September 14, 2022: An Open Letter from the Government Affairs and Outreach Committee of the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee (UACRC) to Peace Action of Michigan (PAMI)
On August 24th, 2022, we commemorated two significant events: the first was Ukrainian Independence Day, an occasion that this year was especially poignant and symbolic. That is because this year August 24th also marked six months since the beginning of Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a war that has so far cost tens of thousands of innocent lives, caused untold devastation, and witnessed entire cities razed to the ground.
Since February, Ukrainians have been bravely defending their families, their friends, and their homes, while people around the world have come together in solidarity with the Ukrainian people to provide money, support, and humanitarian assistance. Here in Michigan the Ukrainian-America Crisis Response Committee (UACRC) has been at the forefront of such efforts. We have raised tens of thousands of dollars for humanitarian causes, including reconstructing damaged schools, assembled thousands of first aid kits, provided support to Ukrainian refugees, and worked tirelessly to ensure that Americans do not forget that, while the news cycle may have moved on, the war in Ukraine is not over.
This is why we were alarmed to learn that Peace Action of Michigan (PAMI) recently called for “diplomatic negotiations to end the endless war in Ukraine.” While we share PAMI’s desire to see an end to this terrible war, we vehemently object to the notion that it will be unspecified “negotiations,” rather than Ukraine’s military victory, that will ultimately produce a just and durable peace.
Any such “negotiations” would inevitably concede Ukrainian territory to Russia. It may be tempting for those of us in the United States to consider trading land for “peace” an acceptable bargain: “anything to stop the killing!” But such a perspective ignores that what is being proposed is not merely conceding land, but also, and more importantly, the lives of the millions of Ukrainians who call that land home.
And what we know, without any question, is that the lives of Ukrainians in Russian occupied territories are marked by humiliation, fear, brutality, and the ever-present threat of torture and execution. Annexation, moreover, means the substitution of Russia’s authoritarian system of government in place of Ukrainian democracy , as well as the eradication of the Ukrainian language, its history, and its culture. None of this is even to mention the appalling war crimes that the world has witnessed Russia committing against Ukrainian civilians in occupied territories.
Simply put, handing over more land through “negotiations” in the name of “peace” means condemning even more innocent people to torture, rape, death, and cultural genocide. This is not “peace.” Full stop.
Furthermore, allowing Russia to control a substantial portion of the world’s best arable farmland will only ensure that it has greater leverage against the international community in the future. As we have seen in recent months, Russia is not afraid to use both food and energy as tools of extortion against Europe and the developing world. In June of 2022, Margarita Simonyan, the influential head of the state-owned RT news outlet and a reliable barometer of what the Russian government is thinking, went so far as to say that “all our hope is in the famine,” explaining that a global food crisis would force the world to grant concessions to Russia – precisely the kinds of concessions that “negotiations” are meant to exact. Allowing Russia to colonize territory in Ukraine thus means condemning the most world’s most vulnerable to dependence on a cynical and aggressive authoritarian state for their daily food and grain. This is not “peace.”
Finally, and apart from such material considerations, it is difficult to see how “negotiations” can be considered legitimate or ethical. Russia is the unambiguous aggressor in this conflict and has no rights whatsoever to make any demands of Ukraine, a peaceful democracy that has never posed any threat to Russia. As survey after survey has shown, the Ukrainian people remain united in their resistance to Russian aggression and they will fight regardless of material support from the international community. If Ukrainians tell us that they want to fight on to liberate their homeland—and they do—then it is our duty to lend their cause whatever support we are able. This is a moral imperative.
Finally, it is crass, to say the least, to presume to instruct Ukrainians on the need for “negotiations” to stop the fighting and save lives: after all, it is their homes; their schools; their communities; and their families who are actually suffering in this war, not ours. Lecturing them about the merits of “peace” is easy from the comfort and safety of Michigan. The air raid sirens do not keep us up at night, after all.
But we must remember that peace without justice is not true peace. And abandoning Ukrainians to their fate in ill-considered “negotiations” that would trade land—and lives—for an illusory “peace” is not in any sense just.
The Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee therefore calls upon Peace Action of Michigan and all other people of conscience to abandon their calls for ill-conceived “negotiations” with the Russian aggressor and to instead support the cause of Ukrainian victory, which is the only way a truly just peace can be achieved.
Government Outreach Committee
Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan