How Pacifism Leads to War

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was in fact one of the main perpetrators of the war, the military invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 "for his tremendous efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation among nations." The Nobel Committee also noted his "vision of, and work toward, a world without nuclear weapons."

However, his vision of a world without nuclear weapons proved to be a mirage. He did not live up to the title of peacemaker bestowed upon him by the Nobel Committee, but instead was responsible for the war that erupted six years after he left office as president of the United States.  How did this happen? Another Democratic U.S. president, Bill Clinton, gave an interview this spring to RTÉ Irish News Service.  He said that shortly after the creation of independent Ukraine, he pressured the Ukrainian government to give up its nuclear weapons to Russia. But not everyone who gives up their weapons becomes more secure. Ukrainians feared being unarmed in the face of their northern neighbor and resisted American pressure. Clinton said: "They were afraid to surrender their weapons because they thought it was the only thing that would protect them from Russian expansion."

The Ukrainians' fears were entirely justified. The Clinton administration was pushing Ukrainians to accept that international written security guarantees would protect Ukraine's future better than nuclear weapons. On December 5, 1994, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States signed a document on Ukraine's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Budapest Memorandum. In this memorandum, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom promised not to threaten or attack Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons. The three former Soviet republics acceded to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and ceased to be nuclear powers. They believed in international guarantees of their security. 

The fight against nuclear proliferation has been central to U.S. foreign policy ever since the first nuclear bombs fell on Japan in 1945. U.S. diplomacy has tried unsuccessfully to stop Soviet, British, French, Chinese, Israeli, Indian, Pakistani, and North Korean programs. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970 and was extended five months after the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

In 2014, Russia occupied Crimea and started a war for the secession of Donbass from Ukraine. Then President Obama failed to honor his country's commitment to guarantee Ukraine's security and sovereignty. "I feel guilty about that," Clinton told RTÉ, adding that “Americans must now help Ukraine in a crisis caused in large part by their faith in our word." A well-known Latin proverb says, "Si vis pacem, para bellum" ("you want peace, prepare for war"). Ukraine believed two U.S. presidents, Clinton and Obama, two Democrats, and acted contrary to this Latin proverb: it stopped preparing for war and believed in peace with Russia and in Russia's fulfillment of its security guarantees. Obama did not stand up for Ukraine because of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine. He violated the treaty signed by his country and did not justify the decision of the Nobel Committee, which awarded him the prize for "his tremendous efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

The relative calm achieved since the end of the Cold War has been shattered by President Obama's inaction and refusal to implement the international treaty signed by President Clinton, a representative of his own Democratic Party.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama deceived Ukraine into believing U.S. guarantees of peace.  If Ukraine had nuclear weapons in 2014 and 2022, there would have been no annexation of Crimea, no gradual takeover of Donbass, and no war by the Russian Federation against a "Nazi" and "militarized" Ukraine. Contrary to the Russian Federation's claims about the militarization of Ukraine, it turned out that it was not sufficiently militarized, insufficiently armed, and lacking a nuclear shield. Therefore, Ukraine's northern neighbor, which guaranteed its security and sovereignty, violated its territorial integrity and started a war that destroyed its security. Obama did not promote peace, but contributed significantly to the war. The pacifism represented by Clinton and Obama failed to take into account that there are two sides to the conflict, for one of which pacifism is a peace treaty that only binds the opposite side.

Abandoning nuclear weapons provokes hostilities much more than having them. The thirst for peace and the belief in international safeguards bring a war closer than preparing for it might do. Pacifists may actually act against peace. Such pacifists may be called "warmongers". They believe that peace must have been achieved at any cost, including concessions and appeasement of the aggressor, whom such ways of defending peace only encourage war. Pacifism sometimes turns into its opposite. For the outspoken pacifist, any peace is better than war. So, he may paradoxically go so far as to capitulate to the aggressor. Despite calls for peace from various European and American peacemakers, the bleeding Ukraine has not capitulated.

Pacifism is not a sacred value. Finland, formerly part of the Russian Empire, which experienced a military attack by the USSR in 1939-1940, was preparing for peace with the Russian Federation by creating one of the strongest armies in Europe. It was accepted into NATO not as a pathetic beggar in need of its protection by the North Atlantic Alliance from Russia, but as an important military component. Ukraine begged to be admitted to NATO for protection against Russian aggression. It was preparing for peace with Russia as a potential unarmed weak member of the North Atlantic Alliance and was not accepted into it. Finland was preparing hard for war with the Russian Federation and therefore became an important and desirable partner of that Alliance. Ukraine sought a peaceful existence with the Russian Federation through international treaties. On this path it had already been betrayed once by the United States, Great Britain, and Russia, guarantors of the Budapest Memorandum. Finland, having learned from its bitter experiences with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, did not trust international treaties, but relied only on its military power. If it had nuclear weapons, it would not have eliminated them for the sake of "peace" and international guarantees, which guaranteed it only a military attack by the Russian Federation. The Roman proverb "if you want peace, prepare for war" has been known for more than 2,000 years, but no better way to preserve peace has been invented.

Image: Library of Congress

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