EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was written by American and Russian women participating in a dialogue and peacebuilding initiative founded in 2021 by Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy and the American Committee for US-Russia Accord.
Talk of a possible war is terrifying. It is even scarier when they talk about it for a long time. For the last few weeks I have felt that I’m watching a horror film in which Russia and America accuse each other and discuss the possible consequences of conflict. Even though it is clear that there will be nothing left after a nuclear war, and there will be no winners. No one. This is a real nightmare. The film doesn’t stop. This is the situation we are all in.
I never thought that this would happen. In my country, which lost more than 27 million lives in the Great Patriotic War as we call it, that is, World War II, we always said: Just so there is no war. There are few people left who lived through it and remembered it. People have lost the memory of war. They do not remember how Americans and Russians were allies and fought fascism together. For many today, war is not a terrible reality but something like a computer game.
I don’t remember the Cuban missile crisis, but a Russian friend told me how her kindergarten was evacuated to the steppe from the military town where they built missiles and they were told that they would be killed by the Americans that night. It was the most important event of her life. An American friend told me about living through a false nuclear alarm. That event changed her life.
No one in Russia honestly believes that there will actually be a war. Many think the war rhetoric is merely part of a geopolitical argument. Yet words spoken on air and broadcast by the media have enormous power; they take on an independent life from the original intent and are no longer under control. No one has canceled the role of chance, especially in the charged aggressive rhetoric.
The Russians naturally do not want war. Just like the Ukrainians and Americans. But not everyone is prepared to say so. Many people think nothing depends on my opinion, no one in the decision-making realm will take me into account. Others, however, write petitions and call for peace. There may not be very many of them yet, but their voice—every voice—has meaning, and it brings us closer to peace. By letting wise and talented diplomats, and there are many both in Russia and America, use their experience for a constructive dialogue. By removing the rhetoric of war and its threat of unpredictable consequences from our daily life.
I am infinitely pleased and grateful that the American and Russian women who a year ago initiated a conversation on the need for nuclear disarmament have now written an open letter addressed to everyone—politicians, journalists, the women and men of our countries—calling for the preservation of peace and our common future. I believe that our voice will have meaning in our mutual goal of overcoming the crisis and building a better, safer world.
Translated by Antonina W. Bouis
Independent American and Russian Women Call for Peace
We are women from the United States and Russia who are deeply concerned about the risk of possible war between our two countries, who together possess over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
We are mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and we are sisters, one to another.
Today we stand with our sisters in Ukraine, East and West, whose families and country have been torn apart, have already suffered more than 14,000 deaths.
We stand together and we call for peace and diplomacy, with respect for all.
We are united in the belief that diplomacy, dialogue, engagement and exchange are urgently needed to end the current crisis and avert a catastrophic military conflict that could spiral out of control—even push the world to the precipice of nuclear war.
For the US and Russia, the only sane and humane course of action now is a principled commitment to clear, creative and persistent diplomacy—not military action.
At this perilous juncture, rather than allocate blame, we should be seeking 21st century alternatives to senseless military conflicts and wasteful spending on war. It is a time to redefine security so that women, families, and our children, can live in peace.
At a time when we find ourselves in perhaps the most dangerous moment since the Cuban missile crisis, we call on the media in both our countries to stop fueling the flames of war. We call on the media to fulfill their ethical responsibility as journalists to remind us of the price of war, the bloodshed and loss of human lives, to demand evidence when claims are made that can escalate tensions, and to have the courage to sound the alarm on the risk of escalation to a nuclear war that would mean the end of life as we know it.
At a time when poverty is increasing in the US, Ukraine and Russia, when the world collectively faces the existential threat of climate change, a pandemic that has taken 5.8 million lives and caused rising “deaths of despair,” declining life expectancy and extreme inequality, isn’t it time to think anew?
How might we seize the day and lay out a 21st-century vision—that not only advances peace and security, but can unite the world—essentially a new realism? What could creative, humane diplomacy look like? If done thoughtfully, it could do more than resolve the standoff in Ukraine—it could pave the way for broader cooperation between the US, Russia, and Europe and beyond on climate, disarmament and more. It could lay the seeds for a new, demilitarized and shared security architecture.
We independent women, seekers of peace and security, understand the vital importance of engaging minds and hearts. We call on you to share this call for peace and urge our governments to keep talking, to pursue clear, creative and persistent diplomacy.
These are times of fear but also of hope and possibility. The world is in motion, the future is not written. As Americans and Russians, we have a compelling stake in deescalating tensions between our countries. The approach we suggest surely is more realistic, more wise, than preparing for a military conflict that could lead to unthinkable nuclear war.
We stand together and we call for peace. Stand with us.
#WomenCall4PeaceUkraine #WOMENPEACEBUILDERS #MINDFULCHERNOBYL #WOMENSAYNOTOWAR #WHEREISOURPEACEDIVIDEND #MONEYFORSCHOOLSNOTMISSILES #SISTERSAGAINSTWAR #PEACEWINS #KEEPTALKINGUKRAINE #TALKANDLISTEN
Jackie Abramian, Writer
Dr. Susan H. Allen, Director, Center for Peacemaking Practice at George Mason University’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution
Nadezhda Azhgikhina, Journalist, Feminist, Director, Moscow PEN, Board Member, Article 19
Natalia Bitten, Journalist and Feminist
Sandra Cline, Trustee Emerita for Biosphere Foundation, Founder and Editor of Dance of the Spirit, Writer and Novelist
Dr. Ann Frisch, Prof. Emerita University of Wisconsin Oshkosh US; Chair Rotary Action Group for Peace Nuclear Weapons Education, Rotary Peace Champion 2017
Paula Garb, PhD, Fellow, Center for Peacemaking Practice at George Mason University
Dulcie Kugelman, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding
Cynthia Lazaroff, Founder, Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy and NuclearWakeUpCall.Earth, Board Member, American Committee for US-Russia Accord
Sarah Lindemann-Komarova, Writer, Researcher and Activist
Olga Malutina, Artist
Eva Merkacheva, Investigative Journalist, Member of Human Rights Council of Russia
Galina Michaleva, Chairwoman of the Gender Faction, Yabloko Party, Russia
Larisa Mikhaylova, PhD, Senior Researcher at Journalism Department, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russian Society of American Culture Studies Academic Secretary
Galya Morrell, “Cold Artist,” Polar Explorer and Visual Artist, Co-Founder, Citizen Diplomacy Initiative, “Arctic Without Borders”
Marina Pislakova-Parker, Ph.D Sociology, Founder and Chair of the Board, ANNA—Center for the Prevention of Violence, Author, Researcher
Joan Porter, Community Activist
Lubov Shtyleva, Long-term President, Women’s Congress of Kola Peninsula and Board Member, Vyi i Myi Magazine
Karen Sperling, Author and Publisher
Svetlana Svistunova, Journalist and Filmmaker
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation magazine, Board Member, American Committee for US-Russia Accord
Elizaveta Vedina, Artist, Illustrator
Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army and Former US Diplomat, Veterans For Peace Advisory Board Member
Natalia Zhurina, Research and Education Officer, Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean