by John M Repp
The U.S. Veterans for Peace held a virtual convention on August 25-27, 2023. There is a video recording of the keynote speakers that has been posted on Youtube: https://youtu.be/1LdERmcB1qk The speakers were Clare Daly, an Irish member of the European Parliament and Jeffery Sachs, an American economist and advocate for sustainable development. Sachs worked for a time as an advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev in the conversion of the former Soviet state planned economy into a “normal” i.e., capitalist economy. Both keynote speakers addressed the convention on the war in Ukraine.
They both agree: the war in Ukraine was provoked by the American insistence on expanding NATO to Ukraine. Both Daly and Sachs were very animated, emotional, and persuasive, and they knew well the history of the area from the collapse of the Soviet Union, through the reunification of Germany, to the attack on Ukraine. Western Washington FOR’s Larry Kershner, a Vietnam vet, told me about the convention and sent me the link that I watched.
As an aside, I remember very well standing at vigils with Veterans for Peace in the West Seattle Junction. Some Vietnam vets joined our neighborhood peace group and came to our monthly potlucks. It was Veterans for Peace who had the well-earned respect of the public. Students would listen to them when we went to high schools for counter-recruiting.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the negotiations to unify Germany, when American diplomats verbally promised Russia that NATO would not move one inch to the east, fourteen countries in eastern Europe have joined NATO. Protests from Russia have been ignored. Currently, the war in Ukraine has caused a large buildup of military budgets in Europe. NATO has been strengthened and enlarged after Trump nearly destroyed it.
Daly and Sachs told the convention that they have been and will continue to be called Putin’s puppets for speaking out. But they are willing to take that abuse because they know that until we understand the situation and our countries part in it, we will not find a way to peace. Sachs says very clearly that Biden, as vice-president, played a part of the 2014 uprising in Ukraine that ousted a Kremlin friendly oligarch. We do remember that Biden said his goal was to weaken Russia. Never mind, what suffering the people of Ukraine must undergo.
This is the U.S. military-industrial complex at its worst. Our government ships billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Ukraine but does not risk a strong anti-war movement because no American soldiers are taking part in the war. Biden has always felt he had to support the military-industrial complex.
Sachs thinks the U.S. foreign policy establishment should work to achieve an immediate ceasefire and start negotiations. He says, the U.S. must agree to Ukraine’s neutrality i.e., Ukraine must not become a part of NATO, and in exchange, the Russian army would exit Ukraine. Would Putin agree to that? Sachs thinks so.
The White House needs to change its policy from trying to “weaken Russia” by supplying weapons to Ukraine to calling for a cease-fire and armistice like our 2023 Spring Assembly speaker Helena Cobban suggested.