The Ukraine War and a Way Forward

ukraine war peace

There is no propaganda better than that which achieves totality. When worldviews coalesce into one small box that is crushed and cemented into the ground. It is this tightly framed ground that allows an internally uncontested, destructive US foreign policy to play another major role in famine and, also, in a country’s destruction.

Pro-Saudi and the pro-Israel propaganda has had holes emerge, respectively, following Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and after the 2014 Gaza War, when solidarity of young American Jews with Palestinians began to increase. There is even an implicit acknowledgement that “Forever Wars” should end, likely more out of concern for US troops and the monetary costs of war rather than the devastation that the US has caused other countries. Nevertheless, it is there.

Not so with Ukraine.

As if playing out previous generations’ Manichean escapades during the Cold War, when a more powerful Soviet Union with an antithetical political ideology posed a more credible threat, we tread forward blindly. Similar to our walk further into the abyss of climate catastrophe, the Ukraine War has put the Doomsday Clock closer than ever to a nuclear apocalypse, at 100 seconds to midnight.

While the proximate cause was Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, this occurred because of the following actions: NATO expanding to the Russian border, the US conducting joint, live-fire military exercises with border countries, and the US’s establishing “nuclear-capable missile launch systems” in newer NATO countries in Eastern Europe.

In 2021, Putin expressed concerns about the US’s intermediate-range missiles near its borders, proposing a “missile moratorium,” but received no response from Biden. This is on top of the US withdrawing from key arms treaties with Russia over the decades, including George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and Trump’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces.

How difficult is it to step outside one’s brain and view a situation from another’s interests?

Many Americans would like Title 42 to remain on the books for time immemorial because they haven’t bothered conceiving the dire situations that cause non-Americans to flee as refugees. Similarly, many cannot step out of themselves for a moment and consider what would happen if the shoe were on the foot with regard Russia. What if Russia had joint, live-fire military exercises with Mexico, just 60 miles from El Paso, as part of their alliance? What about Russia placing missile launch systems, which can accommodate nuclear weapons, in the Bahamas? Would the DOD or the American public feel comfortable? When the Soviet Union placed nuclear weapons in Cuba 60 years ago, the US was ready to go to war – the antithesis of comfort.

What is the way forward for the Ukraine War, which has led to skyrocketing global inflation, an international food crisis and the increasing likelihood of famine in many developing nations, particularly in Somalia?

1) Biden should take the advice of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and press Ukraine to be open to negotiations.

2) As Crimea has historically been part of Russia, until it was gifted to Ukraine in the 1950s, allowing Russian sovereignty over the peninsula should be on the negotiating table.

3) The Minsk II agreements should be put into effect, allowing for the demilitarization of and autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk.

4) NATO should sign a treaty with Russia pledging that it will not admit Ukraine or Georgia into the alliance; both will become officially neutral countries.

  • This treaty would also entail an agreement for US/NATO military exercises not to be conducted in countries bordering Russia once the conflict is over.

What of those who say promising not to expand NATO into Ukraine and Georgia, as well as putting Crimea on the negotiating table, would act as a reward to Russia’s invasion? Establishing a treaty not to expand NATO into the aforementioned countries and no live-fire military drills on the Russian border would merely act as a reprieve for the Russian government. NATO would not go away, nor would it retract, it would just release the stranglehold from around Putin’s neck. The final status of Crimea would solely be up to Ukraine and Russia and placing it on the negotiating table could act as a pragmatic tool for Zelensky to use to bargain for a complete Russian withdrawal from the rest of Ukraine.

What about China? What kind of message would the proposed agreement send to them about Taiwan?

Unlike Ukraine, which neither the US or NATO explicitly stated they would defend if Russia invaded, Biden said in September that the US would come to Taiwan’s defense if China invades. Of course, one president’s rhetoric is different from a mutual defense pact, such as the kind that the US has with South Korea and Japan, but these words should give China pause. Additionally, under the proposed scenarios for Ukrainian peace, there is little “reward” for Russia. The invasion has been an unforeseen disaster for Russia, with tens of thousands dead Russian troops. Under the proposed conditions, nothing would be gained except a loosening of the US/NATO stranglehold. Taiwan’s de facto independence, in itself, is not a stranglehold on China of the kind that Putin faced; however, with continued military drills and weapons sales between the US and Taiwan, the US should consider whether this may make a Taiwan invasion more likely. Instead of a reward for Putin or a green light to a Taiwan invasion, the Ukraine War should teach the fading US superpower a lesson of deterrence. If you continue to hem-in nuclear powers, war will become ever more likely, in much the same way Britain tried to do the same to a rising Germany, helping foment World War I.

The Ukraine War is hobbling not only the Ukrainian people but also the world. Russia is a smaller great power that is a blip in the radar compared with US-China economic competition and, more importantly, the US’s and the world’s efforts to work together in confronting the climate emergency. Although there have been some positive developments in wind and solar since the war began, there is still a long way to go to prevent the temperature from reaching 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels. US and NATO focusing on military brinkmanship will only hinder efforts towards a full transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

As a prolific author from the Boston area, Peter F. Crowley writes in various forms, including short fiction, op-eds, poetry and academic essays. In 2020, his poetry book Those Who Hold Up the Earth was published by Kelsay Books and received impressive reviews by Kirkus Review, the Bangladeshi New Age and two local Boston-area newspapers. His writing can be found in Middle East Monitor, Znet, 34th Parallel, Pif Magazine, Galway Review, Digging the Fat, Adelaide’s Short Story and Poetry Award anthologies (finalist in both) and The Opiate.


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