German politics is still on a war footing. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has recently publicly said: “We must become fit for war again”. All the more reason for us to take an active stand for peace. A new book by political scientist and journalist Patrick Baab, “Auf beiden Seiten der Front” (On both sides of the front), makes an important contribution to this.
On 3 November, Tom J. Wellbrock, journalist and co-editor of the German blog neulandrebellen, wrote1 that, in times of war, internal and external pressure to assume a position on one or the other side of a conflict increases enormously: When there are only “good guys” and “bad guys”, everyone is supposed to side, and of course wants to side, with the good guys – even if he or she is uninformed and not able make a judgement.
This is one reason neutral states – Switzerland, Austria and Ireland are examples – have a particularly difficult time in times of war, even though they are particularly important in such times as long as there remains the will to minimise the extent of destruction and casualties. Without neutral nations, there are fewer and fewer voices that can help find negotiated solutions. Instead, there is a threat of total war, which can end only with complete exhaustion and the unconditional surrender of one side or the other.
This was Europe’s de facto experience in the First World War and its very evident experience in World War II. The extent and consequences of these disasters are well-known. Or are they well-known but already forgotten?
There may be wars that cannot be meaningfully ended without the unconditional surrender of one side. Certainly, this was the case in the Second World War. But even in that case the question remains as to what would have been possible if Germany’s opponents had not powerfully supported Hitler many years earlier, if they had resolutely supported the German internal resistance and then conducted real peace negotiations with it.
The price of war
The price of war to the bitter end is always particularly high.
One thing is also certain: Anyone setting one’s own claim to power as absolute, without questioning any of one’s own positions, is not capable of negotiating and is doggedly seeking a severe defeat, the capitulation of the “enemy”. It is now considered proven, for example, that although Russia was prepared to negotiate a solution with Ukraine in March–April 2022, the U.S. and British governments were determined to continue the war.2 In principle, nothing has changed in this constellation to date. The current situation in the Middle East is similar: The vast majority of the world’s states calls for a ceasefire and a negotiated solution, while Israel and its closest allies have (so far) rejected this.
Patrik Baab: On both sides of the front
What a protracted war means for the people affected has been described time and again. At the beginning of October, Patrik Baab, a German political scientist and journalist, published a book that contains a great deal of very important information that is being concealed in the Western mainstream. I do not agree with all political judgements in Auf beiden Seiten der Front. Meine Reisen in die Ukraine (On both sides of the front: My travels in Ukraine), but I can still highly recommend reading it.
Patrik Baab had already visited Ukraine, the western an eastern provinces, before the start of the Russian intervention on 24 February 2022; he visited again in the late summer and autumn of 2022. In his book, he not only recounts many conversations with people from western and eastern Ukraine as well as from Russia; he also puts these conversations into an historical and political context. This gives the reader an enlightening but also harrowing picture of the very long prehistory of 24 February 2022, of the war within Ukrainian since spring 2014, which has often been covered up in the West, and of the course of the war and its consequences since 24 February 2022. The back of the book reads: Patrik Baab tells “the story behind the headlines and the propaganda: from the Maidan coup in 2014 to the civil war in the Donbass to the proxy war between Russia and NATO. The book reveals the political interests and the geostrategic conflict that is really at stake. It is a poker game on the brink of nuclear war in the centre of Europe – a dance on the volcano.” Baab also addresses – directly, forthrightly, in detail – the economic interests fuelling the war.
Patrik Baab is German, and his life was made difficult in his country3 – because he followed his journalistic principle: audiatur et altera pars – also listen to the other side! But Germany is a party to the Ukraine war, and its politicians and media demand that Germans position themselves clearly: on the side of German warfare.
What Germany’s involvement
in the war means for Russia
Baab reminds us what this actually means. On page 169, for example, he writes about the targeted shelling of the civilian population in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk:
“Day and night, a rumble rolls through the streets, interrupted again and again by a dark burst. These are the impacts of French and German 155 mm artillery shells, US 777 howitzers and the HIMARS missiles that Ukrainian troops are firing at the civilian population. [...] Living in the Donbass – since March 2014 that means dying in the Donbass.”* (emphasis mine)
One page further he writes:
“I am writing this because many people in Germany do not want to know. Otherwise, they would not finally be able to hate the Russians again and still be among the decent ones. They must learn that for the people here they are once again sitting sullied among the nations. German weapons once again on the fields of blood of the former German war of extermination. They would rather listen to the lies of the governments at the turn of the century that an unprovoked war of aggression began on 24 February 2022, as if out of the blue.”
And this, a stark conclusion, from page 207:
“German tanks will roll against Russia again. Eighty years after the victory of the Red Army in the Battle of Stalingrad, this is the greatest possible trauma for every Russian without exception: a whiff of Hitler! After all the wars of aggression by NATO and the eastward expansion of Washington’s vassal alliance, Moscow sees this as the final proof that the West does not want peace.”
Yes, German politics, the German media, and the German ‘elites’ have become alien also to me. With a few exceptions, they have allowed themselves to be harnessed to the cause of war, even pushing it forward on a massive scale, even wanting to be at the forefront of the movement: a radical break with the German reason of state in the decades after the Second World War (“Never again war!”) – albeit one that has been emerging step by step (the ‘piecemeal strategy’) over the past 30 years.
“We must become fit for war”:
Is this all Germany has to offer?
Now the German Defence Minister Pistorius has publicly said about his country: “We must become fit for war.”4 War participation with masses of weapons for warring countries alone (officially a no-go for Germany, at least a few years ago), with military guidance and war training for foreign troops, is not enough. The Bundeswehrverband, the official association of German soldiers, was delighted with this “provocation” – and is calling for more speed.5
And Pistorius was more specific. There is an “aggressor” in Europe: Russia. And Germany must be able to wage a “defensive war” against it. This is the rhetoric of the Cold War. Even worse: Pistorius knows very well that so far Russia has had no plans to attack Germany. However, Germany has been a party to the war against Russia since 24 February 2022 as part of its “Zeitenwende”. Its turning point).
More reason to take an active stand for peace – now and today – for a just peace, for an end to mutual killing and all the destruction. This is the ‘positioning’ now required.
At the end of his book, Patrik Baab writes:
“After our arrival in Berlin at around four in the morning, I return the 1928 Guide to the Soviet Union to the bookcase. Sándor Radó’s dream of a Europe of people and nations is over. But dreams cannot die. They live on in another time.”
I can tie in with that. But then he also writes:
“Sergey and I have a few more double shots of whisky. They don’t help us either. They only bring back thoughts of the years of peace in Europe that we would never see again.”
I very much hope that Europe will take a different path. •
1 https://de.rt.com/meinung/185738-distanzieren-und-positionieren-innerer-frieden/ of 3 November 2023.
2 cf. Funke, Hajo; Kujat, Harald. “Wie eine aussichtsreiche Friedensregelung des Ukraine–Krieges verhindert wurde. Der Westen wollte stattdessen den Krieg fortsetzen” (How a promising peaceful settlement of the Ukraine war was prevented. The West preferred to continue the war); https://www.zeitgeschehen-im-fokus.ch/de/home-ausgabe-10.html of 26 October 2023.
3 Patrik Baab describes and comments on these matters in a separate chapter, “Nordwärts: Im Propaganda-Krieg” (Northbound: In the propaganda war), pp. 223ff.
4 cf. https://bilder.deutschlandfunk.de/95/84/2c/8c/95842c8c-3280-4d54-ad43-e253ab538b4f/interview-pistorius-231031-100.pdf of 31 October 2023
5 cf. https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article248319128/Bundeswehr-Verband-lobt-Provokation-von-Boris-Pistorius-und-fordert-mehr-Tempo.html of 2 November 2023.
* Translation of all Quotes by Current Concerns
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