RAY ACHESON, 1 MARCH 2022
Ray Acheson is an activist for peace, justice and abolition, director of the Women’s Int’l League for Peace & Freedom disarmament program in New York City, WILPF representative on the steering committee of ICAN, and author of Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy (Roman and Littlefield 2021).
Russia’s war in Ukraine is intensifying, with cities and civilians being targeted with missiles and rockets and a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding. The threat of nuclear war, the billions of dollars being promised to militarism, racist border crossing restrictions and ideas about conflict, and the ongoing climate crisis are intertwined with the already horrific violence in Ukraine. To confront these compounding crises, war and war profiteering must end, nuclear weapons must be abolished, and we must confront the world of war that has been deliberately constructed at the expense of peace, justice, and survival.
On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, finding that human-induced climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly. “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of an IPCC working group.
The IPCC report was released five days after Russia launched an imperial war of aggression against Ukraine—a war that itself is fossil-fueled and wrapped up with energy and economic interests, and that will contribute further to carbon emissions. Furthermore, this report comes one day after the Russian president ordered his country’s nuclear forces to be put on “combat duty,” escalating the risk of nuclear war and threatening climate catastrophe.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has already seen violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, including Russian forces using banned weapons such as cluster munitions and using explosive weapons in populated areas, hitting hospitals, homes, schools, and other civilian infrastructure. The conflict has also already involved severe environmental impacts, including pollution from military sites and material, as well as from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, radiation risks from fighting at the Chernobyl nuclear power facility, groundwater contamination, and more.
Now, it risks becoming nuclear, putting the entire world at risk. The use of even a single nuclear bomb would be absolutely devastating. It would kill hundreds of thousands of people, it would destroy critical infrastructure, [and] it would unleash radiation that will damage human bodies, animals, plants, land, water, and air for generations. If it turns into a nuclear exchange with NATO or the United States, we will be facing an unprecedented catastrophe. Millions of people could die. Our health care systems, already overwhelmed by two years of a global pandemic, will collapse. The climate crisis will be exponentially exacerbated; there could be a disastrous decline in food production and a global famine that might kill most of humanity.
In this moment, everyone must condemn the threat to use nuclear weapons, as well as the ongoing bombing of civilians, the war in general, and the Russian government’s act of imperial aggression. Providing humanitarian relief, ending the war, and preventing it from turning nuclear are top priorities. But we must also recognize what led us here. This crisis is the inevitable result of building a world order based on militarism, just as the nuclear dimension is an inevitable result of the possessing nuclear weapons and claiming they are a legitimate tool of “security”.
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