Despite the recent build-up in hostilities it was a shock to wake up on 24 February to discover that Russia had actually invaded Ukraine.
The United Nations Association was quick to issue a statement:
“UNA-UK condemns Russia’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine - in clear contravention of the UN Charter. This unprovoked and unjustifiable military action is an appalling violation of international law and risks unacceptable human suffering. UNA-UK echoes the UN Secretary-General’s appeal to President Putin to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine and reverse this deadly course of action, in the name of humanity.”
Other organisations in the Peace movement issued statements deploring the invasion, but with varying degrees of blame also being apportioned to NATO’s actions since the end of the Cold War.
As the Peace Pledge Union said:
“The Cold War ended because regimes in central and eastern Europe were brought down by the largely nonviolent resistance of their own people. But the opportunity to build peace was missed, as both Russia and NATO pursued aggressively militaristic policies.”
CND is a member of the European No to War – No to NATO network, which has issued the following statement:
“We condemn the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. There is no justific-ation for war.
The bombing must stop immediately. What is needed is a comprehensive ceasefire, the withdrawal of all troops and a return to the negotiating table. Western political actions should focus on de-escalation, resuming talks, and avoiding further hatred and confront-ation. We reject sanctions that affect the civilian population.
In the long term, the aim should be a common security policy based on the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. There is no security possible at the expense of the opposing party and that is rooted in militarism and confrontation, which is why we continue to oppose NATO enlargement.
We warn that an even further escalation of the war and the intensification of mutual tensions between nuclear powers could have dangerous consequences. Europe cannot afford another war. In the long term, Europe needs disarmament and demilitarisation.
The international peace movement must join forces to oppose any war policy in solidarity with the peace forces in Ukraine and Russia. There is no alternative to dialogue and cooperation. Certainly not now!”
On 28 February CND Vice President Bruce Kent and General Secretary Kate Hudson delivered a letter to the Russian ambassador condemning the invasion of Ukraine and calling for the rights of Russian anti-war protestors to be upheld.
Among the many interesting articles analysing the causes and implications of the invasion of Ukraine was the following in Peace News written by Milan Rai:
“Earlier last month, Yurii Sheliazhenko, executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, told Democracy Now!: ‘Both great powers of the West and the East share equal responsibility to avoid escalation of war in Ukraine and beyond Ukraine. The escalation towards major war in Ukraine is unnecessary. Our government became part of it when we recklessly took side of the West in global power struggle. And, instead, we should be neutral country. We should commit to universal peace. People of Ukraine, as well as all people in the world, want to live in peace and be happy. Both great powers of the West and the East share equal responsibility to avoid escalation of war in Ukraine and beyond Ukraine and give up nuclear stockpiles threatening to kill all life on the planet because of these absurd political quarrels.’
It’s not difficult to see that Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 was illegal. Russia’s unclaimed military operations in eastern Ukraine since 2014 have been illegal. Russia’s most recent threats against Ukraine were illegal. Russia’s ‘recognition’ of the independence of two breakaway Ukrainian ‘republics’ a few days ago was illegal. Russia’s full-scale assault on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, is also illegal.
These are all facts.
It’s also a fact that NATO countries have contributed to creating this crisis situation – by steadily taking Eastern European countries into NATO membership and by opening the door to Ukraine becoming a member. In April 2008, the nuclear-armed alliance said: ‘NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.’ That commitment in 2008 betrayed commitments made by Western states in 1990 and has contributed significantly to the crisis that the world now faces.
NATO is not just ‘a defensive alliance’. The very first thing NATO did after its formation in 1949 was to supply weapons to France for the first Vietnam War, as France tried to reconquer its colonial possession, Indochina. More recently, NATO has waged illegal wars against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 and Libya in 2011. In neither case did it have the backing of a UN security council resolution.
Russia fears that non-nuclear NATO missiles positioned in Eastern Europe may be used for attack. NATO is also a nuclear-armed alliance that reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first in any conflict.
Does Russia deserve condemnation for its (second) invasion of Ukraine? Yes.
Does Russia deserve sanctions for its assault on Ukraine? Yes.
Should Western peace movements protest against the Russian invasion? Yes.
However, our double slogan should be: ‘No to Putin’s war in Ukraine. No to NATO expansion.’
The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement has issued a statement saying it ‘condemns all military actions on the sides of Russia and Ukraine in the context of current conflict’: ‘We call the leadership of both states and military forces to step back and sit at the negotiation table. Peace in Ukraine and around the world can be achieved only in a nonviolent way. War is a crime against humanity. Therefore, we are determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.’
If we take Putin’s declaration of war statement at face value, the Russian government does not plan on a long-term occupation of Ukraine of the kind the US carried out in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, or of the kind the US imposed on Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021.
It seems the Russian president may be planning something more like Panama. In December 1989, the US launched a six-week invasion of the Central American country in order to topple its dictator. General Manuel Noriega (a CIA agent since the 1970s) had become unreliable.
In Ukraine, today, imposing a pro-Russian government in Kiev would be much more difficult. In Panama, there was a handy puppet for the US: a politician who had won the presidential elections a few months earlier, before the elections had been ruled out of order by Noriega. In Ukraine, there is no pro-Russian politician with a similar degree of legitimacy who can be installed by Russian forces.
