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Medea Benjamin Tours Colorado Front Range – Calls for Negotiations to end the Ukraine War.

April 19, 2023

Yalta peace table where the structure of the post WW2 world was negotiated. Do we need a “Yalta II” today? I think so (R. Prince photo – Summer, 1986)



Although it is unlikely to come to fruition in the near beyond, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin call for a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine war, is spot on.

Her recent Colorado visit (April 2-4) gave a boost for building a peace movement in the United States that could do what needs to be done: pressure Washington to get serious about sitting down with the Russians (including other relevant parties) to end the bloodshed in Ukraine before it escalates into something far more widespread and dangerous. Kudos for the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice’s Global Peace Collective for organizing and spearheading the visit.

Not that negotiations to end the Ukraine war are in the offing. They are not. Neither Russia nor U.S./NATO are in a negotiating mood at the moment. Washington wants what is essentially its NATO proxy war against Russia to continue with the goal, one way or another, to weaken Russia. On the other hard, Russia will continue its Special Military Operation in Ukraine until the country is de-nazified, its Russian-speaking people’s rights insured and Ukraine accepts status as a neutral, non-NATO state. Neither Crimea nor the territories taken (or liberated) from Ukraine in the Donbass.Trust between the political leadership of all the main players (US, UK, NATO, Russia, Ukraine) is at an all-time low.

Can the situation in Ukraine deteriorate any further? I keep thinking no, and then as Malvina Reynolds noted “Well you think you’ve hit bottom, oh no! There’s a bottom below! There’s a low below the low you know. You cannot imagine how far you can go

Of course, calling for negotiations now might seem like “pissing in the wind” – something of which my father often accused me as my politics moved left in my early twenties.  No doubt a vastly changed – and improved – political environment is necessary to get to that point. The kind of confidence building measures that usually proceed formal negotiations are non-existent as are contacts between Washington and Moscow, a dangerous situation in and of itself. Past efforts both prior to and since the beginning of Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine have gone nowhere. The framework for resolving the conflict taking into consideration Ukraine’s sovereignty and Russia’s security concerns exists but also has gone nowhere. While Western governments (and mainstream media) have shown themselves to be insincere negotiating partners. The Minsk Accords (2014, 2015) were used by NATO to buy time to rearm and rebuild the Ukrainian military to NATO standards rather than forming the basis of a negotiated settlement. Russian concerns about their own security interests and NATO expansion into Eastern Europe were equally brushed aside. Washington/London/NATO sabotaged the Istanbul talks of late March, early April 2022 when it appeared that the Kiev Government, trying to limit its losses, was open to some settlement. More recently, Washington’s refusal to even consider  Chinese broad-based framework to end the war was rejected within 24 hours of its being announced. Instead both U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin’s belligerent comments – U.S. goal to weaken Russia – only throw yet another monkey wrench into the works making negotiations that much more remote.

If Washington is far from even thinking about negotiations, the same can be said for Russia. It seems to have all but given up on the option for the moment. Russia’s call for new European security arrangements that would lessen NATO’s threat have been completely brushed aside by Washington, London and Brussels. The purpose of blowing up of the Nord Stream II pipeline from Russia to Germany was not only to interrupt Russian-German natural gas arrangements but also make negotiations that much more complicated. Although Washington has floated the flaky theory – actually several flaky theories – to explain “who did it” – more and more the responsibility appears to rest with Washington, Berlin and Oslo. U.S. Under Secretary of State, Victoria’s Nuland amazingly crass statement before Congress, her joy that the pipeline was destroyed, was particularly obscene (if you think about it). Open calls for regime change in Russia, shrill – quite frankly – unprecedented attacks against the person of  Russian President, Vladimir Putin do not bode well for negotiations. The fact that President Biden has participated in Putin bashing, calls for overthrowing the Russian government don’t help either.

The Russians note that both Washington and its European allies have broken so many promises, annulled so many treaties (the nuclear treaties) that they have no confidence that negotiations at this time will amount to anything. The Ukrainian position that they will not negotiate until Russian troops are removed from Donbass and Crimea is basically Kiev’s way of saying that it will not negotiate with Russia as both “demands” are impossible given the current realities on the ground. The question in negotiations is not whether Russia will withdraw its forces from Donbass, but rather, how much more is Ukraine willing to lose both in terms of manpower and territory before it comes to the negotiating table. Failing that, there is a good possibility that the Ukrainian government itself will collapse.

There is also the question, given the mutual hostility between Washington and Moscow, as to who would organize, oversee a negotiating process. A number of countries have expressed their willingness including China and more recently Brazil. Turkey tried previously and even, to a certain extent, did Israel. Whatever, a negotiating framework organized by parties that have political weight globally and can be trusted by both sides will be key.

Although it is unlikely that negotiations might start soon, it is possible that after much heralded Ukraine “Spring Offensive” plays out – and a possible Russian counter offensive – that the parties might take negotiations – in contrast to escalation – more seriously. Possible but doubtful.


Medea Benjamin brought copies of a book, “War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict” she co-authored with Nicolas J.S. Davies along with her. I know she sold some copies because my wife, Nancy, attended one of her lectures – came back enthusiastic with Benjamin’s message of the need for a negotiated settlement – book in hand. Although it is worth reading and in its way does contribute to some understanding of how “we” got to the present situation, I am less impressed with the book itself than with her Colorado calls for ending the war.

It’s not that the book is useless; it is well researched (within certain parameters) with a lot of information generally denied to the public through the mainstream media, which has become little more than a mouthpiece of Washington’s foreign policy decisions. The first section “How 2014 Set the Stage for War” is the strongest, most informative as is the chapter ‘NATO: Myth vs. Reality.” Reading through both carefully one gets a sense of how provocative Washington/NATO policy has been towards Russia. The key theme of both sections is summed up in a Chomsky quote: “ I believe that the war was provoked, but this does not justify it.” 

What is missing from the analysis is the place of the Ukraine War within the context of the shifting global balance of power, that the Ukraine War is essentially a NATO proxy war against Russia with goals of removing Vladimir Putin from power and of partitioning Russia. Such a result would eliminate or seriously weaken the growing Chinese-Russian alliance, make China more vulnerable – the key goal in all this – and make the exploitation of this resources more easily exploited by “the Collective West” – a nifty way of referring to U.S. Imperialism and its allies.  Nor is there a serious discussion of the obvious: that while Ukraine is doing the fighting, all the decisions be they on the battlefield or diplomatically, are being made in Washington and that the Ukraine War is a classic example of a proxy war.

The authors can’t seem to see the classic “forest from the trees.” This is disappointing.

There are minor shortcomings – the book’s failure to explain why and how Washington cultivated, funded and armed Ukraine’s extreme pro-Nazi rightwing – the ideological offspring of Ukrainian Nazi, Stepan Bandera. Yes, the book mentions the Right Sector, Azov Regiment and the like, but does not explain Washington’s obsession with strengthening this element in Ukrainian society to ethnically cleanse Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population. The Nazis needed the SS to fulfill its genocidal policies among populations that were not willing to join in the extermination of Jews, Poles, Soviet citizens. Washington needs a militarized pro-Nazi element to push a Ukrainian population, not interested in ethnically cleansing its Russian-speaking population. The neo-Nazi element in Ukrainian society might have been modest but their political military and security influence is decisive. Nor does to book adequately acknowledge that the so-called Maidan Revolution was anything but a U.S. inspired and organized coup or that for eight years prior to February 22, 2021 that the Ukrainian military – with U.S./U.K. weapons, training and communication information – was bombing the heck out of Russian–speaking civilian Ukrainian positions.

The book’s more serious shortcomings – the authors must be aware of this – is the very way the war in Ukraine is framed, essentially accepts the mainstream narrative that the war is fundamentally a result of the Russian military incursion into the Ukraine. If February 22, 2021 is one’s starting point, it is, I suppose, logical to understand this military conflict as provoked by the Russian intervention. But the weight of the history provided in the book itself tell another story: that “the West” has been planning for a proxy war against Russia using the mechanism of Ukraine for decades, and that to understand this war, one much provide the more global framework: that of a U.S./NATO proxy war against Russia – the first of what is going to be many rounds in a larger struggle of the titans between an emerging multi-polar world that rejects U.S. global hegemony on the one hand and Washington’s increasingly weaker grip on world power, or as it is currently called, global hegemony.

That framework is missing from Benjamin and Davies’ work and as such, renders the book less useful than it could be.

RJP – April 19, 2023



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