Not for the first time, the Vatican has been ahead of the warmongers in Westminster in offering an alternative to unending conflict


The Pope may not always be infallible, but he is talking more than sense on the Ukraine war – he is proposing the only solution that could lead to peace.

As might have been expected, warmongers across the world have been outraged by Pope Francis’s call for the Ukrainian government to have “the courage to raise the white flag” in its war with Russia.

Perhaps his wording was not the best, since it implied a unilateral surrender by the Kyiv administration, something not likely to happen.

Yet his clear message was that it is time for the conflict to be brought to an end. His elaboration made that plain: “That word negotiate is a brave word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not working out, to have the courage to negotiate.”

The Pope added that there are many countries which would be prepared to mediate an end to the conflict, citing Turkey as an example.

Whether or not Ukraine is “defeated”, it is not within sight of achieving the military victory its NATO backers are continuing to urge. Its lavishly-funded and armed (by the west) counter-offensive last year failed to achieve anything like a breakthrough, and such shifts in the frontlines as have occurred since have been in Russia’s favour, albeit at tremendous human cost.

Francis is therefore spot on in calling for a ceasefire and a mediated peace. Ukraine’s NATO sponsors oppose this, however, with Britain and British politicians from Boris Johnson to Sunak and Starmer in the lead.

They have long since turned the conflict into a proxy war, with NATO using Ukraine as a battlefield in its confrontation with Russia.

Western leaders remain determined to prolong the agony if it offers the possibility of weakening Putin. French President Macron recently floated the possibility of NATO troops fighting directly in Ukraine, and the German government has revealed that British special forces are helping Ukraine launch missiles strikes deep into Russia’s interior.

This is a deeply dangerous situation. Stop the War condemned Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine on the day it happened.  NATO and Ukrainian nationalist provocations played a big part in the road to war, but Putin’s response cannot be justified.

Nevertheless, realities must be faced. If the war is not ended, it will likely escalate.  Talk of nuclear weapons being used has become normalised.  And the economic disruption caused by the conflict, and US-imposed sanctions, has been serious.

Most of the world wants a ceasefire. Even before the Gaza crisis, few countries in the global South were backing the NATO line.

Now even fewer will buy into Washington and London’s approach, given that their hypocrisy has been exposed by their support for the far greater slaughter caused by Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinians.

So the Pope speaks for most of humanity. The first step is a ceasefire, which inevitably means leaving the front line pretty much as is.

That will aggrieve both Ukrainian nationalists fantasising about reconquering Crimea and the Donbas, where most of the population does not want them, and Russian hardliners like former President Medvedev who has recently talked of occupying Kyiv itself.

Moving from ceasefire to a permanent peace will of course be challenging. Russia will need to accept a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state, and Ukraine will have to accept remaining outside NATO and self-determination for minorities within its borders.

And NATO, including the British government, will have to abandon its proxy war and instead think seriously about negotiating a security architecture for Europe that guarantees everyone’s security and is directed against no state.

So Stop the War backs the Pope. Not for the first time, the Vatican has been ahead of the warmongers in Westminster in offering an alternative to unending conflict.

11 Mar 2024 by Andrew Murray

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