Dangerous escalation: Putin puts Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert
A Polish border guard assists refugees from Ukraine as they arrive to Poland at the Korczowa border crossing, Poland, Feb. 26, 2022. Tens of thousands are fleeing across the borders out of Ukraine and into Poland. Czarek Sokolowski | AP

There were calls heard around the world this weekend for Russia to end its attack on Ukraine which has been going on now for five days since it violated international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty by crossing the border into that country with troops and weapons.

As the fighting continued in Ukraine’s major cities this weekend and the death toll mounted – 3,00-plus Ukrainian civilians and 3,500 Russian soldiers – there were new developments that offered a glimmer of hope. Ukraine and Russia agreed to hold talks in a neutral location on the border between Ukraine and Belarus.

Successful diplomacy to solve the crisis, must begin with the cessation of Russian military operations in Ukraine and give serious attention to a number of critical issues.

The latest threats by Putin followed the announcement of new “crippling sanctions” by the West. They cannot be followed by yet more sanctions by the West and then more threats from Russia and then on and on until we end up in a conflagration that draws in the entire world.

This is not just a war between Russia and Ukraine. The U.S. is a major actor and has participated for years with NATO in laying the basis for eventual conflict. Sanctions will not solve the problem and the alternative of direct war with Russia is obviously unacceptable. Sanctions have been in place against Russia for many years and one cannot but help think that Putin knows how to get around them. He has calculated the effects of even these new sanctions in decisions he made leading up to the illegal and murderous invasion. At the very least he has figured out how to get the Russian working class rather than his billionaire capitalist friends to bear the cost of the sanctions.

Ukrainian refugees cry as they reunite at the Medyka border crossing, Poland, Feb. 26, 2022. Visar Kryeziu | AP

Rather than relying on sanctions, the U.S. must do everything within its powers to try and find a diplomatic solution. Failure to do this can well result in an even wider war with unimaginable consequences.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a leading progressive, has made this point. Sanders blamed Putin for the crisis we are now facing. He has rightly described Putin as a right-wing autocrat and a liar who has accumulated enormous personal wealth at the expense of his own people.

Sanders has also noted, however, that well before Putin ever came on the scene, Russia has had “legitimate concerns” about NATO’s expansion towards Russia. Sanders has also noted that it was dangerous for the U.S. to ignore, for many years, all of those legitimate concerns.

Sanders also correctly warned last week about “the familiar drumbeats in Washington” and noted how the “bellicose rhetoric gets amplified before every war.”

The Vermont senator said that recognizing the “complex roots of the tensions” in the region was key to fostering a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Those negotiating for an end to this war must negotiate with this in mind.

“It is good to know some history… Invasion by Russia is not an answer; neither is intransigence by NATO,” Sanders said. “It is also important to recognize that Finland, one of the most developed and democratic countries in the world, borders Russia and has chosen not to be a member of NATO.”

On the issue of national sovereignty, it should be clear that no country has the right to violate internationally recognized borders and invade another country. Unfortunately, the U.S. has done this often in its history and it has backed the assassination of foreign leaders and replacement of their governments. (Sanders estimated that this was done by the U.S. at least 15 times.) It was wrong for the U.S. to do this and it is wrong for Vladimir Putin to do this today. The UN charter, agreed to by both the U.S. and Russia, forbids this behavior.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.