Popular culture is filled with many infamous villainous partnerships: Bonnie and Clyde, Sauron and Saruman, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. As long as one thrives, the other survives. The climate crisis and militarism are the same. And just as we would the other devastating duos, champions of environmental and human justice must recognize the climate crisis and militarism as partners, rather than isolated evils, in order to truly confront them.
Fortunately, the House of Representatives took two important steps on Thursday to begin confronting the militarism of U.S. foreign policy by historically passing measures to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and defund any Congressionally unauthorized war with Iran. Americans have several reasons to celebrate Thursday’s House votes, as well as demand that their Senators support similar legislative vehicles. Not only does preventing war with Iran — and countering the militarism that sends us hurtling towards one — save the lives of civilians and service members, it also combats the climate crisis.
Young people are acutely aware that our generation and those after us will pay the price for the damage our planet has suffered. To truly address the climate crisis, those of us concerned about our planet should oppose war with Iran just as we would carry reusable shopping bags and support fossil fuel divestment. After all, the climate crisis and militarism aid and abet one another at the cost of our collective security, and the longer we ignore their partnership, the more devastating the consequences will be.
Harming the Environment
A report from the United States Army War College concludes that the Department of Defense (DoD) “does not currently possess an environmentally conscious mindset.” To call that an understatement would be an understatement — not only does DoD fail to protect the environment, it actively contributes to its destruction.
Five years into the U.S. invasion of Iraq, researchers estimated, conservatively, that the Iraq War was responsible for emissions amounting to at least 141 million metric tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases between 2003 and 2008. That’s about as much as six million passenger cars would emit, collectively, over a five-year period. A war with Iran would be even larger – requiring more troops, more resources, and more emissions.
Already, the DoD emits more greenhouse gases as a single institution than many small industrialized countries. And since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the DoD has been consistently responsible for between 77 and 80 percent of all U.S. government energy consumption.
The DoD’s large-scale dependence on fossil fuels is concerning, given the links between worsening air quality and premature death. Recent studies reinforce the health impacts — lung cancer, chronic asthma, and increased risk of miscarriage, for example — of certain airborne pollutants, some of which are significant components of the particulate matter emitted by burning the types of fuel on which the military most heavily depends. Health issues caused by air pollution are therefore yet another danger of the militarism that propels us towards war.
In addition to polluting our air, the military’s large-scale emissions accelerate the consequences of the climate crisis, like extreme weather and resource scarcity, that will drive further conflict. Poor environmental conditions have already prompted mass displacement, political instability, and violence. And it’s likely to get worse, even without another war. The aforementioned U.S. Army report finds that by 2040, the global demand for freshwater may exceed availability, with water scarcity driving unrest and the collapse of food systems.
Besides emissions, using military force to address conflict poisons the environment. In Iraq, the environmental impacts of U.S. military operations in Fallujah may have led to increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and infant mortality. Traveling further back in time, about 45 million liters of Agent Orange the U.S. sprayed over swathes of Vietnam poisoned soil, water, and rice paddies, imbuing the food chain with toxic chemicals. The mere development of weapons of war is also damaging — in the U.S., communities exposed to contaminants dispersed after nuclear weapons tests fell victim to nearly twenty types of cancer.
These grave consequences demonstrate why approaches directed at "greening" the military are insufficient (looking at you, Senator Warren and Mayor Buttigieg). Even if militaries achieve net zero emissions, the weapons they deploy will never achieve net zero environmental harm. Instead of focusing on “greening” the military, we must fundamentally reimagine our response to conflict. If we don’t, we risk trapping ourselves in a vicious loop where the climate crisis drives conflict and military approaches to conflict devastate the environment — a cycle that benefits only arms manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry that powers them.
United We Stand, United They Fall
We cannot allow this dangerous partnership to march into yet another war. As the House passed a war powers resolution to rebuke Trump’s provocative actions, people at more than 350 events in the U.S. rallied to oppose war against Iran. And in September, millions of young people took to the streets and demonstrated the power behind the climate movement. We must combine that energy and direct it towards common-sense solutions to curbing militarism.
We can start by demanding our representatives in Congress support every possible measure to prevent war with Iran. Then, instead of pouring billions into the Pentagon’s already bloated and unaccountable budget, we should invest in climate adaptation. We should drive job creation in green industries, not protect jobs in fossil fuels and weapons manufacturing. In the same vein, we must inject climate-related legislation, like the Green New Deal, with a healthy dose of anti-militarism in order to bring about the change we seek.
Working together, the environmental and peace communities can champion a progressive vision of U.S. global engagement that holds both human and environmental justice at its center, because one cannot be fulfilled without the other. As people concerned with the future of our planet, we must make every effort to show decision makers that militarism and climate change must be addressed as partners. Failing to do so would be like ending the rebellion after destroying the Death Star — despite one victory, the Empire still wins.
MUNICH, GERMANY — If U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris dominated the first day of the Munich Security Conference with her remarks, today it was German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s turn.
It was not only Zelensky who understandably devoted his whole speech to the Ukraine War but also Scholz, too. The German Chancellor, while boasting that his country will devote 2% of its GDP to defense expenditures this year, remarked that “we Europeans need to do much more for our security now and in the future.”
In a brief but clear reference to Trump’s recent statements on NATO, Scholz said, "any relativization of NATO’s mutual defense guarantee will only benefit those who, just like Putin, want to weaken us.” On the guns and butter debate, which is particularly relevant in Germany due to negligible economic growth, Scholz acknowledged that critical voices are saying, “should not we be using the money for other things?” But he chose not to engage in this debate, noting instead that “Moscow is fanning the flames of such doubts with targeted disinformation campaigns and with propaganda on social media.”
The Russian capture of the city represents the most significant defeat for Ukraine since the failure of its counter-offensive last year. On the loss of Avdiivka, Zelensky said that Ukraine had lost one soldier for every seven soldiers who have died on the Russian side. This, however, is difficult to reconcile with the reports about the rushed Ukrainian retreat, with a Ukrainian soldier explaining that “the road to Avdiivka is littered with our corpses.”
Throughout his speech, Zelensky repeatedly referred to the importance of defending what he called the “rules-based world order” by defeating Russia. If there was one take-away that Zelensky wanted impressed on this audience: “Please do not ask Ukraine when the war will end. Ask yourself why is Putin still able to continue it.”
He also seemed to suggest that it was not a lack of available weapons and artillery but a willingness to give them over to Ukraine. “Dear friends, unfortunately keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficit of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,” Zelenskyy said. “The self-weakening of democracy over time undermines our joint results.”
The future of NATO was one of the main topics of the day. European leaders were in agreement that Europe needs to spend more on defense, and occasionally appeared to compete with each other on who has spent the most on weapons delivered to Ukraine or in their national defense budgets.
With NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in attendance, one of the panels featured two of the most talked-about names to replace the Norwegian politician in the 75th-anniversary summit in Washington in July: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. According to a report by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, President Joseph Biden and his Secretary of State Anthony Blinken favor the German leader, but in Paris, London, and Berlin, the Dutch politician is preferred.
The participation of the Netherlands in the initial U.S.-UK joint strikes against Houthi positions in Yemen on Jan. 11 was read in some quarters as a sign of Rutte’s ambitions. The Netherlands was the only EU country to join these initial attacks.
A G7 meeting of foreign ministers also took place Saturday on the sidelines of the conference. In a press briefing that followed, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani — who currently presides the G7 — reiterated the group’s support for Ukraine. The current situation in the Red Sea, as is often the case in the West, was presented by Tajani as a topic divorced from the Gaza Strip. The Houthis started their campaign against ships in the Red Sea after the beginning of the war in Gaza, claiming they want to force an end to the conflict.
There is no certainty that the end of the war in Gaza would put an end to Houthi attacks, but presenting the situation in the Red Sea as being nothing but a threat to freedom of trade is considered by experts to be a a myopic approach.
Nevertheless, Italy will be in command of the new EU naval mission ASPIDES, to be deployed soon in the Red Sea. The mission is expected to be approved by the next meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers on Monday. When asked whether he could ensure that ASPIDES would remain a defensive mission, the Italian Foreign Minister said ASPIDES aims at defending merchant ships and that if drones or missiles are launched, they will be shot down, but no attacks will be conducted.
Marc Martorell Junyent is in Munich, covering the conference for Responsible Statecraft this weekend. This story is developing and is being updated.
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Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 16, 2024. (Lukas Barth-Tuttas/MSC)
MUNICH, GERMANY – The 60th year of the Munich Security Conference opened today with much of the early energy surrounding remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris.
The vice president noted that it was nearly two years since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. She said that when Putin unleashed his troops along different fronts in February 2022, “many thought Kyiv would fall within a day.” It is also true, as she pointed out, that “Ukraine has regained more than half the territory Russia occupied at the start of the conflict.” (Russia held about 7% before the invasion, 27% right after, and about 18% today.)
However, by choosing the first months of the war as the starting point of her speech, Harris sought to avoid the obvious. Namely, that in the year that has gone by since her last visit to Munich, the Ukrainian army has been losing ground. Yet, her remarks regarding Ukraine today did not differ much from her speech in 2023.
Harris seemed dedicated to keeping to the administration’s recent script, which is warning against heralding in a new era of “isolationism,” referring to President Biden's likely presidential election opponent, Donald Trump.
As president Biden and I have made clear over the past three years, we are committed to pursue global engagement, to uphold international rules and norms, to defend democratic values at home and abroad, and to work with our allies and partners in pursuit of shared goals.
As I travel throughout my country and the world, it is clear to me: this approach makes America strong. And it keeps Americans safe.
Interestingly, the U.S. has been accused of thwarting "international rules and norms" in its unconditional support of Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed upwards of 29,000 Palestinians, mostly of them civilians, since Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and hostage-taking. Christoph Heusgen, the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, asked Harris whether a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine was achievable. Harris answered that “the short answer is yes… but we must then put the discussion in context, starting with October 7.” Not 1948, not 1967, but October 7, 2023.
Her prepared remarks on the situation were very brief, overall, saying:
In the Middle East, we are working to end the conflict that Hamas triggered on October 7th as soon as possible and ensure it ends in a way where Israel is secure, hostages are released, the humanitarian crisis is resolved, Hamas does not control Gaza, and Palestinians can enjoy their right to security, dignity, freedom, and self-determination.
This work — while we also work to counter aggression from Iran and its proxies, prevent regional escalation, and promote regional integration.
October 7 was the topic of a conference side event hosted by Brigadier-General Gal Hirsch, Israel’s Coordinator for Hostages and Missing. In his opening speech, he called for a Global War on Kidnapping inspired by George Bush’s War on Terror. Hirsch was short on the specifics, and Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz did not develop the concept further when he followed Hirsch at the podium. During the event, several hostages released during the short ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November 2023 described their harrowing experiences in captivity. Relatives of the remaining hostages accompanied them.
Meanwhile, in a morning event, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed how to increase defense spending in a time of economic stagnation. Mitsotakis, whose country has always spent significantly more than the expected 2% of the GDP required by NATO, stated that defense policy cannot be done on a budget. Lindner, meanwhile, remarked that Germany is on the way to spending 2% of its GDP on defense. Economic prosperity, the German Liberal minister noted, should avoid tradeoffs between social and defense policies. This is certainly a difficult equation to square since the German government just announced it was reviewing its forecast for GDP growth in 2024 from 1.3% down to 0.2%.
Marc Martorell Junyent is in Munich, covering the conference for Responsible Statecraft this weekend. This story is developing.
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Handout photo shows US President Joe Biden (C-R) and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (C-L) take part in a bilateral meeting, on the final day of a three-day G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 21, 2023. The final day of the three-day of the Group of Seven leaders' summit is under way in the western Japan city of Hiroshima, with focus on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his talks with international leaders. Photo by Ukrainian Presidency via ABACAPRESS.COM
Roughly 70% of Americans want the Biden administration to push Ukraine toward a negotiated peace with Russia as soon as possible, according to a new survey from the Harris Poll and the Quincy Institute, which publishes Responsible Statecraft.
Support for negotiations remained high when respondents were told such a move would include compromises by all parties, with two out of three respondents saying the U.S. should still pursue talks despite potential downsides. The survey shows a nine-point jump from a poll in late 2022 that surveyed likely voters. In that poll, 57% of respondents said they backed talks that would involve compromises.
The new data suggests that U.S. government policy toward the Ukraine war is increasingly out of step with public opinion on the eve of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
“Americans’ strong support for U.S. diplomatic efforts to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stands in stark contrast to Washington’s reluctance to use its considerable leverage to get Kyiv and Moscow to the negotiating table and end this war,” said George Beebe, the director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute.
The Biden administration has publicly rejected the idea of negotiating an end to the war with Russia, with U.S. officials saying that they are prepared to back Ukraine “as long as it takes” to achieve the country’s goal of ejecting Russian troops from all of its territory, including Crimea.
Just this week, Russian sources told Reuters that the U.S. declined a Kremlin offer to pursue a ceasefire along the current frontlines in conversations held in late 2023 and early 2024, including a round of unofficial talks in Turkey.
U.S. officials denied the claim, saying there was no “official contact” between Moscow and Washington on the issue and that the U.S. would only agree to negotiations involving Ukraine. Reuters’ Russian sources claimed that American officials said they did not want to pressure Kyiv into talks.
The Harris/Quincy Institute poll involved an online survey of 2,090 American adults from Feb. 8 to 12. The results are weighted to ensure a representative sample of the U.S. population. The margin of error is 2.5% using a 95% confidence level.
As the House weighs whether to approve new aid for Ukraine, 48% of respondents said they support new funding as long as it is conditioned on progress toward a diplomatic solution to the war. Others disagreed over whether the U.S. should halt all aid (30%) or continue funding without specific conditions (22%).
This question revealed a sharp partisan divide on whether to continue Ukraine funding in any form. Fully 46% of Republicans favor an immediate shutoff of the aid spigot, as compared to 17% of Democrats.
Meanwhile, 54% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans favored conditioning aid on diplomatic talks. “The American people seem more clear-eyed than Washington in recognizing the urgent need to pair aid for Ukraine’s defense with a diplomatic offensive,” Beebe argued.
The poll also showed that most Americans expect the war to drag into at least 2025. Only 16% of respondents thought the war would end this year. Others were evenly split on how long the war might last, with 46% expecting it to be resolved before the end of 2026 and 38% saying there is no end in sight.