the Biden administration is sending more troops and weapons to
inflame the Ukraine conflict and Congress is pouring more fuel on the
fire, the American people are on a totally different track.
December 2021 poll
found that a plurality of Americans in both political parties prefer
to resolve differences over Ukraine through diplomacy. Another
found that a plurality of Americans (48 percent) would oppose going
to war with Russia should it invade Ukraine, with only 27 percent
favoring U.S. military involvement.
conservative Koch Institute, which commissioned that poll, concluded
United States has no vital interests at stake in Ukraine and
continuing to take actions that increase the risk of a confrontation
with nuclear-armed Russia is therefore not necessary for our
security. After more than two decades of endless war abroad, it is
not surprising there is wariness among the American people for yet
another war that wouldn’t make us safer or more prosperous.”
most anti-war popular voice on the right
is Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has been lashing out against the
hawks in both parties, as have other anti-interventionist
the left, the anti-war sentiment was in full force on February 5,
when over 75
took place from Maine to Alaska. The protesters, including union
activists, environmentalists, healthcare workers and students,
denounced pouring even more money into the military when we have so
many burning needs at home.
would think Congress would be echoing the public sentiment that a war
with Russia is not in our national interest. Instead, taking our
nation to war and supporting the gargantuan military budget seem to
be the only issues that both parties agree on.
Republicans in Congress are criticizing
for not being tough enough (or for focusing on Russia instead of
China) and most Democrats are afraid
to oppose a Democratic president or be smeared as Putin apologists
(remember, Democrats spent four years under Trump demonizing Russia).
parties have bills calling for draconian sanctions on Russia and
expedited “lethal aid” to Ukraine. The Republicans are
advocating for $450
in new military shipments; the Democrats are one-upping them with a
price tag of $500
Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee have called for negotiations and
de-escalation. But others in the Caucus–such as Reps. David
Cicilline and Andy Levin–are co-sponsors
of the dreadful anti-Russia bill, and Speaker Pelosi is fast-tracking
the bill to expedite weapons shipments to Ukraine.
sending more weapons and imposing heavy-handed sanctions can only
ratchet up the resurgent U.S. Cold War on Russia, with all its
attendant costs to American society: lavish military spending
desperately needed social spending; geopolitical divisions
undermining international cooperation
for a better future; and, not least, increased
risks of a nuclear war that could end life on Earth as we know it.
those looking for real solutions, we have good news.
regarding Ukraine are not limited to President Biden and Secretary
Blinken’s failed efforts to browbeat the Russians. There is
another already existing diplomatic track for peace in Ukraine, a
well-established process called the
Minsk Protocol, led by France and Germany and supervised
by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
civil war in Eastern Ukraine broke out in early 2014, after the
people of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces unilaterally declared
independence from Ukraine as the Donetsk (DPR)
and Luhansk (LPR)
People’s Republics, in response to the U.S.-backed
in Kiev in February 2014. The post-coup government formed new
units to assault the breakaway region, but the separatists fought
back and held their territory, with some covert support from Russia.
Diplomatic efforts were launched to resolve the conflict. The
was signed by the “Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine”
(Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE) in September 2014. It reduced the
violence, but failed to end the war. France, Germany, Russia and
Ukraine also held a meeting in Normandy in June 2014 and this group
became known as the “Normandy Contact Group” or the
these parties continued to meet and negotiate, together with the
leaders of the self-declared Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR) People’s
Republics in Eastern Ukraine, and they eventually signed the Minsk
agreement on February 12, 2015. The terms were similar to the
original Minsk Protocol, but more detailed and with more buy-in from
the DPR and LPR.
Minsk II agreement was unanimously approved by the U.N. Security
on February 17, 2015. The United States voted in favor of the
resolution, and 57 Americans are currently serving as ceasefire
monitors with the OSCE
key elements of the 2015 Minsk II Agreement were:
ceasefire and buffer zone have held well enough for seven years to
prevent a return to full-scale civil war, but organizing elections
in Donbas that both sides will recognize has proved more difficult.
