Video and Text Transcript
Helena Cobban (prefatory):
Hullo everybody and welcome to the fifth session of our webinar series "The Ukraine Crisis: Building a Just and Peaceful World." Today, it's Wednesday, March 16, and today we'll be discussing two main topics: the effects that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already had on world politics; and what those of us in the peace movement worldwide can do to win, first, a cessation of hostilities and, secondly, a set of arrangements both in Europe and world-wide that are much more equitable and stable than what we have seen over recent decades-- and that, themselves, helped lead to today's crises.
We are immensely honored to have two great guests today, who are both very thoughtful and much-published doyennes of the fields of peace and world-order studies. They are:
** Dr. Mary Kaldor, who is the Professor of Global Governance and Director of the Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science, now with us from Sussex, England, and
** Dr. Radha Kumar, who's a board member of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and sits on the Council of the United Nations University, now with us from Tamil Nadu, India.
Friends, it is wonderful to have you both with us today! And now, let me hand over to my co-host here, the distinguished international jurist Richard Falk.
Richard Falk (00:00:01):
[I am delighted to have Mary Kaldor and Radha Kumar with us today, to discuss a] difficult topic at a perilous time. And they're both mentors of mine. And so I look forward very much to the illuminating discussion that I I'm quite sure will follow and let's start.
Helena Cobban (00:00:26):
Absolutely, absolutely. So today's webinar is the fifth of a planned eight sessions. In the earlier sessions, Richard and I have already had very rich conversations with a roster of wonderful guests. You can access the videos, audios, and transcripts of those earlier sessions, and a lot more information about this project at our website, www.justworldeducational.org. The video of today's session will be uploaded there soon. And then a little after that links to the audio version and the transcript. Today's conversation will be fairly free flowing and is projected to last roughly 45 minutes. After that, there'll be a chance for questions from the attendees, which we ask you to put into the Q and A box at the bottom of your Zoom screen. Also in these emotionally taxing times, we ask for civility from all attendees both in the chat box, and also if you are invited, on air.
So now I'll come first to Radha Kumar and ask you, Radha, for your assessment of the impact of Ukraine crisis on global politics and the global peace movement with some emphasis on the view from the Global South, which I'm afraid you're gonna have to represent here today.
Radha Kumar (00:01:57):
Both huge questions. Let me begin by saying that as far as we in India are concerned, there's been a large debate, obviously, on the repercussions for South Asia with Russia and China in dominant positions in our neighborhood. It's very clear that people in our country and perhaps in several others in Asia and perhaps Africa as well have felt extremely torn over what is happening here, because India specifically used to have a very close relationship, both to the former Soviet Union and then high military dependence on Russia. The debate has been to what extent can we risk that dependency? How do we get out of it? On the one side. On the other side there were 20,000 Indian students in Ukraine. They faced the war in the same way that the Ukrainians did.
They too were sheltering with Ukrainians. They were living you know, in metros. And for them it was a very, very simple question of Russia invading a weak and beleaguered country. So you had the moral issue very much to the fore, which I'm sad to say doesn't happen very often in India. And indeed it doesn't happen very often in other Asian countries. You had that on one side and on the other side, you had this fairly narrow idea of, you know, national interest and realpolitik. You also had a lot of Cold War coming to the forefront and Cold War cynicisms coming back to the forefront. So you had, you know, a large number of diplomats saying, well we've never been able to depend on the US or Europe those were the three sets I would say of issues that came up here.
Far as South Asia is concerned, as it is the exit from Afghanistan had created a situation of uncertainty not just economic and military and insurgency, uncertainty, but much greater ripples of uncertainty about, you know, even the stability of those few democratic governments that are left in South Asia. I noticed that in a way, I almost felt a little envious of the African countries because they did vote strongly against the invasion at the UN. At the same time, they have also spoken very strongly against the kind of racism that their students and their evacuees from Ukraine have faced. And it seemed to me that you know, in a sense, at least they had a greater moral clarity than we did. And that of course is much more helpful when it comes to global peace movements.
Just one word on that. COVID has made it very, very difficult for people to express their opinions especially in the peace movement, in the way that they did earlier. So, you know, it's not possible to march. It's not possible to demonstrate. It's not possible to make public expressions of what you would like your government to do. That does make the whole situation so much more complicated. And petitions and so on are fine, but they don't, you know, fill that space, in a way. So what I've noticed is also that pressure, the kind of public pressure that there was before isn't there. The only pressure so-called "public pressure" is media and media is not in entirely, representative of civil society and the range of views. So there's a gap that we'll need to think about, to fulfill.
Helena Cobban (00:07:11):
Thank you. Wow.
Radha Kumar (00:07:13):
Should I leave it there? I'm--
Helena Cobban (00:07:16):
I think if you leave it there for now and then we'll back and have a, you know, a free flowing conversation, which is-- I mean, you've already given us a lot to think about in terms of the different pressures on different sections of Indian society. So now I'll turn to you, Mary Kaldor. Could you tell us your assessment of the impact of the crisis, both on global politics and the global peace movement with some emphasis on the view from Britain and from Europe in general, in as much as Britain considers itself part of Europe?
Mary Kaldor (00:07:52):
Yeah. I mean, I think it's difficult to know the impact of global politics before we know how this plays out. It's had an immediate impact in the sense that there's been huge shock, especially in Europe about this invasion, a shock, which should have been also expressed after the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. But it-- and we heard the German chancellor-- (Now I should have looked it up before.) He used a phrase: "2022 will be remembered as an era-changing moment." And he had a special German phrase for that era-changing moment. As many of you may know, he's announced an increase of a hundred billion in German defense spending. So I think the immediate impact has been a much greater cohesion on the part of the European Union, much greater unity on the part of the European Union in the face of what Russia is doing.
It looks as though there's a greater commitment to NATO, but what I would argue is there's also lots of questioning about what happened after the Cold War and the expansion of NATO, and you know, what we're actually seeing is a great commitment of the Europeans to NATO and what that might look like could be very different. Before I say how it could be very different-- but I think this is something very important for the peace movement-- I just want to mention that I think the other great uncertainty is China. We all thought there was gonna be an alliance between Russia and China and actually China abstained in the General Assembly resolution. And I just, before I came on air, read a fascinating article by Chinese semi-official person arguing that China should condemn the invasion publicly and play a role in creating a multilateral system.
I don't know what's gonna happen to him after that, but it's sort of interesting that that debate is happening in China. The European-- just to say a word about the European external policy, it's always been, Europe has a common defense and security policy, which is actually explicitly based on the concept of human security. And it's been always about contributing to conflicts, about defensive purposes. And there's a lot of discussion now within NATO, amazingly, about human security. And I could tell you a bit more about that if we had time. But I think what's being discussed now, which is quite interesting is that at the end of the Cold War, many of us hoped that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact would be dissolved and we would have a strengthened Helsinki security system and that didn't happen. NATO stayed and NATO expanded.
And even though I don't believe-- I think Putin would've acted as he acted whether or not NATO had expanded, I do think it was a mistake to give him a pretext for invasion. And I think now people are rethinking Helsinki and the principles of Helsinki, which I think could be very, very important in the future and very important for the peace movement. I mean, I think there are three with always three pillars of Helsinki: the peace and security pillar, the economic and social co-oporation pillar. (And it seems to me it's incredibly important. We have to cooperate with Russia and China on climate change and pandemics and global issues!) And the human rights pillar. And I've always felt very strongly that the human rights pillar has been neglected.
I mean, when Russia annexed Crimea, there wasn't enough outcry, I think, but most of the outcry was about territorial, about territorial issues of territorial integrity. Whereas what actually happened were terrible human rights violations, property theft, and violations against the Crimean Tartars and the same in Donetsk and Luhansk and the other small places that Russia's taken over. And I just feel those human rights issues have not been taken seriously. So that's really an agenda for the peace movement to push for that. But I just want to mention one other thing that I think is really, really important for the peace movement. Actually the only way, the only good way this war could end is if Putin falls or if there's a very strong opposition within Russia; and the Russian anti-war activists have been unbelievably brave. There have been demonstrations in over fifty cities, and Putin has passed a law saying that anybody who demonstrates gets 15 years in jail. And yesterday, I dunno if any of you saw it, this amazingly brave television journalist rushed across the screen of Channel One, which is the one everybody watching with a big sign saying No War.
So I think what we need to do-- I'm in touch with some of these anti-war activists in Russia, and they're desperate. I think the sanctions: I'm all in favor of sanctions on oligarchs, because I just think it's oligarchs that have brought to where we are. And I'm all in favor of sanctions on oil and gas, because we need to do that for climate change reasons anyway, and it upholds rich dictators. But I think many of the other sanctions on MasterCard Visa cards, sports and culture is just gonna hurt ordinary people as it's done in Venezuela, Iran, North Korea. And the middle class are gonna leave. And the people who stay will believe Putin's narrative. So my feeling is that we ought to argue against those kinds of sanctions, but also we should try and make contacts with as many of the Russian anti-war activists as per possible and try to do what we did in the 'eighties with Eastern Europe to try to support all those guys wherever we can, and ask them what they need, and help empower them.
Helena Cobban (00:14:51):
Thank you. So lots to think about. Richard, what, what's your take on this as somebody who's been active in the global peace movement for well, a very long time!
Richard Falk (00:15:03):
Okay. Well I think both of these presentations have put before us a very valuable image of how non-American perspectives view this Ukrainian crisis. We've been I think preoccupied with how the US has responded and how this plays out in a geopolitical reordering of relations between the US, Russia, and China. I mean, bringing to the fore the future of European security as Mary did, is I think essential if we are to envision a constructive sequel to this horrible humanitarian crisis iand tragedy. And I think the peace movement should use all its energies to support the idea that both the opportunities at the end of the Cold War were wasted. And now is the time. This is a second chance to make European security into something viable and oriented toward the wellbeing of European people and not get caught in a geopolitical contest for ascendancy.
And I do think that one of the things that should be put into the mix is the US attempt to impose a Monroe doctrine for the world after the end of the Cold War. In other words, not to get rid of geopolitics, but to be the sole geopolitical actor with spheres of influence that extend throughout the planet. And in that sense from a purely geopolitical point of view, the responses of China and Russia are not so deviant as we would like to think. And I think that's an important element of contextualizing what is happening day-by-day. As far as, I mean, as fascinating to hear from India and to understand that the debates that are going on elsewhere have a different kind different spin on the priorities that are generated by this crisis.
And it's understandable in a way that a country like India finds itself caught between these conflicting values on the one side and interests on the other and how one navigates that sort of treacherous divide is something that challenges the peace movement everywhere. And as Radha has well expressed is the core of the Indian response to what is happening. And I think we all need to rethink what peace and security means in this present historical conjuncture of forces. And the global turbulence that has been generated is very costly ecologically because it takes our mind off-- takes the mind of the politic elites off of climate change, which is a kind of urgent priority that's quite distinct. And it also undermines the attempt to achieve a more equitable way of constituting the world economy. So there are important side effects of, of what is happening in Ukraine and why it is dominating political consciousness at this point. Let me stop there.
Helena Cobban (00:20:42):
Yeah. I was interested to hear Mary talk about the need to, like, overthrow essentially Putin for this thing to be resolved, but I'll come back to that in a moment. I want to come to you Radha first and ask, do you think the governments of the Global South have a special role to play in urging negotiations and not war right now?
Radha Kumar (00:21:10):
Just before answering that, I wanted to make two comments. One is that from where we sit actually China is a greater threat than Russia. China's on our borders, Russia isn't. And I wrote an article criticizing our government's policy on Ukraine. And most of the responses I got just asked this one question: So where were the US, Europe, other countries when China was, has actually captured parts of territory that were not in their jurisdiction? They were part of a gray zone between China and India. And we were supposed to respect that and we had on both sides until 1962 and then so on and so on and so on. But the last three years, China has been systematically carving out pieces of Indian territory. Now, my argument to that was, well, our government did not kick up enough of a fuss nor did our civil society.
We did not connect to other people asking for support. And so perhaps we should not complain. However, I did want to point out that when we talk about Ukraine and indeed about Putin's Russia, what is important is that if on one side it affects European security and US Monroe doctrines, on the other side, it affects Asian security and beyond. On China, I would say that it was fairly evident actually that China would not vote with Russia to veto. China-- there is no advantage to China in being put in the bad-people basket. They have a lot of investment at stake, not only in Russia, which they do hugely, but also in Europe. And they have a whole economic diplomacy that is ongoing, that they're quite careful to try to shore up.
You know, even Taiwan won't be allowed to break that aspect of their diplomacy. On this countries having a role to play: I know that the Indian government sometimes tries to pitch its abstention as leaving options open, to be able to play a role in at least calling for the cessation of hostilities. But whether that is accompanied by also saying withdrawal is not clear. And if you take the African Union, they have actually, they have their hands full with so many ongoing conflicts in Africa. In Asia, we have not managed yet to even progress on initial attempts to talk common security, at least amongst some of the countries you know, the East Asian summit and so on. So there's a problem there. You know, apart from questions where perhaps we could all agree like climate change, we also have a huge set of challenges to deal with in terms of autocratization or the growth of populist currents that have weakened and undermined our democracies, the removal of human rights. Really in India, there are very few human rights left to talk of, and this isn't just in our country, this is happening all over not only Asia, Europe, et cetera.
So we have, I would say even for the global peace movement, these are all conversations where we need to work together. I mean, you know, Mary, when you were speaking, I was just remembering the Helsinki Citizens Assembly 30 years ago. The idea was that you needed civil society to work together, to help a more democratic process of integration. Since that was going to be happening. Now, here we are. And we have not been able to talk in the same way about how we all do need in our own little different civil society groups across the world, to perhaps touch base, to say, how do we deal with these autocratic trends? We need to support Russian civil society, no question. She was wonderfully brave that girl, but I see even in think tanks that were fairly establishment [in Russia], I see a huge amount of unhappiness unease when they're pushed to appear on television, poor fellows, you know, they look so miserable.
So even Lavrov looks miserable for goodness sake. So how you can help that, is something we should about certainly. And I think people are trying to do it individually, but perhaps a little more organizing and a little more coming together. Last point, you know, one of our big problems for cl-- but you must all be aware of how our government went completely insane over a few posts of Fridays for Future and accuse Greta Thunberg of a huge conspiracy over a toolkit as if this was, you know, some wonderful CIA import: this word and this concept. So it all seems to me to come right back to this, that this wave of populist, autocratic behavior and the role of social media in spreading hatred and polarizing people, not only politically, but well, I shouldn't say not only politically, we all know that the worst polarization is ethnic, religious and so on, but also politically it's very, very difficult.
