Buildup to potential conflict in Ukraine: a tragic waste of precious time, energy, and resources

BRATTLEBORO — Some thoughts about Ukraine:

For the past few weeks I've heard pretty much nothing but sensationalist, war-fever stories in the U.S. press, including NPR and PBS (two of my main news sources).

Even Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, stated recently that the media were exaggerating the threat of war. But of course it sells papers and boosts listener and viewer ratings.

On Feb. 1, Amy Goodman's news show, Democracy Now!, devoted the entire hour to Ukraine. She interviewed peace activist Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and Reiner Braun, a peace activist in Germany. Here are a few of the things they said.

First, while we hear daily about 100,000 or more Russian troops amassed on Ukraine's border, Herr Braun pointed out that they are actually about 350 kilometers from the border.

In contrast, he said, “there are in total, 350,000 NATO troops in Europe, many of whom are only 150 kilometers from Saint Petersburg, Russia's historical city.” Juan González, Democracy Now! co-host, also noted that the U.S. alone still has 320,000 troops in Europe.

Second, NATO has Russia surrounded with hundreds, if not thousands, of nuclear missiles. Imagine if Russia had that capability in Canada and/or Mexico. We'd go nuts! We came damned close to a nuclear war over just a few missiles in Cuba, remember?

Braun noted the Russia Ukraine border is 1,300 miles long. With the real possibility of NATO nuclear missiles all along that border, it's no wonder Putin's drawing the line in an attempt to better ensure his country's security.

Therefore, it stands to reason that he's more than justified in his primary demand that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO. For that matter, why should NATO exist now at all?

Ask any big arms manufacturer; they'll tell you why. The U.S., of course, is leading this aggressive charge, not Europe. Our obsession and reliance on firearms - great and small, at home and around the world - is, I believe, nothing short of pathological and, in contrast to civilized European or Latin American nations, an American disease.

Might I also point out Russia has a history of enduring two catastrophic, traumatic invasions from Europe - Napoleon's France and Nazi Germany - resulting in untold misery and millions upon millions of deaths.

Third, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Secretary of State James Baker, speaking for President Reagan, pledged to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would move “not one inch eastward.” Since then, NATO's membership has expanded from 16 to 30 countries, most or all east of the original line, to further surround and severely intimidate Russia. So much for that pledge.

True, Russia, in response, annexed Crimea, which used to be part of the old Soviet Union (and part of Russia?). But we once annexed a big chunk of Mexico. And what about the Philippines, Vietnam, Chile, Panama, Grenada, Guatemala, and Iraq just for starters? We didn't annex them, but we sure as hell used military force to ensure a government to our liking in order to serve our strategic and economic interests.

Again, pretty much all Putin is asking for is not to be even further threatened militarily by NATO.

In a world of catastrophic humanitarian and ecological problems, I wish I knew the words to better express my deep frustration with such a terrible - indeed, tragic - waste of very precious time, energy, and resources.

Well, at least Republicans and Democrats are finally united about something! Who said bipartisanship is dead?

Lastly, according to Medea Benjamin, only U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal from Seattle, the head of the Progressive Caucus, and Rep. Barbara Lee from California have openly criticized Biden's handling of the situation. If I'm not mistaken, Barbara Lee was also the lone member of Congress to vote against invading Afghanistan after 9/11.

I can only hope that Vermont's legislative delegation - Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Rep. Peter Welch - will display some of the same morality and courage and join them speaking out on this issue.

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