In early January, a group of people from our society called for negotiations with Russia. PAX does not support this call. Through our contacts with partners, activists and other people in Ukraine, and the expertise of our staff, we conclude that negotiating with a proven unreliable partner like Russia will achieve nothing at the moment: the international agreements surrounding Ukraine and its borders have been violated (too) often. The Russian government and army are also guilty of gross violations of human rights and the law of war.
We do not have a homogeneous constituency, with a uniform opinion on the solutions in this war. In fact, opinions vary considerably. Some are principled pacifists, while others call for more arms support. It is our belief that these different perspectives can coexist and that more exchange and reflection on dilemmas and nuances make the peace movement stronger. In the coming period, PAX will invite representatives of its supporters for a dialogue on the dilemmas of this war.
PAX's position on arms supplies has not changed since the beginning of the open Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The starting point is and remains that Ukraine must be able to protect its citizens, and at the moment this cannot be done without weapons. As a peace movement, however, we do think it is essential to take a critical look at which weapons are most effective in protecting civilians. Through our work in conflict areas, we are also fully aware that weapons alone are not enough to achieve peace: aggression must be stopped, but building peace is a long process involving much more than weapons alone.
Several European countries decided to invest heavily (extra) in their armed forces following the invasion. However, an arms race adds little security: the problem is not that Europe is severely short of weapons, but that Europe does not cooperate sufficiently on defence. More weapons in the European Union would not have prevented this war. This is another reason why the Dutch government should not call for investment in arms manufacturers that also supply authoritarian regimes.
Solidarity with Ukraine, besides weapons, also consists of humanitarian aid, reconstruction, expertise (including in the field of trauma treatment) and continuing to work on human rights and democracy, both at home and in Ukraine. For many Ukrainians, besides survival, that is precisely what is at stake in their resistance.
Diplomacy and negotiations
Diplomacy is also indispensable, both right now, over prisoner exchanges, for instance, and to eventually reach an agreement that could be the beginning of peace. Unfortunately, negotiations alone will not stop the fighting. The Russian government is a proven unreliable negotiating partner, having violated all international agreements made so far around Ukraine and its borders. Government and army are also guilty of gross violations of human rights and the law of war.
There is therefore very little confidence in Ukraine (and many neighbouring countries, such as Moldova, Poland or the Baltic states) in any negotiation process that does not start with the departure of all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. Because Russia does not operate within the international legal order, there is also no common framework for negotiations. Calls for negotiations as a peaceful alternative to arms supplies are not convincing to PAX; we do not believe that will protect Ukrainian lives. Above all, it is up to the Ukrainians themselves to decide when they are ready to negotiate about what: they are waging the war and experiencing the consequences of Russian aggression on a daily basis.
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