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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks from the White House

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House on February 22, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Urged to Ignore War Hawks and Pursue 'Real Path to Peace' in Ukraine

"Unilateral diplomatic and military actions like those recently taken by Russia cannot be the solution to this crisis, and risk further and even more dangerous escalation."

Jake Johnson

With Republicans, hawkish Democrats, and notorious warmongers pushing President Joe Biden to take more punitive action against Russia following its latest aggressive moves in Ukraine, peace advocates in the U.S. and abroad on Tuesday urged the administration to instead intensify cooperative diplomatic efforts and do everything in its power to prevent a military conflict.

"We call for a re-examination of NATO, which has long outlived any good purpose, and holding serious disarmament talks with Russia."

"Unilateral diplomatic and military actions like those recently taken by Russia cannot be the solution to this crisis, and risk further and even more dangerous escalation," the progressive group CodePink said in a statement as the Biden administration—in concert with Western allies—moved to impose new economic sanctions on Russia over its deployment of troops into breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

"We call on the Biden administration and members of Congress to fully support the Minsk Protocol, the real path to peace in Ukraine," said CodePink referring to a series of international agreements signed in 2014. "Now is the time for President Biden to show his leadership, not by escalating the crisis and imposing sanctions that will hurt ordinary Russians and affect the global economy, but [through] intense negotiations that can bring us back from the brink of a potentially calamitous nuclear war."

"On the larger breakdown in U.S.-Russian relations," the group continued, "we call for a re-examination of NATO, which has long outlived any good purpose, and holding serious disarmament talks with Russia."

CodePink's statement came as leading members of Congress—including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—ratcheted up their demands for a more forceful response from the Biden administration in the wake of Russia's actions in Ukraine, including President Vladimir Putin's effort to expand his country's presence in the Donbas.

"This should begin, but not end, with devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and its enablers," said McConnell, who added that the U.S. and "all friends of Ukraine must ensure a pipeline of support, including arms, flows to Ukrainians resisting Russian aggression."

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most hawkish Democrats in Congress, said in a statement Monday night that if "Russian troops or proxy forces cross into Donbas, the Biden administration and our European allies must not hesitate in imposing crushing sanctions."

"There must be tangible, far-reaching, and substantial costs for Russia in response to this unjustified act," Menendez added.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration joined European allies—including the United Kingdom—in unveiling additional sanctions against Russia after its lawmakers gave Putin a green light to use military force outside the country.

"This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine," Biden said in an address Tuesday, describing the new U.S. sanctions targeting a pair of Russian financial institutions, some of Russia's elites, and the country's sovereign debt as just "the first tranche" of punitive measures.

Biden also announced Tuesday that he has "authorized the additional movements of U.S. forces and equipment, already stationed in Europe, to strengthen our Baltic allies."

"These are totally defensive moves on our part," the president said. "We have no intention of fighting Russia."

Peace advocates have consistently voiced skepticism that either economic warfare or the mobilization of troops offer a path out of the current crisis.

The Stop the War Coalition, a U.K.-based group founded to oppose the so-called "War on Terror," said in a statement Tuesday that the worsening conflict is "the product of thirty years of failed policies, including the expansion of NATO and U.S. hegemony at the expense of other countries as well as major wars of aggression by the USA, Britain, and other NATO powers which have undermined international law and the United Nations."

"The British government has played a provocative role in the present crisis, talking up war, decrying diplomacy as appeasement."

"The British government has played a provocative role in the present crisis, talking up war, decrying diplomacy as appeasement, and escalating arms supplies and military deployments to Eastern Europe," the coalition said. "If there is to be a return to diplomacy, as there should be, the British government should pledge to oppose any further eastward expansion of NATO and should encourage a return to the Minsk-2 agreement, already signed by both sides, by all parties as a basis for ending the crisis in relations between Ukraine and Russia."

CodePink echoed the Stop the War Coalition's assessment of the ongoing conflict's historical roots, arguing that former President Donald Trump "made a terrible mistake in 2019 when he encouraged newly-elected President Zelensky of Ukraine to refuse to talk to [the Donetsk People's Republic] and [Luhansk People's Republic] leaders within the framework of the Minsk Protocol, as it requires."

"Trump instead began sending weapons to Ukraine, reversing Obama's policy, as if Ukraine could recover its lost territories by force," the group observed. "This is only one of a series of errors by U.S. leaders that have built up over time to contribute to today's crisis: broken commitments not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe; confirmation in 2008 that Ukraine would sooner or later join NATO; the significant but still largely secret U.S. role in the 2014 coup; and U.S. failure to support the Minsk Protocol, despite having no alternative plan beyond weapons shipments, sanctions, and brinkmanship."

Thus far, the U.S. has shown no willingness to budge on the key question of Ukraine's ambition to join NATO at some point in the future. The U.S. has said it would be willing to welcome Ukraine into the alliance, a position Russia views as a serious security threat.

Amid soaring military tensions and surging fears of a full-blown conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to meet Thursday in Geneva.

Anatol Lieven, a senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, argued Monday that during his meeting with Lavrov, Blinken should offer "the declaration of a moratorium on Ukrainian membership of NATO for a period of 20 years, allowing time for negotiations on a new security architecture for Europe as a whole, including Russia."

Lieven wrote that Blinken should also suggest building on a proposal "already made by the Biden administration to discuss the stationing of missiles in Europe" by offering "to return to the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, with enhanced controls and safeguards for both sides, if Russia will do the same."

"It is the task of responsible statesmen to make what is necessary possible, and great international crises should be the spur to such acts of statesmanship," wrote Lieven. "And if not now, when?"


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