War in Ukraine




“This careful, informed, judicious study is an invaluable guide to understanding Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine, and most crucially, how we can act to help bring this terrible tragedy to an end.” —Noam Chomsky

“This book is an important antidote to the war propaganda about Ukraine that so many in the West are caught up in.” —Mairead McGuire, activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

War in Ukraine makes tragically clear that this was a conflict that could have been avoided if our foreign policy had not become captive to militarists whose sole loyalty is to the arms industry.”
—Chris Hedges, author and journalist

“Here, finally, is the book we've been awaiting. War in Ukraine is illuminating and essential for anyone seeking to penetrate the fog of myth and propaganda that distorts our understanding of this crisis.” —Stephen Kinzer, author and journalist

“Given corporate media’s pro-war bias, a book like this, which provides important political and historical context and argues for negotiations instead of escalation, is of utmost importance.” —Katie Halper, host of The Katie Halper Show and Useful Idiots

“Give this book to anyone seeking the knowledge and wisdom needed to help end the violence in Ukraine.” —David Swanson, executive director of World Beyond War

“This concise primer gives what U.S. media consumers so rarely get—historical context with balance and compassion.” —Norman Solomon, executive director of Institute for Public Accuracy

“Should be mandatory reading in all strategic and political studies courses in universities around the world.” —Jonathan Ferraby, Head of Mission Support for the OSCE SMMU, 2014-2015

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About the Book

Russia’s brutal February 2022 invasion of Ukraine has attracted widespread condemnation across the West. Government and media circles present the conflict as a simple dichotomy between an evil empire and an innocent victim. In this concise, accessible and highly informative primer, Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies insist the picture is more complicated.

Yes, Russia’s aggression was reckless and, ultimately, indefensible. But the West’s reneging on promises to halt eastward expansion of NATO in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union played a major part in prompting Putin to act. So did the U.S. involvement in the 2014 Ukraine coup and Ukraine’s failure to implement the Minsk peace agreements. The result is a conflict that is increasingly difficult to resolve, one that could conceivably escalate into all-out war between the United States and Russia—the world’s two leading nuclear powers.

Skilfully bringing together the historical record and current analysis, War in Ukraine looks at the events leading up to the conflict, surveys the different parties involved, and weighs the risks of escalation and opportunities for peace. For anyone who wants to get beneath the heavily propagandized media coverage to an understanding of a war with consequences that could prove cataclysmic, reading this timely book will be an urgent necessity.

198 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-371-6 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-373-0

About the Authors

medea benjamin author photo

Photo by Teri Mattson, CODEPINK

Medea Benjamin is a co-founder of CODEPINK and the fair trade advocacy group Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.–Saudi Connection and Inside Iran. In 2012, she was awarded the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation’s Peace Prize; she is also recipient of the 2014 Gandhi Peace Award and the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
nicolas davies author photo

Photo by Debra Davies

Nicolas J.S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He has written extensively for Huffington Post, Alternet, Consortium News, Common Dreams, Salon, The Progressive, and Foreign Policy in Focus.

Read an Excerpt

In our view, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not only criminal, but also a catastrophic move and a terrible miscalculation. Veteran U.S. diplomat Chas Freeman called it “the worst strategic decision that any Russian government has made since Czar Nicholas II decided to go to war with Japan in 1904.”

But we also believe that the western nations’ treatment of Russia in the decades following the demise of the Soviet Union was a policy mistake of epic proportions. NATO expansion was a disaster waiting to happen, as seasoned politicians, diplomats and academics warned. The people of Ukraine were unwittingly caught in a perfect storm, whipped up not only by brutal Russian aggression but also by astonishing Western hubris and stupidity.

The result was what amounted to two simultaneous wars in Ukraine. One was the brutal ground war between Russia and Ukraine in which Russia was the aggressor. The other war being fought in Ukraine was a geopolitical conflict between the United States and NATO on one side and Russia on the other, in which the U.S. and NATO were the instigators and the more aggressive party.

Tragically, it was Ukrainians, as well as Russian soldiers, who paid the ultimate price in both these wars, while Americans and citizens of NATO countries lived in an illusion of peace, largely oblivious to their own governments’ share of responsibility for the crisis and the carnage in Ukraine.

The complex nature of this conflict made it particularly confusing and difficult for the Western peace movement and people of conscience around the world to respond to. Embroiled in arguments about the culpability of the different sides, activists were left divided and unable to build strong popular support for peace negotiations. This left Western politicians facing little opposition as they undermined and rejected negotiations and flooded Ukraine with weapons that were bound to prolong and exacerbate the war.

In this book, we have tried to clear up the confusion. We have explored the history of Ukraine leading up to this crisis, but also how the United States, Europe and Russia became involved in that history as a result of their tragic and ongoing collective failure to make good on the promised post-Cold War “peace dividend.”

We have tried to answer a range of key questions people have asked since the invasion: What happened in Ukraine in 2014? Was there really a “coup”? What role did the United States and Russia play in those pivotal and complex events, which Western corporate media deceptively abbreviate as “the Russian annexation of Crimea”?

Why did civil war break out in eastern Ukraine in 2014? What was the 2015 Minsk II agreement? Why and how did it fail to end the civil war over the next seven years? How did that set the stage for the Russian invasion?

And why did Russia decide to invade Ukraine? How important were provocations by the West? Don’t Ukrainians have the right to join NATO if they want? And are neo-Nazis a powerful influence in Ukraine, or just a red herring?

Also, how did NATO, a military alliance built to defend Europe from attack by the U.S.S.R., outlive its purpose, expand beyond its borders, or any borders at all, and end up invading Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya—all a long way from the North Atlantic? How did that affect Russia’s view of NATO expansion?

Back here in the United States, are the corporate media telling the truth about this war, shaping their own narrative, or just repeating government propaganda? What are the Russian people thinking, and how do Western sanctions affect them? What about the impact on the rest of the world?

And is there really no way to end this war peacefully? Who and what are holding up diplomatic talks? How close are we to a nuclear war? Most importantly of all, what are the possible solutions?

In the Media

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