Primary work done by Randy La Prairie, with other KNOW members input
This is not an official KNOW position paper, but is a draft meant to bring out historical events, foster discussion and offer a viewpoint which is not heard on the corporate media. Send any comments to NewsFromKNOW@kzoo4peace.org.
Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War (KNOW) Statement on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
KNOW condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the attacks on civilians and civilian targets. And we demand that Russian withdraw its forces from Ukraine. KNOW also condemns Russia’s annexation of territories in eastern Ukraine, an action which is illegal under international law.
KNOW stands in solidarity with Ukrainian people resisting Russian aggression and with Russians who oppose the invasion and have protested against it. As to our responsibilities, we believe that we must do everything in our power to help the Ukrainian refugees to find shelter, even a new home, if need be, and food, water, and other support.
While we condemn Russia’s invasion and support the Ukrainian people’s right to resist this invasion, we also believe that it is necessary to understand the broader context in which the invasion occurred. Such an understanding is necessary to prevent similar outbreaks of war in the future, lest misunderstandings about the present become established “truths” used to justify military escalation and aggression in the future.
In particular, we believe that it is necessary to contest President Biden’s claim that the Russian invasion was “unprovoked.” Instead, we believe that NATO expansion throughout the last three decades, supported by the United States, and the prospect that Ukraine would join NATO, were perceived as existential threats to Russia by its government and many of its people. Given NATO’s history of waging illegal or otherwise unjust wars and overthrowing governments that were designated official enemies by Western governments, we believe that this fear was not wholly irrational, even if it does not morally or legally justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Moreover, we also believe that it is important to recognize that the United States and other Western governments supported a coup in Ukraine in 2014. The coup overthrew a democratically elected government in Ukraine that was planning to accept an economic aid package from Russia and which would have strengthened the economic and political relationship between the two countries. But the coup government rejected the Russian aid in favor of a European aid program and moving Ukraine closer to military alliance with the United States and NATO.
The 2014 coup precipitated unrest in Crimea and the eastern Donbas region, leading to Crimea’s incorporation into Russia and to the declaration of autonomous republics in the latter region. The annexation of Crimea was supported by a referendum in which 97 percent of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, while Luhansk and Donetsk initially sought greater autonomy from the central government in Kiev, which it refused to grant, preferring instead a protracted civil war. With tacit support from Washington, Kiev refused to negotiate with eastern Ukrainians (in particular, within the diplomatic framework established by the Minsk II agreements). In support of this effort, since 2014, the United States has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in military support to fight a civil war against eastern Ukraine, and more recently, to fight Russia inside Ukraine.
The Russian invasion on February 24th was immediately precipitated by refusal of the United States to negotiate with Russia about its security concerns regarding Ukrainian incorporation into NATO in meetings in December 2021, and January 2022. Non-negotiation on this issue became the official policy of the United States in September 2021, as explained in the “Joint Statement on the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership,” and extended in the November 2021 charter agreement with Ukraine. These agreements effectively made Ukraine a de facto member of NATO and were premised on a refusal to recognize Crimea’s secession. Given refusal to negotiate with Russia on these key issues, and increased military support for Ukraine, Putin and his circle likely saw no alternative to an invasion in early 2022.
KNOW members believe that this history is relevant to understanding the Ukraine War, and that it is imperative to understand our government’s role in the world in creating conflicts. The mass media in the United States have largely failed to provide this context, allowing our government to claim a moral high ground in condemning Russia and ignore our own role in creating and prolonging this crisis. This is why independent media sources such as DemocracyNow!, Jacobin, and the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft are so important.
While KNOW supports the right of Ukrainians to defend themselves, we believe that the best course of action for the United States is not to further arm Ukraine against Russia—which will only prolong this dangerous war and create more bloodshed, and possibly lead to nuclear war—but to call for negotiations, as China has recently done. It is likely that the negotiation process will have to involve recognition on the part of the Biden administration Russia’s security concerns about NATO and US actions in Ukraine, and relaxation of the assumption that the United States can and should be able to determine world affairs without regard for the interests of other nations. Negotiations can only occur if there is mutual recognition and understanding of each side’s legitimate security concerns.