As the war in Ukraine continues to eat up lives and resources — and we teeter toward the horror of nuclear war —the world wonders where it will end. Most wars end in a treaty signed by the fighting powers. Better to get a treaty earlier, than later. The Ukraine War has cost no American lives, so some might think the 500,000 estimated casualties of the combatants so far don’t matter. But isn’t that enough already in this war for the control of Eastern Europe—and bragging rights?
Some folks assume we’ll just keep Ukraine fighting until they defeat Russia. But Russia is the largest country in the world—with the most nuclear weapons, about 6000. They’re not going to just give up and let NATO surround them. Putin is more likely to try to take us down with him. What a lot of folks don’t seem to think about is what defeat could mean to Russia, and to Putin personally.
Russia is the biggest country and the coldest. It stretches across Asia from the Bering Strait to Norway on the west. Most of it borders the Arctic, so the only warm-water region Russia has is on the Black Sea. That’s a big part of the fight. Russia has most of her fleet there in Crimea—not to mention it’s their “Florida” resort area of sorts.
And Russia has had a lot of experience repelling invasions. Napoleon in 1814, England in 1850s, Germany in 1914 and 1940, and our invasions in 1918, when we landed troops at Murmansk near Norway, and Vladivostok near Japan. Our “Polar Bear” brigades accomplished nothing, except to get a lot of young men from Michigan, Canada, and Russia, killed—and permanently color relationships between the two countries.
President Reagan found a way to get along with Russia, but his successors, Bush and Clinton got involved in undermining the “glasnost.” Our leaders promised not to move NATO “one inch” toward Russia, but the promise got broken, and in 2014 our State Department and Sen. John McCain helped oust the duly-elected, pro-Russian government.
So what to do? This war has already cost American taxpayers about $60 billion, with no end in sight. Both China and India have offered ideas for peace, but they’ve so far been rejected.
FDR left us the UN to deal with international disputes, but its charter requires decisions of the Security Council to be unanimous, and with the US, China, and Russia all members of the Council, it won’t work for this situation. So what else could be done?
Well, drawing on experience in American labor relations — where there used to be plenty of bloodshed in the early days — there are a number of structures that could be used, IF the parties wanted to get an agreement. There’s arbitration, where one person is chosen to decide—like Solomon in the Bible. Arbitration can be mandatory, where the parties agree in advance to follow it, or advisory. It can also be a panel of three, with one party representing each side and those two choosing a third party.
Mediation or fact-fact finding are other approaches. In mediation, a person is chosen to listen to both sides, then help them come together. A fact-finder also listens to both sides, then makes public their report and recommendations.
For this dispute, fact-finding by a country like Canada or Brazil, or advisory arbitration might work. They’d listen to both sides, then make recommendations, first in private, then publically—putting pressure on the parties to settle.
I know it’s wishful thinking that any of these practical approaches would be used, but we can dream, can’t we? Only the military industrial complex would be the losers. We could spend future billions on public education or healthcare. And, peace efforts in Ukraine might save candidate Biden from opposition from peace Democrats in 2024.
Jack Burgess is a retired teacher of American & Global Studies, and the former Chief of Arbitration Services for the State of Ohio. He’s also a member of Veterans For Peace.
This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Burgess: Let’s settle the Ukraine War
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