Where Is The Peace Movement?


WHY HAS THE RUSSO-UKRAINIAN WAR not generated a global movement for, at the very least, an immediate cessation of hostilities? The aggressor, Russia, possesses nuclear weapons, and has issued thinly-veiled threats that it is prepared to use them if any other power attempts to interfere in its “military operation” in Ukraine. The slightest miscalculation, therefore, could trigger an all-out nuclear exchange – and the end of civilisation as we know it. In such precarious circumstances, mobilising global support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict seems like a good idea. So, why isn’t it happening? Where is the peace movement?

Before attempting an answer to that question, it is worth casting our minds back to the first quarter of 2003. The United States and the United Kingdom were engaged in obvious preparations for a full-scale military invasion of Iraq. All over the world people were gathering in huge demonstrations to oppose the US/UK plans. Over a million protesters flooded the streets of the UK’s largest cities in what was, almost certainly, the largest political protest in the nation’s history. Vast crowds similarly thronged the streets of American cities. In France, Italy and Germany it was the same. Time Magazine described the global peace movement as the other great power on the planet.

All to no avail. Like the Russian Federation, the United States was not about to be dissuaded from doing what it believed it had to do. That it would go to war without the sanction of the UN Security Council, and on the basis of intelligence claims that most independent experts dismissed as spurious, was not about to slow the administration of George W Bush down. Peace movement or no peace movement, the invasion would go ahead as planned.

The demonstrable futility of the international protest movement against the Iraq War offers a pretty solid explanation for the absence of a global pacifist response to the Russo-Ukrainian War. Among those coming of age in the first quarter of the Twenty-First Century it may simply be understood that if a major power is resolved to attack another country, no amount of chanting and placard-waving will stop it. Didn’t the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spin-doctors respond to media taunts that there were a million citizens on out on the streets, by referencing the tens-of-millions who weren’t?

The other obvious lesson to be drawn from the global protests against the US/UK invasion of Iraq is that they would never have happened (or, at least, not on anything like the same scale) had their organisers not been living in democracies. If the Russian Federation showed the same respect for fundamental human rights as the United States, it is possible that a million or more Russians would have turned out to protest the invasion of Ukraine. What the world actually witnessed, however, on the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg, was the brutal suppression of every attempt at protest by the thuggish Russian police.

It is these images of suppression and violence that bring us to the heart of the matter. People around the world rose up against the prospect of the invasion of Iraq in part because they believed that the two nations responsible, the USA and the UK, were still, in some hallowed and undefiled place, receptive to the moral case for peace. All the evidence may have pointed in the opposite direction, but, in their heart-of-hearts, the historical friends and allies of the United States and the United Kingdom wanted to – needed to – believe that they were better than the murderous bullies Bush and Blair had turned them into.

Very few people believe that some hallowed and undefiled place exists in the dark monstrosity that is the Russian state. There are no democratic orchards in Russia. The fruits of freedom and justice do not grow there. The conditions are too harsh. Even when the tree of liberty is smuggled in and persuaded to bloom, which is seldom, the flowers fade for lack of warmth. Russia is a hard, cold country, and difficult to love, even if you’ve a mind to. But no people on earth knows more about suffering – and how to share it.

And we are suffering, but not in a way that does Russia any good. Our suffering is vicarious, inspired by the pain and heroism of the Ukrainian people. How else are the people of the West supposed to feel when they are presented with the image of a Ukrainian father, now a soldier, fighting back tears as his wife and son are borne away from him on a westbound train to safety, clutching in his hands his little boy’s toy ambulance – all that is left to him? Are we supposed to be filled with an urge to make peace? Or, are we already part of the war?

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The bodies in the street, the terrible revelations of rape and torture: these only make matters worse. Our instinctive response, when confronted with such images is not to calmly contemplate the best means of extricating all concerned from the horrors of war, but to punish those responsible for such atrocities. Perhaps that’s what they’re intended to do. Perhaps, as the Russians insist, they are fake news. But while such images are all the world is seeing, there will be no global peace movement.

And if there is worse to come: if the wounded Russian Bear tears the Ukraine to pieces; and the world is bombarded with ever more tragic and terrifying images of Ukraine in extremis; it will not be a global peace movement that emerges, but a war movement. Repeating the mass demonstrations of ecstatic citizens celebrating the outbreak of the First World War, the people of the West, heedless of the nuclear danger, will cry: “Do your worst, Russia – and we will do ours!”



  1. Chris, you must be old enough to recall the original 1950/60 Peace Movement, although you may not have been near the action in Europe at the time.
    It turned out the peace movement and the organization behind it (the World Peace Council) was just a KGB agitprop operation.

    • Speaking of appeasement, the point has been made by others that the West’s failure up until this latest invasion has been to give Putin the impression that he can do pretty much anything to non-NATO countries and there will be few consequences. It is kind of late to now throw everything at him, but where will he stop if nobody stops him?

      There should have been firm but non-military reactions to his first escapades. And probably, NATO should not have accepted post Soviet States as members. We can argue till we are blue that there is no reason Russia and the US should be able to bully their neighbours, but they can.

      It seems the West made the calculation that Russia has lost its status as a great power, and thus did not deserve the same special treatment that the US gets regarding a sphere of influence, but it often takes a while for countries to accept they are slipping behind others, and Russia is angry.

      The US is showing signs of the same syndrome with resurgent fascists wanting to take aggressive actions against anyone who threatens their economic hegemony, rather than address the lack of investment in its own people that has caused the problem.

      The West now needs to make this war costly enough that Putin will be persuaded never to do something like this again, but not to provoke him into a nuclear war (that he clearly wants us to believe that he could do). This is incredibly difficult when you don’t know how the man thinks and how sane he is.

      The obvious action would be to stop buying the fuel that funds the destruction of Ukraine, but Germany is more concerned that their economy will collapse and Germans will be cold in winter (although probably not as cold as the many Ukrainians who now have no gas or electricity, or no home at all). Germany was warned not to hook themselves up to Russia, but they did, and now they would like Ukraine to bear the cost of their mistake rather than take responsibility themselves.

      All of this will seem largely irrelevant in a generation or two if, as climate scientists warn us is likely, global civilization does not survive because politicians can’t say no to oil companies. Turning off the oil would neutralize most of the world’s existential threats in one fell swoop.

      • This is incredibly difficult when you don’t know how the man thinks and how sane he is.

        Some of Putin’s generals may have harboured similar concerns, as some (recent reports suggest around 20) have been sacked, arrested, or, er… suddenly died.

        Most recently, one man has now been put in charge of all military operations, if I understand it correctly, – someone also known as “the butcher of Syria”.

  2. The Russophiles are clearly struggling to process increasing footage of Russian atrocities.
    But CT you answered your own question in the piece: all the “evil”western nations could protest because our grandparents fought fascism so we aren’t speaking Japanese or German and have free speech and (decreasing)democracy.

    Russia (and China)fought fascism but now emulate it and don’t allow free expression.
    Russia arrested its anti war protestors.
    Why would the west mass protest a fascist autocracy expecting it to change?
    They wouldn’t, but they do at least know not to appease them.

    Also, were there protests in western nations when the USSR invaded Afghanistan?

    • It all depends on the definition of fascism. The West can be accused of fascism as well…..from the Collins English dictionary…”Fascism encourages militarism and nationalism, organising the Country along hierarchical authoritarian lines”. Sounds alot like the West.

      • That’s a very loose definition of fascism.
        I think more historically it’s a form of militant nationalism where government controls businesses for its own ends and dissent is violently repressed.
        I can’t think of too many western nations meeting that bar but Russia and China certainly do.

      • As I’ve said in the west, decreasing democracy.

        Absolutely our current government is anti free speech and expression.
        They will foolishly lead us further down the authoritarian path and break the democratic imperative of universal suffrage if not voted out at the next election.

        • thanks kheala but I have my sources

          and before any smart arse chips in I also follow
          bbc world
          bbc uk
          al jazeerah
          euro news
          france 24

          so get both sides of the propaganda war.

          • You complained it was banned (RT)
            So, now you have the link.
            Not saying “This is a good source” – or otherwise. Just, “Here’s the link you were looking for”.

