Right Livelihood Award 2013 Stockholm 12/ 2013 Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt

Paul Walker: We must rekindle East-West dialogue instead of entering a new Cold War

News 05.05.2022

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has wiped out decades of progress toward global disarmament, pushing global powers into a possible new Cold War, 2013 Right Livelihood Laureate Paul Walker has warned in a recent interview. It’s important to first end hostilities in Ukraine and then re-establish a meaningful East-West dialogue to avoid sliding into a protracted global crisis.

For decades, Walker has championed global disarmament and arms control, bringing together the United States and Russia around contentious issues. His work got the two superpowers to agree to get rid of their chemical weapons stockpiles, while also advancing East-West dialogue in the post-Soviet era.

Russia’s reckless invasion of Ukraine, besides destroying all the trust built over the past decades, has put Western countries, especially those belonging to NATO, in a very difficult position, Walker said.

On the one hand, they have to contain the war and ensure that it doesn’t spread beyond Ukraine.

“I think it’s very important that the West continue to support Ukraine, and that we continue to support them with weapons, mostly defensive weapons,” Walker said.

“If we didn’t, Ukraine could disappear as a country and the Russians could march all the way to the Polish, Hungarian and Moldovan borders and potentially begin taking over some of those countries, as well.”

On the other hand, NATO countries will now further increase their military budgets, which will de-facto prevent any move towards disarmament. The US military budget, which in 2021 amounted to 800 billion USD, was already 10 times the size of Russia’s military spending. Adding in other NATO countries, the alliance’s military budget is about 20 times larger than Russia’s.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult to reduce NATO budgets, to reduce in particular the US military budget,” he said.

“If we continue to increase deployments in Europe and military spending, in the end, it would probably result in a major war.”

The outlook for proponents of arms control and disarmament seems quite bleak for the coming years. However, that should give them a new impetus to build global dialogue around these issues.

“For the time being, it’s going to be kind of barren land,” Walker said. “It’s all the more important that those of us in the arms control, disarmament and peace, and non-violent communities push forward even more during this period to try to rebuild East-West dialogue.”

Putin will likely be gone in a few years, he added, which will present new opportunities.

“There’ll be some new people that we can deal with, and hopefully, we can try to further build up international rules of law, humanitarian law, and certainly, rules of war as well,” he said. “That’s the only long-term answer after this horrible, violent and costly war.”

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