Humanitarian crisis would be worsened if nuclear plants hit
Introduction: There are many views about what the next steps should be to address the ever greater humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine, but virtual unanimity in favor of an immediate end to the war. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has made frequent pleas for a “no-fly zone.” But what would this mean?
On March 17, US Represenative Ilhan Omar said, “As we support Ukraine in their fight against Russia’s brutal invasion, we must avoid the knee-jerk calls that risk nuclear war. A no-fly zone is not simply declared, it must be militarily enforced. It would mean the beginning of World War III. We must reject this completely.” As Code Pink lays out below, a no-fly zone would likely escalate the war exponentially, with the US and NATO involved directly in aerial combat with Russia. That could rain down damage on nuclear power plants indiscriminately. None of the four nuclear power plants sites in Ukraine was built to withstand protracted bombardment.
While the Code Pink article does not address the specific risks to nuclear power plants should a “no-fly zone” be declared (unlikely at this time), it lays out both a preview of such an escalation and a plea for peace, alongside a perhaps uncomfortable short history lesson about the contribution of the US and NATO to the current crisis. While the solutions offered by Code Pink are their own, neither Code Pink nor Beyond Nuclear exonerates in any way the atrocities currently being committed against civilians in a country under invasion. But the precarious situation, poised for a potential escalation — rather than cessation — of war, points up once again the extreme liabilities of nuclear power plants, whose dangers are unequalled by any other power source.
By Medea Benjamin and Code Pink
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky just addressed both chambers of Congress. He asked for a no-fly zone — a situation in which U.S. fighter jets would shoot down Russian planes — and for MiG-29 fighter jets to be transferred from Poland to Ukraine (the U.S. has so far declined to be a part of such a transfer as it would be received by Russia as U.S. combat entry into the war).
Following Zelensky’s address, President Biden approved $800 million in new aid for Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. assistance to Ukraine to $1 billion in just this past week, and will include Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
Standing ovations, such as the one Zelensky just got from Congress, are great, but what Ukraine really needs is vigorous negotiations to reach a ceasefire deal. To this end, we are calling on the U.S. to enter the negotiations by outlining the agreements and compromises the U.S. should support. Add your name.
By breaking promises not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, by placing offensive missiles in Romania and Poland that could reach Russia in minutes, by arming Ukrainian forces, by continuing to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and by withdrawing from key nonproliferation treaties, the U.S. exacerbated the conflict that led up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia must withdraw its troops and commit to respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine, but the United States must also be clear that it supports and is ready to commit to the following:
- Continued rejection of a no-fly zone over Ukraine;
- No NATO expansion;
- Recognition of Ukraine as a neutral country;
- An off-ramp for sanctions on Russia to be lifted;
- Support for an international security agreement to protect the interests of all people on the European continent to remain free from war and occupation;
- Support for Ukrainian demilitarization to the degree that missiles would be banned;
- Supply humanitarian aid to Ukraine and support Ukrainian refugees.
Beyond increased prices at gas stations, the war in Ukraine is resulting in a silencing of critical anti-war voices inside America. While mainstream U.S. media is providing only a narrow narrative on the war, social media platforms are increasing their censorship.
Along with asking the U.S. to join the war — a move that could mean a nuclear WWIII — Zelensky has been asking the U.S. to be more involved in the Ukraine-Russia negotiations.
On Saturday, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters that U.S. military support helps put Ukraine “in the strongest possible negotiating position.” But at what cost?
Over three million Ukrainians have already become refugees, and as of Monday, March 14, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified that at least 691 civilians have died so far, 48 of them children — the real figure is almost certainly much higher.
A ceasefire deal must be reached immediately! Tell Biden and Congress that rather than supplying more weapons which risks nuclear war, the U.S. must participate in vigorous ceasefire negotiations by outlining the agreements and compromises the U.S. is ready and willing to support.
There are some reasons to be hopeful. The states of Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, and Austria — the latter four being post-neutral states since they are part of the European Union — provide examples of what Ukrainian neutrality could look like. Asked by The Intercept if the U.S. is willing to empower Zelensky to negotiate with Russia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “He’s the leader of Ukraine and so he’s empowered to have a negotiation with Russia and we’re here to support those efforts.”
For a ceasefire agreement to be reached, it will be necessary to secure Russian strategic interests. This means confirmation that Ukraine will never be a part of NATO and will be a neutral country. It also means clear pathways — carrots as opposed to only sticks — for sanctions to be lifted. There is no time to waste.
The views expressed in articles by outside contributors and published on the Beyond Nuclear International website, are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Beyond Nuclear. However, we try to offer a broad variety of viewpoints and perspectives as part of our mission “to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future”.
Headline photo of Polish MiG-29, US F15 and a British Typhoon jet fighter by NATO/Creative Commons.