The past two weeks have been dominated by the new East-West conflict. It was the ninth anniversary of the violent and unconstitutional change of government in Ukraine on 22 February 2014, massively promoted by the US government and the EU, and the first anniversary of the direct military intervention of the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022 in the Ukrainian civil war that has been raging since spring 2014. A war in which the central government in Kiev had the support of NATO and the EU and the autonomy-seeking regions in the eastern and south-eastern Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk) with their mainly Russian Ukrainian population were supported by the Russian Federation.
The past two weeks have not only seen speeches by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow1 and US President Joe Biden in Warsaw2– both on 21 February – but also numerous media outlets, demonstrations, and rallies around the world.
Broad spectrum of opinion …
The spectrum of opinion was very broad – but this was not reflected in the products of our Western mainstream media and public broadcasters. Their news, reports, features and commentaries again followed the political line set by US policy. Other views were at best labelled “disinformation” and met with sharp polemics. This was in line with the threat made in Strasbourg in mid-February by Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs representative, that in future the EU would take action against individuals and organisations “polluting the public space with disinformation and malicious narratives”.3
… not welcomed by US and EU policy-makers
Threats like Josep Borrell’s are a reaction to the fact that so far Western propaganda and the already manifold governmental and semi-governmental measures against alleged “disinformation” have not succeeded in equalising public opinion – which is not the same as the published opinion through our mainstream media – in the sense of US policy. On the contrary, the past two weeks have once again shown that numerous German- and especially English-language “alternative” voices are still accessible with contributions that can broaden the field of vision. In the German-speaking world, these include Zeit-Fragen (English version: Current Concerns) and the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, for example, globalbridge.ch, zeitgeschehen-im-fokus.ch, schweizer-standpunkt.ch, seniora.org, nachdenkseiten.de, apolut.net or anti-spiegel.ru. The German-language internet site rt.de is banned within the EU but is still accessible there via detours. In the English-speaking world, the spectrum is much wider. Here we will only refer to a few websites from which Current Concerns also documents articles time and again: consortiumnews.com, scheerpost.com, indianpunchline.com or counterpunch.org.
Empathy for the victims of war and again and again proposals for peace
No question: Almost everyone is empathetic with those affected by violence, war deaths and destruction and rightly asks how wars – including the one in Ukraine – can be ended. That is why all peace proposals, including those of the past two weeks, are very important – and these days there have again been some from all over the world.
It is particularly offensive when the US/EU side also labels efforts for peace as “disinformation” and meets them with sharp polemics. This applies not only to the efforts of the European and US “peace movement”, but also to the peace initiative of the People’s Republic of China of 24 February with its 12-point plan (see box).
The Chinese peace plan
All sincere peace efforts are to be commended, providing a basis for discussion with this aim. I personally consider the Chinese plan of 24 February the most interesting.
However, it is also certain that the Chinese peace plan would be a challenge for the responsible politicians, especially those in the West.
A Gorbachev of the West
I would like to put it pointedly like this: The states of the West would need one or more Gorbachevs. After taking office in 1985 as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev tried to translate into practical policy his insight that in order to survive the Soviet Union had to change fundamentally. His domestic policy plans for Glasnost and Perestroika and his foreign policy initiatives for disarmament and the creation of a Common European House4 are still or once again to be appreciated today. Gorbachev was greatly encouraged and supported by his predecessor as General Secretary, former KGB chief Yuri Andropov. Probably earlier than many in the party hierarchy, the Soviet secret service had realized that the Soviet Union’s situation, if it continued its previous course, was a dead end that would lead to its downfall. Fundamental reforms were inevitable.
The fact that Gorbachev ultimately failed with his policy does not speak against the principles of his policy and the necessity of fundamental reforms in the Soviet Union at that time. The resistance in his own country, but above all the foul play of the West – above all US policy – brought in 1991 Gorbachev’s efforts to an end. It seems like Gorbachev was too strongly trusting the West’s original promises.
“Good faith”, an essential prerequisite for international relations, would have to be obligatory for all international negotiations and treaty-making. The lack of it has again and again led to new serious conflicts and even wars.
The experience of the past decades shows that the West’s global political counterparts probably take “good faith” more seriously than the West’s political leaders. Therefore, the prospects for one or more Gorbachevs of the West would probably be better than those for Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia. What is certain is that for the West insisting on its previous position is a dead end threatening to destroy peace in the world in the long run. It is high time, therefore, that this insight is also accepted by us in the West. •
1 authorised English translation: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/70565
3 cited from Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 16 February 2023
4 cf. Gorbachev, Mikhail. Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, Harpercollins 1987
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