by Eli McCarthy
in America magazine
As the crisis in Ukraine accelerates, President Biden and other leaders have acted wisely in continuing diplomatic efforts. However, leaders in the United States and Russia, including Vladimir Putin and Mr. Biden, too often escalate conflict in Eastern Europe with military deployments, at times dehumanizing opponents and rallying their populations for “just wars.” This is the time for creative thinking to avoid a catastrophe.
We can shift to a “just peace” framework. Rather than reacting to perceived threats by trying to one-up an adversary for the sake of “deterrence,” or identifying justifications for war, a just peace approach begins with identifying the root causes of a conflict, as well as the genuine needs of the adversaries.
Some of the root causes of the current crisis are embedded in the complex history of Ukraine, which has been invaded by various empires over the centuries. Like all peoples, they have a right to self-determination and a responsibility to the global common good.
The current crisis was seeded in part by NATO’s expansion after 1997 into 14 additional countries, including former Warsaw Pact countries and three former Soviet states. It was exacerbated by apparent Western interference in the Maidan uprising in 2014 that led to the end of a pro-Russian government. The Minsk Agreement of 2015 was an attempt to interrupt the cycle of violence after the 2014 uprising, Russian annexation of Crimea and armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, cease-fire violations continued. Ukraine also refused a dialoguewith the leaders of separatist regions in that nation about local elections and the structure of political autonomy (as stipulated in the Minsk Agreement).
At issue for Russia is its quest for more acknowledgment about its security needs, as well as respect in its geopolitical sphere. At issue for NATO and the United States, it seems, is the value of national self-determination and consistency in access to economic resources (including the ability to continue weapons sales). Both sides need to have more trust and expectations of accountability for the actions of the other…