Putin probably has fall-back options including just retaining parts of the Russian-speaking Donbass region, perhaps to create a land corridor to Crimea, annexed to Russia in 2014. Perhaps he intends to annex these eastern areas to Russia as well, redrawing the border again.
The Russian invasion is horrifying for people throughout Ukraine. It is also a danger to the world because of the risk of a wider war. The invasion must be stopped and Russia must withdraw.
At the same time, much of the coverage of this war focuses on the fact that it is happening in Europe, that it affects Europeans. This brings to mind other wars and other crises – where Europeans bear some responsibility.
When Saudi Arabia began its air war in Yemen in March 2015, leading a coalition of Arab states which organised, armed, supplied and directed forces in the country, the kingdom only expected the war to last a few weeks. It continues today, and has escalated in the last few months.
Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has been fuelled by British weapons and training worth billions of pounds, and by crucial British diplomatic support. It has led to Yemen becoming the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, yet when Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen, there was no storm of protest and no talk of sanctions against the kingdom.
It is absolutely right to protest against the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it’s absolutely right to impose sanctions on Russia for its crimes in Ukraine. However, these actions will only have moral force, if carried out by British people or the British state, if we apply the same standards and the same punishment to the Saudi invasion of Yemen – where we bear so much responsibility for the suffering.”
By the time you receive this newsletter the situation will no doubt have changed. As I write Putin has ordered his military command to put nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, which is obviously extremely alarming, but Ukraine has agreed to peace talks with Russia ‘without preconditions’.
Two excellent articles by Prof. Paul Rogers:
An article by Dr Ian Davis, a former executive director of the British American Security Information Council, Executive Editor of the SIPRI Yearbook and Associate Senior Fellow Armament and Disarmament:
And a WILPF article: https://www.wilpf.org/militarism-cannot-prevent-war-an-urgent-call-for-de-escalation-demilitarisation-and-disarmament-in-relation-to-ukraine-and-beyond/
Our AGM took place via Zoom on 9 February, and was attended by 10 members.
The treasurer reported on the finances for 2021, which show that we have a healthy balance in the bank. This was due in considerable part to Maggie’s and Rosemary’s efforts at car boot and garage sales, plus a stall at Ham Fair. We have continued with financial support for Campaign Against Arms Trade, London Region CND and Stop the War and we remain affiliated to several national peace-related organisations.
Unfortunately no nominations were received for the posts of Chair and Secretary, so these roles will continue to be shared on an ad-hoc basis. Gill was re-elected as Treasurer / Membership Secretary and other roles continue to be filled by the same willing band of volunteers. Rosemary appealed for more help with editing the newsletter, even on an occasional basis.
In the absence of a Chair’s report, Hilary produced the following summary of our achievements in 2021:
Nine editions of Kingston Peace News have been produced during the year. Many thanks for all their hard work to the three editors: Rosemary Addington, Phil Cooper and Gill Hurle who continue to maintain such a high standard with interesting and thought-provoking articles and comment. We are also grateful to Charles Wicksteed for maintaining our website.
Due to Covid restrictions, no in-person meetings have taken place but short online monthly meetings have continued. These are actually more convenient for some members and discussions have begun on what form our meetings should take in the future – perhaps a mixture of online and in-person?
The twice-monthly stalls on Saturdays at the church gate in Kingston market have now resumed.
Probably the only big advantage of Covid restrictions has been the feast of online peace-related meetings and conferences that have been available for members to attend all around the country, but all enjoyed in the comfort of their own home!
In February when the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force, members were active in raising awareness locally by contacting local churches and news media, and displaying banners and notices.
In August we were able to go ahead with our usual ceremony in Canbury Gardens to commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For the second year running, this was preceded earlier in the day by a vigil outside the Bentall Centre. Leaflets were distributed to provide information to interested passers-by.
In normal years, we have a presence at a number of local fairs during the summer months. These provide a valuable source of income as well as raising our profile. All but one fair was cancelled but Ham Fair took place in September and it was great to be out again! In spite of the loss of income resulting from these cancellations, Maggie and Rosemary have done sterling(!) work on our behalf at car boot sales plus the sales from Maggie’s garage.
In September, several members participated in protest events at the ExCeL Centre when the huge DSEI arms fair was held.
Later in September we set up our Peace Tree at the Kingston Market Place stall to mark the UN International Day of Peace. Usually around this time we visit local schools to talk about peace, but Covid restriction prevented much of this work. However, we did manage to go to one secondary school and two primary schools - St John's in Kingston and Meadlands in Ham.
In November, white poppies were once again distributed from the stall in the market place and aroused considerable interest.
Also in November a few members of KPC/CND had a useful time in Glasgow during the COP 26 climate conference, helping to raise awareness of the connection between military activity and climate change by leafletting and talking to delegates and members of the public.
Concern is ongoing over the situation in Palestine and in Yemen and Afghanistan with financial and other support being contributed where possible.