Helena Cobban (00:28:12):
So Mary, I would like to come back to you on your point that you raised about the need to overthrow Putin, which, I mean, maybe you didn't use exactly that term, but it's strikes me as a rather startling way to look at things when surely the the priority must be to end the war and to end the war, you need an interlocutor. So maybe you could explain that a little bit. I mean, I'm, I'm just looking at the the successful regime overthrow project that the west had in Libya where they, you know, used the no-fly zone and exceeded the no-fly zone and killed Qaddafi in a most brutal way. And the country is in a horrendous shape. So what-- and Putin can, you know, there is the nuclear balance.
Mary Kaldor (00:29:13):
I mean, I dunno if I said overthrow of Putin, I think I'm certainly not advocating that the west overthrows Putin. And I think it's gonna be very difficult. I, I thought I was talking about Russian domestic opposition, which is slightly different, but what I would like to say is that I'm completely a hundred percent in agreement with Radha. I think Putin is the product of the popul authoritarian right, which is not only characteristic of Russia. It's also characteristic of India. It's also characteristic of Brexit. It's also characteristic of Trump. And if we learn anything, it is how dangerous this phenomenon is. And I'd like to say a couple of things more about that, because there's a lot on the left about how the west was responsible for this through NATO expansion. I think there's a much stronger argument you can make that it was all to do with market fundamentalism ,that when the when communism ended, somehow there was this dream that you could convert communist countries into bourgeois capitalist countries, liberal democracies, and all you needed to do was to privatize, to liberalize, and all of those things.
And instead, what you produced was oligarchies. The communist bureaucrats, who looked at their counterparts in the west with envy, because they were so much richer. Instead of being managers of state companies [they] became oligarchs through privatization.
The market in communist countries really meant stealing was really illegal. And so stealing, they understood capitalism was all about stealing. So what we got was not was not bourgeois capitalism but kleptocracy. And that was combined with ethnic nationalism and this product of, if you like, crony capitalism and ethnic nationalism and also misogyny and homophobia. That's the toxic mixture that we see in the Trump phenomenon, that we see in the Brexit phenomenon, that we see the Modi phenomenon. So I think Radha's absolutely right. And that's what we need a kind of common front when dealing with it. What I meant about Russia is if I think about the way this-- how can this war end? I'm quite doubtful, despite what Zelensky is saying that negotiations will end the war. I think they'll go on forever. I work on protracted conflicts and I think the most likely outcome, which is terribly depressing, is an endless conflict in both places.
Neither side can win. If Russia tries to escalate, the risk is a nuclear war. So-- but Ukraine isn't strong enough to defeat Russia. And what, you know, if this goes on for a very long time, what you can see is militias and armed groups emerging that break away from the regular forces that start looting, smuggling. You can see the ethnicization of the conflict at the moment, Russians and Ukrainians [inside Ukraine] are really together with a civic idea of what Ukraine is, but there's such a hatred of the Russians that I could imagine the start of ethnic cleansing. And so you could get a very long conflict on Europe's doorstep, like Syria, like Libya, which would be terribly difficult and painful. I think the sanctions could have a similar consequence in Russia. You could have a Venezuela-type situation with nuclear weapons, which is absolutely terrifying.
So what's the conclusion I draw from all of this? Well, it is that we really have to take all this terribly seriously. And we really do have to, as Radha said, unite against-- you know, realize that we have a shared interest in stopping the populist right. And that means doing a lot of civil society inter-connections. And Radha you are right, I mean, I think everybody has turned into their own little worlds and are much more isolated. You know, it always shocked me how little solidarity there was over the Syrian war, for example,: compared with say the solidarity over Bosnia. There's huge, at least in Europe, huge solidarity with Ukraine. It's just incredible the way just like there was over Bosnia: all over Europe, people are organizinglorries to take humanitarian assistance. They're doing all kinds of things. And activists are constantly in touch with us. Actually, funnily enough Radha, they are saying, we want the Helsinki Citizens Assembly again. And we are actually planning-- and it's quite soon, I'll let you all know the date-- a Zoom assembly with Russians and Ukrainians and activists, and as many activists from Western Europe as we can as we can muster. And so all of that is beginning to happen--
Helena Cobban (00:35:22):
Radha Kumar (00:35:25):
Just quickly. That is one thing that I've noticed and I don't have yet an explanation, but I've noticed that the upsurge of simple human concern for Ukrainians is universal. I have never, you know, normally our half-baked media considers itself very sophisticated in realpolitik and across, even by the way, the populous right television channels, human rights and Ukraine have become synonymous. And you know, at that level, I think that is a positive, a very positive thing to look at. I just wish we could broaden it a bit. Two hours ago I saw somebody on television saying that we are not even talking about the fact that the Yemen war is going on. There are still starvation deaths.
