Yves here. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies highlight a New York Times advertisement as an important sign that the idea of seeking peace in Ukraine is getting more traction in policy circles.
While it is true that the realists are getting their day in court, that is a necessary but far from sufficient position for a change in US and NATO positions. For instance, a New York Times advertisement is actually a sign of weakness. It means the authors could not get an open letter or article published in a serious policy venue.
Sadly, far more indicative of well-place insider thinking is a piece in the current Foreign Affairs, Beyond a Ukraine Offensive, by Michael Kofman and Rob Lee. The article carefully manages expectations down for the long-hyped Ukraine counteroffensive, and instead urges the West to build the capacity to support what sure sounds like an open-ended conflict. Note this is at odds with the findings of a Rand paper, that argued that a long war in Ukraine would be bad for the US. It also presumably does not comport with the views of the presumed incoming head of the Joint Chiefs, Charles Q. Brown, who is a China hawk and would presumably want to back burner the Ukraine conflict. However, it very much conforms to the plan voiced by Anthony Blinken months ago, via a Washington Post interview with David Ignatius, that he was already looking beyond the current Ukraine defeat struggle and considering how to keep arming Ukraine to get at Russia.
And this is before the wee problem, that even if the current bunch in the Administration were turfed out, Russia knows it can’t trust the West to keep any deal and therefore can’t afford to negotiate. Even before the Minsk Accords betrayal, Putin had commented on the inability of past US presidents to deliver on deals agreed between them and concluded a permanent bureaucracy was really running the show. And it’s not friendly to Russia.
By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, published by OR Books in November 2022. Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq
On May 16, 2023, TheNew York Times published a full-page advertisement signed by 15 U.S. national security expertsabout the war in Ukraine. It was headed “The U.S. Should Be a Force for Peace in the World,” and was drafted by the Eisenhower Media Network.
While condemning Russia’s invasion, the statement provides a more objective account of the crisis in Ukraine than the U.S. government or TheNew York Times has previously presented to the public, including the disastrous U.S. role in NATO expansion, the warnings ignored by successive U.S. administrations, and the escalating tensions that ultimately led to war.
The statement calls the war an “unmitigated disaster,” and urges President Joe Biden and Congress “to end the war speedily through diplomacy, especially given the dangers of military escalation that could spiral out of control.”
If the U.S. persists in backing the plan for a Ukrainian offensive, instead of encouraging Zelenskyy to seize the moment for diplomacy, it will share considerable responsibility for the failure to seize the chance for peace, and for the appalling and ever-rising human costs of this war.
This call for diplomacy by wise, experienced former insiders—U.S. diplomats, military officers, and civilian officials—would have been a welcome intervention on any one of the past 442 days of this war. Yet their appeal now comes at an especially critical moment in the war.
On May 10, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he is delaying Ukraine’s long-awaited “spring offensive” to avoid “unacceptable” losses to Ukrainian forces. Western policy has repeatedly put Zelenskyy in near-impossiblepositions, caught between the need to show signs of progress on the battlefield to justify further Western support and arms deliveries and, on the other hand, the shocking human cost of continued war represented by the fresh graveyards where tens of thousands of Ukrainians now lie buried.
It is not clear how a delay in the planned Ukrainian counter-attack would prevent it leading to unacceptable Ukrainian losses when it finally occurs, unless the delay in fact leads to scaling back and calling off many of the operations that have been planned. Zelenskyy appears to be reaching a limit in terms of how many more of his people he is willing to sacrifice to satisfy Western demands for signs of military progress to hold together the Western alliance and maintain the flow of weapons and money to Ukraine.
Zelenskyy’s predicament is certainly the fault of Russia’s invasion, but also of his April 2022 deal with the devil in the shape of then-U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson promised Zelenskyy that the U.K. and the “collective West” were “in it for the long run” and would back him to recover all of Ukraine’s former territory, just as long as Ukraine stopped negotiating with Russia.
Johnson was never in a position to fulfill that promise and, since he was forced to resign as prime minister, he has endorsed a Russian withdrawal only from the territory it invaded since February 2022, not a return to pre-2014 borders. Yet that compromise was exactly what he talked Zelenskyy out of agreeing to in April 2022, when most of the war’s dead were still alive and the framework of a peace agreement was on the table at diplomatic talks in Turkey.
Zelenskyy has tried desperately to hold his Western backers to Johnson’s overblown promise. But short of direct U.S. and NATO military intervention, it seems that no quantity of Western weapons can decisively break the stalemate in what has degenerated into a brutal war of attrition, fought mainly by artillery and trench and urban warfare.
An American general bragged that the West has supplied Ukraine with 600 different weapons systems, but this itself creates problems. For example, the different 105 mm guns sent by the U.K., France, Germany, and the U.S. all use different shells. And each time heavy losses force Ukraine to re-form survivors into new units, many of them have to be retrained on weapons and equipment they’ve never used before.
Despite U.S. deliveries of at least six types of anti-aircraft missiles—Stinger, NASAMS, Hawk, Rim-7, Avenger, and at least one Patriot missile battery—a leaked Pentagon document revealed that Ukraine’s Russian-built S-300 and Buk anti-aircraft systems still make up almost 90% of its main air defenses. NATO countries have searched their weapons stockpiles for all the missiles they can provide for those systems, but Ukraine has nearly exhausted those supplies, leaving its forces newly vulnerable to Russian air strikes just as it prepares to launch its new counter-attack.
Since at least June 2022, Biden and other U.S. officials have acknowledged that the war must end in a diplomatic settlement, and have insisted that they are arming Ukraine to put it “in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.” Until now, they have claimed that each new weapons system they have sent and each Ukrainian counter-offensive have contributed to that goal and left Ukraine in a stronger position.
But the leaked Pentagon documents and recent statements by U.S. and Ukrainian officials make it clear that Ukraine’s planned spring offensive, already delayed into summer, would lack the previous element of surprise and encounter stronger Russian defenses than the offensives that recovered some of its lost territory last fall.
One leaked Pentagon document warned that “enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive,” concluding that it would probably make smaller territorial gains than the fall offensives did.
How can a new offensive with mixed results and higher casualties put Ukraine in a stronger position at a currently non-existent negotiating table? If the offensive reveals that even huge quantities of Western military aid have failed to give Ukraine military superiority or reduce its casualties to a sustainable level, it could very well leave Ukraine in a weaker negotiating position, instead of a stronger one.
Meanwhile, offers to mediate peace talks have been pouring in from countries all over the world, from the Vatican to China to Brazil. It has been six months since the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley suggested publicly, after Ukraine’s military gains last fall, that the moment had come to negotiate from a position of strength. “When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it,” he said.
It would be doubly or triply tragic if, on top of the diplomatic failures that led to the war in the first place and the U.S. and U.K. undermining peace negotiations in April 2022, the chance for diplomacy that General Milley wanted to seize is lost in the forlorn hope of attaining an even stronger negotiating position that is not really achievable.
If the U.S. persists in backing the plan for a Ukrainian offensive, instead of encouraging Zelenskyy to seize the moment for diplomacy, it will share considerable responsibility for the failure to seize the chance for peace, and for the appalling and ever-rising human costs of this war.
The experts who signed TheNew York Times statement recalled that, in 1997, 50 senior U.S. foreign policy experts warned President Bill Clinton that expanding NATO was a “policy error of historic proportions” and that, unfortunately, Clinton chose to ignore the warning. Biden, who is now pursuing his own policy error of historic proportions by prolonging this war, would do well to take the advice of today’s policy experts by helping to forge a diplomatic settlement and making the United States a force for peace in the world.
There’s another problem for Zelensky. If he negotiates now Kiev will have to contend with the economic and social costs of the conflict which are currently covered up by war propaganda and martial law.
Johnson and Biden misplayed this all about as badly as it could be misplayed. In April 2022 the sanctions could have stayed on, the anti-Russian rhetoric could have continued, Zelensky could be a hero of resistance and Ukraine could have been a black hole for money and corruption. Now nobody in Kiev or the west can stop it because they’ll lose face and the true contours of Ukraine’s state will be revealed.
As it is there are reports that the $48B set aside before the midterm seating that was going to last all year so Biden didn’t have to ask for more is all but gone. And that was before the huge strikes on accumulated munitions and the loss of a Patriot system. Biden’s got himself in a corner almost as tight as Zelensky.
“…reports that the $48B set aside before the midterm seating that was going to last all year so Biden didn’t have to ask for more is all but gone.”
MIC slush fund. Was it a trillion the lost and can’t account for? So then just “find” it, order Fed to digitally create it out of thin air, and Ukraine gets a trillion. Jerome can call it WE (Warmongering Easing) instead of QE.
There is a nice analysis of the FA piece on Simplicius’ substack, for an ‘under the hood’ look.
Sadly I couldn’t find the experts’ ad on the NYT website. I hope they didn’t pay much for it.
I could not find the word ‘peace’ on today’s main web page either, which kind of sums it all up.
The 1997 piece – https://www.armscontrol.org/act/1997-06/arms-control-today/opposition-nato-expansion
I think this is from the NYT –
It is true that a simple advertisement doesn’t give much hope for some common sense returning to the Western leadership. On the contrary the Collective West is doubling down and now, for instance, Europe is running wild with the anti-Chinese rhetoric which possibly serves the purpose to distract from the Ukrainian disaster for a while. The “let’s put Ukraine in a stronger position” from last summer is now reduced to let’s see how much harm can we inflict in the Russians with a few missiles here and there. It is increasingly difficult to find any way for them to save face in Ukraine except by causing the most harm they can without any real strategic improvement. Just pray for some magical regime change in Russia. We keep digging our own hole for no good reason and I see little chances by which someone in a position of power is able to stop the debacle. Depressing, IMO. Some said that the counteroffensive and its possible failure might mark the end of “for as long as it takes” but now it is doubtful such counteroffensive will start anytime. Chances have been lost that will no return.
I think you are correct Ignacio, they have frittered away all chance at this point to come to negotiated settlement. I think Nuland and Blinken also are too invested in regime change.
They just have to get rid of Putin. After all they have never been successful at regime change with the sanctions they have used, no matter the severity and suffering of the people. Look at Cuba.
Which group of leaders are more useless and incompetent—the Americans or the Europeans? My vote goes to the Europeans, as their people are suffering the consequences of the war in Ukraine more directly than the American people. And of course, the people suffering the most are Ukrainians, but those who remain in the country do not seem to be clamoring for peace negotiations, which, in any event, would amount to surrendering on terms dictated by Russia.
Yeah. Neutrality, de-nazification and human rights for minorities are some of the most horrible things that can happen to a nation, for sure.
“I will give up my statue of Bandera when the moscals peel my cold dead fingers from around it.”
Sorry for the snark, in my defense I’ve had a wee dram of quite tasty Islay.
> … the people suffering the most are Ukrainians, but those who remain in the country …
This is an important point, too often overlooked.
In at least two recent interviews, Douglas Macgregor has noted that the pre-war population of the Ukraine was some 35 million. It is now estimated at less than 18 million, with Macgregor surmising that it could be as low as 14 million. Aside from the greater challenges of rebuilding, whenever that time comes — excepting zealots, how many exiles with any kind of reasonable accomodation leading to new lives abroad would choose to go back to a hellhole? — the greater emptiness of a hollowed-out country provides greater opportunities for money, arms &c. to be diverted to corruption, as we are already seeing (indeed, have been seeing since pretty much the beginning of this whole tragic farce).
In the latest Garland Nixon post, Ray McGovern had some interesting things to say about Sullivan meeting the Chinese foreign minister in Vienna. He is of the opinion that the gauntlet has been thrown down by the Chinese, and has sent Sullivan back to begin the process of dumping Ukraine.
Starts around the 33 minute mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJRxFwtI9go
The Foreign Affairs piece by Kofman and Lee that Yves references in her intro receives a detailed (and not very favorable) review in Simplicius76’s latest substack piece. Worth a read as mental health prophylaxis after exposure to the Foreign Affairs article.
UH-OH. The above link should really go to Simplicius76’s latest substack piece.
Thanks for that link.
The type of hubris on display, thinking that the West can just call for “negotiations” when things aren’t going their way, is exactly what led to this situation in the first place. Russia did Minsk 1, Minsk 2, and tried through two different rounds at the beginning of the SMO. Each time, it was reneged on by the other side. What the West fails to understand is that the price has only continued to grow, and Russia’s position has hardened, as it has to spend more in blood, treasure and political capital.
This is the problem, that the real price is paid by Ukrainians and Russians almost exclusively…
We’ve crossed the proverbial Rubicon:
Russia and China will never trust the EU and US establishment, barring an intellectual revolution in the West (or lots of humble pie);
too much blood has been shed in Russia (and western escalation) to make the Russian public happy with a frozen conflict (total victory or bust);
Russia pushing back Ukraine + NATO has stiffened the backbone of Chinese anti-US hawks;
the US military is (at least) one generation behind in tactics and weaponry (USS Gerald Ford is a dead ship floating);
and when the the vast majority of 18 to 30 year olds have zero ethnic connection to Taiwan or Ukraine (barely >50% of under-30 are even European descent), the idea of sending one’s kids to die 7,000 miles away is US electoral suicide.
Agreed on the Rubicon. Mearsheimer is saying the conflict in Ukraine will be long. Probably, he is correct. I will not vote any establishment party any more.
National security experts? If we have such “experts”, how did this dog’s breakfast come to pass? Wasn’t it Montgomery who said, “Never march on Moscow.”? Then there is ‘don’t get involved in a land war in Asia.’ And our experts have the country doing both? at the same time? To paraphrase Bugs Bunny, ‘What are they, maroons?’
This is Tableb’s “tyranny of the minority”, a reframing of Mancur Olson’s “collective action problem.”
There is no US “let’s mind our own business” lobby even if that is the sentiment of the majority (or largest plurality) of Americans.
and ya, they are idiots too….blind fervor to “the cause” does that
If they were in fact ‘maroons’ they would ay least be edible. But let’s say the word – ‘morons’ – the EU are the most moronical of all – they believe that decimating their economies and kow-towing to their US masters will save them. True – for the upper 5%. the rest will stay serfs. Meanwhile, the USA will be trying the same stupid trick for a second time with Taiwan. But the Taiwanese are already rebelling at the concept of their chip factories being destroyed ‘in order to save them’, by US action. This will only lead to Taiwan ultimately rejecting being a US sacrificial lamb, and saving their own necks by joining China.
As for the war – Russia surely by now has learned that the west is an untrustworthy polecat – stay far away to avoid the stench. This war will end when Russia, after the Ukrainian collapse, is on the borders of Poland, and NATO pulls back to the French/German border (and eventually dissolves). The ‘west’ is on a suicide mission, and I wish I was young enough to move elsewhere.
There has been talk of a split in Washington between the neocons like Blinken and Nuland who want to keep on pressing ahead with Project Ukraine and those that recognize that the game is up and time to turn to Project Taiwan before any more military resources are wasted in the Ukraine. The boys at the Duran had the opinion that all those cuddles for Zelensky by Italy, France, the UK, etc. the past few days was the Europeans trying to demonstrate to Washington that they want Project Ukraine to keep on going. But having seen Biden drop Afghanistan overnight after twenty years there, the fear is that he may do the same as the Ukraine will be a political albatross hanging around Biden’s neck and especially going into the elections next year. In a way, it is a fight between those in Washington that want to fight Russia and those that want to fight China. Both groups are a bunch of lunatics of course but that is where we are.
Tin foil hat time, I feel Euro politicians are rushing to make sure they won’t be accused of betrayal when the Kiev regime collapses. The offensive isn’t materializing. The strategy was always based on the Russians marching conscripts and having a popular revolt at home on behalf of unpopular politicians. Except for the Baltic states, I’m sure the other countries have had enough briefings to understand piece meal weapon delivery and a lack of trained soldiers aren’t good ideas.
Biden is stuck as his supporters have spent the last six years blaming Russia for Hillary’s weakness as as candidate and their own moral culpability. If it was such as important election, Hillary wasn’t worth the risk. Biden hates to look wrong to. He can’t even recognize the need to fire Buttigieg. I do think think he can drop it. He’s the “leader of the freedumb” world after all. The long term economic rearrangement has already been set. We aren’t rewinding back to 2021.
And now the UK defense minister confirms no fighter jets because it will take too long to train pilots.
Who would have thunk! It takes time?
I was thinking NL was ready to send a bunch of their 68 F16s. They already sent all their Leopards.
but the french have allegedly been training pilots since last year – “informally”
The French don’t have any F-16. They do have a bunch of Mirage 2000 trainers, though.
Or maybe it’s just the sons of the Ukrainian elite, living the “Belle vie” while being “trained” as fighter pilots. No patrols looking for “volunteers” on the streets of Paris, eh?
Yeah, but when Elections Inc. only offers us a choice between two flavors of right-wing authoritarians, can we still believe in so-called democracy?” They are already preparing the public for a retread of the last Freak Show (Biden or Trump?) How surreal does it have to get?
Biden is the leader of the “freedumb” – That’s a keeper. After listening to Ray McGovern I’m convinced it’s over. Sweet relief. So where do all the scoundrels go to hide? And are they gonna burn everything in their wake? If so, then RFK should be ultra and extra cautious about his choice of a running mate and we might want to put the UK in a discipline chair. No offense all you good Brits. I’m sure we will need some highly bred saboteurs in the future. As usual it is hard to parse which blind guide is leading the blind.
“Beyond a Ukraine Offensive, by Michael Kofman and Rob Lee.”
Beyond Belief ! The future of America is another Viet Nam.
On what crazed world does the declining American Empire along with her European colonies get to dictate to 2 of the world’s most powerful military strongholds?
U.S. GDP consists of “playthings”, Medical, Government and Imputed Fictions. Russia makes hard things, has near unlimited resources including energy, and now has China as a partner. And nothing cements a country like Russia against outsiders better than ignoramuses in the West dismissing their nation and their culture.
These District of Corruption Morons haven’t shot themselves in the foot, they’ve shotgunned themselves in the guts.
I don’t believe anything in the New York Times, including the ads.
But, but…Saddam has WMD!, Putin shot down the plane!, Gaddafi gave Viagra to his troops to rape innocent women! , Assad gassed his own people! What? we don’t believe what the Ministry of Truth says anymore? (of course, all of these “stories” were proved to be utter nonsense and pathetic war propaganda)
To add insult to injury: NYT (and other Mass Media Cartel outlets) want us to PAY for the privilege of reading BS. Stockholm-Syndrome -inflicted folks will pay to be lied to. That’s brilliant
Someone posted a Harpers article yesterday called “Why are we in Ukraine?” that had a lot sanity. I sent it around to my family.
I stopped at Putin is an aging and bloodthirsty…
The rest of the article gets worse.
I think you misread that section. It was laying out the *mainstream* narrative before critiquing it. Give it another read.
I don’t need a recap of our leaders abhorrent policies and infantile musings in the long first two paragraphs with no rebuttal in sight.
That is why I quit reading. Supporters will be nodding from word one.
We need forceful opinions from sane individuals calling out the hypocrisy of our continuing colonialism in the 21st century. That should be the starting point, supported by the abundance of facts available and in the opening.
Anything else is a waste of time.
The part you quote is not the view of the authors, but the view they say is adopted by Washington politicians and foreign policy bureaucrats.
You would see that if you got to the next paragraph.
What did you think of the similarly titled piece in the Claremont Review of Books?
Traditional scholars of the “Realist” school of IR (Henry K., John Mearsheimer…) are still imperialists but have a bit more rational approach to it. It’s a bit strange that the realists appear to be moderate warmongers in comparison to the current crop of warmongers.
The so-called neocon and liberal interventionist flavor of imperialists are reckless, full of hubris and even criminally insane. Cowards like Blinkie, Bolton, Nuland, Kagan and the fp “experts” (and the CFR, Atlantic Council, Rand Corp) are all too often a bunch of ivory-tower, spoiled-brat cowards who would promptly soil themselves if they faced the slightest hint of danger. These nutjobs are willing to play nuclear chicken with the world. They believe a nuclear war is “winnable” and they can hide out in bunkers for a few years.
Someone needs to make an updated “Dr. Strangelove” to ridicule these whackjobs.
These people are not “hawks”, or experts, they are mentally-deranged, pathetic cowards who should be locked up in an asylum to protect us from their madness and protect themselves as well.
I can’t see that ‘protecting them’ is a priority. The sooner such jackals are safely in their graves the better. There will always be others to deal with.
True, I was being kind. But they are not jackals or hawks, that is an insult to beautiful animals.
Here’s an article from an Atlantic Council member: “Washington Must Prepare for War With Both Russia and China”
And this one from Rand
“Overextending and Unbalancing Russia”
I worked for a Rand-like think tank for a while. The thing to remember about them is that they get paid to tell their customers what they want to hear.
And customers aren’t buying information but a credential.
‘Biden… would do well to take the advice of today’s policy experts by helping to forge a diplomatic settlement and making the United States a force for peace in the world.‘
The authors must be living in an alternative universe.
“An American general bragged that the West has supplied Ukraine with 600 different weapons systems, but this itself creates problems. For example, the different 105 mm guns sent by the U.K., France, Germany, and the U.S. all use different shells. And each time heavy losses force Ukraine to re-form survivors into new units, many of them have to be retrained on weapons and equipment they’ve never used before.”
The reason they’re bragging and quite happy about this is they’re creating a class of merc who is trained on every weapon system known, eastern and western. This prospect excites them.
Alex Christoforou of The Duran described heightened gamma radiation measured after a Russian missile destruction of an arms depot in western Ukraine. UK depleted uranium weapons are said to have gone up in deadly dust and smoke, and the “gift” from the UK now contaminates a area of the Ukraine breadbasket. The western media I found in a search treated the event as an “alleged” danger.
This is false. We called it out:
1. Level of gamma radiation emitted by DU extremely low, according to all sources, such as:
2. Gamma radiation does not travel far in air (it’s long distance only by the standard of radiation emission). For instance:
“Show that the gamma radiation has a long range in air – at least 80 cm. You could show that the count is falling off with distance, and gets smaller and smaller rather than stopping altogether.”
Other sources suggest gamma radiation might travel dozens of feet, which presumably given the above that it drops to undetectable levels at that distance.
You have the further issue that the detection device would have need to be close enough to the blast to detect questionable “high” levels yet not have been damaged by the blast. What a happy coincidence!
A more decisive debunking came via Moon of Alabama:
Some years back I remember an article suggesting a link between depleted uranium use in Iraq and birth defects in a village there.
Was there ever any conclusive research regarding this?
Any of these studies will only show a correlation….but the flip side that is the method we use here for identifying cancer clusters and then seeing if there might be an environmental cause.
The US has strong incentives to say there’s no connection. This literature review found most studies did find a connection but tried depicting them as biased”
This study notes an increase in cancer rates in Kosovo in the areas most afflicted by DU but handwaves that it is not conclusive and more work needs to be done:
I have suspicions as to how Google is selecting articles. I have not had time to check in a search engine using other algos like Brave, Qwant or Yandex.
BoJo didn’t need to be PM or have any formal ministerial influence to make deals with Zelensky and other friends that will benefit them all under the tables.
The thing I keep wondering, is what do all these politicians think and communicate behind the scenes? There is a massive gulf between whats in the news media and public statements by officials. And, the awareness those officials have of the facts. The facts those officials have access to, that inform their reality and awareness. The off-channel comms Putin has with Biden and Merkel and Macron and so on.
We comment here, about how deluded these ministers are. Of course. But there is also their private reality. For example, they may really well know about Russias diplomatic stance pre and post 2014 and the efforts for diplomacy pre SMO. Public side they will never admit it
Rome wanted wheat and saw Carthage … then sacrificing children became a hot topic for public consumption … not that those sorta of things had been going on for a long time before in antiquity or anything …
If anything it reminds me of the first 1500 yrs AD where affiliations and pacts between feudal state nobility was like a spin the bottle party in the near East. Anyone with connections through wealth, political, or otherwise is in a constant flux of repositioning for the near and far term.