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Quakers, Yemen, and Ukraine

Stephen Adams
On Perception (March 2023)


To the Editor: Why the stark difference between the Quaker responses to two tragic and dangerous ongoing wars in Yemen and Ukraine?

I start with the recent forthright Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) action imploring the US Congress to adopt House Joint Resolution 87 to end US support for one side of the war in Yemen.  The FCNL statement declares that “Now Congress has an historic opportunity to help end US participation in one of the most devastating wars in the world.” 

Now we must ask: Why Yemen and not Ukraine?

World peace is at stake here.  In my view, Ukraine has only one stable, prosperous future as a unified country.  It must become neutral.  Or else Ukraine must divide itself in two (as Czechoslovakia did), which would call for an internationally-administered plebiscite.

The West asserts that it is “up to Ukraine to decide.”  It is not.  The country is too strategically unimportant to the West to be aligned with NATO.  Yes, it’s important to many nations as a food supply, but that will continue if it stands as a neutral country (assuming continued war does not destroy it).  In contrast, Ukraine is deeply historically tied to Russia. 

The only appropriate step is joint action by the West and Russia together to effect Ukrainian neutrality as soon as possible, just as with Finland in 1940 and Austria in 1945.  Russia has given every indication that it would agree, but only if the West does too.  Otherwise, a ravaged Ukraine will become the West’s next Iraq/Afghanistan. 

Russia considers Ukraine to be part of its resurgent empire.  I don’t agree.  But given their long history of a shared political, religious, and cultural life, Russia does in fact see Ukraine as part of its legitimate sphere of influence.  We must deal with that fact.  It’s their Monroe Doctrine.

Fortunately, Russia is not the key to resolving this crisis.  Instead, the key is Ukrainian neutrality.

The prospect of NATO membership for Ukraine was the catalyst for the current crisis.   At the April 2008 Bucharest NATO summit, the West promised Ukraine (and Georgia) eventual NATO membership.  Russia then faced a critical dilemma:   Should it accept NATO next door, with its Article 5 duty for the US to fight Russia just on Ukraine’s request? Or should Russia try to secure neutrality for Ukraine? 

In November 2021, Russia declared its willingness to leave Ukraine alone if it declared its neutrality. In March 2022 Ukraine offered to do just that.

The geopolitical situation hasn’t changed.  But both superpowers have ramped up their war machines, as well as their compassion wars.  (Yes, Russia is still a superpower.  It has enough nukes to wipe out the world.)

As is Russia’s, the West’s role in this crisis is real.   We’ve refused to rule out NATO membership for Ukraine. We’ve announced that we won’t negotiate directly with Russia, superpower-to-superpower. Instead, we’re saying there will be no deal without Ukraine’s consent, essentially giving Ukraine a veto.  (The world did not give a veto to either Finland or Austria.). We’re letting Ukraine unilaterally prevent a high-level resolution of a world-threatening problem.

– Stephen Adams, Gila Friends Meeting, Silver City, New Mexico (IMYM)


Ukraine NATO peace making

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