            • sincerely k, I was saying thanks for the link just observing that I already have one

              the rest of my post was directed at the inevitable rush of ‘well if you only hear the russian side’ nitwits

  3. WOW! – “Do your worst Russia, and we will do ours!” If that is what it has come to then we are indeed in a dark place. But hang on Chris – haven’t your previous posts argued, and eloquently, that Russia is justified in its refusal to accept the inexorable movement of Nato towards its borders, and that that was what was in the offing? If the peace movement is conspicuous by its absence at this time, so too, suddenly, are the tenets of that argument. Drowning in the excruciating images of cruelty, death and destruction with which the media is swamping us, and daring us to ignore them, some seem, like foul-weather Christians, to be now re-assuming the old Cold War default positions.
    As terrible as war is, and, as you say Chris, nobody knows that better than the Russians, and not forgetting the Minks agreement which it forged with Ukraine to avoid one, either Nato’s march towards Russia justifies its invasion of Ukraine, or Russia’s motivation is conquest for its own sake. Which is it?

    • I took CT’s first articles about Russia and NATO as saying the West could have done more to try to avoid a war in Ukraine, now that the shooting has started he makes the point that Russian actions and our media are creating mass support amoung western nations to defeat Russia. I don’t see any conflict between his idea’s, even the ones I don’t agree with.

  4. Drugs! Specifically MDMA aka Ecstasy .
    Good E given out freely is better than dead kids bodies in bags.
    Sure, people, specifically ignorant people reading this, will wail and moan as they wring their hands in false piety as they pass the ammunition, made by the companies they have share holdings in.
    The Guardian.
    ‘Ecstasy and the agony’
    If crates of good E were left along the border between Russia and Ukraine there’d be different reporting coming out of that now Hellish region. No one could invade another country by force in full party mode.
    WARNING. There’s no good E in AO/NZ, or not that I’m aware of anyway, so don’t buy anything offered. You’d have to go to the likes of Portugal to guarantee quality.
    In neoliberal AO/NZ it’s no. “No! Nah Ah!” The only drug your allowed is alcohol, one of the most dangerous, if not THE most dangerous and insidiously addictive ‘substances’ out there. Good coin in it tho. Aye Boys?
    Side effects.
    Fleeting depression in some people.
    Forming ‘unfortunate’ relationships with people you might otherwise not.
    Falling in love with someone at a Club rarely has a positive outcome. They look hot on the floor but when you get back to their place they have a 12 cats, a cleaning fetish and a garden gnome collection.
    So yeah, drugs! Except alcohol. And P. That shit’ll empty out your bank account then it’ll kill you.

    • Interesting solution CB. After all weren’t things like weed outlawed because it impacted the willingness of the masses to go and fight each other in the first place? Then society should now borrow from one of the better episodes of Seinfeld ever and take the approach of ‘ if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right’

      • CountryBoy is 100% right about some good drugs, music and the natural joy of humans dancing, socializing and having fun,,, to break the war psychosis drummed into our heads ,,,,,

        Here is ‘The Enemy’ , https://www.bitchute.com/video/pBirmHxcqUOi/ ,,,, that our NATO flunky’leaders are spending millions of our money to kill.

        The song is by Daft Punk – ‘Lose yourself to Dance’ –Nato and Jacinda would kill them all given half the chance ,,

  5. given ‘peace movements’ achieve nothing yea it’s cool to pontificate and vent….remember the vietnam war didn’t lose support because hippy girls put flowers in the barrels of national guardsmens guns…but because Tet demonstrated to everyone the US was on a loser….oh and probably most important nice well educated middleclass suburban boys becoming eligible for the draft

    • The Tet offensive was in early 1968. Given the US didn’t withdraw until early 1973 I think it’s fair to say there were a few more factors at play. Huge anti war demonstrations, probably helped.

      • but when did the demos gear up?…after tet and after the draft was extended..like afganistan for the russians it was american mums that bolstered the protests…

  6. According to independent Russian monitoring group OVD-Info, anti-war protests are happening “Daily” throughout Russia, with thousands being arrested. https://ovd.news/news/2022/03/02/russian-protests-against-war-ukraine-chronicle-events

    “On February 24th, Russia started a war with Ukraine. Since then, anti-war protests have been happening daily. OVD-Info is providing legal aid to those arrested and is sharing information about the detentions. Find key details in our daily chronicle! As of March 24th, according to OVD-Info data, there have been 15,095 protesters detained in 151 Russian cities since the beginning of the protests.”

    From April 4-8:
    “Anti-war actions continue throughout Russia. Some of them end with detentions, arrests or even criminal cases. We publish this week’s chronicle of the most notable stories.” Details of some of these individual cases are on the page.

  7. 14th April:
    One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined the US-led military alliance then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in an exclave in the heart of Europe.

    Finland, which shares a 1,300km (810-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden are considering joining the NATO alliance. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/14/russia-warns-of-nuclear-deployment-if-sweden-finland-join-nato

  8. “Faced with horrific, mounting evidence of their atrocities in Ukraine – bombing schools, playgrounds, orphanages, maternity hospitals, train stations with missiles marked “For the Children”; summary executions and other “grave abuses”; dumping thousands of bodies of burned, tortured, hands-tied civilians into pits, wells, mass graves or leaving them strewn in the streets of razed cities; raping women, teenagers, children; driving almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s children, five of 7.5 million, from their lives, with nearly half of those remaining beset by hunger and likely most by lifelong trauma – charged with what are deemed these “unspeakable crimes,” Russia has dug deep into full, mad, staggering denial: Nothing to see here.”

  9. Biden’s nuclear policy is the same as Putin’s
    “On March 29, the White House released a short summary of Biden’s upcoming strategy on nuclear forces indicating his decision: “The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.”

    This effectively makes the U.S. stance on nuclear employment indistinguishable from Russia’s. According to its military doctrine, Russia may use a nuclear weapon if it faces an “existential” threat — a fact of which Putin has reminded observers around the world in recent weeks as he pummels Ukraine.”
    We’re not having a peace movement because we’re exposed to the best propaganda that money can buy, night after night, especially contrived to awake our darkest emotions.
    I’m not buying any of the “atrocities” at present.And Russia is not unlovable, the Russians love it, and certainly the people of the Donbas.
    I’m amused by people who speak of
    The Ukranians”as if they are one people.Medvedchuk , who is Zelensky’s strongest opposition, now under arrest for “treason” with his wife pleading Erdogan to save him, would never have been elected if there was not a strong Russia leaning population in Ukraine.

    • indeed US nuke storage facilities on the US territory within the UK (LAKENHEATH ETC) are being ‘upgraded’ as we speak.

  10. Peace had been achieved with the Minsk1 and 2 accords. But the UKR did not honour them and resumed shelling the Donbass Lughansk and Donetsk Russian speaking people killing some 14000 of them since 2014. Russian intelligence learned this year that a massive blitzkrieg was planned this March to eliminate these separatist lands once and for all accompanied by a troops buildup. Plus NATO has been pumping arms into the UKR at a frenetic rate for years and training UKR soldiers. Who is the real agressor here!? To save the lives of these bombed and shelled people Russia intervened and attacked first.

    • Peace would’ve been achieved, had Russia honoured its guarantees when it signed the Lisbon Protocols and the Budapest Memorandum when Ukraine gave its strategic Wpns.

      Russia’s guarantees were,

      Respect Ukraine’s Borders & not to interfere with Ukraine’s Democratic process
      Respect Ukraine’s right as Sovereign Nation to makes it’s own decisions IRT it’s Security & Economic Well-being.

      The US & UK also signed to guarantee Ukraine’s Sovereignty from Russian aggression & support Ukraine as they see fit under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

  11. Ukraine is right next door to Russia. A 2014 US backed coup installed a US puppet government.
    What happened in Ukraine is Russia’s business from an existential perspective – at least that argument can easily be made. There are huge historical and cultural ties that bind Russia and Ukraine

    Whereas the attack on Iraq was on a sovereign country that is a world away from its Western attackers, and never threatened to let alone did, harm a single hair on the head of any Westerner.
    So of course many people in the West were rightly outraged over an attack on a country that posed no threat to them.

    Moreover even the pretext for the war on Iraq was based on a shabby lie.
    The Russian pretext for war on Ukraine is entirely believable and understandable.

    Have you thought of the possibility that perhaps a large percentage of Russians support the war, not because of Russian war propaganda, but because they can clearly see a threat if the Ukraine goes fully Western militarily?

  12. No Chris despite years of propaganda informing you that Putin is Hitler, that Russia is Mordor, and that western motives are pure and our democracy wonderful you are mislead on all counts. The worst mistake is the concept of Ukraine as a victim, a brave little state. No its not, its a corrupt right wing kleptocracy with immense corruption. It has killed 14000 of its citizens in the Donbass.

    The real issue I see as an antiwar person is that like in 1914 the rank and file has fallen into line and swallowed the bait. Where indeed are the protests against both Russia and the West? Conditioned into insanity seems the only reasonable answer.

