UKRAINE UPDATE: NEGOTIATIONS NEEDED MORE THAN EVER
We start this week’s blog post with a resolution from the US Conference of Mayors, calling for negotiations with Russia:
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) calls on the President and Congress to exercise restraint in U.S. military engagement in Ukraine while maximizing diplomatic efforts to end the war as soon as possible by working with Ukraine and Russia to reach an immediate ceasefire and negotiate with mutual concessions in conformity with the United Nations Charter, knowing that the risks of wider war grow the longer the war continues.
Note that this excerpt is part of a comprehensive resolution in support of Mayors for Peace activities.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
The question we all need to ask ourselves, and our political representatives, is why a call for “maximizing diplomatic efforts to end the war as soon as possible” is not already bedrock US and NATO policy.
Latest Turkish peace efforts focus on Ukraine grain exports
The focus of the most recent Turkish peace facilitation efforts has centred on the urgent need to secure a safe sea lane for Ukraine grain exports and Russian fertilizer.
On June 6th Euronews quoted Foreign Minister Lavrov on the Russian position:
Russia will let grain exports out if Ukraine de-mines the water around its Black Sea ports.
There are 22 million tonnes of grain sitting in silos waiting to be shipped out of Ukraine. But many of the ports are heavily mined. Russia claims that Ukraine is responsible for mining the waters of the Black Sea off its southern coast. Ukraine says the opposite.
The UK Ministry of Defence states that the origin of the mines in the Black Sea is ”unclear and disputed”.
Turkey has offered demining assistance as well as the possibility of accompanying grain-carrying ships across the Black Sea, but experts like Peter Adams, of the International Maritime Organization, believe this is an extremely technically challenging task:
Even if the ports wanted to reopen tomorrow it would take some time until ships could enter or depart. Completely removing sea mines in the port areas would take several months.
Mistrust on both sides is so high that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is reported to have suggested that:
The answer lay in a United Nations proposal that the international community provide guarantees for the shipments that addressed security concerns on both sides.
For a good summary of this extremely fraught issue, see No Breakthrough in Russia, Turkey Talks on Sea Lane for Ukraine Grain Exports (farmpolicynews.illinois.edu, 9 June 2022).
Once again we find that negotiation efforts hinge at least in part on the issue of international security guarantees. And once again the silence of the US and NATO is deafening.
Canadian analysis: shared responsibility for security
For a masterful and incisive analysis of the western conduct of the war in Ukraine and the urgent need for a new strategy that focuses on a negotiated solution, see The Ukraine Crisis – More War or Shared Responsibility? (David Carment and Dani Beio, iaffairscanada.com, 6 June 2022).
In brief, the Carleton University authors contend:
America’s current policy is a badly planned, ad hoc and misguided effort to disrupt Europe’s status quo relationship with Russia such that rapprochement remains out of reach.
Of particular note is their understanding of the potential for security guarantees to
shift the focus towards ‘shared responsibility.’
These multilateral platforms … place EU countries like Germany and France as well as Ukraine and Russia, those with the most at stake in regional security, at the helm of conflict management.
For a rare voice of reason in the mainstream media, see UK journalist Simon Jenkins’ article: The west’s call for a total victory in Ukraine can only lead to ruinous escalation (theguardian.com, 9 June 2022). The subhead to that commentary reads:
Whatever settlement is reached to end the war, it will be a compromise, no matter the talk of unwavering support [for Ukraine].
For another sweeping analysis of the dynamics of the Ukraine war, which builds on his article featured in last week’s post, see Ukraine and Global Human Security (Paul Rogers, rethinkingsecurity.org.uk, 31 May 2022).
Peace as the forgotten goal of foreign policy?
In a thought-provoking review entitled: The Forgotten Crime of War Itself (nybooks.com, 21 April 2022), Jackson Lears discusses the new book by Samuel Moyn: Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2022).
Jackson Lears writes:
In his new book, Samuel Moyn argues that efforts to humanize war with smarter weaponry or sanctify it with moral cant have obscured the task of making peace the first goal of foreign policy.
Applying that analysis to the current crisis in Ukraine, Lears writes:
Moyn insists that preventing and ending war should be our primary foreign policy goals. Yet the US has failed to put a cease-fire and a neutral Ukraine at the forefront of its policy agenda there.