The DPR and LPR postponed elections several times between 2015
and 2018. They held primary elections in 2016 and, finally, a general
election in November 2018. But neither Ukraine, the United States nor
the European Union recognized the results, claiming the election was
not conducted in compliance with the Minsk Protocol.
its part, Ukraine has not made the agreed-upon constitutional changes
to grant greater autonomy to the separatist regions. And the
separatists have not allowed the central government to retake control
of the international border between Donbas and Russia, as specified
in the agreement.
Contact Group (France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine) for the Minsk
Protocol has met periodically since 2014, and is meeting regularly
throughout the current crisis, with its next
scheduled for February 10 in Berlin. The OSCE’s 680 unarmed
civilian monitors and 621 support staff in Ukraine have also
continued their work throughout this crisis. Their
issued February 1, documented a 65% decrease
in ceasefire violations compared to
two months ago.
increased U.S. military and diplomatic support since 2019 has
encouraged President Zelensky to pull back from Ukraine’s
commitments under the Minsk Protocol, and to reassert unconditional
Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea and Donbas. This has raised
credible fears of a new escalation of the civil war, and U.S. support
for Zelensky’s more aggressive posture has undermined the
existing Minsk-Normandy diplomatic process.
recent statement that “panic”
in Western capitals is economically destabilizing Ukraine suggests
that he may now be more aware of the pitfalls in the more
confrontational path his government adopted, with U.S. encouragement.
current crisis should be a wake-up call to all involved that the
Minsk-Normandy process remains the only viable framework for a
peaceful resolution in Ukraine. It deserves full international
support, including from U.S. Members of Congress, especially in light
on NATO expansion, the U.S. role in the 2014 coup,
and now the panic over fears of a Russian invasion that Ukrainian
officials say are overblown.
a separate, albeit related, diplomatic track, the United States and
Russia must urgently address the breakdown in their bilateral
relations. Instead of bravado and one upmanship, they must restore
and build on previous disarmament
agreements that they have cavalierly abandoned, placing the whole
world in existential
U.S. support for the Minsk Protocol and the Normandy Format would
also help to decouple Ukraine’s already thorny and complex
internal problems from the larger geopolitical problem of NATO
expansion, which must primarily be resolved by the United States,
Russia and NATO.
United States and Russia must not use the people of Ukraine as pawns
in a revived Cold War or as chips in their negotiations over NATO
expansion. Ukrainians of all ethnicities deserve genuine support to
resolve their differences and find a way to live together in one
country – or to separate peacefully, as other people have been
allowed to do in Ireland, Bangladesh, Slovakia and throughout the
former U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia.
then-U.S. Ambassador to Moscow (now CIA Director) William Burns
warned his government that dangling the prospect of NATO membership
for Ukraine could lead to civil war and present Russia with a crisis
on its border in which it could be forced to intervene.
a cable published by WikiLeaks, Burns wrote, “Experts tell us
that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in
Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian
community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving
violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would
have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want
to have to face.”
Burns’s warning in 2008, successive U.S. administrations have
plunged headlong into the crisis he predicted. Members of Congress,
especially members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, can play
a leading role in restoring sanity to U.S. policy on Ukraine by
championing a moratorium on Ukraine’s membership in NATO and a
reinvigoration of the Minsk Protocol, which the Trump and Biden
administrations have arrogantly tried to upstage and upend with
weapons shipments, ultimatums and panic.
on Ukraine are all headed with the critical message: “Facts
Matter.” Members of Congress should embrace that simple
principle and educate themselves about the Minsk-Normandy diplomacy.
This process has maintained relative peace in Ukraine since 2015, and
remains the U.N.-endorsed, internationally agreed-upon framework for
a lasting resolution.
the U.S. government wants to play a constructive role in Ukraine, it
should genuinely support this already existing framework for a
solution to the crisis, and end the heavy-handed U.S. intervention
that has only undermined and delayed its implementation. And our
elected officials should start listening to their own constituents,
who have absolutely no interest in going to war with Russia.