OPINION: Diplomatic surge is needed to prevent endless war and reduce the nuclear danger in Ukraine

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine War [February 24, 2022], Russia appears to be undertaking a major offensive while Ukraine is planning a counter-offensive. Each side appears to think it can clinch a clear military victory, and force the other side to accept that it can’t win.

But the reality is that a stalemate has been reached that is causing immense suffering on each side, with particularly brutal destruction by Russia of civilian targets in Ukraine, including energy facilities, apartment complexes, hospitals, and even schools. The momentum Ukraine saw up through the fall seems to have dissipated.

Of grave concern to the whole planet is that Russia has a policy that if they perceive an existential threat, they are willing to use so-called tactical nuclear weapons — which are short range for battlefield use, and are less powerful than long range nuclear weapons — to intimidate an opponent to back off and make concessions.

In response to this increased danger of nuclear war, experts at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently moved its Doomsday Clock forward to 90 seconds to midnight — the closest it has ever been!

Given escalatory steps each side has recently taken, there is an acute threat that the Ukraine War will turn into yet another endless war. Russia is using long range missiles to destroy civilian infrastructure in blatant violation of international law. The U.S. and Germany have agreed to send advanced tanks to Ukraine, to enable their planned counter-offensive.

This means an increased risk of turning into a NATO-Russia war that would threaten unthinkable destruction throughout Europe, as well as the first use of nuclear weapons in war since 1945. The entire world has a stake in preventing this nightmare scenario.

The previous endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended up causing irreparable harm to large parts of the Middle East and have been followed by major instability in both those countries. But neither involved the danger of the use of nuclear weapons, despite the false assertion that Iraq supposedly had nuclear weapons.

As long as the Ukraine war is allowed to continue, the danger of the use of nuclear weapons remains acute. The only “off ramp” that will certainly prevent the use of nuclear weapons, which could potentially escalate all the way to global nuclear annihilation, is to engage in a diplomatic surge to rapidly end the war.

The current Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Milley, and his predecessor, Admiral Mullen have both proposed such diplomacy.

Some realistic diplomatic approaches are being suggested. For example, the promise of long-term American support for Ukraine’s security could be linked to its willingness to open negotiations. The prospect of some sanctions against Putin’s regime being lifted could be linked to Russia’s willingness to offer concessions Ukraine might accept. Another possibility is for a neutral country to host talks, preferably during a ceasefire, on a long-term truce and steps toward peace, with the UN as the facilitator.

If we wish to avoid catastrophe, we must support urgent and effective diplomacy to bring the year-old Ukraine war to a rapid end, save untold lives being lost in another endless war, and protect humanity from the danger of nuclear holocaust.

Those interested in participating in this critical effort to prevent the very real danger of nuclear annihilation are urged to visit peacecoalition.org.

The Rev. Robert Moore – an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ – has been Executive Director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action since September 1981.

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