Bernie Sanders says US war with Russia over Ukraine must be avoided at all costs

"Wars rarely turn out the way the experts tell us they will. Just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq."

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SOURCECommon Dreams
Image Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Warning of the potentially catastrophic consequences of what could be the deadliest European conflict since World War II, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday stressed the imperative for a diplomatic solution to the Russia-Ukraine crisis that’s brought the world’s two nuclear superpowers perilously close to war. 

“Wars rarely turn out the way the experts tell us they will. Just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

Writing for The Guardian, Sanders (I-Vt.) notes that “wars rarely turn out the way the experts tell us they will. Just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, only to be proven horribly wrong. Just ask the mothers of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in action during those wars. Just ask the millions of civilians who became ‘collateral damage.'” 

Citing estimates that “there could be over 50,000 civilian casualties in Ukraine, and millions of refugees flooding neighboring countries,” the democratic socialist considers “the possibility that this ‘regional’ war could escalate to other parts of Europe.”

“What might happen then is even more horrifying,” he says. 

Echoing anti-war activists who argue that U.S.-imposed economic sanctions are a dangerous provocation, Sanders asserts: 

The sanctions against Russia and Russia’s threatened response to those sanctions could result in massive economic upheaval—with impacts on energy, banking, food, and the day-to-day needs of ordinary people throughout the entire world. It is likely that Russians will not be the only people suffering from sanctions. And, by the way, any hope of international cooperation to address the existential threat of global climate crisis and future pandemics would suffer a major setback.

While calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “most responsible for this looming crisis,” Sanders says that “I am extremely concerned when I hear the familiar drumbeats in Washington, the bellicose rhetoric that gets amplified before every war, demanding that we must show strength,’ ‘get tough,’ and not engage in ‘appeasement.'”

“A simplistic refusal to recognize the complex roots of the tensions in the region undermines the ability of negotiators to reach a peaceful resolution,” Sanders stresses before highlighting some of Moscow’s concerns—including the expansion of NATO into former Soviet republics and satellites and, specifically, the refusal of the U.S. to rule out Ukraine’s membership in what is seen as an anti-Russia alliance. 

“Does anyone really believe that the United States would not have something to say if, for example, Mexico was to form a military alliance with a U.S. adversary?” he asks. 

“Countries should be free to make their own foreign policy choices, but making those choices wisely requires a serious consideration of the costs and benefits,” Sanders contends. “The fact is that the U.S. and Ukraine entering into a deeper security relationship is likely to have some very serious costs—for both countries.”

The senator concludes that “we must vigorously support diplomatic efforts to deescalate this crisis and reaffirm Ukrainian independence and sovereignty. And we must make clear that Putin and his gang of oligarchs will face major consequences should he continue down the current path.”

“At the same time, we must never forget the horrors that a war in the region would cause and must work hard to achieve a realistic and mutually agreeable resolution—one that is acceptable to Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and our European allies,” he added, “and that prevents what could be the worst European war in over 75 years.”

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