For as long as there have been wars, the enemy has always been accused of only the worst. Everyone confronted with the statements of our politicians, our media etc. should have this in mind. But the escalation of the image of the enemy does not serve peace. Those concerned about peace are therefore looking for other ways.
If currently, when comparing the accessible Russian statements with those from Ukraine and our countries, it is noticeable that the Russian ones are far less aggressive than those from Ukraine and the “West”, then this is also an indication that Russia is keeping the doors open for a negotiated solution, while the “West”, i.e., the NATO states and their allies – including influential forces in Switzerland – have so far focused entirely on war.
That our countries are war parties and that our media are a driving force in this has once again been shown by the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrei Melnyk, with his appearance at the German Federal Press Ball on 29 April. Here, the reference to his tweet of 30 April may suffice:
“Dear German journalists, thank you very much for your tireless work. Only with your help and support Ukraine can win this war.”
But it is also worth quoting a reply tweet from a Dr Uwe Schmidt:
“You, Mr Melnyk, are a politician. You have been given the task by your president to raise money and weapons. When a politician like yourself is thanking journalists, that should be an alarm signal for an independent journalist: Have I allowed myself to be taken in for political ‘purposes’?”
Where are the reliable investigations?
As a citizen, one would like to see serious investigations into the actual causes and reasons for the war in Ukraine. Causes and reasons must be known so that one can strive not only abstractly but also concretely for something like a just peace.
The big problem in the search for the actual occasions and causes is that many records and documents that would be necessary for such research work are not yet accessible at present. Shouldn’t it therefore be natural to be rather cautious when one is asked to formulate firm judgements about the causes and course of war, let alone war culprits, while a war is still in progress?
What we can know so far
However, a lot is already known about the war in Ukraine, its causes, and occasions. The following are some indications that should be followed by thorough investigations.
1. A war with global dimensions
The war in Ukraine cannot be adequately grasped if it is reduced to a Russian-Ukrainian dispute alone. Rather, this war is the disastrous escalation of a conflict that has been going on for many years between the USA, NATO and the EU on the one hand and Russia – but not only Russia – on the other. The Cold War was not really ended in 1990/1991 – despite numerous public avowals and hopes of people all over the world. In the 1990s, the US government and its allies tried to steer and control Russia – the largest country within the dissolved Soviet Union and still armed with nuclear weapons – to further weaken it (“shock strategy”) and to integrate it into neoliberal globalisation, to exploit its raw materials and, if necessary, to break it up into different parts. A prejudiced Western propaganda campaign against Russia (“Russia as an enemy”), which had already developed into an outright smear campaign before 24 February 2022, was more or less a direct continuation of the Western rhetoric of the Cold War.
2. NATO has become an offensive alliance
In the 1990s, Russia’s political leadership was not in a position to counter the claim to power of the USA and its allies. Even in the 1990s, Russia regarded the expansion of NATO to the East as directed against Russia and as a threat to peace, as an expression of US plans for world domination, but at that time it was unable to take countermeasures. In 1999 at the latest, with the NATO war of aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the new NATO strategy formulated during the war, Russia’s political leadership realised that NATO had become an alliance of aggression intended to serve the US plans for world domination. NATO’s east expansion was an essential part of these domination plans.
3. Russia has been trying to counter this for 20 years
Russia’s new political leadership from 2000 onwards was primarily concerned with the internal reconstruction of the country after the catastrophic 1990s and with pushing back US influence within the country. It increasingly contradicted the US global power policy and – not least in view of the US termination of important arms control treaties – ensured a resurgence of Russian military capabilities. In terms of foreign policy, Russia has also expanded its relations and influence over the past 20 years: in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and also in the eastern part of Asia. Although the US government, and with it Islamists from various countries, was on the side of Russia’s opponents in the two Chechen wars, the Russian government still supported the war of the USA and its allies against Afghanistan in 2001. But in the war of aggression of the USA and its “coalition of the willing” against Iraq in 2003, this was already different. At that time, the Russian position was still supported by the German and French governments.
The landmark for the open and fundamental Russian criticism of US foreign policy was the speech by Russian President Putin at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. Vladimir Putin spoke of the USA striving for “monopolar world domination” and found this “unacceptable to the world”. He criticised NATO’s eastward expansion and warned NATO against “unbridled military use”. NATO had “failed to honour guarantees given to us [Russia] [...]”. The missile defence system planned by the USA in Europe threatened Russia.
At the same time, Russia’s political leadership continued to strive for good relations with the other European states, with the EU and especially with Germany. The intensive expansion of economic relations was an essential part of good relations, which were also sought by the European states in the economic sphere. Russia’s political leadership spoke of a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
4. Colour revolutions, extreme nationalists and new NATO members
In 2008, NATO promised membership to two more states bordering directly on Russia – Ukraine and Georgia – even though direct accession negotiations did not take place for the time being because of German and French opposition. A few years earlier, the political leadership in Georgia (2003) and also in Ukraine in 2004 had been overthrown by so-called “colour revolutions”. The new governments were pro-Western and hostile to Russia. The new president Yushchenko, who came to power in Ukraine, promoted extreme Ukrainian nationalism and even declared Stepan Bandera a “Hero of Ukraine” in 2010. Bandera had fought against the Soviet Union during World War II, at times alongside the German Wehrmacht, and his Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was actively involved in the murder of Ukrainian Jews.
Russia’s political leadership clearly signalled its opposition to NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine in particular. In the brief Georgian war in 2008, Russia showed – as it did later with its military support for the Syrian government – that it is prepared to use military means outside its national borders in a conflict with a US policy directed against Russia.
5. Ukraine – an instrument of US policy
Already in the 1990s, Ukraine was an important instrument for the USA to weaken Russia. The theses of the former US security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski give an indication of this. As early as the 1990s, the USA tried to turn Ukraine into a country within its sphere of influence and invested a lot of money in this. The country itself, although actually rich in very good arable land and industrial potential, has not been able to recover economically after its statehood in 1991 – until today. Corruption in the country was and still is a big problem and – coupled with an economic decline – contributed significantly to a great dissatisfaction of the population with their political leadership, regardless of whether it was pro-Russian or pro-Western. This dissatisfaction was the starting point for Western policies of overthrow both in 2004 during the “Orange Revolution” (massive protests forced a rerun of the presidential elections, and instead of Viktor Yanukovych, who had been successful in the first round and was more pro-Russia, the more pro-US candidate Viktor Yushchenko was elected) and in 2013/2014 during the Maidan protests (which led to the violent overthrow of President Yanukovych, elected in 2010).
Especially in 2014, the active participation of the USA and also the EU in the coup was unmistakable. The aim was to install a pro-Western and anti-Russian government. The EU’s planned “Eastern Partnership” with Ukraine was also aimed at excluding and thus weakening Russia. In the process, considerable use was made of extreme nationalist and all-Russian-hating forces in the country, and the new Ukrainian government even erected monuments to the Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera and named streets after him.
The strongly anti-Russian basic line of the new government, discrimination, threats of violence and also real violent excesses against the large Russian-speaking part of the population, especially in the east and south of the country, led to the overwhelming majority of the Crimean inhabitants declaring themselves independent in a referendum and – successfully – applying for admission to the Russian Federation. In the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, protesters armed themselves after violently suppressed peaceful protests, and since spring 2014 there have been ongoing armed conflicts with around 14,000 civilian deaths. The vast majority of them died as a result of Ukrainian shelling of the areas seeking autonomy.
6. Non-compliance with the Minsk agreements
Two agreements in the Belarusian capital Minsk (Minsk I in September 2014 and Minsk II in February 2015) were an attempt to reach a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and to grant autonomy to those parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts that were seeking it – within the state of Ukraine. However, both agreements were not implemented; the Ukrainian government refused to negotiate directly with the representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk, calling them “terrorists”. The agreed constitutional amendment and elections in the autonomous parts of the country were prevented by the government in Kiev. Ukrainian government representatives publicly stated that they did not want to comply with the Minsk agreements – although the United Nations Security Council had also adopted these agreements and thus declared them to be international law. Russia repeatedly demanded compliance with the Minsk agreements, while the governments of Germany and France – both of which were among the initiators of Minsk II – officially declared their support for the agreements – as did the US government – but did nothing or too little to persuade the government in Kiev to comply with the agreements. On the contrary, in autumn 2021 the Russian government published correspondence showing that neither France nor Germany had any urgent interest to comply with these agreements. It is very likely that the US government in particular has actively supported the Ukrainian government’s refusal to comply with the agreements.
7. Ukraine becomes a de facto NATO member
Without formally being a NATO member, Ukraine has step by step become a quasi-NATO state since 2014. NATO training facilities for the Ukrainian army, NATO weapons for Ukraine, joint manoeuvres with NATO states, including in Ukraine itself, and Ukrainian participation in NATO war missions are clear indications of this. The US government also testified several times in 2021 to its ideal and material support for NATO membership for Ukraine and for a specifically close alliance between the USA and Ukraine. An example of this is the US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Charter of 10 November 2021. Russia’s December 2021 request for a written agreement that Ukraine would not become a NATO member was rejected by both the US and NATO.
8. Russia, Ukraine and Russian Security Interests
With repeated and detailed contributions on the importance of Russian-Ukrainian relations in history and the present, with multiple references to the threats posed by Ukraine and in particular the extreme nationalist forces there to the Russian-born population of Ukraine, to Russian citizens and also to Russia itself, with multiple emphasis on “red lines”, with the presentation of two draft treaties and much more, the Russian government was still trying to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict until 21 February 2022. However, when it comes to the core of the draft treaties, which is essential for Russia, both the US government and NATO have shown no willingness to make concessions. Russia repeatedly stressed that with its treaty proposals it was striving for nothing more than the equal security for all OSCE member states guaranteed in OSCE treaties many years ago – as, incidentally, is also the case in the United Nations Charter. Instead, the US government and NATO insisted on the supposed right of every state to freely choose its alliance. The Munich Security Conference on the weekend of 18-20 February 2022 reaffirmed the US and NATO position, the Ukrainian president was promised full support, and the Ukrainian president held out the prospect of rearming his country with nuclear weapons, which it had abandoned in 1994.
9. Was there a threat of a Ukrainian attack on Crimea and Donbass?
Very likely with the strong support of the US government and the backing of other NATO states, for example the UK, the government of Ukraine planned a military attack on Crimea – i.e. an area that Russia considers part of its territory – and the two autonomy-seeking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk – where more than 500,000 Russian citizens live. A March 2021 decree even obliged Ukraine’s government to reintegrate Crimea into the state of Ukraine. And although both French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz publicly declared during their visits to Moscow in January and February 2022 that the Ukrainian government would now finally implement the Minsk agreements, in reality the opposite happened: the Ukrainian army had massed troops in the area of the line of contact with Donetsk and Luhansk; Russia speaks of more than 100,000 men. The always fragile ceasefire on the contact line between the territories striving for autonomy and the rest of Ukraine was broken massively, mainly by the Ukrainian side, only one day after the visit of the German Chancellor and his promise that the Minsk agreements would finally be respected. The figures of the OSCE Observer Mission prove this. The Donetsk and Luhansk authorities began evacuating the civilian population. And after Russia’s recognition of the two territories as independent republics on 21 February, the shelling with heavy weapons in the direction of the new republics increased enormously once again.
Attack or defence?
In our countries, it is said almost unanimously that Russia is guilty of a war of aggression against Ukraine in violation of international law. This formulation is usually not alone: adjectives such as “brutal”, “cruel” or “delusional” are usually added. Jochen Scholz, a former lieutenant colonel in the German armed forces, asked the question in the 21 December issue of Current Concerns No. 28/29: “Who is the aggressor?” There are, considering the points listed above, quite reasons to call Russia’s military action in Ukraine a defensive war. This is not just a Russian propaganda formula. But this important discussion cannot be held openly and thoroughly in our countries at the moment. It would, however, be important in order to take steps towards establishing the truth and to gradually move away from the propaganda typical of all wars. Above all, for the sake of peace. •
If you want to prevent the setting of cookies (for example, Google Analytics), you can set this up by using this browser add-on.