June 25, 2013
President Vladimir Putin
A few words about myself that I hope will increase the probability that you will seriously consider my suggestions. I am an American, a citizen of the United States. I have spent most of my life working in what we call here, “the peace movement.” This work has involved protesting nuclear weapons, helping to organize demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and, recently, protesting the use of drones. My activities nonviolently protesting U.S. Military policies often have led to my arrest and imprisonment.
One peace project I engaged in took me to the Soviet Union. This was The San Francisco-to-Moscow Walk for Peace, that took place 1960-61. This project was sponsored by the Committee for Nonviolent Action. I was its coordinator. We actually did walk across the United States, England, West Germany, East German, Poland and White Russia, to Moscow. The project took ten months, covered about 5900 miles, and left me exhausted. While in the Soviet Union, we talked with thousands of people, among them Mrs. (Nina) Khruschev, and Michael Gyeogadze, Secretary of the Presidium of the Soviet Union. While we did not agree with all of the policies of the Soviet Union, we were committed to friendly discussions of all issues, and the principle of nonviolence. The Soviet Peace Committee sponsored our project while we were in the Soviet Union. I will never forget the warm hospitality and many meetings arranged for us by the Committee. Several books were written about this project, copies of which may be in the archives of the Soviet Peace Committee.
I am committed to the resolution of conflicts through negotiation and other nonviolent means, and am convinced that continual recourse to military solutions can lead nowhere except to vast human suffering and eventual nuclear war.
It strikes me that the conflict in Syria offers unusual dangers for the human species. This is because Russia and the United States seem committed to supporting different sides in the conflict. Russia supports the Al-Assad government. The U.S. is supporting several of the major rebel groups. As in most civil wars, this outside support consists largely of gifts of weapons. On both sides, the weapons being given are designed to give the side being supplied the advantage. The outcome of such a situation can be predicted to be constantly escalating violence , increasing death and destructive to the civilian population, and a military stalemate. If neither side backs down, it is possible that the most destructive weapons eventually will be used.
Russia seems to want Bashar Al-Assad to remain in power. The U.S. Seems to what him to go. Wouldn't it be possible to resolve this question by means of a national election, perhaps supervised by the United Nations? Both Russia and the United States are democracies, so both countries should approve of an election. Both Russia and the U.S. Are members of the U.N.'s Security Council. Also, having the U.N. Supervise the election would introduce an additional non-partisan factor that would make it more likely that the result of the election would be accepted by everyone.
If President Al-Assad lost the election, he could be offered asylum in some country of his choice. Russia might be such a country. Also, he could be offered a stipend for himself and his family to decrease the likelihood that he would start to agitate against the election's result.
Truth and Reconciliation tribunals, such as those used in South Africa, could be set up to reduce and end the hatreds that the war has generated.
A fund could be established to help rebuild Syria.
It seems to me that such an approach to ending the conflict would be far better for everyone than continuing the war. Russia and the United States should be working together for peace, and the rebuilding of Syria, not competing against each other by pouring weapons into a conflict of ever-increasing destruction and hatred, a conflict whose outcome cannot be predicted, and whose threat to the peace of the entire world ever increases.
I hope that yo will reach out to President Obama with such a proposal. I think that he might respond positively. Russia and the United States should be friends, working for peace together, not enemies grappling with each other in war.