Mary Kaldor (00:36:33):
Radha Kumar (00:36:34):
Those are things that we really-- and I still take it to heart that we should have been talking much more about China too, and Afghanistan, and [what] Russia, China are doing in Afghanistan; and Pakistan and well--
Mary Kaldor (00:36:52):
Absolutely. And I mean, you know, one of the fascinating side effects is that the European Union who only a few months ago were playing into Putin's games by refusing refugees on the Polish border that Belarus had deliberately-- It would've been so easy to accept them. And then Belarus and Russia would've looked stupid. That was only happening a few months ago. And now they're welcoming all these Ukrainian refugees. Although I agree: the Poles, there's been some awful racism against Indians and African students, so that's been horrible. But I think that is gonna shift. It's gonna be really difficult for them to argue: We love the Ukrainians, but we don't love people from other, from other conflicts. So I do--
Radha Kumar (00:37:46):
That's always very easy to argue: these are mine, and those are yours.
Mary Kaldor (00:37:53):
I just remembered one other thing I wanted to say to Richard, I don't about the US, but actually, you know, another positive thing about this is actually on climate change because you know, the UK and Germany have announced they're going to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas. We canceled Nordstream and a new big investment program in renewables that never would've happened without this war.
Richard Falk (00:38:24):
Let me just respond to that. I mean, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, it had its lead editorial that it was now time to let the US drill in federal lands for oil and gas and resume coal mining for the-- I mean, in other words, it's just the opposite reaction: to gain energy independence and to free the US and indirectly Europe from depending on Russian exports of oil and gas, and doing this at the-- by sidelining completely climate change. Which was already sidelined somewhat by the COVID pandemic. Glasgow: the UN effort at Glasgow was very disappointing. And the people in the street, again civil society, carried the torch for real adaptation to the challenge of global warming. Governments failed miserably. Another point I would make in response to the present crisis is that it is important to give some attention to what prudent geopolitics means in a world where you have this confrontation between the west and Russia, both of which have nuclear weapons, both of which are tempted in various ways and have been in the past to use those weapons as a dimension of their diplomacy.
That is the way bigger wars get started-- historic experience with World War I and so on. So I think the priorities of the peace movement, as well as the struggle against populist autocratic tendencies, should also be focused on what it means to be, to have prudent geopolitics, which I would say involves denuclearization to the extent that it can be managed. And it may be, Mary was one of the leaders of "Détente from below," during the Cold War. And I think maybe it's important to think about civil society as projecting an image, not only of what it's against, but what it's for and going beyond human rights to embrace what I'm calling geopolitical prudence or prudent geopolitics or the deescalation of geopolitical confrontation. And the US, again, I see it from an American angle was eager for a geopolitical confrontation, first with China. And it took you may not want to emphasize its provocative role in relation to Ukraine, but definitely the hawkish elements in the American elite were very happy with the confrontation and it's meant surges in military spending and lots of unfortunate effects
Helena Cobban (00:42:38):
Richard, I would just like to pick up on your concept of prudent geopolitics, which I think is a great one. I know our friends from the Quincy Institute here, which titles itself, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, they have the same kind of approach that you want: to be prudent and not to fuel conflicts. Which honestly, Mary, when I hear you talk about, you know, this could go on for five or 10 or however many years as people have been talking about, I mean, it terrifies me, it terrifies me.
Mary Kaldor (00:43:19):
It terrifies me.
Helena Cobban (00:43:20):
No, not just the people in Ukraine and Russia, but the people in, you know, the Global South who have, you know, the oil prices, the wheat prices, everything is going to ravage the world economy. So, you know, if it were just, I mean, if I were, you know, an African or person from the Global South, I could perhaps say, you know, "Let those white people up in Europe fight each other for, for years and years and years," but it has these global effects, including on climate change.
II mean, the idea that the EU is, is suddenly, you know, doing a big investment in renewables. Well, that's wonderful, but it's not actually gonna make much difference within the next five or 10 years. Whereas the war itself, preparations for war, fighting of war, all of these things have unbelievable effects on the climate. I mean, the Pentagon is itself about the fifth-- you know, if you put it in the rank of the nations and their global emissions-- the Pentagon is about number three or four. So, I mean, I know the-- and there are other militaries involved right now. So I don't think that people in the global peace movement can easily accept the idea that this is gonna be a protracted conflict.