    • Conditioned into insanity seems the only reasonable answer.

      Yep. M.A.D. now seems to be the way of the world.

  13. I took CT’s first articles about Russia and NATO as saying the West could have done more to try to avoid a war in Ukraine, now that the shooting has started he makes the point that Russian actions and our media are creating mass support amoung western nations to defeat Russia. I don’t see any conflict between his idea’s, even the ones I don’t agree with.

  14. It’s simple …Ukraine are run by pro Nazi clowns, while the Russians are run by a border line Dictator…why would the peace movement want to get involved in this disaster zone?

  15. Chomsky on Global Response to Biden Calling Putin a War Criminal: ‘Takes One to Know One’

    For just over an hour, Chomsky spoke with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February invasion of Ukraine, media coverage of the war, how governments around the world have responded, and the need to move toward “a diplomatic settlement.”

    Their conversation follows U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month reiterating his condemnation of Putin as a “war criminal” and urging a war crimes trial—which sparked global discussions about the United States’ longtime opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    “We’re a rogue state, the leading rogue state by a huge dimension—nobody’s even close,” Chomsky said of the United States. “And yet we can call for war crimes trials of others, without batting an eyelash.”

    “It’s interesting to look at the reaction to all of this in the more civilized part of the world, the global self,” he continued. “They look at it; they condemn the invasion, say it’s a horrible crime. But the basic response is: What’s new? What’s the fuss about? We’ve been subjected to this from you from as far back as it goes. Biden calls Putin a war criminal; yeah, takes one to know one. It’s the basic reaction.”

    “The U.S. can’t understand that,” he claimed, going on to add that “there’s a lot of work to do in the United States simply to raise the level of civilization to where we can see the world the way the traditional victims see it. If we can rise to that level, we can act in a much more constructive way with regard to Ukraine as well.”
    Full article at: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/04/15/chomsky-global-response-biden-calling-putin-war-criminal-takes-one-know-one

  16. Ukraine Russia is none of our fucking business.

    Why should we put ourselves in the firing line for Ukraine. What has Russia ever done to us?

    Ardern by hitching us up with US empire is putting us all at risk for fucking no good reason.

      • I take it you think we should help Iran with their US bully problem ted, after all it’s only what ‘decent’ people would do….

        • Those times when either Khamenei or Raisi were on TV asking, “Please! Help us!”
          …I must have missed them.

          • but it’s what ‘decent people would do’ surely ‘decent people’ send support because they are ‘decent’ and it’s the ‘decent thing to do’ not by request.

    • The very good reason to support our allies is so they will support us when China attacks Taiwan and enters the pacific.

    • Rocket Lab probably had a role in “hitching us up”: https://www.rocketlabusa.com/updates/rocket-lab-launches-109th-satellite-to-orbit/

      “Mahia, New Zealand. December 09, 2021 – Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB), a leading launch and space systems company, has successfully deployed two satellites to orbit for real-time geospatial intelligence company BlackSky (NYSE: BKSY), bringing the total number of satellites deployed by Rocket Lab to 109.”

      (Eg, Real time detailed images of Ukraine and surrounds)

    • This is how I’m feeling. My concern is we are the idea ‘warning shot’. Why us? Not a NATO member so no obligation for anyone to retaliate. Proof of nuke distance. We are basically proof to all others nowhere is safe. We aren’t a huge country, isolated, so quite a conveniently sized target. & do you think the US or Europe will really care enough about us to go all in? Nope… This puts us in so much danger. & it’s only happening because the media are riling westerners up. All other world conflicts are getting next to no exposure. We should take refugees but remain neutral.

  17. Dear Chris, Many of us have a long commitment to peace in Aotearoa. There is much to do. I think we need to work smarter not harder. Unfortunately the 20 million people globally to protested on the streets to prevent the illegal war on Iraq, which was based on lies by Tony Blair and George Bush, were ignored, and the peace movement suffered. Calls for a ceasefire is the only same response at this time. Lobbying our government to make independent decisions that do no harm, as sanctions do to innocent people, would help. Joining our global https://act.worldbeyondwar.org/stoplockheedmartin/ campaign this week 21-28 April would help too. As would wearing a white poppy on Anzac Day. Never give up! Arohanui, rangimarie, Liz Remmerswaal, World Beyond War Aotearoa xx

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