The Most Powerful Weapon We Can Give Ukraine

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Uncategorized, What I'm Thinking | 0 comments

The U.S. decision to provide Ukraine with cluster bombs, which have been banned in over 100 countries, is frightening.  Like me, you probably wonder what we can do to bring about an end to this war without risking further escalation. This letter offers an opportunity to help deliver a weapon more powerful than cluster bombs, a weapon I believe to be the most powerful weapon we can offer to bring about the end to this war, and it is not one that will threaten the safety of civilians and children years after the war comes to an end. That weapon is the mobilization of the Russian people to oppose this war and the authoritarian leadership that has launched it.

When I was in central Europe with Bob earlier this summer, Ukrainian flags were everywhere. Through a friend of a friend, I had the chance to meet two Russian women who had to flee their homes after attending demonstrations and posting opposition to the war on social media. They said that roughly 70 percent of Russians support the war because they have no idea what is really going on.

In Poland, Czechia, and former east Germany we saw powerful reminders of the 1989 nonviolent “People Power” uprisings that undid the Soviet Union. In Gdansk, Poland, we visited the European Solidarity Center that documents the evolution of the Solidarity trade union that ultimately brought down Poland’s Soviet-controlled government. In Prague, Czechia, we walked through Wenceslas Square where half a million people assembled that November; we gazed up at the balcony where Václav Havel stood to inform the crowd that forty-one years of one-party rule had come to an end. In Leipzig, Germany, we visited the Nikolaikirche, where prayers for peace that began in the early 1980s eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. These massive outpourings of resistance resulted from years of underground communication and organizing largely invisible to outsiders and even internal security forces.

Soon after I returned to the US, I received notice of an online webinar titled “Diaspora Russian War Resisters and Evaders Speak Out!” In that presentation, Andre Kamenshikov, based in Ukraine, described his plan to reach out to the estimated 700,000 Russians who have moved to Kazakhstan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Poland, and Lithuania since February 2022 and encourage them to use secure communication platforms such as Telegram to tell family and friends still in Russia what is really going on in Ukraine.

There are many signs that Putin’s power is eroding. The mobilization of a broad-based opposition not only has the potential to remove him and his ability to continue the war in Ukraine; it is essential to preventing another right-wing autocrat from taking power.

Kamenshikov, the founder of Nonviolence International Ukraine, has been an activist in the peacebuilding field in conflict areas of the ex-USSR since 1992. He has a budget of $20,000 for this project, of which he has so far raised $5,000. Yet even with this small sum, he has already started organizing Russian dissidents in Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan to launch Communication Clubs that will provide education, training, and support for this effort. My hope is to raise at least another $5,000 for him. I pledge to match the first $2,500 raised because I believe that mobilizing public opposition to the war in Russia is the most effective weapon—more powerful and less harmful—that can be used to end this war, limit Putin’s power to carry out further abuses, and avoid the danger of escalation posed by the donations of weapons and military equipment.

Please donate using this link if you want to do your part to bring about an end to this brutal war. Please share this letter as you wish, and donate by September 15 so we can put this power to work as soon as possible.