Justice, Peace and Human Rights organisation Afri calls for de-escalation of Ukraine conflict, opposes military build-up by all sides

That Russia is apparently massing troops on the Ukrainian border is an unwelcome action, as are proposed Russian naval exercises 240km off the Irish coast (especially given the potential ecological damage wreaked by the latter)anti-militarisation. All threats of, or preparation for, conflict serve to escalate an already dangerous situation as well as constituting a waste of resources that could be used to feed the hungry and protect the planet rather than fuel the flames of war.

At the same time, the escalating deployment of US, British and other countries’ troops and weapons on or near Russian borders is unjustified and is another reckless act that will heighten tensions and insecurities.  We should be very wary of Western ‘intelligence’ sources making claims about Russia planning invasions or coups. They might be right this time, but have we forgotten the ‘dodgy dossiers’ that justified the catastrophic invasion of Iraq? The media in particular needs to treat such claims critically.

A negotiated settlement of disputes between Russia and Ukraine is both desirable and achievable and should be pursued by all sides. The EU could play a positive role in this regard, rather than march in lock step with the militaristic approach of NATO; there is no justification for the crisis being used to intensify efforts to further militarise EU foreign and security policy

The Ukraine-Russia issue has to be seen in a global context of rising militarization, not least tensions between the US, in particular, and China. Again, any Chinese threats to its neighbours, and the massing of US, British and other forces (especially naval) in China’s immediate neighbourhood, is provocative and dangerous. US naval exercises in the South China Sea are as unwelcome and unwise as Russian naval exercises off the Irish coast.

While these threats of conflict loom large, ongoing conflicts already exact a horrific toll. A poignant example is the bombing and starvation being inflicted on the people of Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition that is armed and financed by the US and the UK. Those countries, and others, also arm and finance Israel’s occupation and brutalisation of Palestine. Claims of principled opposition to Russian or Chinese aggression ring hollow when such abuses are backed by the West.

The arms industry plays an especially negative role in all conflicts – potential and ongoing. Death and destruction is facilitated by arms corporations that actively lobby for war and preparation for war in order to boost their sales and profits. That the Irish government is encouraging Irish companies and educational institutes to build networks with these corporations is a horrific initiative. That our government also facilitates war and preparation for war by allowing US troops and weapons to freely pass through Shannon Airport is, equally, an outrage.

The late Desmond Tutu, Afri’s patron, was a courageous advocate for non-violent conflict resolution and a fierce critic of the weapons industry. We can honour his life and example by ending our own participation in the ‘business of blood’.

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