I come across people who emphatically insist that the primary responsibility of the U.S. peace and anti-imperialist movements is to mobilize against NATO’s expansion and NATO itself. Really? I have to admit the logic escapes me. It strikes me as faux anti-imperialism. Here’s why.

First of all, such a posture is, on its face, indifferent to the suffering of millions of Ukrainian people as well as an abdication of any responsibility to stop Russia’s murderous assault on Ukraine. People, including children, are dying, millions are fleeing, and a country is being destroyed. Shouldn’t that concentrate the mind and actions of the U.S. peace and anti-imperialist movements? People who don’t live in the political universe of the “movement” – and that’s most people – surely will find this seeming indifference hard to understand. I sure do. It strikes me as callous, irresponsible, and a failure of political imagination.

Second, expansion eastward of NATO is a fait accompli. It’s a done deal, And there is little appetite at this moment to admit Ukraine, except from a growing number of Ukranians for understandable reasons. Before Putin’s invasion, the voices for NATO admission from within Ukraine were a minority. A neutrality status, perhaps Finland-like, commanded support across significant layers of the political establishment and society.

Third, any hope of rolling back and dismantling NATO turns on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, a cessation of the conflict, and a resumption of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. As long as the war continues and death, destruction, and dislocation mount, the room for substantive negotiations addressing Ukrainian sovereignty as well as the security needs of Russia, the status of NATO, and a new security and peace architecture in Europe will be small indeed.  

Thus, the immediate task of peace and anti-imperialist movements is to demand the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. It is the key link that, if grasped, will move the whole chain of interconnected issues foward.