On April 26th, our Russia Study Tour officially began in Moscow. In a room of over 30 people from various parts of the world joined together to begin our citizen-to-citizen peace building mission.
We began with introductions. Most people on this tour are from the US. Another smaller group is from Nepal. Others are from Ukraine and a few people from Russia attended. Everyone has a rich background in activism and organizing. We got to know each other and the backgrounds we come from.
One participant is Alexander, the Executive Director of Veterans For Peace (VFP) in Russia. I had no idea there was a VFP chapter in Russia. I was totally unaware of this before deciding to go on this trip. I was on the VFP US National Board of Directors in 2017 and never learned about this chapter. It is a separate organization but they share the same mission and name. Alexander said he learned about VFP US several years ago and wanted do build solidarity and do the same work. I think most VFP US members are unaware of VFP RUS, which is just another facet of how the Russian people are left out of the global picture. Russia rarely gets credit for winning WW2, for establishing the birth of socialism, Europeans don’t accept them, and the list goes on. Alexander is also a veteran of Afghanistan from the 1980s. As an Afghanistan veteran myself, I plan to speak with him. I will post much of what I learn with him on here in the coming days.
Leo is a refugee from Ukraine, living in Moscow for 5 years now. He came to Russia as a political asylum seeker due to the 2014 coup in Ukraine. He speaks very good English, very knowledgeable on history and international relations, and is very kind in helping translate for us and just helpful in many ways. He took a group of us to Red Square as a tour guide, which I’ll speak about later in this post.
The group from Nepal are part of the Global Network chapter in Kathmandu. Being in a country stuck between India and China, they are paying close attention to space weaponization and international affairs. In my introduction I spoke about US imperialism, the only one to do so as an American, they knew very well what I was referring to. I don’t think every American in the room understood me as well as they did. We Americans don’t know what it’s like to be controlled by another country. We should be mindful in understanding our place in the world.
One participant from Nepal, Prabhu, gave an amazing introductory speech. He highlighted the importance of space weaponization, global peace and solidarity, and the significance of us meeting in Russia as citizens. I will post that speech soon. It’s a must read.
Tanya is from Russia and she will be our guide when we go to Crimea. When we visit we will be split into different groups visiting different places. Some of us will meet children with special needs. Others will meet veterans associations, some veterans will be from WW2. One group will meet locals in Crimea who have been severely impacted by US sanctions. We were told that our credit cards will not work in Crimea due to the sanctions. It will be an enlightening trip for sure.
After introductions, the GN Convener Dave Webb, gave the first presentation. It focused mainly on the history and contemporary NATO structure and expansion. It was quite mind-boggling. NATO has been conducting massive exercises. One aspect Dave covered very well was cyber-warfare, something that gets overlooked so much in the antiwar/peace organizations in the US. Most likely because it is a somewhat new field. For example, a reason the US is attempting to build military relations with Finland is to gain access to the fiber optics internet cables that stretch from Russia traveling West into Europe and the world. If you don’t know, the Internet is really made up of giant fiber optic cables that literally connect continents to each other. These are the cables which carry our emails from country to country, continent to continent. If the US can intercept messages from Russia to Europe, it can conduct surveillance and cyber warfare. This is clearly a threat to Russia’s national security.
Dave also covered weapons in space and the ongoing militarization of outer space. It’s a scary world. Dave really put things into context and set the group on a path of realizing the importance of our mission.
After the meeting many of us traveled to Red Square, or Revolution Square. It’s in the very center of Moscow. It’s a tourist attraction mostly nowadays. St Basil’s Cathedral has amazing architecture and is quite beautiful. On the other side of the Square is the State History Museum with the sickle and hammer symbol and the old CCCP logo. The tomb of Vladimir Lenin was closed, along with the Kremlin visitor tour due to preparations for the May 9th ceremony. Russians celebrate Victory Day since WW2, a significant memorial holiday. Adjacent to the Red Square is a huge mall where you can see KFC and McDonalds, a sign of how things have changed in the country.
We realize the historical significance of this country and what has happened here and abroad. In any global discussion Russia, the largest country in the world geographically, along with the smallest nations and people’s with no nation status should be included. Our mission is to build solidarity between different cultures/ethnicities through people-to-people action. Peace begins with you and me.