Discover more from Carl Beijer
Шлях до миру: A five-step path to progress in Ukraine
The US can fight Russia's criminal invasion of Ukraine without military intervention, and without negotiating on Ukraine's behalf.
It’s a grim testament to the militarization of American culture that so many advocates for war in Ukraine can’t even think of hypothetical alternatives. The argument is rarely “that is unlikely to work” or “that might end the war, but intervention is still a better strategy”; instead, hawks simply insist that war is the only option, and that if you oppose NATO’s intervention, you must logically support Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine.
To be fair, however, critics of the war have not done as good as job as we should of articulating alternative proposals beyond vague appeals to “diplomacy”. So here, I would like to lay out a general five-point approach to ending Russia’s criminal attack on Ukraine without NATO intervention, and without abridging the right every Ukrainian has to defend themselves.
1. Immediately and unconditionally end sanctions on Russia and launch legal defense and humanitarian aid programs for Russian war refugees. Sanctions against Russia have done nothing to end the war, and wealthy Russians have predictably found ways to mitigate their most damaging consequences; their primary casualty thus far has been Russia’s powerless working class and migrant workers from other countries. Sanctions should be ended as the cruel and useless policy that they are. They have also created obstacles for war refugees who have attempted to flee conscription or punishment from Russian authorities for their opposition to the war, and much of Europe in particular has failed honor their international obligations to accept war refugees. The United States should launch and fund programs to protect these refugees and defend their legal rights as such.
2. Immediately propose a NATO withdrawal from eastern Ukraine in exchange for a ceasefire outside of it. This is not, to be clear, an agreement for a ceasefire within Russian-controlled territories; Ukraine retains its sovereign right to self-defense within its national borders, and NATO has no right to negotiate that away. But what NATO can negotiate is its own participation in this war, and by securing a ceasefire in Ukrainian-controlled territories it would save millions of lives and limit the war to a smaller arena that Ukraine can, at its discretion, more easily defend.
3. Redirect all Ukrainian military funding into a dollar-for-dollar war reparations program for Ukrainians and Americans. The US government has a debt to Ukrainians for its role in creating this war. We also have a debt to the American working class that has paid for this war. To address this, the US government should invest funds proportional to its military aid investments so far into direct war reparations to the working class in both countries.
4. Bribe Russia and Ukraine into ending the war. Instead of using penalties and other other coercive measures to pressure the Russian and Ukrainian governments into accepting a settlement that they don’t want, the US should work with the international community to create incentives for ending the conflict. Easy examples include things like direct investment, trade deals, immigration deals, and so on.
5. Protect Ukraine with bilateral demilitarization agreements between the US and Russia. There are two logical ways to increase Ukraine’s military strength relative to Russia. One is to do things like arm Ukraine, fold it into NATO, and take other measures to strengthen it militarily. The other, of course, is to get Russia to demilitarize, which it has historically been willing to do through bilateral demilitarization treaties with the US. These approaches clearly have identical consequences for Ukraine but the latter has the dual advantage of de-escalation and removing any conflicts of interest for the US.
All five of these proposals are practical, specific, viable, and grounded in de-escalation strategies with a strong historical record of success. They are also, by the way, pretty close to what the US will eventually end up doing anyway. We would do well to save as many lives as we can by adopting this strategy quickly and deliberately rather than waiting for the mounting death toll to force us into it.
Carl Beijer is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.