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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/11/22

Learning the Wrong Lessons from Ukraine

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Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons and was attacked. Therefore every country should have nuclear weapons.

NATO didn't add Ukraine, which was attacked. Therefore every country or at least lots of them should be added to NATO.

Russia has a bad government. Therefore it should be overthrown.

These lessons are popular, logical even unquestionable truth in many minds and catastrophically and demonstrably wrong.

The world has had incredibly good luck and a ridiculously high number of near misses with nuclear weapons. The mere passage of time makes nuclear apocalypse extremely likely. The scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock say the risk is now greater than ever before. Exacerbating it with even more proliferation only adds to the risk. For those who rank the survival of life on Earth above any aspect of what that life looks like (for you can waive no flag and hate no enemy if you don't exist) eliminating nuclear weapons has to be a top priority, just like eliminating climate-destroying emissions.

But what if every country that gives up nukes gets attacked? That would be a steep price indeed, but it isn't the case. Kazakhstan also gave up its nukes. So did Belarus. South Africa gave up its nukes. Brazil and Argentina chose not to have nukes. South Korea, Taiwan, Sweden, and Japan have chosen not to have nukes. Now, it is true that Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program and was attacked. And it is true that numerous countries lacking nuclear weapons have been attacked: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. But nuclear weapons don't completely stop India and Pakistan attacking each other, don't stop terrorism in the U.S. or Europe, don't prevent a major proxy war with the U.S. and Europe arming Ukraine against Russia, don't stop a major push for war with China, don't prevent Afghans and Iraqis and Syrians fighting against the U.S. military, and have as much to do with starting the war in Ukraine as their absence does with failing to prevent it.

The Cuban missile crisis involved the U.S. objecting to Soviet missiles in Cuba, and the USSR objecting to U.S. missiles in Turkey and Italy. In more recent years, the U.S. has abandoned numerous disarmament agreements, maintained nuclear missiles in Turkey (and Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium), and placed new missile bases in Poland and Romania. Among Russia's excuses for invading Ukraine was the positioning of weaponry nearer its border than ever before. Excuses, needless to say, are not justifications, and the lesson learned in Russia that the U.S. and NATO will listen to nothing other than war is as false a lesson as those being learned in the U.S. and Europe. Russia could have supported the rule of law and won over much of the world to its side. It chose not to.

In fact, the United States and Russia are not parties to the International Criminal Court. The United States punishes other governments for supporting the ICC. The United States and Russia defy the rulings of the International Court of Justice. The U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, the U.S. and Russian efforts to win over Ukraine for years, the mutual arming of conflict in Donbas, and the Russian invasion of 2021 highlight a problem in world leadership.

Of 18 major human rights treaties, Russia is party to only 11, and the United States to only 5, as few as any nation on Earth. Both nations violate treaties at will, including the United Nations Charter, Kellogg Briand Pact, and other laws against war. Both nations refuse to support and openly defy major disarmament and anti-weapons treaties upheld by most of the world. Neither supports the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Neither complies with the disarmament requirement of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and the United States actually keeps nuclear weapons in five other nations and considers putting them into more, while Russia has talked of putting nukes in Belarus.

Russia and the United States stand as rogue regimes outside the Landmines Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Arms Trade Treaty, and many others. The United States and Russia are the top two dealers of weaponry to the rest of the world, together accounting for a large majority of weapons sold and shipped. Meanwhile most places experiencing wars manufacture no weapons at all. Weapons are imported to most of the world from a very few places. The United States and Russia are the top two users of the veto power at the UN Security Council, each frequently shutting down democracy with a single vote.

Russia could have prevented the invasion of Ukraine by not invading Ukraine. Europe could have prevented the invasion of Ukraine by telling the U.S. and Russia to mind their own business. The United States could almost certainly have prevented the invasion of Ukraine by any of the following steps, which U.S. experts warned were needed to avoid war with Russia:

  • Abolishing NATO when the Warsaw Pact was abolished.
  • Refraining from expanding NATO.
  • Refraining from supporting color revolutions and coups.
  • Supporting nonviolent action, training in unarmed resistance, and neutrality.
  • Transitioning from fossil fuels.
  • Refraining from arming Ukraine, weaponizing Eastern Europe, and conducting war rehearsals in Eastern Europe.
  • Accepting Russia's perfectly reasonable demands in December 2021.

In 2014, Russia proposed that Ukraine align with neither the West nor the East but work with both. The U.S. rejected that idea and supported a military coup that installed a pro-West government.

According to Ted Snider:

"In 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected on a platform that featured making peace with Russia and signing the Minsk Agreement. The Minsk Agreement offered autonomy to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of the Donbas that had voted for independence from Ukraine after the coup. It offered the most promising diplomatic solution. Facing domestic pressure, though, Zelensky would need U.S. support. He did not get it and, in the words of Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent, he was 'thwarted by the nationalists.' Zelensky stepped off the road of diplomacy and refused to talk to the leaders of the Donbas and implement the Minsk Agreements.

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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 http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
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