Like everyone I know, I am horrified by the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine and terrified by the prospect of nuclear war. I am grateful that President Biden so far has resisted the pressure to enact a perilous “no-fly zone.” But the President and NATO need to press urgently, directly, and specifically for real peace negotiations.
To do this will require some humble realism. The U.S. must acknowledge our own disastrous invasions of other sovereign nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) and our ongoing support of the seven-year Saudi war on Yemen (400,000 deaths so far, including some 10,000 children). We should also consider NATO’s reckless expansion into eastern Europe, which renowned U.S. diplomat George Kennan called “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” This context does not excuse Putin’s invasion, but it does point to the need for the U.S. to take a much more active role in peace talks, and, especially, to resist the urge towards inflammatory language and threats.
Rather than choosing restraint, however, on March 26, in a major speech in Poland before a global audience, President Biden said about Putin, “This man cannot remain in power.”
Although the White House immediately attempted to “clarify” the President’s statement, these inflammatory words elicit many questions. Is the real goal of this war to force regime change in Russia? Are the brave Ukrainians pawns in this game? Does it make sense on the one hand to denounce Putin as a madman and a butcher, with nuclear weapons, and on the other to insult him personally and call for his demise? How is it our right to decide who rules in Russia? And why does Biden, instead, not call a summit with Putin and Zelensky to hammer out a true peace agreement?
U.S. efforts to force regime change in other countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Honduras) have created only misery for ordinary citizens and have destabilized whole regions of the globe. As a mother, grandmother, and retired N.C. public school teacher, I quail when I think of the future our beloved children and young people face. We Americans have no influence over Putin. But we can make our fervent wishes for peace known to our elected officials, especially to our President, the leader of the richest, most powerful nation on our imperiled planet.
Christine B. Mayfield
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