What divides the Left over Ukraine peace negotiations?
Recently we have been sharing views that put forward a path for peace in Ukraine that involves a negotiated end to the war. But as we have seen in recent polling, the Canadian public is a long way from a majority view in support of negotiations, even if many of our own readers are.
The gap between opposing views of peace negotiations in Ukraine seems to run against traditional political patterns.
For instance, the NDP, which is seen as being more opposed to wars generally than other parties, strongly supports Canadian military aid to Kyiv and the war to oust Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
In a twist, the pro-war position is supported by NDP voters, while it is Conservative voters who are more pro-negotiations over Ukraine. “Three-in-ten (29%) of those who voted CPC in 2021 prefer Ukraine to begin peace negotiations now rather than keep fighting. They do so at double the rate of past Liberal (15%) and NDP (12%) voters,” found the Angus Reid Institute.
Noted U.S. disarmament advocate and scholar Joe Cirincione went online with a thought-provoking personal essay to try to explain the various positions of progressive movements for and against the war, and urges his colleagues to join him in support of Ukraine against the Russian Federation.
I have been a critic of disastrous foreign wars. This time is different.
He writes, “For over one hundred years, two bedrock elements of progressive belief have been staunch opposition to imperialist intervention and steadfast support for a nation’s right of self-determination. These principles guided progressive policy during the post-colonial era, including opposition to Western wars in Algeria, Vietnam, Africa and elsewhere. So when Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion, many of us on the left rose in opposition to Russia’s aggression.”
Cirincione says that despite polls showing progressives support Ukraine’s defence, “a vocal minority of anti-war activists and left experts continue to blame the United States for the war.” He points to arguments about post-Cold War westward expansion by the NATO military alliance, but is careful not to say that anti-war activists support Putin.
“They focus primarily on the sins of past U.S. policies and claim that supplying weapons to Ukraine escalates and prolongs the conflict,” he says. “But these critics make the worst mistake one can make in strategy: they misidentify the main threat. They focus on the past rather than the future. They fail to see the rising danger from an increasingly fascist Russia under Putin and the consequences for global peace should he succeed in redrawing the map of Europe by force. It is capitulation in a diplomatic cloak.”
Cirincione’s article has prompted discussion amongst advocates and experts, with some saying he unfairly oversimplifies the pro-negotiations view by presenting it as complete capitulation, and while doing so, fails to offer a viable, realistic alternative to prolonging the war.
It’s a debate that is sure to continue. But nobody can ignore the fact that with each passing week, thousands of soldiers are killed in First World War-style fighting, civilians are targeted in attacks, and the Ukraine conflict risks escalating into a global catastrophe.
- Read “The Left Case Against the ‘Restraint’ Policy on Ukraine,” by Joe Cirincione, published on March 13, 2023 on Persuasion Community
(Cover: London, UK – 03 06 2022: A protester at Trafalgar Square holding a sign, ‘Stop The War. Russian Troops Out. No Nato Expansion’, in support of the Ukrainian people at war. Via Shutterstock.)