Guest article by M. Kleindienst
We are currently experiencing war in Ukraine. States on either side are walking over dead bodies for their state-political interests. In these wars countries and people are used as mere material for the destruction of the enemy’s resources, where any individuals as a private person do not matter at all. Approaching all this theoretically with the intention of explaining the current war, a war which is shown to us at close quarters in all its brutality, is connected with the difficulty that in this war partiality for a war party is taken for granted from the outset; this partiality is called for from the national authorities, although most citizens in countries as Germany do not need such a call. As good German nationals, one is party before one considers taking sides.
Anyone who reflects about the war today according to the motto: ‘You would have to clarify what political purposes those involved in the war are pursuing before you can take sides!’ exposes himself from the outset to the suspicion of justifying Russia’s war if any thinking does not start by distancing distance oneself from “Putin and his brutal assault on a powerless Ukraine”. In other words, anyone who does not adopt his thought to the image of “Putin” as also his personal enemy, an image which is disseminated pretty much around the world on all channels, before any discussion of the war today, is suspected of having sympathy for the military incursion, suspected of defending “Putin’s” campaign, of siding – at least mentally – with “our enemy”, i.e. of being short of treason of his nation. (McCarthy sends his regards: Russians living here must, if they don’t want to lose their jobs, renounce “Putin”, the “madman” [German minister of foreign Affairs]). Against this almost totalitarian dominance of the image of the enemy, against this demanded determined partiality, which has militarized a former relatively harmless nationalism does no longer allow any deviating opinions.
The partiality is in this case quite an odd thing anyway: anyone who sees how states squander the lives of their citizens, and who knows which states are involved in this war, that is Russia under Putin and that this a highly armed world power and makes world politics with imperial claims just as much as the “free West” under the leadership of world power no. 1, the US, does and this together with an alliance of 30 other nation states – two of which are nuclear powers – altogether the largest military alliance of all times – who knows only this and who has an idea that all what is happening now is being prepared in peace – when else – and who knows what wars mean for the people affected by the wars of these parties involved in this war may this be in one’ s home countries and anywhere beyond, any partiality in a conflict between such parties for one party is from the point of view of people more than crazy.
One should therefore watch out: The question of partiality in this war is only raised to reject that this is any question for anybody. Beware of taking the moral high ground, as it were from above, from a fictitious judgeship, in order to carefully formulate reasons for or against partiality. The question of partiality was not raised to open this debate, but to end it
The image of the enemy one should share without being asked also consists – what else could it be – of such a nationalist prejudice. What does the image of the enemy say?
– Russia, or rather “Putin”, started the war; he is a delusional aggressor who invaded democratic Ukraine because of his lust for power, who wants to annex it into his sphere of power and who does not want to end his campaign with this war.
– So he is lying when he says that he wants to prevent Ukraine’s accession to NATO through neutralization and demilitarization (in addition: denazification); and that this is a breach of international law: NATO is rather open to every nation state…
– The West – USA, NATO, EU – on the other hand stands up united, considers itself and its order of values to owe it to itself to help the totally defeated Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in their heroic defensive struggle against “Putin” in order to defend the sovereignty of this state.
– That means, “Putin” is lying when he says: “The question is: why? What is the point of all this, what is the purpose?…There can only be one answer to this: they simply do not need a large and independent country like Russia near them! … Hence the attitude to all our security proposals.” (Putin, 21.2.22)
If we now look at this in more details, then – to say this very clear before discussing my points in details – this, my following arguments, are not a preparation for any practical interventions into this. We, the citizens, are absolutely powerless in this matter of this war – of the arms battles of these (great) powers. The few arguments – which I will come to in a moment – only help to sort out our minds. Nothing more. You may tell others about what I say in the following part what makes sense to you. A political movement against war will not come out of this: every current political movement is advocating peace – that is what brought the war – and arguing for solidarity with Ukraine – a position which is currently being put into practice with arms deliveries. So, any practical interference is not recommended, criticism is.
My reflections on the above image of the enemy, which I will elaborate on in the following, is that fundamentally everything is pretty much upside down here:
– This starts with the construction of an asymmetrical balance of power with the powerful nuclear power Russia on one side and the completely inferior Ukraine on the other; in this construction the West is excluded as a participating party; the West, quasi out of humanistic impulse – the Ukrainian people are suffering – is presented as only feeling compelled to help the weaker party.
– This implies a presentation of NATO as a pure peacekeeping power, open to any sovereign state.
– This image of the enemy operates with the construction according to which the war began with an invasion of Ukraine by the aggressor, while the Ukraine is only trying to defend itself.
– This concerns all Russia’s public statements: they are twisted into mendacious ex post justifications of its war campaign of conquest that begun in Ukraine, for which it even has nuclear weapons at the ready.
I will go through all these above points in four steps: I start (1) with the assertion about the West acting in a humanitarian way, then (2) examine the assertion about the asymmetrical balance of power and (3) deal with the statement about NATO with its open door, in order to then (4) and finally deal with the Western judgement of the Russians as the aggressor, against whom Ukraine is defending itself with the help of the West.
Regarding the assertion about the West acting out of humanitarian motives, which only wants to help the Ukrainians. Question: Are we helping the Ukrainian people, who are indeed being severely harassed by the war, by providing the Ukrainian military with ever more and ever sharper weapons in their fight against a superior Russian military power? When the German minister for foreign affairs – absurdly – reproaches the Russians at the UN for the fact that their tanks bring neither water nor food, she must answer the question whether the Stinger and other missiles are loaded with food. And if one adds food and medicine supplies from the West to the weapons, it becomes even more cynical: arms supplies to Ukraine do not help, do not end the war, but prolong it with the intention that the Russian military should “fight” in the Ukraine. This will affect the Ukrainian people accordingly: But somehow they should carry on! And for that “we” are supplying food and military hospitals.
The question also arises as to whether it helps Ukrainians against Russia when the ‘hero Selensky’ calls on his people to fight partisans and to tinker with self-made weapons, and he does this unfortunately with success once and again, when “innocent civilians” thus become a Ukrainian war aid party – whatever one may think of the Russians’ initial promise that they would respect civilians (the Russians, too, have of course mastered the excuse of collateral damage to civilians in war) one thing is very clear: these Ukrainian civilians turned into combatants by Selensky will then no longer be spared by the Russians. They will be allowed to die heroic deaths for their fatherland.
Now on the matter of the asymmetrical balance of power: There can be no doubt that Ukraine’s military is inferior to Russia’s military power. However, there is more to determining the current balance of power. Firstly, although Ukraine is not a NATO country de jure, this has not prevented the NATO countries from equipping this country de facto like a NATO country for years and from further arming it now; (details: Biden in speech on first of March the US has just made another billion available…..) – and no secret is made of this in the media. The public guesswork as to why the Russian military has stalled in its advance – as noted by military experts – confirms this. It must have something to do with the resistance of the NATO-equipped Ukrainian military.
But the more important second argument is another one: it is a peculiar interpretation by the West when it declares that it is staying out of the war and only helping from the outside for humanitarian reasons. True, NATO states have not yet joined the war with their own military forces – neither in Ukraine nor Russia. However, the war is no longer a war between Ukraine and Russia; it is a war between Russia and the West, in which Ukraine is doubly a pawn. It does not take much to infer from the public pronouncements here a triple war participation of the West, which decisively corrects the judgement on the balance of power.
– It has already been mentioned that the West’s permanent further establishes Ukraine with war materials, with which Russia’s war material is tied up and partially destroyed.
– No secret is made of the further armament of the Nato states in the East. Why now of all times? (in the Baltic States, in Romania…). Nothing to do with the war in Ukraine?
In all these cases, NATO is involved in the war. The West knows this and so does Russia, which reserves the right to see this for what it is. Russia’s announcement is clear: any further escalation of this kind will be answered accordingly as NATO’s entry into the war – NATO’s Article 5 will then be on the table and with this the entry into World War 3.
– An unprecedented, significant current war involvement of the West consists in the sanctions policy against Russia, which is being escalated step by step in a way that was not the case with any previous sanctions (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya…). Not only are travel restrictions imposed on Russian politicians and oligarchs and yachts confiscated. There is a comprehensive attack on the economic power fundaments of a country, Russia, that has long been integrated into the world market according to the rules of capitalist business with its world money $ and its dollar-based financial system. Access to the world financial system is being cut off, Swift, through which payments in $ are processed, is being closed down (A German politician calls this a “economic nuclear weapon”) ( the same happens with oil and gas), 630 billion of the Russian state war fund held by Western banks are blocked, technology imports to Russia are being cut off, the trade routes – aviation, water (shipping companies Maersk) – are being closed off for Russia. In his speech to the nation on 1 March, Biden enthusiastically listed all the things that are supposed to make life difficult for the Russian state and, in the long term, make it impossible for it to survive as a state. When the West calculates the damage all these sanctions will cause to Western economies, it is not with the tenor of refraining from them. There is a firm intention to accept them, which once again shows that the political goal of the sanctions is so excessive that negative effects simply have to be accepted. (Who will finally pay the bills for these negative effects is no question: who else but the ordinary people.)
The following conclusions can be drawn from this: Firstly, this is not, as is usually the case with sanctions, a punishment that is lifted if the sanctioned party gives in. The intention is to create an effect through escalating destructive measures that is not calculated to be lifted. Secondly, this package of measures is not intended to ruin the operational military – as is usually the case in wars – but to attack the entire economic power base of the Russian state. And thirdly, as already mentioned, this points to the fact that the decisive front in this war is not between Russian and Ukrainian troops, but between Russia and the Western power bloc of the USA/NATO/EU. What is going on in Ukraine right now in terms of the destruction of the country and its people is only one front of a war that consists of the confrontation between these two great powers, between the USA/NATO/EU and Russia.
The rejection of Russia’s war aim in Ukraine – demilitarization and neutralization (for this Putin always points on a ‘denazification’; which by intention is Russia’s justifying propaganda, but factually refers to Bandera, a fascist Ukrainian who fought alongside Hitler in WW2 and who gave his name to the Ukrainian paramilitary brigades in the Donbas) to exclude NATO membership of Ukraine and Russia’s war characterized by the West as a breach of international law, which Russia cannot be allowed to get away with, , is in terms of what this law is about an intentional mischief of this law and via this intentional mischief the means for the justification of the Western declaration of war: only evil aggressors, whose policies have no place in our value-oriented world community, do things that are contrary to international law. As if, as Stoltenberg proclaims, NATO only ensures peace in the world anyway and has an open door for all states, that wants to say NATO has no enemy. Why then, one might ask, are not all states invited to join this peace-keeping alliance: also Russia, North Korea, Cuba…? And why do states that want to join NATO for their own reasons have to go through a long reviewing process that can take years before it is the NATO which – unanimously – makes a decision? No one else but NATO itself decides. There are reasons for this. They can be found in the criteria of the review process: You can read them at NATO or read the short version of a former German defense minister: “Only countries that do not bring any unresolved conflicts into the alliance, in which democracy and a market economy are firmly anchored and which are in a position to bear a reasonable share of the common costs can join”. Joining means joining the Western world politics, including all the subordinations and submission to NATO’s declarations of enmity against other states that this declaration entails.
What the political objectives of the two world powers are and what the strategic war objectives of the two sides derived from the political objectives are , all this is not yet explained by what has been said so far: The West’s position is that Russia has militarily invaded Ukraine in order to annex it, which is why it is the aggressor, the evil one. Whereas Ukraine is only defending itself – with Western help. However, what is true militarily is not necessarily true politically.
The fact that Russian troops had been massing for months on Ukraine’s eastern border, at the Donbas, is not only not concealed in the West, but is also exploited as evidence of Russian aggression that was prepared in the long term. Such a view of things sweeps everything Russia intended under the carpet.
Related to this a reminder: Who still actually remembers that Russia presented the USA and NATO with a draft treaty in December 21, in which Russia firstly formulated its ideas of East-West security policy, and secondly added the hint that a potential admission of Ukraine into NATO would finally cross a red line in terms of NATO’s eastward expansion, which Russia would not accept, a threat whose seriousness was thirdly demonstrated by those above mentioned troops on Ukraine’s borders.
Who actually remembers the central contents of the treaty proposed by Russia? For Russia, it was and is about nothing less than assertion, i.e. the restoration of its sphere of power, which has been reduced step by step by NATO since 1990. This is what Russia is concerned with, as can be clearly seen from the draft treaty: Russia will not accept the further reduction of Russia’s security needs as a strategically positioned and imperially ambitious power. That was the “red line”.
To look at it from another angle: This is how world powers see things and what they mean, and this applies to all of them, when they talk about what they all call security. It is not primarily about the security of national borders, certainly not about the security of people, about securing the livelihood of populations. And other countries are also promised via security nothing else but the security of foreign influence on the power position, with which these political powers then pursue their not very cozy political interests. Security always means this: our power, i.e. our political, economic and military means of power must be usable as instruments for our global political objectives without any restrictions by other political powers and their power means.
The reason that one might not have no idea of the contents of the treaty Russia suggested, this is due to the fact that the USA and NATO have simply ignored its central political components, just as if it does not exist. The main points were this: no further eastward expansion of NATO (Art 4), no further armament in Eastern countries or withdrawal from them, refraining from armament of states which are perceived by others as a threat to their security (Art 5) – all this has been simply ignored by the West and it has been ignored without any justification why it has been ignored. For the West, all these treaty suggestions made by Russia were no matter to be at all discussed, let alone negotiated. This extremely radical rejection of Russian security interests led Russia to make the step putting it’s before announced threat into practice. For Russia, the “red line” was crossed, which is why Russia invaded Ukraine: “We will then militarily enforce the demilitarization and neutralization of Ukraine!” These are Russia’s political goals translated into strategic war aims in the war in Ukraine.
In my opinion, the West’s radical ignorance of Russia’s formulated security demands as a world power leads to the following conclusions: Any concession by the West to Russia’s security needs is for the West out of the question. On the contrary. To put it bluntly: These security needs of Russian are confirming for the West that Russia is undermining the USA’s claim to be the exclusive world leader. We – USA/NATO/EU – will not allow Russian to question this position of the exclusive world leader. That is why Russia as an ambitious world power must be destroyed and its world power position even reduced below a competing middle power with claims to zones of political, environmental, military influence. Where Russia in the draft treaty no longer wants to tolerate a limitation of its zones of influence around Russia owing to NATO’s eastward expansion, the West contradicts: We, the West, do not accept any zones of influence created by various powers and power ambitions. The world has to be one, and it has to be our exclusive zone of influence. This is the West’s claim, being the only world power, a claim which it has made no secret of for decades, which it has always pursued with NATO’s eastward enlargement and which the West now apparently is determined to impose to the world.
When Russia states: “They (USA) simply don’t need a large and independent country like Russia near them!”, then on the one hand this statement hits the nail on the top of what the USA want. No lie as far as that goes. On the other hand, however, Russia very deliberately omits the fact that this “large and independent country”, that is Russia, itself is planning to secure some uncomfortable influence in the world politics and is thus getting in the way of the USA/EU with their exclusive world power claim. With such statements of a peaceful neighborhood of world powers, Russia thoroughly downplays the fact that an all-out intensification of the competition between world powers is on the agenda. Russia wants to prevent the further restriction of its “security”, however this is defined in detail. The USA – with NATO and the EU behind it – wants to fight for unlimited global influence, unlimited by any other world power. Whether this can be achieved with the war until now limited to the war in Ukraine and the ‘sanctions war’ launched by the West against Russian, this is still an open question.Comments preferably in English.