On October 11 over 100 leading peace organizations of the USA released a joint statement calling upon President Biden to “end the US role in escalating the extremely dangerous tensions with Russia over Ukraine.”
This statement has stated very clearly, “It is greatly irresponsible for a President to participate in brinkmanship between two nations that possess 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.”
Further this significant statement has warned that the current crisis “could easily spiral out of control to the point of pushing the world to the precipice of war.”
Explaining the background this statement has stated that while both sides are to blame for causing the crisis, its roots are entangled in the failure of the US government to live up to its promise made in 1990 by the then Secretary-of-State James Baker that NATO would not expand ‘one inch to the East’. However since 1999, the statement explains, NATO has expanded to include numerous countries, including some that border Russia.
This statement of peace organizations has recommended that the US government should agree to a long term moratorium on an NATO expansion. This statement has added that for both the US and Russia, the only sane course of action now is genuine diplomacy with serious negotiations.
The signatories of this statement include many organizations reputed for their firm commitment to peace and disarmament. These include Code Pink, Peace Action, RootsAction, Just Foreign Policy, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Veterans for Peace.
On October 14, anti-nuclear war and anti- nuclear weapon campaigners in the US called upon US authorities to de-escalate tensions with other nuclear weapon powers. These include several organizations and groups which had earlier released the peace statement. These peace demonstrations took place in as many as 40 cities spread over 20 states, including picket lines at the offices of several senators and representatives.
Significantly the demands raised by these peace demonstrations emphasized early ceasefire in Ukraine and renewal of anti- nuclear weapon treaties from which the USA had withdrawn. These include the Anti- Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty from which the USA exited in 2002 and the intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty from which the USA exited in 2019. These peace demonstrations also called for a no-first use doctrine on nuclear weapons, for seeing nuclear weapons only as a weapon of deterrence and not of attack, for moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons and for transferring resources from weapons to food, housing and health. In addition peace demonstrators have also appealed that the chances of accidental use of nuclear weapons due to false scares and misunderstandings should be minimized and nuclear weapons should not be placed in positions of hair-trigger alert.
These anti-nuclear weapons protests have been organized in the wake of increasing US public concerns over the high and increasing threat of nuclear weapons war following the start of the Ukraine conflict in February. Experienced observers have pointed out that they do not recall such public concerns regarding actual use of nuclear weapons continuing over such a long stretch of time earlier.
In the latest indication of this on October 10 the release of poll results by Reuters/ispos revealed that 58% of Americans fear that the USA is heading towards nuclear war.
It is indeed a deeply worrying fact that actions of the US government have contributed much to disturbing the prospects of world peace in recent times. Both Russia and the USA should work firmly towards repairing the damage caused in recent times to the cause of world peace. In particular both these countries as well as all other countries should express firm commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons doctrine. They should affirm that they will make maximum efforts to minimize the possibility of any actual use of nuclear weapons, whether accidental or intentional.
Following months of growing concerns over the disruption of world peace—when more discussion on possibility of use of nuclear weapons and possibility of a third world war has been heard compared to any other previous time in the 21st century –it comes like a big relief and in fact a ray of hope that so many peace demonstrations are being organized in the USA. One can only keep hoping that the peace movement will go further from strength to strength.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, Earth beyond Borders and A Day in 2071.