AS your recent correspondence has continued on the role of international armed force in the contemporary world (Invest in the causes of war, Craven Herald letters, February 23, and responses) it is both salutary and sobering, not only for pacifists, in such times of war to confront the choices between evils.

There is no doubt there are, as with Putin, egotistic bullies, who will not negotiate a genuine peace. Just as with Hitler in the l930s, much depends on good faith, and dictators have not been willing to surrender their conquests easily. But Putin should have been stopped long ago; his crimes in Syria are well known, and since then, Georgia, Crimea and more atrocities and annexations, have been proof of his aggressive intent.

When, in l989, the Berlin Wall finally fell, we in the “democratic West”, had a real chance of negotiating a new peace “from the Pacific to the Urals”. It was, with Mikhail Gorbachev. Russia was then a much more amenable, rational actor. We wasted that huge opportunity, bragging we’d “won the cold war”, and kept a large atomic arsenal. The US went on humiliating Russia, as we did Germany in l9l8-28, acting in a triumphalist and apparently hegemonic threatening posture In that sense, this helped create Putin, as an autocratic aggressor - just as in the l920s, it had with the rise of Hitler. The “democracies” are now reaping a whirlwind.

But times have changed; before WW2, Britain failed to help the democratic Republic in Spain in l936, and sold out the Czechs in ’38. This time at least, we are acting, even if it is not us doing the fighting and dying. We are stronger, by supporting a newly democratic Ukraine. But historical parallels are always misleading. Not least because there is now a new shadow of wider war - that of an ultimate use of WMDs(Weapon of Mass Destruction) – especially nuclear ones. The dangers of escalation are now clear . If Bakhmut falls, and Moldova is threatened - and a new scale of military force, tanks and Wilensky uses fighter jets, sets off a process which can spiral out of control: it is a threat to us all.. The whirlwind we reap may turn out to be a nuclear one. What small but influential groups like the Quakers, long pillars of the peace movement, lend to our political discussion, is a sense of balance ; the importance of constantly looking for alternatives for peace. Historically that has been to mobilise public conscience, witness -and resistance across borders; to oppose all war, militarism - and oppression; to seize whatever opportunity offers itself, that might stop the slaughter. Chances do arise, as they did in the l990s, to create a more secure peace. Can they help now?

The danger of WW3, but also the appalling fate of tens of thousands of Russian conscripts, many of them young men with no wish to fight Putin’s war, impels us to call for a truce and talks now. But this must be without conceding Ukraine’s territorial borders as they were in 2014.

The alternative is - here in our relatively calm Skipton, -to watch the world become engulfed in a terrifying escalation of violence. Our modest military parades, the undoubted courage of those fighting, especially volunteers , on our behalf in the hellish trenches of Eastern Ukraine, and then Britain’s derisory and unusable nuclear “deterrent”, - each are quite useless in helping to prevent such an Armageddon occurring. Only people, and constructive politics - at all levels – can do that ; practical action by all of us is needed, and now


Nigel Young Phd

Editor in Chief of the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace