War Prevention Initiative: “Nonviolent alternatives must be pursued in Ukraine to deescalate war.”

February 25, 2022; Contact: Kelsey Coolidge; kelsey@jubitz.org

War Prevention Initiative: “Nonviolent alternatives must be pursued in Ukraine to deescalate war.”

PORTLAND, OR The War Prevention Initiative is deeply distraught and condemns the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. This situation is complex, evolving, and much is still unknown. We echo the sentiment of our friends and colleagues at Peace Direct, Win Without War, Global Zero, FCNL, and others in our support for the Ukrainian people. Even with the uncertainty surrounding the crisis and the direct Russian military action, a militarized response would only fuel the conflict and lead to further death, destruction, suffering, trauma, and environmental damage. Nonviolent alternatives must be pursued to leave the path of war.

First, the stakes of a military confrontation between Russia and NATO member countries, especially the United States, are too high. Diplomacy must never stop to avoid a catastrophic military confrontation between the countries with the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. The use of nuclear weapons is an option on the table, per a thinly veiled threat from the Russian President this week. Since their inception, nuclear weapons have remained one of the world’s greatest existential threats. The predictable devastation associated with the use of nuclear weapons is not limited to the warring parties (i.e., Russia, Europe, and the United States). Even a limited nuclear war could trigger a nuclear winter, plunging Earth’s temperature and leading to wide-spread crop failures, famine, and ecosystem destruction. All life on earth is threatened by a nuclear war.

This further demonstrates the necessity for nuclear non-proliferation and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The notion of “nuclear peace”–namely the assumption nuclear-armed countries would avoid waging direct war with one another–has always been flawed. Rather, the provision of nuclear weapons is emboldening military action. We are witnessing this in real-time.    

Second, rather than further militarizing the conflict by increasing the importation of military equipment, foreign support for Ukraine must also prioritize alternatives such as nonviolent civil resistance[1] and civilian-based defense[2]. Emphasizing military support fundamentally ignores the power and effectiveness of nonviolent resistance and risks further escalation to a nuclear conflict. Evidence from nonviolent resistance research has demonstrated:

Third, targeted sanctions[3] are an important tool in this context to make on-going or additional hostile action too costly for the Russian leadership and elites–but we cannot ignore the tremendous human costs of the sanctions regime. Russian civilians, many of whom have demonstrated against this war despite the high personal costs of doing so in a repressive context, will suffer. Financial and economic costs will reverberate around the world.

However, financial and economic costs are just one and comparatively small element demonstrating the utter destructiveness of war. More important are the human and social costs­­–the loss of lives, the tearing apart of families and communities, personal and collective trauma, the deterioration in trust, the destruction of ecosystems, and countless more. All of which fall immediately on Ukrainians. War is undoubtably fostered by a global culture of militarism where violence is the primary means to manage conflict. Militarism anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere. Norms related to multilateralism and state sovereignty, those concepts central to founding of the United Nations, have been waning for decades (in part due to U.S. hostility to the institution and military action disregarding the use of force prohibition outlined in the UN Charter[4]). There is another way other than perpetuating vicious cycles of violence and global empire. 

At the War Prevention Initiative, we remain steadfast in our resolve to relentlessly advocate for peace and nonviolence: the costs of war are too high and the opportunities for peace are too plentiful to continue down a path of global destruction. It is precisely in moments of crisis that advocates for peace should speak the loudest. We call on our friends and colleagues in the larger peacebuilding community to do the same.  

Additional Resources

Bartkowski, M. (2021, December 27) Ukrainians vs. Putin: Potential for nonviolent civilian-based defense. ICNC. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from, https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/blog_post/ukrainians-vs-putin-potential-for-nonviolent-civilian-based-defense/

Cortright, D. (2012, November 5). What happened to smart sanctions? https://davidcortright.net/2012/11/05/what-happened-to-smart-sanctions/

ICAN. The world’s nuclear weapons. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from, https://www.icanw.org/nuclear_arsenals

Peace Science Digest. (2016, April 1) Sanctions as a tool for peace. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from, https://peacesciencedigest.org/sanctions-as-a-tool-for-peace/

Peace Science Digest. (2018, February 28) Nonviolent resistance, war termination, and conflict transformation in Nepal. Accessed on February 24 2022, from, https://peacesciencedigest.org/nonviolent-resistance-war-termination-conflict-transformation-nepal/

Peace Science Digest. (2020, January 22) Nonviolent resistance movements, national identity, and security force defection. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from, https://peacesciencedigest.org/nonviolent-resistance-movements-national-identity-and-security-force-defection/

Peace Science Digest. (2022, February 14) Threatened or actual harm can provoke an adversary rather than coerce them. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from, https://peacesciencedigest.org/threatened-or-actual-harm-can-provoke-an-adversary-rather-than-coerce-them%EF%BF%BC/

Sharp, G. (1985) National security through civilian-based defense. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from https://www.aeinstein.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/NationalSecurityThroughCivilian-BasedDefense-English.pdf

Witze, A. (2020, March 16) How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet. Nature. Accessed on February 24, 2022, from, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00794-y

Organizations to Follow

Global Zero: https://www.globalzero.org  

Beyond the Bomb: https://beyondthebomb.org  

ICAN: https://www.icanw.org  

ICNC: https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org  

Nonviolent Peaceforce: https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org


The War Prevention Initiative aims to transform the global peace and security paradigm to one that is built around viable alternatives to war and all forms of political violence.


For further comment or questions, please contact Kelsey Coolidge, War Prevention Initiative Director at kelsey@jubitz.org


[1] “Civil resistance is a powerful way for people to fight for their rights, freedom, and justice—without the use of violence. When people wage civil resistance, they use tactics such as strikes, boycotts, mass protests, and many other nonviolent actions to withdraw their cooperation from an oppressive system.” (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict)

[2] “Civilian-based defense indicates defense by civilians (as distinct from military personnel) using civilian

means of struggle (as distinct from military and paramilitary means). This is a policy

intended to deter and defeat foreign military invasions, occupations, and internal

usurpations.” (Sharp, 1985)

[3] The purpose of targeted sanctions is not only to avoid unintended humanitarian consequences but to minimize the risk of a rally-round-the-flag effect. When sanctions harm the innocent, they lose legitimacy and political support. Targeted sanctions, for example, freeze the assets and ban the travel of officials and entities responsible for acts of war. They do not hurt ordinary people. Sanctions that target those complicit with the invasion of Ukraine are smart. Those that harm innocent civilians are counterproductive and should be abandoned. (Cortright, 2012; modified based on the Ukraine crisis)

[4] UN Charter Article 2, Section 4 states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” (https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CTC/uncharter.pdf)