ts. What Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer recently said about the Ukraine crisis in Bühler, a municipality in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, was strongly echoed in the press and under the dome of the Federal Palace. Since there is no speech manuscript, it is best to fall back on local reporting that has not yet been “framed” by a central editorial office.1 According to this, the SVP magistrate is said to have commented on two questions: When the war is likely to end and how long its effects are likely to be felt in Switzerland and the world? As far as the flow of refugees is concerned, Maurer is said to have predicted increased tensions, since Ukrainian refugees are better off than other refugees due to their protected status S. The fact that there is a rumbling in the population can easily be seen all over the country. Maurer classified the Ukraine conflict as a proxy war between West and East. NATO on one side, Russia on the other: a power struggle on Ukraine’s back. Once again, the world was threatened with division as in the Cold War. Once again, we are in an arms spiral, once again we are sitting on a powder barrel. Although the world and Switzerland had benefited from Switzerland’s protection mandates up to now, these and one of the most important pillars of our country, neutrality, were up for grabs. The Federal Council was also concerned about the energy and food issues as well as the lack of will to defend the country militarily. While in Appenzell Inner- and Ausserrhoden, 80 % of conscripts were still doing military service, about one third of the Swiss preferred civilian service. Maurer recalled the insight of our ancestors to set the price of entry as high as possible, to achieve a strength that it was not even worth attacking Switzerland. Without an army, however, we would become a victim. In conclusion, Maurer did not want to rule out the possibility that we could be confronted with a nuclear war in Europe in a few weeks.
The Ukraine war as a proxy war? It was this statement that earned the Federal Councillor scorn, among others from exponents of the Greens, the SP and the FDP. A statement and assessment that admittedly contradicts the NATO and EU language rules and the accepted definitional sovereignty, but is in best agreement with voices from the non-Western world. And that is where about 80 % of the world’s population lives. Those who try to break through the Europe-centric narrow view of the world, distance themselves from the Anglo-Saxon narrative and take note of voices from Africa, Latin America, India, Pakistan, Singapore, etc., but also from the USA, realise one thing: they see things quite differently. And for the most part, they do not support the sanctions of the USA and the EU. And they see the problem in NATO’s eastward expansion, i.e. in the USA. This is also the case of the US-American political science professor at the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer, or the once neoliberal US economist Jeffrey Sachs. For not all USAs are the same, and there too are voices that describe the prevailing narrative as monstrous propaganda and reject it as dangerous. Not to mention the “grand old man” of US foreign policy, Henry Kissinger (see box). In Asia, for example, Kishore Mahbubani should be mentioned. Years ago, he wrote a book against the West-centred, narrow ideological view of the world with the provocative title “Can Asians Think?” And isn’t he right, still? Are we in the West listening to the voices of the “rest” of the world? Doesn’t the rhetoric of the struggle of democracies against autocracies drown out the old Western arrogance of knowing better than the formerly colonised peoples? Irony or tears? A federal councillor from the party that is accused of ignoring the world has to come and tell us what large parts of the rest of the world also see, while the Greens and the Left, who promote post-colonial studies, uncritically propagate the Western narrative. The statement of the South African Foreign Minister, who does not want to be coerced by the US Secretary of State into condemning Russia – worthless? Because she is a woman or an African? Or is the Federal Council’s attempted “cancellation” because someone from the “wrong” party called the elephant in the room? It can’t be due to a possible lack of English skills of his critics, who couldn’t follow a South African foreign minister or a Mahbubani or Kissinger.
Wouldn’t it be time for the various Swiss parties to open up to the voices of the world and look beyond their own horizons? If only to better understand propaganda? How do socially committed voices from the non-aligned countries react? And is the voice of John Pilger no longer worth anything to the veteran anti-imperialists who says that he has never seen such war propaganda as that of the West in his entire eventful life as a war reporter? Not even during the Vietnam or Iraq wars?
The future orientation of Switzerland, not only in Europe but also in the world, requires a calmly conducted debate with a diverse spectrum of opinions. “Cancelling” opinions is not conducive to achieving the goal. After all, the Swiss sovereign should make a broadly informed decision on whether or not to join military blocs. NATO, which is always led by a US general, the SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe), and the EU, which continues to suffer from a democratic deficit, may be an option for some. But wouldn’t there be others? Just as EFTA is an alternative to the EU, in which Switzerland successfully participates, there are also alternatives to rapprochement with the military alliance NATO. There is a need to discuss this. Federal Councillor Maurer is not alone in warning against nuclear war in Europe. It was the life theme of Robert S. McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is the theme of Henry Kissinger. McNamara’s conclusion of the Cuban missile crisis: We “just lucked out”. And his lesson for life in the nuclear age: there is no alternative to diplomacy. And that requires empathy. You have to empathise with your counterpart, understand him. That does not mean that you approve of what they are doing. If you don’t do that and don’t try to end the conflict diplomatically, you risk nuclear annihilation. But who can want that? •
1 See, for example, Seraina Hess in the Thurgauer Zeitung of 15 August 2022
ts. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Henry Kissinger, the 99-year-old former US Secretary of State, expressed concern about the “disequilibrium” in the world. He said: “We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to.”
Washington’s foreign policy finds no mercy before Kissinger: Washington no longer has a great leader, rejects traditional diplomacy, and US foreign policy dangerously lacks strategic purpose. Kissinger criticised politicians who, like their constituents, could no longer separate “personal relationships with the enemy” from maintaining stable diplomatic talks. One is very responsive to the “emotion of the moment”.
As for the Ukraine crisis, Kissinger stresses that Ukraine is a collection of territories that once belonged to Russia. Peace, he says, is only possible if Ukraine acts as a buffer between Russia and the West. “I was in favour of full independence of Ukraine, but I thought its best role was something like Finland.”
Kissinger had already pointed to the West’s complicity before the war began in January: A careless policy by the US and NATO had helped trigger the conflict in Ukraine. Now he sees “no choice but to take Vladimir Putin’s stated security concerns seriously and believes that it was a mistake for NATO to signal to Ukraine that it might eventually join the alliance”.
How the war will end? Kissinger foresees a settlement in which Russia will retain its 2014 conquests in Crimea and parts of the Donbass region.
Looking also at the conflict over Taiwan, Kissinger said, “In my thinking, equilibrium has two components. A kind of balance of power, with an acceptance of the legitimacy of sometimes opposing values. Because if you believe that the final outcome of your effort has to be the imposition of your values, then I think equilibrium is not possible. So one sort is a kind of absolute equilibrium,” he said. The other one, he said, is “behavioural equilibrium, meaning there are limitations to the exercise of your own capabilities and power in relation to what is needed for the overall equilibrium”.
How did China react to the Kissinger interview in the “Wall Street Journal”? “This is a 99-year-old educating a 79-year-old,” Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday, alluding to the ages of Kissinger and Joe Biden. “Apparently, the current US government has no idea about what the equilibrium is, as first, you have to admit the legitimacy of your counterpart. If you challenge the legitimacy including the sovereignty of your counterpart, it’s impossible to reach an equilibrium,” he said.
If you want to prevent the setting of cookies (for example, Google Analytics), you can set this up by using this browser add-on.