The Ukraine War Could Have Been Avoided


David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Apr 2022 – The Ukraine war is the result of mistaken policy decisions by the United States and NATO in 1997 which led to the expansion of NATO up to the borders of Russia.

Already, back in 1997, when I was working for UNESCO, we were warned that the eastward expansion of NATO was a serious mistake.

On my mission for UNESCO to Moscow at that time in order to develop a national culture of peace program in Russia, our team was told by the President of the Duma, as well as others with whom we spoke, that this would unleash a “typhoon”, restarting the Cold War and creating an overwhelming demand by the Russian people for rearmament instead of social programs.

All this could have been avoided. In my 1997 mission report to the UNESCO Director-General I proposed the following solution.

UNESCO should propose, as an example of the new concept of security, that NATO itself be “converted” to an organization primarily concerned with economic conversion from military to civilian industrial production. UNESCO’s responsibility for the role of science for peace gives it a special Constitutional role in this matter, since scientists should take the lead in this process.

Such a solution would have satisfied Russian demands by removing the military threat posed by the expansion of NATO at the same time as helping them with the problem of economic conversion which requires major capital investment. At the same time, it would allow NATO to be kept intact as an institution with an enlargement of its member states. The key was to convince Western Europe and the United States that in this era, the new concept of security consists of economic conversion rather than increased armament. This is a central tenet of the culture of peace.

Certain aspects of this conversion were already in place. NATO already had a “third dimension” programme involving scientists in disarmament technology, conversion of high technology for peaceful uses, and environmental security. I learned about this in discussions with one of NATO scientists involved, Dr Paul Rambaut, at the forum of the Olof Palme Foundation in 1995. Furthermore, the UNESCO Venice office, working with the Landau Network in Physics (Moscow and Como, Italy), were engaged in technical work on economic conversion and discussing how this can be related effectively to the culture of peace.

The proposed culture of peace program in the Russian Federation could have provided a synergistic contribution to economic conversion. As indicated in our meeting with Academician Petrov, Russian natural scientists are ready to contribute to peace and could do so in this way. In addition, my own experience with economic conversion in the USA from 1989-1992 before coming to UNESCO, demonstrated that the key is participation by all parties in the local communities involved – and therefore this could be one of the essential “action components” of the proposed National Culture of Peace Program.

(Unfortunately, the proposal for the conversion of NATO was never adopted, and the Russian National Culture of Peace Program was abandoned after a few years. The Ukraine war could have been avoided.)


Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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