A way out of war? Russia says it has withdrawn some troops from Ukraine border as talks continue
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FRIEND GOOD MAN: We begin today’s show by examining the crisis along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Russia has announced it is pulling some troops from the border, in a possible effort to defuse the standoff, but Russia is moving ahead with military exercises in Belarus and the Black Sea. On Monday, Russian television broadcast footage of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to continue and intensify diplomatic negotiations. Also on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine may drop its membership bid. NATOclaiming that membership might just be a dream.
The United States reportedly warned its allies that Russia could invade Ukraine as early as Wednesday, that is to say tomorrow, February 16. The Ukrainian president responded by announcing that February 16 would become a “day of unity” for Ukrainians. The United States has also urged all American citizens to leave Ukraine, as well as Belarus and parts of Moldova. The State Department has also moved its remaining personnel from Kyiv to a temporary site in western Ukraine in the city of Lviv due to Russian military buildups.
To learn more about the crisis, we are joined by Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of CodePink.
welcome to Democracy now!, Medea. Can you talk about the latest developments around Ukraine and Russia, and the role of the United States?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, unfortunately, in the midst of this crisis, the United States is sending more weapons to Ukraine, and, as the UN Secretary General said without mentioning the United States, the inflammatory rhetoric, saying that “Russia is ready to invade. Russia is ready to invade.
I think it’s a very positive development that Zelensky has basically acknowledged that Ukraine will not enter NATO, and that is a positive thing. And all the diplomatic efforts that are going on are extremely useful and necessary, and we hope that there will be an exit ramp, because the possibility of war is simply unacceptable. Our members, our friends in Congress are trying to tell the administration that they cannot enter into a military conflict without first going to Congress, which would support the administration. And so, we hope that diplomacy will prevail, but we must recognize that things continue to be extremely, extremely tense.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Medea, you mentioned that Zelensky seems to recognize that membership in NATO will have to be postponed or, as he says, maybe a dream. But it was actually — it’s in the Constitution. In 2019, the Ukrainian government actually changed its Constitution to say joining NATO is a national objective. Do you feel that Zelensky also has to deal with more right-wing elements in Ukraine who continue to push him to NATO membership?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yes, but NATO was not ready to invite Ukraine. There are a number of different issues, including the lack of territorial integrity, as well as issues with corruption in Ukraine, issues with the lack of a compatible economic system, issues even with the military. So there was never any question of Ukraine joining it soon, but, as you said, it’s in the Constitution, and it was promised to Ukraine. But that’s one — seems to be one of the ways out of this impasse is that Ukraine doesn’t apply for membership. This means that NATO does not have to close the door; it just means that Ukraine itself would stop the process.
FRIEND GOOD MAN: Medea Benjamin, what do you think of the mobilization of peace movements in the different countries of the area? Have you contacted them? And what are their demands?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: There have been mobilizations for peace in Russia, in Ukraine, in the countries of Western Europe. There is a group called No to NATO it’s been going on for years and communicating, and we in the United States are part of it. And these are all the efforts of the people to call on our governments to back down.
And we must continue to build this international movement, recognizing that a war would be disastrous for all countries, and particularly, of course, for Ukraine, but recognizing what it would mean economically in terms of rising prices because disconnection of energy sources. Europeans recognize this well. What we need to do is involve more people in the United States in the peace movement, because I think people are much more concerned with domestic issues than foreign policy, but as we know , international conflicts will affect us here at home, certainly in terms of things like inflation. And that’s why we have to care about these issues and try to prevent this war from happening.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And now on this latest announcement of $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, it appears Congress is ready and willing to shell out the money despite claims by some Republicans that there is too much debt in the country.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we see that, Juan, time and time again when it comes to matters of military buildup, whether it’s the Pentagon budget or giving money or loans to countries: when we’re at the middle of a crisis, there’s no question of not enough money. So, I think it’s both the donation of arms, as well as these loans, which contribute to making this situation more and more tense. And it’s unfortunate that Democrats and Republicans usually come together at times like this to make the crisis worse, to give away our tax dollars, instead of stopping the flow of guns, the flow of money and to focus on negotiations.
FRIEND GOOD MAN: Well, Medea Benjamin, we’re going to ask you to stick with us, co-founder of CodePink. As we face the possibility of another war, we look at a country that has been ravaged by war for decades. President Biden is facing mounting criticism for seizing $7 billion in frozen Afghan federal reserves in the United States. Biden is giving half the money, he says, to 9/11 victims. We are going to speak with the mother of a young man who died in the September 11 attacks. She says the money should stay in Afghanistan. Stay with us.