson pretended to support.
  18. Announced again the eight demands it began making in December, and requested public responses to each from the U.S. government.
  19. Asked Russian-Americans to celebrate Russian-American friendship at the teardrop monument given to the United States by Russia off New York Harbor.
  20. Joined the major human rights treaties it has yet to ratify, and asked that others do the same.
  21. Announced its commitment to unilaterally uphold disarmament treaties shredded by the United States, and encouraged reciprocation.
  22. Announced a no-first-use nuclear policy, and encouraged the same.
  23. Announced a policy of disarming nuclear missiles and keeping them off alert status to allow more than mere minutes before launching an apocalypse, and encouraged the same.
  24. Proposed a ban on international weapons sales.
  25. Proposed negotiations by all nuclear-armed governments, including those with U.S. nuclear weapons in their countries, to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons.
  26. Committed to not maintaining weapons or troops within 100, 200, 300, 400 km of any borders, and requested the same of its neighbors.
  27. Organized a nonviolent unarmed army to walk to and protest any weapons or troops near borders.
  28. Put out a call to the world for volunteers to join the walk and protest.
  29. Celebrated the diversity of the global community of activists and organized cultural events as part of the protest.
  30. Asked the Baltic states that have planned nonviolent responses to Russian invasion to help train Russians and other Europeans in the same.

Ukrainians could do a great many things, a lot of which they are in fact, in a limited and unorganized and underreported way, doing:

  1. Change the street signs.
  2. Block the roads with materials.
  3. Block the roads with people.
  4. Put up billboards.
  5. Talk to Russian troops.
  6. Celebrate Russian peace activists.
  7. Protest both Russian warmaking and Ukrainian warmaking.
  8. Demand serious and independent negotiating with Russia by the Ukrainian government independent of U.S. and NATO dictates, and independent of Ukrainian right-wing threats.
  9. Publicly demonstrate for No Russia, No NATO, No War.
  10. Use a few of these 198 tactics.
  11. Document and show the world the impact of war.
  12. Document and show the world the power of nonviolent resistance.
  13. Invite brave foreigners to come and join an unarmed peace army.
  14. Announce a commitment never to align militarily with NATO, Russia, or anyone else.
  15. Invite the governments of Switzerland, Austria, Finland, and Ireland to a conference on neutrality in Kyiv.
  16. Announce a commitment to the Minsk 2 agreement including self-governance for the two eastern regions.
  17. Announce a commitment to celebrating ethnic and linguistic diversity.
  18. Announce an investigation of right-wing violence in Ukraine.
  19. Announce delegations of Ukrainians with touching media-covered stories to visit Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and a dozen other countries to draw attention to all victims of war.
  20. Engage in serious and public negotiations with Russia.
  21. Commit to not maintaining weapons or troops within 100, 200, 300, 400 km of any borders, and request the same of neighbors.
  22. Organize with Russia a nonviolent unarmed army to walk to and protest any weapons or troops near borders.
  23. Put out a call to the world for volunteers to join the walk and protest.
  24. Celebrate the diversity of the global community of activists and organize cultural events as part of the protest.
  25. Ask the Baltic states that have planned nonviolent responses to Russian invasion to help train Ukrainians, Russians, and other Europeans in the same.
  26. Join and uphold major human rights treaties.
  27. Join and uphold the International Criminal Court.
  28. Join and uphold the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  29. Offer to host disarmament negotiations by the world's nuclear-armed governments.
  30. Ask both Russia and the West for non-military aid and cooperation.
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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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