Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week for the first time since Russia’s invasion last year. The call comes two months after China put forward a 12-point peace plan to end the war, and Xi reportedly said negotiations are “the only viable way out” of the conflict. The Chinese president also offered to send a special envoy to Ukraine to help resolve the crisis. To talk more about the war in Ukraine and growing calls for negotiations, we are joined by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink and co-author of the new book War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. “The world is calling for negotiations, and the U.S. keeps saying no,” says Benjamin. “We are the ones who are holding up a peace process.” Her latest piece in The Progressive is headlined “Pentagon Leaks Punch a Hole in the U.S. Propaganda War.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
We end today’s show looking at the war in Ukraine. On Wednesday, the Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. The call comes two months after China put forward a 12-point peace plan to end the war. During Wednesday’s call, Xi reportedly said negotiations are the only viable way out of the conflict. Xi also offered to send a special envoy to Ukraine and the region to help resolve the crisis.
To talk more about the war in Ukraine and growing calls for negotiations, Medea Benjamin is still with us, co-founder of CodePink, co-author of the new book War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, co-author of a recent piece in The Progressive headlined “Pentagon Leaks Punch a Hole in the U.S. Propaganda War.”
Medea, we don’t have much time, but if you can talk about the significance of China’s call with Ukraine, Zelensky speaking to Xi, and now sending this top Chinese envoy to Kyiv, and also if you can talk about the latest news around Ukraine right now?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we saw from the Pentagon leaks how the U.S. is painting this rosy picture of the war in Ukraine, when the opposite is true. There is a grinding war of attrition, as the leaks say, that is heading towards a stalemate. It really is a stalemate. And yet the U.S. is not participating in any of these efforts for peace talks. You see China taking the lead, talking to both Putin and now Zelensky, an incredibly positive thing.
It also relates to our talk about Latin America, because we see Lula is not only involved in this but is going around the world trying to create a peace club of nations to put pressure on all the parties. But who is the odd man out in this? It is the United States that still refuses to get involved in the peace talks.
I had a chance to talk to Nancy Pelosi last night and said to her, “Look, the world is calling for negotiations, and the U.S. keeps saying no.” She says, “We don’t need negotiations. We need victory.” And so, we must do more to put pressure on our Congress and on the White House to get involved in this growing call for peace talks.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Medea, the fact that China has continued to have a relationship, clearly, with Ukraine? China is actually the biggest trading partner of Ukraine, and Zelensky has refrained from openly criticizing China’s stance. What do you see as the potential for Chinese efforts at trying to reach a peace or a — according to its 12-point plan, the possibility of that succeeding?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, the potential is tremendous, because China has so much leverage with Russia. It is — Russia is dependent on China now for buying its energy, for a number one trading partner. And so, the idea that China can push Putin to the negotiation table is very powerful.
But who is going to push Zelensky? Yes, he had a good meeting, a good phone call with Xi, but also there is the United States, which is the number one supporter of Ukraine’s war at this point. And if United States is not calling for peace talks — in fact, the United States has been sabotaging peace talks all along. So, that is why it’s our responsibility. The U.S. hides behind this idea that “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” we couldn’t possibly push Zelensky to the negotiating table. Yet every time Zelensky has been talking, whether it’s to Erdoğan in Turkey, whether it’s to Naftali Bennett in the Israeli efforts, and whether it’s now with China, the U.S. has sabotaged that. So we are the ones that are holding up a peace process.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play the Ukrainian President Zelensky speaking Wednesday after his call with the Chinese president.
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: [translated] Today I had a long and mostly reasonable conversation with the leader of China. Typically, these types of talks are seen as a chance to create new opportunities. Right now there is an opportunity to give new energy to the relations between Ukraine and China. We also have the opportunity to use China’s political power to reinforce the principle and rules that peace should be built upon. Of course, a crucial aspect of our conversation is discussing our views on restoring a just peace. I presented the Ukrainian peace formula and its specific points. We agreed to continue our communication.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute and a half, Medea, but I wanted to get your response to Zelensky and also this new piece you wrote in The Progressive, “Pentagon Leaks Punch a Hole in the U.S. Propaganda War,” this trove of documents that, to say the least, caught the Biden administration unawares, what specifically the documents said about the Ukraine war.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, it said that it’s a stalemate. It said that there are special forces from NATO inside Ukraine that we are not told about. This is in addition to all the CIA personnel, the U.S. troops that are amassing around the borders.
When we hear from the inside documents that this is an unwinnable war on the battlefield, we have to question why the U.S. is pushing Ukraine to continue to allow these horrific battles to take place, like in Bakhmut, where so many soldiers are dying on both sides every day, and how this could easily become a war, a Third World War or a nuclear war. I am sure that if it continues along this way, Zelensky will start asking for NATO troops. And then what will Biden do? Biden is stuck, and he needs a way out, just like he has said in the past that Putin needs a way out.
Everybody needs an offramp on this right now, and the offramp has to come from the negotiating table. The Chinese proposal is basically a set of principles to say, “Let’s sit down and start talking.” But we, the American people, have to put more pressure on our government, or it’s going to be a long war of attrition that could explode into a much, much more disastrous Third World War.
AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, we want to thank you for being with us, co-founder of CodePink, co-author of the new book War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. We’ll link to your new article, “Pentagon Leaks Punch a Hole in the U.S. Propaganda War.”
And again, Juan will be giving the keynote address at 10 a.m. Eastern time at American University, saying — talking about the search for a new U.S. policy for a new Latin America, “Burying 200 Years of the Monroe Doctrine.” Joining him in that daylong conference will be Medea Benjamin, Nick Estes and others. That does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, for another edition of Democracy Now!