The following was written for The PeaceWorker by Peter Bergel, one of our June trip members. Peter is a former Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and the founding editor of The PeaceWorker. He is now a member of the OPW Board and calls himself an “activist at large.”
Dear Friends, Supporters and OPW Members,
As some of you know, I’ll leave on June 15 to join a citizen diplomacy peace delegation to Russia for two weeks. I will take with me a peace message from the mayor and mayor-elect of Salem, OR and will, I hope, bring back peace messages from Russian citizens, decision-makers, academicians and journalists. I will also listen carefully to the Russians’ concerns, especially those that concern our own country. At the same time, I will assure them that whatever our government may be doing in our name, it does not represent me when it threatens Russia with missiles placed practically on its doorstep. I hope I’ll be representing your views as well as I do this.
This person-to-person approach helped substantially to melt the Cold War’s deep freeze in the 1980s, when President Reagan jokingly threatened nuclear war on the radio. We hope this trip can be the start of a new era of citizen diplomacy that will help prevent nuclear war once again.
A recent appeal from Oregon PeaceWorks’ Board Chair John Roy Wilson brought in a heart-warming amount of financial support for this mission, and for that I am very grateful. To all those who contributed, my deeply-felt thanks.
The political situation between the U.S./NATO and Russia has degraded substantially even in the weeks since I was invited to join this delegation. From the Russian point of view, western missiles deployed in Romania – and soon to be deployed in Poland – are a serious threat. The explanation that they are defensive weapons aimed at Iran is hard to credit and few outside the US government do credit it. Memories of the 20 million Russians killed in World War II and the enmity sparked by the Cold War makes it hard for Russians to trust people from the U.S. Likewise, U.S. media demonizing of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has created trust blockage in the other direction.
People in both East and West must shake off the chains of distrust forged by weapons makers and politicians and seek to once again find the common ground that flourished in the late 1980s in the wake of many people-to-people projects.
The following article by David Swanson, who has often appeared in the pages of The PeaceWorker, describes the ongoing work of Sharon Tennison, the director of our trip. Our delegation will comprise an exciting mix of peace makers and peace advocates including Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly; David Hartsough, co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce; Col. Ann Wright, who resigned from the U.S. Army in protest against the invasion of Iraq; Ray McGovern, a former CIA whistleblower and about 15 others.