Mary Kaldor (00:44:44):
Well, I don't want, of course they can't, I'm just telling you what I think is the most likely outcome. And we had it in Syria, we had it in Libya, where was the global peace movement then? You know, and Syria has had horrible effects on the climate, the kinds of brutalities, the use of chemical weapons, the bombing of schools and hospitals, all of these things have been happening in Syria. And where has the global peace movement been? So yes, I agree with you. It's a horrible outcome, but the question is, how do we avoid it? And I realize I didn't finish your last question, which is the best option would be that the Russians change their policy as a result of the combination of Ukrainian resistance and Russian opposition. And that's why supporting Russian opposition, that's the most hopeful way out of the conflict. I don't see any other, I don't. I'm skeptical about whether it can be ended through negotiations. If it can, that will be great. Escalation is horrible and I think much more likely is this ongoing long war, which is what we've seen in Afghanistan. We've seen it in Syria. We've seen it in Libya. We're seeing it in Yemen and it's a disaster for the world and all of these ongoing conflicts are disasters for the world. So maybe we can start thinking about what earth we do about them?
Helena Cobban (00:46:23):
Radha, do you see some impetus for peacemaking coming from the remnants of the non-aligned movement, for example, or India's diplomacy. Is India in a position to, to actually, because of the relationship with, with President Putin and and the Russian government, is India in a position perhaps to persuade parties, to come to a negotiation?
Radha Kumar (00:46:54):
I mean, I would say we perhaps need to begin at a-- it's more further back than that, in the sense that as I read Mr. Putin, he is not really interested in third party or for that matter in negotiation. So maybe all these people, the ones who voted against the UN resolution, the 35 countries of us who abstained, one thing that they could all do in concert would be to keep saying to him that, that this is, you know, you you've already-- we already know that he's reached a point of no return-- but at least start trying to say, is there this way, or that way, that could be a little face saving for you? I mean, after Zelensky has already said that they're not gonna apply for NATO membership right now. What if these (sorry, my pronunciation is gonna be atrocious) but Luhansk and--
Helena Cobban (00:48:11):
Radha Kumar (00:48:25):
... Donetsk, maybe suggest that perhaps there could be a UN-mediated peace process. If these things could be-- this is something I tried to suggest a month ago. I mean, if the-- I have to say, I don't have much hope that these will have any weight with him, but it's worth a try. I mean, you know, what, what do you lose if 40 countries say this to him, who he regards is at least neutral? Well, let them say it. What I would warn against is you know, people-- there has been a huge jockeying for even peace negotiations, not just for Ukraine. It's also part of global geopolitics, I'm sad to say: countries positioning themselves and thinking this raises their power factor. And we've seen that. And we saw what a disaster that was for Afghanistan. So we do not want to encourage that kind of undercutting competition for, "Oh, I'm, I'm the guy who can knock the heads together" in Richard Holbrooke's famous self-description.
That is not a situation that should be encourager should be wanted at all. So if there are going to be channels that Putin might accept for negotiation, then everybody has to come together and back that channel, not that you know, today, it's Turkey and tomorrow it's, I don't know, Belarus and China and India, because each one of these countries is only using that to strengthen their own standing in this wonderful world of international relations. Apart from that, I do feel it's worth, say, the peace movement perhaps challenging these countries and saying, well, since you are saying that you want to position yourself to be you know, helpful as an interlocutor, at least agree on some basics and say the same thing together to Mr. Putin. You know, it's already, so one sided, isn't it? We have to figure some way to get Putin.
Helena Cobban (00:51:05):
What effect has this crisis had on the global peace movement? I mean, here in the United States, I have seen just this, like, tsunami of bellophilia, of, you know, all kinds of like, "We wanna return to the time when we were the Cold Warriors and we were the good!" And in the famous phrase of Ian Buruma, talking about growing up in Amsterdam under Nazi occupation, he said, "They were bad, therefore, we were good." You know, that you need this external baddy in order to validate your own moral position. What can we do to combat that in our societies. Mary, any ideas?
Mary Kaldor (00:51:55):
Wait, I think it's really interesting listening to you and Richard, because it makes me realize how incredibly different the American context is from the European context, which didn't used to be true. So that's one reflection. Then, on the question of the peace movement, what we've seen here is there's been this huge outpouring of sympathy for Ukraine, and there's been lots of Ukraine's solidarity protests and marches and so on, but there has been a bit of a division within the peace movement. In this country, in the UK, there's an organization called Stop the War that sometimes is accused of being two-campist. So, you know, in the past you were talking about the bellicose situation in which everybody's happy to be back to we and them. I think for a lot of the peace movement, there was a we and them situation in which, because the west is horrible, Russia can't be that bad.
And you know, I think that's been quite a problem and has caused some divisions and sensitivities. And I think for everybody, whether it's the elites and the bellicose guys who love Cold War, or whether it's the peace movement who loved, who thought, you know, they could be fellow travelers with the Soviet Union in opposing the US. I mean, that was only some, not my bit of the peace movement. I'm not accusing the whole peace movement of it. But we've seen these divisions reemerging after Ukraine. And I think it's incredibly important that we have a common--we have a shared interest in you know, that the problems are the same, whether to the United States invading Iraq or whether it's Russia invading Ukraine. And so I think we've got to be really clear about, I think the issue of war crimes and crimes [of] aggression is hugely important.
