Anti-war and peace networks are pushing back against Australia becoming involved in a war in Europe, triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. A diplomatic solution is essential, they argue, to avert a new war.
The major parties accept the idea that conflict in the region is inevitable, and support the United States and NATO military build-up in Europe.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he will not send troops to Ukraine, defence minister Peter Dutton said on February 21 that military assistance is possible. Morrison announced Australia will impose sanctions on Russian individuals and seek to extend sanctions that are already in place in the Ukraine to the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese echoed the government’s line, pledging support for NATO allies, condemning Russia, and affirming support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. Labor also supports “technical military assistance for Ukraine”, the “stepping up [of] cyber security support” and “targeted sanctions against Russians”. It underscored its bipartisanship with the government on “national security challenges”.
Janet Rice from the Australian Greens said on February 23 that the party supported amending the 2011 Autonomous Sanctions Regulation framework “to respond to Russia’s actions”. She condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “military aggression in the Ukraine” and called on all parties to “remember the human cost of war and to work peacefully through diplomatic channels to de-escalate the situation” and affirmed the Greens support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Anti-war and peace networks across Australia are pushing the federal government not to abandon diplomatic solutions and to pull back from the AUKUS war alliance with the US and Britain.
In an open letter, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) called on the prime minister, the foreign minister and the defence minister to use their “close relationship” with British foreign and defence Ministers and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ensure nuclear weapons are not used. It also called for the US and Australia to allow the 2015 Minsk II agreement parties — Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine — to work on a resolution. IPAN is also calling for the United Nations to “be tasked to manage the wider implications” and “to seek peace between the major parties”.
Sydney Stop the War Coalition criticised the federal government on February 14 for talking up war and supporting the US and NATO military build-up in Europe, saying that Australia must push for a regional solution. “Australia could play a constructive role in allowing the region to find a peaceful solution. War over Ukraine, involving nuclear powers, is madness,” the coalition said, adding that “it serves as a distraction from domestic problems and only makes the autocratic President Vladimir Putin stronger in Russia”.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom on February 14 warned that “global peace is under threat”. “Recent developments, culminating with the crisis over Ukraine, have led to rapid deterioration of our human security, at levels reminiscent of those in 1914.”
“So-called democratic leadership has failed us,” it said, adding “so too have those supra-national bodies, like the UN, that we collectively have entrusted to build and safeguard global peace. Their failure to act on our behalf has brought the planet to its most dangerous moment".
Socialist Alliance national co-convenor Sam Wainwright told Green Left that the US had provoked the conflict. “The US and its close allies, through their weapons supplies and rhetoric, have been encouraging Ukraine to try to take the separatist-held regions in the Donbas by force. This would be a disaster. There can only be a negotiated solution.” He said that NATO and AUKUS are both offensive military alliances designed to encircle Russia and China.
“The aggressive US posture reinforces nationalistic and militaristic responses from China and Russia, as they seek to break out of their encirclement. There is no possibility of confronting the existential threat posed by climate change if we are locked into a new cold war. The first step Australia can make towards tilting the balance towards peace is to withdraw from AUKUS.”