Late on Christmas Eve 1914, during World War I, British soldiers heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. Messages began to be shouted between the two sides. The following day, on Christmas, British and German soldiers met in ‘no man’s land’ and exchanged gifts, took photographs, and played impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After the short truce, fighting unfortunately carried on. Today, U.S. faith and peace leaders are calling for a Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine and demanding negotiations to end the war. | Imperial War Museum
Activists and faith leaders in the United States are calling for an immediate Christmas season truce, a ceasefire, and talks to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict. They issued their call in the wake of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to the Congress on Wednesday.
Zelensky called for continued flows of U.S. arms into his country to fight the Russians and promised that the weapons would be put to use. “We are alive and kicking and will never surrender,” he declared. He said that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was not charity but an investment in security for the future.
At a meeting with Zelensky just prior to the Capitol speech, President Joe Biden vowed to back Ukraine with arms “for as long as it takes.” He also pledged to send new Patriot missiles, the most advanced in the U.S. military arsenal, to Ukraine.
This was coupled with approval in the Senate on Thursday of an unprecedented $850-billion military budget, swollen to historic levels by billions more for the Ukraine war and multi-billion-dollar guarantees to the U.S. armaments makers that if any decision they make to increase armament production causes them to lose money, the U.S. treasury will jump in with “socialism for the rich” and cover their losses.
Completely under the radar is this week’s call by more than 1,000 faith leaders demanding the Christmas season truce in Ukraine. Almost all of those leaders have, since the war began, strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting death and suffering of the Ukrainian people. They are also concerned, however, about U.S. culpability in the war and the refusal thus far in Washington to push for a ceasefire and negotiations to end the fighting.
Led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Bishop William Barber, who leads the Poor People’s Campaign, they recalled the Christmas truce in 1914 during the First World War. They declared: “We urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation.”
Co-founder of Code Pink Medea Benjamin, one of the signers, said: “There is nothing glorious about the Ukraine war. It is a lose-lose for everyone except weapons makers. Zelensky should be calling for peace. So should Putin. And Biden. And everyone else. #ChristmasTruceNow.”
Benjamin said the war “must move from the battlefield to the negotiating table—no more dollars for war! Peace talks instead!” Supplies of more advanced weaponry would “only bring us closer to a direct war with Russia…and nuclear armageddon,” she added.
Zelensky essentially told the Congress this week, however, that no peace would be possible and no ceasefire was possible until Russia pulls out of Ukraine altogether. He said he has a 10-point peace plan that he discussed with Biden but gave no details. Biden has also not disclosed any specifics of the supposed plan.
A Biden administration spokesperson, retired Admiral John Kirby, said on MSNBC that the Zelensky plan was “not really a peace plan but rather a framework within which discussion between Ukraine and the U.S. can be held.”
The huge military budget is causing enormous problems in the U.S. already. First is the obvious diversion of funds away from programs to address social needs. In addition, existing critical funds are under threat. The trillion-dollar omnibus bill approved in the Senate this week does not specify what part of it can be used to provide more than $1.7 billion needed, for example, to keep Medicaid benefits flowing to those in need.
Federal money for states that have opted into Obamacare could be endangered if there are not adequate funds allocated for that in the federal budget. Millions who rely on these benefits could be harmed.
The conflict is increasingly looks like the proxy war between the U.S. and Russia that many peace activists say it is. They have been saying that Ukraine is caught in the middle of a long-term battle that the U.S. is waging against Russia.
While the U.S. announced billions in new weapons for the Ukraine war this week, Russia responded by announcing plans on Wednesday to increase the size of its army from one million to 1.5 million members, and government officials rolled out plans to create entirely new, “better trained” units.
Meanwhile, NATO which is under the control of Washington, continues its plans to expand—an expansion that is seen as a major cause of the war in the first place. Two countries are slated to soon become new members.
Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, said his country needed to safeguard its security because of those NATO plans, which involve the incorporation of Finland and Sweden into the alliance.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov also responded this week to U.S. plans for sending more weapons into the conflict. He declared that the move would not “bode well” for Ukraine, as Russian bombardments continued to pound the country’s energy infrastructure.
This news analysis published here reflects the views of the authors.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.
C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.
People’s World, December 23, 2022, https://live-peoples-world.pantheonsite.io/