Minneapolis protest calls for U.S. de-escalation in Ukraine
Minneapolis, MN – On February 24, around 30 people demonstrated outside U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office in downtown Minneapolis with signs and banners calling for no war with Russia and an end to U.S. intervention in Ukraine. Held less than 24 hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine, the protest came amidst a jingoistic frenzy of calls by Western governments and media for actions against Russia.
Protesters emphasized the role that the U.S. and NATO played for years in escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia. In 2014, the elected Ukrainian government was overthrown by reactionary protesters with U.S. backing. In the ensuing crisis, Russia annexed the ethnic Russian-majority Crimean peninsula, while the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk with significant Russian populations – collectively known as the Donbass region – declared their independence from the government in Kiev.
“Today could have been avoided if the United States had not orchestrated a coup in Ukraine in 2014,” said Mike Madden of Veterans for Peace and the newly-formed Assange Defense Committee. “It could have been avoided if the post-coup regime had not initiated hostilities in April of 2014 by sending military, and Nazi paramilitary, forces to violently reclaim the breakaway provinces.”
The Kiev government’s initial attempts to retake the Donbass by force relied heavily on far-right ultranationalist militias, including the openly neo-Nazi Azov Detachment, which in late 2014 was incorporated into the official Ukrainian National Guard. Despite this, the U.S. has sent $2.7 billion worth of “lethal aid” to the Ukrainian military since 2014.
Ceasefire agreements known as Minsk I and Minsk II were subsequently negotiated between Kiev and the breakaway provinces. Both failed to stop the violence in the Donbass, with Kiev notably refusing to implement Minsk II’s provisions of autonomy for Donetsk and Luhansk. From 2014 through the end of 2021, the war in the Donbass had killed over 10,000 people, including many civilians.
Andrew Josefchak of the Anti-War Committee provided additional context for Russia’s tensions with the West. “In the 1990s, the U.S. promised Russia that NATO would expand ‘not one inch east,’ but apparently the U.S. would like to take not just an inch but a mile, in fact 600 miles, expanding NATO all the way up to Russia’s doorstep,” he said. “The U.S. has imposed deadly sanctions on Russia and has moved nuclear weapons within spitting distance of its borders.”
Much of the current conflict revolves around the Kiev government’s stated ambition of joining the NATO military alliance. Despite Russia’s concerns that Ukraine’s instability could inadvertently draw NATO into a nuclear war with Russia, NATO has refused to rule out admitting Ukraine, instead sending military advisors to coordinate with the junta in Kiev.
Josefchak explained, “The idea that the U.S. has deliberately pushed Russia toward war is not just speculation on my part; in 2019 the RAND Corporation, a pro-war organization of the U.S. military-industrial complex, sent a report to the U.S. Army Chief of Staff in which it stated that the ideal U.S. strategy would be to use sanctions, propaganda and other measures to push Russia towards war with Ukraine in order to make it overextend itself militarily.”
Other protesters decried continued increases to the U.S. military budget while domestic social programs languish.
Mira Altobell-Resendez is a member of Students for Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota (SDS-UMN). “I don’t know about you, but my country having the capacity to bomb anyone they want to hell and back doesn’t make me feel secure,” they said. “What would make me feel secure is knowing that my fellow students and I won’t be paying back federal loans for the rest of our lives, knowing that we will never have to worry about being able to afford adequate housing or a visit to the doctor, and having proper infrastructure in place to eradicate health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic without losing millions of unexpendable lives due to the incompetence of our government.”
The protest was initiated by the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition and endorsed by the Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Climate Justice Committee, Veterans for Peace, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, SDS-UMN, and other local groups. Organizers chose Senator Klobuchar’s office for the location after the hawkish congresswoman told National Public Radio that morning that she doesn’t “rule anything out” and called for more weapons transfers to Ukraine.
With the conflict continuing to worsen, organizers announced that on March 2 there will be another protest on the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue bridge over the Mississippi at 4 p.m. to demand an end to U.S. escalations and weapons transfers, the dissolution of NATO, and diplomacy to create the conditions for long-term peace in Ukraine.