Vets for Peace response


Richard Taylor provides good background to the current proxy war being waged in Ukraine.
I would add a few important points to his chronology:
• The American role in overthrowing President Yanukovych was extensive. In addition to Sens. John McCain and Chris Murphy joining Ukrainian opposition leaders on a Kyiv stage, we saw U.S. State Department officials in Maidan Square handing out food and encouraging protestors. And no account of the U.S. role in that coup is complete without reference to the intercepted phone call between Ambassador Pyatt and Undersecretary Nuland. They were caught red-handed plotting who would succeed Yanukovych, and how his overthrow would be accomplished. Their plans came to fruition on Feb. 22, 2014.
• Less than two months later, on April 15, 2014, the unelected successor regime to Yanukovych launched a military attack on the breakaway provinces to reclaim them by force of arms. The BBC reported on Kyiv’s “anti-terror operation” one day later.
• The Minsk II agreements of 2015, had they been successfully implemented, would have kept the Donbas as part of Ukraine, albeit as a semi-autonomous region. Several years later, in 2022, Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed that, as a guarantor of the agreements, Germany was not sincere in their implementation, but rather sought to “give Ukraine time” with which to arm itself.

So, the first use of military force, the initial act of armed aggression, was committed by Kyiv against its own citizens. The Russian invasion of Feb. 24, 2022, should also be condemned, not because it started a war, but rather because it was a disproportionate escalation of an eight-year conflict that had already claimed 14,000 lives. It must be viewed in the context of extensive U.S. meddling that toppled Ukraine’s democracy, and subsequent negotiations in which Ukraine’s western backers saw war as the inevitable, if not the preferable, solution.
With regard to ending the war, I agree that an immediate ceasefire and negotiations are urgently needed. I believe talks should be moderated by a neutral third party. I also believe there is a competing U.N. principle to the often invoked “sovereignty of nations.” It is the principle of “self-determination of peoples.”
From 2014 through 2022, it was the people of the breakaway provinces who were the aggrieved party. It was their president who was violently deposed, their language that was banned, their culture and well-being that were threatened. When they were militarily attacked by their own government, the sovereign lost any remaining claim to legitimacy. The breakaway provinces, in their various ways, exercised their right to remedial secession.
I see the annexation of Crimea as a relative success, retrieved from the instability and chaos instigated by the U.S.-backed coup. Prior to annexation, the people of Crimea overwhelmingly supported close ties with Russia. The period of annexation, February through March of 2014, was almost bloodless. Only six people were reported killed. Today, the people of Crimea remain happy with their status as part of the Russian Federation.
After nine years of war, the will of the people in the other breakaway provinces is more difficult to determine, although before the fall of democracy in Ukraine, polling showed that their sympathies were with Russia and not the West. It is their voice that needs to be heard in peace negotiations, their will that needs to be respected.
Their choices should not be limited. They can choose to remain in Ukraine as they were before, they can remain in Ukraine as semi-autonomous republics, they can choose independence, or some form of association with Russia. The most daunting prospect for peace is regaining sufficient trust between the warring parties so that a free and fair referendum can be held.

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