Without serious American diplomacy, the Ukraine war, too, may well become endless.
Canada and the likely illegal sale of seized Russian assets
Now international legal expert David Kleimann is raising a red flag about the Canadian legislation:
I believe that the legal question is relatively clear here, that such an action or such procedures would violate international law.
The CBC article by Janyce McGregor in which Kleimann is quoted outlines the legal basis for “countermeasures” taken by one state to hold another state accountable for illegal actions pursuant to Chapter 2 of the United Nations Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts.
Article 49 says countermeasures
shall, as far as possible, be taken in such a way as to permit the resumption of performance of the obligations in question.
This is because the purpose of the countermeasures must be to “induce the wrongdoing state to comply with its international obligations,” and therefore, in turn, must be reversible if a targeted state ends its unlawful conduct.
But this is manifestly not the case with the proposal to sell seized Russian assets.
Kleimann comments further:
Once those proceeds, and notably Russian assets, have been handed over to, say, the Ukrainian government, they’re lost. They cannot be returned.
Therefore there’s no way of inducing the resumption of performance of international obligations.
CBC News reports that it asked both the Canadian Finance and Foreign Ministers whether the Liberal government sought or received guidance on whether these measures comply with international law. Here is their comment on the answer they received:
The only response that specifically addressed CBC’s question was offered on background: all bills go through “rigorous legal analysis” before being introduced.
Surely it is obvious that seeking to hold Russia accountable for its violation of international law through illegal measures of our own not only raises serious moral questions but also sets a very dangerous precedent.
We go back to the law of the jungle, and that makes Western assets very much vulnerable to seizure, confiscation and using those proceeds for other purposes. And that is not necessarily something that Western countries would like to see, I imagine.
For the full CBC article, see Proposed powers to sell, redistribute Russian assets may violate international law, says legal expert (Janyce McGregor, cbc.ca, 6 June 2022).
For a related article, see Now is not the time to confiscate Russia’s central bank reserves (Bruegel.org, 16 May 2022). In a nutshell authors Joshua Kirschenbaum and Nicolas Véron argue:
The idea of confiscating the Bank of Russia’s frozen reserves is attractive to some, but at this stage in the Ukraine conflict confiscation would be counterproductive and likely illegal.
For a twitter comment by RI President Peggy Mason on the shocking position of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh see below:
.@theJagmeetSingh I actually heard you say on @CBCNews today that you support the sale of #Russian assets regardless of international law. As a lawyer you should know that mob justice is no justice at all.
— Peggy Mason (@MasonPeggy) June 7, 2022
We call upon the Government of Canada, a self-described champion of the rules-based international order, to ensure that any actions taken by Canada against Russia fully and strictly comply with international law.
We need to be vigorously debating the best way forward on Ukraine.
In our 27 May 2022 blog post we featured concerns by Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel on the stifling of debate over the Ukraine war, a situation journalist Matt Taibbi had dubbed an “intellectual no-fly zone.” Analyst Stavroula Pabst further elucidates this trend in an excellent article entitled Big Tech’s Purge of Dissenters Is Impeding An Anti-War Movement (Stavroula Pabst, readpassage.com, 9 June 2022).
Pabst outlines not only government actions — for example through the banning of major TV providers broadcasting RT and RT France — but also the actions by Twitter, PayPal and Facebook in suspending accounts associated with voices critiquing the mainstream narrative on the war in Ukraine.
Social media is one of the main venues for public discourse, yet it’s mediated by corporate entities that can’t be held accountable by the public.
these tech companies effectively have power over who can speak, in a corporate media environment where many important stories and perspectives already can’t make it to print.
Author Pabst also explores the impact of such one-sided coverage on Canadian public opinion:
When anti-intervention or otherwise diverse and critical voices are inhibited, the population is deprived of access to a range of perspectives and information vital to decision-making and participating in public life.
In sum, a lack of critical journalism due in part to the stifling of independent voices has helped lead Canadians to uncritically support the pro-war stances their government has taken.
And she ends the article with a reminder of the human cost of such one-sided coverage:
Unfortunately, those who will pay the heaviest price for unchecked calls to escalate conflict in this case are Ukrainian civilians.
More war casualties: the end of the Nordic ideal
For a critical view of the Finnish and Swedish decisions to abandon neutrality and fully embrace NATO, see The End of the Nordic Ideal (Heikki Patomäki, thenation.com, 7 June 2022). The article subhead reads:
Finland and Sweden long held that the Nordic social model was incompatible with NATO membership. The invasion of Ukraine has changed that.
Author Patomäki begins with a history of the Nordic social model of an “enlightened, anti-militaristic society” and its attempts to survive the neoliberal economic model that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union:
For every social problem, there was a neoliberal prescription based on austerity, tax cuts, privatization, outsourcing, and application of management theory.
On the impact of joining the European Union, Professor Patomäki writes:
Finland and Sweden were redefined as European and Western, as opposed to neutral Nordic countries, though the two identities coexisted for some time and perhaps still do.
In the meantime, amidst public debates over joining NATO, de facto cooperation with NATO steadily increased, with both Finland and Sweden participating in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, NATO’s peace support operations and NATO Host Nation support agreements.
Under the heading, A Further Shift to the Right, Patomäki writes:
Responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stem largely from these gradual changes in social understanding, media representations, and political rhetoric, preparing the ground for a further shift to the right of the entire political spectrum.
In this sense, the invasion and its impact on public opinion have only triggered the last step in the process of joining NATO, which began many years ago.
In his view NATO membership
signals the end of Nordic progressive internationalism—at least for now.
The professor contrasts the underpinnings of the Nordic social model to the dynamics driving NATO membership:
Whereas during the Cold War the Nordic countries achieved a pluralist security community among themselves and promoted solidarity and common good in their external relations, the decision to join NATO comes amid a militarization of society and a new belief in the capacity of military might to prevent war through superior deterrence….
Perhaps the most poignant part of his analysis is the following:
The concept of common good has vanished from these discussions, except in the form of hope that stability can be achieved through the principle of deterrence—inspiring fear in one who is feared. Its ultimate expression is mutually assured destruction.
From rationale to impact of joining NATO
Acknowledging that Russia’s war on Ukraine has “driven” Finland and Sweden into the arms of NATO, Patomäki considers the impact, writing:
Their applications to join are… another step in the escalation of tensions between Russia and NATO and—to a lesser extent—between Russia and the EU.
Worse still, in his view:
NATO membership entails a commitment to nuclear deterrence, which means we are unlikely to see any attempts at confidence-building or disarmament by Finland and Sweden in the foreseeable future.
The Nordic idea has all but vanished.
Weaponization of interdependence
In a particularly searing assessment, Patomäki writes:
Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO not only threatens to further escalate the NATO–Russia conflict, it increases the EU’s reliance on the US.
Even more seriously, it reinforces the division of the world into two camps, and the weaponization of interdependence.
Fearing that these developments are reminiscent of processes that led to World War I, Patomäki concludes:
At this point the possibility of a global military catastrophe can no longer be averted.
Even if it does not happen in the near future, [these developments] are part of a background trend whose results may become apparent in the next 10 to 20 years—unless the course of world history is altered, for example by a new non-aligned movement.
Finland and Sweden, with their decisions to join NATO, are now on the wrong side of history.
Nuclear Disarmament – City of Ottawa motion
We started this post with good news on an American mayoral initiative for peace and we end with a Canadian nuclear disarmament effort.
We are delighted to announce that the motion for the City of Ottawa to join the ICAN Cities Appeal passed unanimously at City Council on 8 June 2022.
Here is the resolution text:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Ottawa is deeply concerned about the grave threat that nuclear weapons pose to communities throughout the world. We firmly believe that our residents have the right to live in a world free from this threat. Any use of nuclear weapons, whether deliberate or accidental, would have catastrophic, far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for people and the environment.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Ottawa join with the other Canadian cities who have signed on to the Cities Appeal and support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on our governments to sign and ratify it.
Members of Ottawa City Council heard from countless Ottawa residents on the importance of their municipal representatives getting behind this resolution. We are proud to have been part of that successful lobbying effort.
Alas, Canada has not even committed to attending — as an Observer — the first meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in Vienna on 21-23 June even though Canadian diplomats will be participating in the 2022 Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons the day before the TPNW meeting.
We reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to attend as an Observer the first Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
And don’t forget to contact your local M.P. as well!
Photo credit: Wikimedia images (UN Vienna offices)
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