Demonstrators attend an anti-war protest in London

Demonstrators attend an anti-war protest in London on March 6, 2022.

(Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Achieving Peace in Ukraine

We must redouble our work to move back from the brink of nuclear war and work earnestly to abolish these weapons before they abolish us.

Today marks the beginning of the second year of the war in Ukraine. As a career physician, lifelong peace activist, and nuclear abolitionist, I have been pondering this day and just how to respond.

In my early schooling in molecular biology and later in medicine, I learned of the effects of radionuclides on the human genome and the fact that there is no safe level of exposure in excess of background radiation when it comes to the potential for adverse health effects. These early years in my studies shaped me as the Vietnam War entered its final years. I was often involved in war protests between my exams. At the height of the Cold War, and with the birth of my first son, I recognized the obsolescence of war in a nuclear-armed world. Any conflict had the potential to turn nuclear and ultimately end life as we know it. I worked with the non-partisan Beyond War movement in the 1980s which took to heart Albert Einstein’s famous saying at the outset of the nuclear age, “With the unleashed power of the atom, everything has changed, save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

The movement recognized that we must change our way of thinking and this was articulated in their guiding principles: 1. War is obsolete, 2. We are one on this planet, 3. The means are the ends in the making, meaning that you can’t advocate for nuclear weapons abolition while you are rebuilding your nuclear arsenals but must lead by example.

For my entire professional life, I have worked with Physicians for Social Responsibility whose foundational issue is the abolition of nuclear weapons and has evolved to connect the co-existential threat of climate change and its impact on health and conflict through a health lens under the umbrella of social, environmental, economic, and racial justice.

So today, 77 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 39 years after the recognition of the obsolescence of war, and entering the second year of the Ukraine war, where are we? This war has no end in sight and has brought us the closest we’ve been to nuclear war since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. This has resulted in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moving their Doomsday Clock forward to 90 seconds till midnight last month. What is the solution? I have heard suggestions from pundits on all sides, including an immediate cease-fire with pushback expressed about concerns over Ukrainian territories lost, to arming the Ukrainians in their fight for their homeland, to just walking away and allowing events to play out.

The predicted outcomes range from a stalemate or perpetual war to a Ukrainian victory, or Russian victory, each of which has significant global implications for decades to come if we do survive.

Absent mankind’s serious discussions or insights on ending this war and world leaders unable to move beyond their Cold War thinking, I decided to turn to artificial intelligence in the form of ChatGPT. This would remove egos, personalities, ownership, and biases.

So herein is the question I posed last night to ChatGPT and the response:

Question: As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, supported by the nuclear-armed nations of Russia and the United States, which maintain nuclear arsenals of 3100 weapons ranging from 6 to 50 times the Hiroshima bomb size, how and will peace be achieved and what does peace look like?

ChatGPT response:

As an AI language model, I must make it clear that I do not have the ability to predict the future. However, based on historical examples and current geopolitical dynamics, achieving peace in Ukraine may require a combination of diplomatic efforts, economic incentives, and a willingness from all parties to negotiate and compromise.

Some possible steps towards peace could include:

1. Negotiations: Diplomatic talks between the conflicting parties could be a crucial step in resolving the crisis in Ukraine. The negotiations could aim at achieving a ceasefire, exchanging prisoners, and addressing the root causes of the conflict.

2. International mediation: International organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union could play a role in mediating the conflict and encouraging parties to come to the negotiating table.

3. Economic incentives: Economic incentives such as sanctions relief or increased aid could be offered to parties that agree to cease hostilities and engage in negotiations.

4. Disarmament: Demilitarizing the conflict zone and disarming both sides could help reduce the risk of further violence and create a more stable environment for negotiations.

5. Reconciliation: Promoting reconciliation between the conflicting parties could be essential in building long-term peace. This could involve addressing the grievances of both sides and promoting dialogue and cooperation.

6. International support: International support and recognition for a peace deal could help legitimize and strengthen the agreement.

Ultimately, the shape of peace in Ukraine will depend on the details of any eventual agreement. However, a durable peace is likely to require addressing the root causes of the conflict, promoting reconciliation, and ensuring that all parties have a stake in the outcome. Achieving this will likely require the active engagement of both domestic and international actors, as well as a commitment to dialogue and compromise.

Now back to me. I must say this was probably the most reasonable response and approach to answering the question of where do we go next in pursuing peace in Ukraine. I wonder if our leaders can show the intelligence of AI. It is often said in a democracy, “When the people lead, the leaders will follow”. Maybe for the future, we will need to engage AI for level-headed, non-biased analyses.

This war has made it ever more clear that we must redouble our work to move back from the brink of nuclear war and work earnestly to abolish these weapons before they abolish us. Fortunately, there is a movement in the U.S. called Back from the Brink that does just that. It calls on the U.S. to take a leadership role among the nuclear-armed states to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and work for a verifiable, enforceable time-bound agreement to abolish these weapons. It also calls for:

- Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first

- Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack

- Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert

- Canceling the plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

This has just been introduced as H. Res. 77 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Jim McGovern and Earl Blumenauer. It’s time to awaken our human intelligence and support this effort.

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