Jeffrey Sachs with Pope Francis in the Vatican in 2019

    Letter #123, 2022, Friday, December 9: Sachs: Time for talks

    In my last letter, I reported how Pope Francis in Rome yesterday, December 8, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, shed tears publicly over the tragedy of the war in Ukraine, calling the war “a defeat for humanity.”

    I would now like to suggest a link to a December 6 video, three days ago (link; link to the same video also below) which features remarks by well-known economist: Jeffrey Sachs, an American professor at Columbia University, where he heads a “Center for Sustainable Development.”

    In this interview, Sachs argues that the time is now for talks to bring the war in Ukraine to an end.


    Sachs is the author of a December 5 article entitled “A Mediator’s Guide to Peace in Ukraine.”

    Here are excerpts:

    A Mediator’s Guide to Peace in Ukraine (link)

    The Ukraine War is an extremely dangerous war between nuclear superpowers in a world desperately in need of peace and cooperation.

    By Jeffrey D. Sachs

    December 5, 2022

    There is a new glimmer of hope for a quick negotiated end to the war in Ukraine.

    In his recent press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Joe Biden stated, “I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact, there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants, has in mind.” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman replied that Russia is ready for negotiations aimed “to ensure our interests.”

    Now is the time for mediation, based on the core interests and bargaining space of the three main parties to the conflict: Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.

    The war is devastating Ukraine. According to EU President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine has already lost 100,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians. Not only Ukraine but also Russia, the US, and EU—indeed the entire world—stand to benefit enormously from an end to the conflict, lifting both the nuclear dread that hangs over the world today and the devastating economic fallout of the war.

    It is time for the U.S. and Russia, two great powers of both the past and future, to show their greatness through mutual respect, diplomacy, and common efforts to ensure sustainable development for all.

    No less an authority than the Chairman of the U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, has urged a negotiated political solution to the conflict, noting that Ukraine’s chance for a military victory, is “not high.”

    There are four core issues to negotiate:

    (1) Ukraine’s sovereignty and security;

    (2) the fraught issue of NATO enlargement;

    (3) the fate of Crimea; and

    (4) the future of the Donbas.

    Ukraine demands above all to be a sovereign country, free from Russia’s domination, and with secure borders. There are some in Russia, perhaps including Putin himself, who believe that Ukraine is really part of Russia. There will be no negotiated peace without Russia recognizing Ukraine’s sovereignty and national security backed by explicit international guarantees of the UN Security Council and nations including Germany, India, and Türkiye.

    Russia demands above all that NATO renounce its intention to expand to Ukraine and Georgia, which would fully encircle Russia in the Black Sea (adding Ukraine and Georgia to existing Black Sea NATO members Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey). NATO refers to itself as a defensive alliance, yet Russia believes differently, knowing full well of the U.S. penchant for regime-change operations against governments it opposes (including Ukraine in 2014, with the U.S. role in the overthrow of then pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych).

    Russia also claims Crimea as home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since 1783. Putin warned George Bush Jr. in 2008 that if the U.S. pushed NATO into Ukraine, Russia would re-take Crimea, which Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. Until Yanukovich’s overthrow, the Crimea question was handled prudently by Russia-Ukrainian agreements that gave Russia a long-term lease on its naval facilities in Sevastopol, Crimea.

    Ukraine and Russia differ heatedly over the Donbas, with its predominantly ethnic Russian population. While the Ukrainian language and cultural identity prevails in most of Ukraine, Russian cultural identity and language prevail in the Donbas. After Yanukovych’s overthrow, the Donbas became a battleground between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian paramilitaries, with the pro-Russian forces declaring the independence of the Donbas.


    The Ukraine War is an extremely dangerous war between nuclear superpowers in a world desperately in need of peace and cooperation. It is time for the U.S. and Russia, two great powers of both the past and future, to show their greatness through mutual respect, diplomacy, and common efforts to ensure sustainable development for all—including for the people of Ukraine, who are most urgently in need of peace and reconstruction.

    [End, Sachs article; for the complete text, go here).


    Not an endorsement of all Sachs’ views, but appreciation for his articulation of this particular one    

    This letter is in no way an endorsement of everything Sachs has said and done over the years.

    Sachs is well-known as a so-called “globalist,” and as such, a supporter of global population control, including wide access to abortion, in order to bring about “sustainable development.” As a Catholic, I oppose as misguided, and against the human rights of the unborn child, these positions held and defended by Sachs.

    But in his essay, and in this video, Sachs makes important arguments in favor of the position that Pope Francis has also taken: that the time has come to reach a political solution to the war in Ukraine via peace talks.

    In the video, Sachs talks for about 18 minutes out of the entire 21 minutes of the video. He is introduced at minute 2:30, so you may click through to that 2:30 mark to begin his interview.

    Prior to his introduction, the host speaks about the recent visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden during which Macron called for “negotiations to end the devastating war.”

    At minute 21:20, Sachs suggests that Pope Francis could play a role in such hypothetical peace talks.

    So if you have only a few seconds, click through to about minute 21:20 and listen to what Sachs has to say.

    In addition to Francis, Sachs argues that the nation of Turkey (which is the largest country near to the Crimea region claimed by both Russia and Ukraine, and once controlled Crimea) would also be ab appropriate host for peace talks.

    If you have time, go ahead and listen to the whole interview.

    Sachs is a member of the Holy See’s Pontifical Academy of Science and a frequent visitor to the Vatican, so he is a relevant figure for a journalist like myself who covers the Vatican.

    In recent months, Sachs has said a number of things which have raised eyebrows, including these remarks in this essay and interview.

    As I have written before, I went to college with Jeffrey Sachs, and sometimes had breakfast with him in Cabot Hall, a part of South House at Radcliffe, though we did not know each other well. I am now hoping to speak with Sachs in coming months, and publish our conversation as a podcast later this winter or in the spring.

    The important thing remains: young boys are dying every day in Ukraine in a war that threatens to spread globally.

    Therefore, Sachs is right, I think, to argue that it is urgent for immediate talks to end the bloodshed. —RM

    In Mary, we find many answers to our confusion, our malaise, our doubt, our sinfulness, our estrangement, from God and from ourselves… if we would but look to her!

    And therefore…

    Inside the Vatican presents a stunning new, 100-page special edition, MARY: Behold Your Motherjust now at the press, and available for preorder NOW.

    This is the cover of our new Special Issue celebrating the Virgin Mary. (Printing ended today; copies will be mailed on Monday.)

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