And up until now, the International Criminal Court has had double standards. It never brought Bush or Blair before the International Criminal Court. And now people are talking about the need to establish a tribunal for Putin. So I think there's lots of issues that we need to discuss. And above all, I think being active in a movement is a sort of learning process where we all learn and we all change our ideas and we need that just as much. You know, we've got a new learning process that we have to get engaged in. It's a new world. It's not back to the old Cold War. It's a different world in which we all have the shared interest in opposing populist autocrats.
Helena Cobban (00:54:44):
Radha, do you have-- do you think that international law has a role to play or this concept of criminal prosecutions, which let's face it in the case of Saddam Hussein was a disaster. You know, and, and we-- as Richard and I are Americans-- you know, our country is not even a member of the ICC--
Radha Kumar (00:55:05):
Nor is mine.
Helena Cobban (00:55:07):
Right. So do you see that international law and ICC and criminal prosecutions could play a role?
Radha Kumar (00:55:17):
You know, those generally happen after a war is ended. And I would say that if you start threatening them while a war is ongoing, then you've already sent out a message to, well, in this case Putin, that you might as well go the whole hog because you are finished anyway. And you know, as I said, I don't-- actually, I'm not a doctor or a psychologist, but I think he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown from when I see his face on television. And it honestly seems to me that he's already somewhere decided that either he is gonna be assassinated or he's gonna be imprisoned. And he sees no reason why not to keep-- you know, each bad thing appears to involve an even worse one. If that's the sort of mentality.
Mary Kaldor (00:56:25):
Well, I think it's not just the crime. I mean, first of all, I think it's how it affects the people around him is as important as how it affects him. But also I just think, remind-- you know, I think it's really important that the, you know, bombing of hospital and schools is a horrible crime. And I think it's really important documenting crimes. And I feel that's one way the UN should start getting involved. I mean, in the Balkan wars, the UN expert commission, which led to the setting up of the tribunal was really important. And I think it would be a very good idea for of the UN to do something similar in Ukraine. And I think people in the Ukraine are already documenting these crimes.
Helena Cobban (00:57:12):
Richard, do you have something to say about international law?
Richard Falk (00:57:16):
Well, I suppose. But I mean, one thing that we should keep in mind is that the UN itself was designed to give the most dangerous countries in the world, a veto power, which in effect meant they didn't have to respect international law unless they wanted to. They, whenever there was a collision with strategic interests, they operated either outside of the UN or cast a veto. And that was part of the post-World War II plan. And we should not forget that. And even if you look at Nurnberg, which was an attempt to punish German war criminals, it exempted the victors, even though they committed horrible crimes, including the atomic bombings of Japanese cities. So geopolitics, the, primacy of geopolitics in relation to international law is nothing new and it was deliberately introduced into the peace diplomacy after World War II, because it was thought to correct the failure of the League of Nations, which tried to exclude geopolitics, but it had the effect of excluding the geopolitical actors, Russia, Soviet Union and then Germany, and then the US never joined.
So this was an attempt to create an inclusive, geopolitically inclusive body that had kept the participation of the geopolitical actors, but at the sacrifice of international law. There was not the pretension that international law would govern the most important actors. And the US has never acted as if it was subject to international law, from the Vietnam war onward. So now we can be self righteously condemning Russia, and it's horrible what has happened, but it shouldn't be seen as a departure from a pattern of behavior that was of Western origin, both European and north American, and was reinforced by the behavior, over the years, in conflict situations that served the strategic interests of the west.
Helena Cobban (01:00:36):
So I think we've, we've run beyond a little bit our time. We have a question from an attendee Hans Rudolph Sutor that I would like to ask that I think is directed to Mary. And, and then probably we should wrap up. So, his question is, "How is your best outcome different from what the US Cold Warriors want?" And he stresses, this is not a rhetorical question, but a genuine question. How is it different?
Mary Kaldor (01:01:08):
Well, I'm not sure what the US Cold Warriors want. But all I'm saying is that if we, you know-- the war will only end if Russia changes its behavior. And this is only likely to come about through a combination of Ukrainian resistance and domestic Russian opposition. And Putin has in the past been responsive to domestic Russian opposition. And I mean, maybe that's what Cold Warriors would want too, because it's-- whatever happens to Russia, there's going to be some kind of humiliation.
What I wanted to say to Richard is that I suppose, well, you will think I'm being ridiculously optimistic, but I have a feeling where it's a sort of moment in time when that balance between international law and geopolitics could change. I'm not saying it-- I mean, everyone has been talking about the return of geopolitics with China, Russia, India, and all these countries competing.
