Quakers have long opposed war, supported the right to conscientious objection, and actively worked for peace in our communities and around the world. Our Peace Testimony calls us to reject violence in all its forms, persistently seek peace, and promote nonviolence to break cycles of conflict and reduce suffering.
These precepts are—and should be—tested in the face of war and violence. They are now challenged by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Our Quaker experience, global history, and a growing body of research show that nonviolent approaches to addressing war and oppression, combined with long-term peacebuilding, are more effective than militarized approaches.
How can we see that of God in aggressors who engage in such cruel and senseless brutality? How can we protect the victims of the assault without escalating, expanding, and prolonging the war? How can we reject the pull of violent response and advance nonviolent pathways to stop violence, ensure justice, and repair broken human relationships?
These questions cut to the core of our beliefs. The good news is that responding to violence with nonviolence is not just a moral calling but effective policy. Our Quaker experience, global history, and a growing body of research show that nonviolent approaches to addressing war and oppression, combined with long-term peacebuilding, are more effective than militarized approaches.
While it may feel as though more weapons and punishing sanctions are the only options in Ukraine, in fact, U.S. leaders have many non-violent policy options available to help save lives and advance peace. They need to understand that using diplomacy, working through multilateral institutions, supporting local peacebuilders, providing humanitarian aid, and protecting refugees are not “weak” responses. These are our best tools for bringing about a durable solution to the crisis.
Here are six actions Congress and the Administration can take to help end the war in Ukraine and promote long-term peace.
1. Prioritize a diplomatic solution.
A full-scale diplomatic press for a negotiated end to the crisis and a pathway for mutual security is urgently needed. U.S. diplomats should support and participate in negotiations for an immediate ceasefire, an end to the targeting of civilians, and an enduring settlement to the conflict. Rather than focusing on punishing Russia as its priority, the United States must be willing to offer compromises, such as lifting sanctions, limiting arms transfers, and opposing further NATO expansion, to help stop the fighting as quickly as possible. The United States has a long way to go to match its military might with its diplomatic power. But its goal should not be to dominate the world by alternative means. We must be willing to work with other countries and follow their lead, seeking broad consensus in the international community.
2. Provide generous and sustained humanitarian aid.
Congress and the Administration can help save lives immediately and over the months to come by supporting humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement. It is important to offer such assistance not only to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods, but also to communities that host refugees and displaced persons, often at significant risk and sacrifice. Aid to Ukrainians must not come at the expense of those fleeing violence elsewhere, too many of whom have been forgotten and overlooked while their situations have become even more dire.
3. Support local peacebuilding, nonviolent movements, and conscientious objectors.
Far too little attention is paid to the work of peacebuilding, and insufficient resources are made available for peacebuilding approaches. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development should be working with and through the United Nations and its affiliates to support nonviolent civilian resistors, peace activists, conscientious objectors, human rights defenders, civic leaders, and unarmed civilian protection networks in Russia, Ukraine, and neighboring countries. They should engage with civil society groups to monitor human rights, prevent and document atrocities, correct misinformation, address psycho-social trauma, and promote social cohesion. If local groups want it, U.S. support can be financial, diplomatic, technical, or in the form of education and training. It must preserve partners’ dignity, legitimacy, and independence.
4. Support accountability and strengthen international humanitarian law.
There is mounting evidence that Russia is grossly violating international law by waging an aggressive war against Ukraine and conducting its military operations in such an exceptionally inhumane manner. The failure of the United States to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) makes it much harder for us to demand that all those responsible be held accountable for any war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as the crime of aggression. Congress can strengthen calls for accountability for all crimes associated with the war by signaling its support for joining the ICC and immediately cooperating in any investigations undertaken by the international court
5. Promote disarmament and nonproliferation.
U.S. officials criticized Russia for deploying landmines and cluster munitions in Ukraine. The United States should enhance its legitimacy to denounce Russian military operations and support an end to the war by renouncing its own use of these dangerous weapons. The United States should also immediately join the international conventions to ban the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of landmines and cluster munitions. Congress can help by demonstrating its support for these and other nonproliferation treaties and international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal now being finalized.
6. Lead a new approach to global cooperation and shared security.
The crisis in Ukraine is not only devastating thousands of lives but also fueling more global conflict and militarism. It may drive a new era of big power conflicts, proxy wars, and oppression. Instead, we need to recognize our interconnectedness as a global community and the futility of militarized approaches to address the problems we face. Congress and the Administration should begin to reexamine U.S. national security paradigms and policies, which are deeply rooted in racism and militarism. They must engage with multilateral institutions, civil society, and other regional and global powers to develop new structures and systems for cooperative security grounded in a more just, equitable, and sustainable vision for our world.
While the war in Ukraine will continue to challenge us all to respond effectively, this is the time to exercise and invest in our non-military tools to prevent, respond to, and recover from violent conflict. President Biden and Congress have focused on the punitive tools—diplomatic censure, economic sanctions, and weapons transfers—to coerce Putin into ending his illegal assault on Ukraine. Let’s not forget all the other ways we can express solidarity and take practical steps to save lives and end war—by creating incentives for peaceful conflict resolution, supporting peacebuilders, and strengthening international norms and institutions that put people first.