Global Flashpoints: Conflict Prevention and Diplomacy

Global Flashpoints: Conflict Prevention and Diplomacy

This is an incredibly precarious time for the global community. The possibility of a nuclear war is being talked about more seriously than it has been since students were doing nuclear drills under their desks. A dangerous dance between two declining powers, Russia and the U.S., and a rising power, China, menaces prospects for global peace. All three have persistent domestic problems, while still possessing frightening arsenals that threaten life on Earth. A renewed arms race and Cold War that the peoples of Russia, China, and the U.S. (and, really, the whole world) cannot afford, is well underway. Meanwhile, the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and sluggish negotiations process have dampened the chances for a continued nuclear agreement with Iran, which makes the possibility for U.S. military intervention there, along with a protracted war, more likely.

We need less saber-rattling and more diplomacy, cooperation, and conflict prevention. Many in the U.S. have forgotten that diplomacy can provide a smart and sophisticated tool for addressing, preventing, and resolving real-world conflicts – even in the toughest cases. Additionally, only growing international cooperation can help tackle the common threats we face — growing threats from disease, the climate crisis already affecting millions, nuclear weapons and the destruction they can rain down, violent extremism, economic inequality, and more. Achieving peace and enhanced security would be much cheaper, and in the interests of everyone save weapons contractors and foreign policy elites whose only frame for international relations is constant conflict. For the most part, ordinary Americans tend to oppose more wars and support diplomatic efforts, so we need to mobilize them.


Negotiation Now: Ukraine

Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine have created immense life and death suffering for Ukrainian civilians. Beyond Ukraine, the war is a historic global catastrophe that poses multiple threats: a refugee crisis, a food security crisis, a nuclear crisis, and a global economic crisis. At this stage, a protracted war seems all too possible, which will lead to more tragic death and destruction. We need negotiations now to prevent further harm or escalation.

Intensive and sustained diplomacy should be initiated immediately to jumpstart a peace process that can achieve a ceasefire, an end to Russia’s occupation, and a just and sustainable peace settlement. The U.S. must immediately initiate talks with Russia on nuclear and other cooperative security issues. It is urgent to reduce bilateral tensions, resume New START, and negotiate further nuclear stockpile reductions. Simultaneously, the U.S. must fund aid, support debt relief, and support progressive policies for Ukraine.

Regrettably, especially with this war, the idea of diplomacy has been problematized. Old misguided notions, like the idea that you can’t do diplomacy with countries you don’t trust, dominate debates about Ukraine. This dynamic has shrunk the political space for those supporting diplomacy to end the war.

Peace Action can play a critical role in media, public education, and congressional education in articulating why diplomacy is still needed and addressing all the obstacles to it. To do this we need to avoid our own simplistic formulations and acknowledge the very real obstacles to a negotiated solution. A similar preventative effort is needed to encourage the diplomacy needed to ratchet down growing tensions with China.

De-Escalate Tensions with China

We have seen tensions between the U.S. and China grow during the last decade. Some members of Congress are banging the war drums and painting China as the next great threat, suggesting that military confrontation will be inevitable. In that spirit, the U.S. military-industrial complex has been pointing to China’s rise to justify continued massive Pentagon budgets, exorbitant weapons systems, and a “pivot” of 60% of its military resources to the Asia-Pacific region. This escalation is incredibly provocative and risks a dangerous Chinese response. It also siphons off resources from efforts to address the world’s real human security crises like climate change and dangerous global pandemics.

Peace Action works to de-escalate this Cold War-style conflict with China by opposing and reducing funding for weapons systems and policies that exacerbate tensions, such as the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. We will also push the U.S. to set an example by reducing funding for nuclear and conventional weapons systems that are particularly escalatory or are key drivers to an arms race — such as the pricey and unnecessary upgrades to our ground-based nuclear missiles. We will also promote diplomacy to reduce military tensions between China and the U.S. and its allies over issues like Taiwan.

Return to a Nuclear Deal with Iran

The Trump administration pushed the U.S. to the brink of war with Iran. Despite a sluggish start, the Biden administration resumed talks and is motivated to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal. The summer prisoner exchange was an important step toward reestablishing negotiations. Peace Action is working to amplify support for continued diplomacy and drown out the voices of naysayers trying to profit from another war in the region. That includes stopping hawkish anti-Iran language from being snuck into legislation — a move Senate Republicans attempted earlier this year. The U.S. must work to enter into another diplomatic agreement and honor the agreed-upon, verifiable action steps in order to prevent dangerous escalation and a war that would carry devastating consequences.

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