And obviously that's what it looks like at the moment. But I suppose, and I'm very much sort of in a European vantage point, looking at it from a European vantage point, I just wonder whether this isn't actually a moment when, what I think has happened since the end of the second World War is that military force has turned out to be very bad for what Thomas Schelling called. compellance. It's really hard to use military force to make other people do what you want them to do. And we saw that in Iraq, we saw that in Afghanistan, and we're now seeing that in Ukraine. You can be hugely destructive, but actually it's not a very viable instrument any longer. And you know, what I'm hoping is this is a moment when more and more people begin to realize that and international security will have to sort of follow a different set of principles.
Helena Cobban (01:03:26):
Interesting. So actually what you're saying is that the goal is to change Putin's behavior and that you think it's unlikely that he's going to do that unless pushed. So, so that's slightly different from calling for his overthrow, which is how I--
Mary Kaldor (01:03:42):
Well I want him to be overthrown, but not by the United States but by his own, by the Russian opposition. That would be wonderful just as I would love Modi to be out and all these other horrible characters. But what I'm saying is, if you think about-- I think a coup against Putin is not very likely, it would be great. Well, it wouldn't be great because the oligarchs would still be in power. But I think more likely is that there's such a strong Russian opposition that if he is not completely as mad as Radha thinks he is-- which I suspect she's right, and he probably is that mad. He would, in the past, he has been responsive to the sense that this is something that's hugely unpopular domestically. And of course you are already seeing, particularly, you know, you've had literally tens of thousands of deaths of Russian soldiers. Their families were told they were on training missions. I mean, you saw what happened after the war in Afghanistan. I mean, people often never realize quite how important the war in Afghanistan was to the emergence of Gorbachev and the changes that happened in the Soviet Union. I mean, if this goes on, you know, there is going to be a lot of opposition from not just from the usual suspects, but from a wider section of Russian society.
Helena Cobban (01:05:18):
So I think we're going to wind up now. Radha, do you have a couple of points you'd like to make before we leave?
Radha Kumar (01:05:30):
I did want to try to end on a positive note. And it seems to me that if-- you know, leaving aside broader questions, perhaps for the moment, we really ought to be thinking about how we can get more and more of our government or our leaders to at least try to pick up the phone to Mr. Putin and say, "But look, there are face saving ways out." So you add to the pressure in whichever way you possibly can. And I wish I could be more optimistic than that. I do-- what I would love to see later is more conversation on actually what the anticipated changes are in international peace and security as a result, not only of the Ukraine war, but perhaps the Ukraine war might help bring those to the fore. And in which case, what is it that all of us can do to try to shape that??
Helena Cobban (01:06:49):
Great question. So Richard, can you sum up the whole thing?
Richard Falk (01:06:54):
Hardly! But I think it's been a very illuminating discussion that has pointed both to what this means on a global scale and how the peace movement can constructively take advantage of the tragedy to reorganize its own vision of what the future should-- how the future should be shaped or reshaped. And I think I would emphasize two points. One is keeping a focus on a post-Ukrainian European security system and also on how does one enable international law to be taken as seriously as geopolitical strategic advantage. Those two things I think would be very constructive.
Helena Cobban (01:08:14):
Excellent. Well, thank you so much. Just before I thank our guests, I want to remind everybody attending this webinar that you can find details of the whole upcoming schedule at our website, www.justworldeducational.org where you will also find a donate button. So please donate! We are totally reliant on grassroots support. As you exit this webinar, there will be an exit poll, and I really ask you to fill it out. Although I realized the last one we had completely misedited it, and the questions and answers were all like upside down. That is why one of the questions in the, in the, in today exit poll is would you like to volunteer your time to help us organize these things? That, that is one of the questions. Then on Friday, just world educational is going to be launching a special resource page to mark the 60th anniversary of the Evian chords, by which Algeria, after a lengthy struggle for national liberation gained its independence from France.
So watch for that on Friday. And the next webinar in this series will be next Monday at 2:30 PM Eastern time. It will feature Anato Levon and Ray McGovern, both of whom are very well informed. People who understand a lot about Russia, its role in world politics and, and the need for, for active diplomacy and, and the growth of the peace movement. So anyway, Mary Kaldor, Radha Kumar, thank you so much for being with us. It has been such a pleasure and a privilege, and I wish we could carry on talking. And maybe if, you know, if we could talk for another 24 hours, we could come out with more points of, of agreement, but I think we already have a lot of points of agreement. And I
Radha Kumar (01:10:14):
Suggest to demand that the next in the Kremlin!
Helena Cobban (01:10:21):
Great idea. Richard, do you have anything to add before we wrap up our, our welcome?
Richard Falk (01:10:29):
No, I thank our guests for giving us a brilliant start to the-- well, an American brilliant start to the day, given the time zone separation. And I do think we're at a transformational moment, whether that moment turns out well or badly is up to us in the ultimate sense. It's a moment where people have the leverage to make changes and whether they can be mobilized to do so is a unanswerable question at the moment, but we must try.
Helena Cobban (01:11:21):
Thank you everybody then. And hope to see you at some of our future webinars..
Speakers for the Session
Prof. Richard Falk
Dr. Mary Kaldor
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