Members of the New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons gathered in Manhattan on August 6, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Steps to Encourage Peace in Ukraine

This war could devolve into a nuclear war which could destroy civilization.

Chimps engage in war. Humans have likely engaged in war, at least intermittently, since the beginning of our life as a species. But wars vary dramatically in their conduct, scope, and effects. I am more afraid of this war in Ukraine than I have been of any war in my life, and I'm 72. This war could devolve into a nuclear war which could destroy civilization. We need to be creative, thoughtful, and move forward with humility, knowing that we all have areas of ignorance and that we need one another.

We need to work with Russia to free our world from nuclear weapons.

Russia is not the only country to threaten the use of nuclear weapons. We have, too. Russia is not the only country to invade another nation. So have we: quite recently with the invasion of Iraq. The result of that invasion was disastrous, especially for the people of Iraq.

I've often read the quote, "The first casualty of war is truth." But I wonder if there aren't other first casualties including humility and the failure to see that the "enemy" is just as human as we are. If we can go forward with humility and compassion, then possible steps of reconciliation are more likely to be discovered.

Fortunately, Ukraine and Russia are negotiating. They are the countries that need to work out a peace agreement. But other nations can nurture peace.

One of Russia's concerns is NATO. I recently re-read parts of "The Button" by William Perry and Tom Collina and was reminded that on February 9, 1990, President George H. W. Bush's Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviet Union's leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would expand "not one inch eastward." Gorbachev received further reassurance that NATO would not expand eastward by the leaders of France, West Germany, the U.K., and NATO itself. But this reassurance was not formalized into a treaty. In 1990 NATO consisted of 16 nations. Since then, NATO has added 14 new members, all east of Germany.

The U.S. and Russia each has over 5,000 nuclear weapons in their inventories. China comes in third with 350. Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey, all NATO members that do not have their own nuclear weapons, have small numbers of U.S. weapons on bases in their countries.

Thoughtful people seeking to protect all that they love joined together and created the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and then nurtured negotiations that lead to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which went into force on Jan. 22, 2021. None of the NATO countries has yet signed the TPNW.

I encourage the U.S. to take these two steps: First, to talk with the governments of the five NATO countries which house those comparatively few U.S. nuclear weapons and remove those weapons from those countries. Second, to change our attitude towards the TPNW. We have said that we support abolishing nuclear weapons. e frequently repeat Reagan and Gorbachev's affirmation that "Nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought." Now we need to again act on that understanding.

Only three countries in NATO have their own nuclear weapons, France, the U.K. and the U.S. If the U.S. changes its attitude towards the TPNW, surely many of those 27 NATO countries which do not have their own nuclear weapons would welcome the opportunity to work with the TPNW to help our global civilization survive.

The U.S. needs Russia. Further, we are bound to one another. We share the same planet. Russian musicians and authors are part of our very being. We need to work with Russia to free our world from nuclear weapons. If the U.S. can take the two steps I've suggested above, maybe Russia can see that we are serious about global peace. And maybe President Vladimir Putin will decide he can work with us and need not continue his attempt to dominate or carve up Ukraine.

We humans have vulnerabilities that have way to often resulted in war. But we are not chimps. We can learn to listen to one another, respect the truth that each of us holds, and together find paths that lead to peace.

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