We were sorry to say goodbye to our good friend Jonathan Wilkes, Rector of All Saints Kingston, who has moved on to pastures new. We are grateful for all the help and support he has given to KPC over many years.
Twickenham, 24-27 January
A coalition of local organisations, led by Richmond & Kingston PSC and including Kingston Peace Council/CND, Amnesty and West London Stop the War Coalition, protested in Twickenham against the Rugby Stadium's hosting of an International Armoured Vehicles Conference. They were joined as well by members of Campaign Against Arms Trade, Quaker Roots, Movement for the Abolition of War and Veterans for Peace UK.
Although called a conference, some of the latest most sophisticated land weaponry on the planet, manufactured by the world's leading arms dealers, was being exhibited. The 700+ delegates included representatives from dictatorships and oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, UAE and Israel, states which do not hesitate to use tanks and heavily armed vehicles against their own civilian population.
A street stall was held in Twickenham on Saturday 22 January, and a demonstration outside the Stadium on the first day of the conference, Monday 24 January.
There was tremendous support from pedestrians and passing vehicles, with residents shocked to learn that the Stadium was hosting such an event - and that it had kept it secret.
Letters of protest were written to the local press, local MPs and councillors and to the Rugby Football Union, the owners of the stadium.
At the beginning of February this long awaited report from Amnesty International was released. Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), says:
The report can be condensed to a single stark and unambiguous sentence: “Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights.”
In over 200 pages, and after four years of intensive research, Amnesty details forensically how and in what ways Israel is practising a crime against humanity - the crime of apartheid.
This finding is not new, and should not be “news”: It affirms the reality that's been lived and articulated by Palestinians for decades. But Amnesty’s report is also a game changing moment, coming as it does as the third “chapter” of similar reports from Israel’s leading human rights organisation B'Tselem and from Human Rights Watch.
It boosts our work in mainstreaming the understanding of this apartheid reality, and the consequences that flow from it. As Amnesty makes clear in detailed recommendations - governments, public bodies, and businesses need to end all support, aid for, and complicity with Israel’s system of apartheid.
Our political leaders have so far ignored the report, or responded with well worn platitudes of support for a two-state solution and rhetorical opposition to Israel’s military occupation, wanting to continue to turn a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence of the one state apartheid reality Israel has created.
The day after the report was launched - without a sideways glance at it - our Government launched a consultation on how it can improve trade with Israel; with Liz Truss repeating the line about Israel being a valued democratic ally.
This line cannot, and will not, stand. It is up to us to ensure it does not.
When governments don’t act, it is for civil society and we - the people - to do so. Our call for a dis-mantling of Israel’s system of apartheid is a problem only to those opposed to the values of equality and justice for all.
With the rocket boost of this report behind us, we need to build new energy into our campaigns supporting students calling for University divestment, and calling on Local Government pension schemes to divest from complicit companies. We need to ramp up the pressure on those complicit companies themselves. (See the report on action against Puma below.)
Israel has been an apartheid state from its birth in 1948, but the stench of that reality is now becoming inescapable. As Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement, said recently: "The Palestinian struggle for freedom justice and equality has not reached its South Africa moment, that tipping point where the tide of those turning their back on the odour of injustice becomes irreversible, but if the moment has not been reached it is approaching."
Please write to your MP calling on them to respond to the report:
Let’s get to it. Forwards together to freedom, justice, and equality. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!
This report details the campaigning activities PSC has undertaken over the last year, and the plans they are making for this year.
In 2022 they will continue to drive their campaigns for a change in government policy, for an end to public bodies like universities and Local Government Pension Schemes investing in complicit companies, and for those complicit companies like Puma and JCB to end their support for Israel’s regime of oppression. The plan provides the roadmap for how PSC wants to achieve that.
Members of Kingston Peace Council/CND supported a street stall held by Richmond & Kingston PSC in Kingston on 12 February outside Sports Direct.
This was part of PSC's national campaign to Boycott PUMA for its sponsorship of the Israeli Football Association, which includes clubs in the illegal settlements.
The 'Puma Wall of Shame' attracted a lot of attention and questions.
This month sees the seventh anniversary of the war in Yemen, which began in March 2015, and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is organising a parliamentary lobby on 10 March.
The Yemen war has been fuelled by British arms exports, with sales worth more than £20 billion made to Saudi Arabia since the conflict began. It is also a war that has claimed over 377,000 lives. Last month, the Saudi coalition bombed a prison killing over 80 civilians, without a word of condemnation from the UK government. It's high time that the UK government stops enabling this war, ends arms sales, and makes serious efforts to bring the war to an end and promote account-ability for atrocities committed by all sides.
If you would like to take part in the Lobby Day, use this link to book a meeting with your MP:
CAAT will then send you a briefing pack with the latest information. There will also be an optional online training session to help you make the most of this meeting.
A year ago we celebrated the entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The first meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty will take place this summer.
Our government is still refusing to recognise the Treaty but, even as a non-signatory, it is entitled to attend the conference as an observer. (Other non-signatory NATO members Germany and Norway have indicated their willingness.)
Please follow this link to send an email to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, urging her to attend:
You could also write a similar letter to your MP.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND