It is essential to be informed

Four books about Ukraine, Russia and the West

by Karl Müller

It is not merely a number of internet portals and smaller, mostly alternative print media, but also a few publishers that have taken the step to make critical information available in addition to the presently usual media contributions about Ukraine, Russia and the West. Four of them will be presented below in short and recommended to be read.

Krone-Schmalz: Understand Russia

The first book that is to be recommended here was published only a few weeks ago and was met with high interest. “Understand Russia. The battle for the Ukraine and the arrogance of the West” is the only book that has been released by an established German publisher. The author is a well-known former ARD [“Consortium” of the public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of German] correspondent to Moskow, Gabriele Krone-Schmalz. Today she is a professor of journalism and TV and a member of the Directing Committee of the Petersburg Dialogue. Her new book ranks number two on the Spiegel’s best-seller list.
As a journalist with heart and soul Mrs Krone-Schmalz is appalled by the German media covering on Russia. The journalistic duties of care and the principles of journalistic ethics have been fundamentally violated. Mrs Krone-Schmalz demonstrates this observation by means of many examples, not only since the Ukraine crisis; and once more she confirms the statement of the ARD program committee in summer 2014. “Because of its observations it came to the conclusion that the ARD coverage on the crisis in Ukraine has in part given the impression of bias and has tended to be directed against Russia and the Russian positions. […] Moreover, there were some key points that would have been important for assessing and understanding the causes and the escalation of the crisis, which were missing in the ARD reporting on the Ukraine, or were treated inadequately.”
“Understand Russia” is much more than a discussion about the western media coverage. It is even more than the excellent suggestions at the end of the book, on what an adequate coverage might look like. The book gives credit to its title and tries to make the German-speaking readers understand the Russian position. And it is worthwhile to carefully reflect a sentence like the following from the penultimate chapter of the book: “Had the Russian interests been taken seriously early and had one chosen the cooperative rather than the confrontational way, one could have avoided the many killed, injured, traumatized, ruined and fleeing people.”
In the chapters “The Ukraine, Russia and the West” and “The struggle for the Ukraine” the facts that have led to the present situation in the country since 1991 are once again diligently collected.

Dashed hopes – missed opportunities

The chapters “Dashed Hopes – missed opportunities” and “The idea of peace” are quite impressive. Mrs Krone-Schmalz honors the merits of the Soviet governance in the second half of the 80s and writes: “It was a masterly political performance to break up the Soviet Union essentially without blood shed. But instead of supporting and accompanying the process, this part of the world was treated as the loser’s side.” Russia, as she continues, “was not given a chance for an unburdened fresh start and from the beginning stood under special observation by the ‘international community of states’ which wanted to rapidly enforce their rules in this part of the world, as well.”
Once more, Mrs Krone-Schmalz recalls, how much trust Russia had put in the West after 1991 and how this trust had been misused to humiliate and rob the country, how the country was denied political and economic equality and thus that confidence was lost piece by piece: “The people were facing predatory capitalism instead of the moderated form of social market economy. […] The situation was somewhat perverse since Russia did not dare to establish social protection mechanisms out of the concern that the West might misunderstand that as a socialist or communist measure and withdraw altogether.”

Putin sought cooperation with the West, but was not taken seriously

When Vladimir Putin became president of the country, he wanted to rebuild the country, in fact in cooperation with the West. But all his pre-proposals for more and for closer cooperation were rejected: “Putin was one of the first who spoke of a multipolar world and a ‘common security space’ from Vladivostok to Vancouver. Neither the one nor the other evoked some reaction from which he could conclude to be taken seriously.” Finally: “The long series of Western rejections and the utterly ignoring of Russian interests from a Russian perspective reads in excerpts as this: NATO bombed Yugoslavia and Serbia in the late nineties, although Russia protested against it in the Security Council; in 2003, the US and the UK launched a military operation in Iraq due to falsified evidence; in 2011, the West abused a UN resolution, which was intended to protect the civilian population, to overthrow Gaddafi. In Syria dubious rebel groups are supported with weapons to eliminate the Assad regime. And wherever ‘regime change’ labeled ‘democratization’ succeeded, Russia loses old contracts and especially Western industrialized nations, above all the United States, seize the most lucrative businesses.”

“Therefore, there is only peace that counts” – and what did NATO do?

It is moving how in the book chapter “The idea of peace” the sentiments of the people of Russia are portrayed whom the author met when she was working in Russia in the late 80s. Above all, her desire for peace: “Without peace nothing is worth anything, said a 22-year-old student of economy. […] For a 64 year old pensioner the only important event was that they had agreed on peace, ‘our Mikhail Sergeyevich [Gorbachev] and the American President’. ‘What we suffered during the war’ she said, ‘you lads have no idea. I was mauled, but I survived, so the only thing that counts is peace.’
Immediately after the end of the Cold War, there were attempts to satisfy the people’s desire for peace by settling contracts. But these attempts soon became obsolete, instead NATO expanded towards Russia. So “the West behaved as the winner of the Cold War and believed that it could pass over Russian interests.” Mrs Krone-Schmalz quotes from a speech she held already in 1998: “Now that we have laboriously survived, if not overcome, the times of the Cold War, already we’re working on a new turn, with only slightly shifted limits. With all due respect for the security needs of the Poles, as well as the Lithuanians and others – the intention to incorporate these countries into NATO is a fatal signal.The mere discussion of that plan alone caused untold damage.”
And then Mrs Krone-Schmalz recalls the “fall of man”: “In regard to the relations between Russia and the West, the importance of the war in Kosovo cannot be overestimated. Russia had to observe that the UN Security Council was completely ignored and that in the Western states hardly anyone was excited about the fact.” With respect to the Georgia war of 2008 the author cites herself again: “As a political observer one must not be surprised that it had come to war in Georgia, instead it was surprising that Russia did passively accept the western humiliations and provocations for so long.”
“Understand Russia” is aimed primarily at a German reading public. “Anti-Russian reservations have a long tradition in Germany and have been consolidated in two World Wars,” it is written in the blurb. “Also in the Ukraine crisis its effectiveness can be observed. In fact, not only is the relationship between Russia, the West and the Ukraine more complex than is suggested by the mainstream media, as well as the history since the end of the Cold War. It is in the EU’s best interest to have Russia as a partner. Those who ignore this opportunity, risk that Europe is pulverized in the power struggle of future superpowers.”

Thoden and Schiffer: Target Ukraine

Ronald Thoden, owner of the Selbrund-Publishing-House, and Sabine Schiffer, head of the “Institute for media responsibility”, published the third book recommended here. It is an anthology of contributions by different authors and is entitled “Ukraine im Visier. Russlands Nachbar als Zielscheibe geostrategischer Interessen.” (Ukraine in the Crosshairs – Russia’s neighbor as a target of geo-strategic interests). In this book published in 2014, you will find many good contributions to understand the operations in and around the Ukraine and to take a critical look at the average local media coverage. In particular the four media-critical contributions give evidence for the Western reporting’s lack of seriousness and valuable clues for further studies.
In the first part of this volume, Reinhard Lauterbach calls to mind the history of Ukrainian nationalism, which was not above cooperating with Nazi Germany, and whose leading forces have been welcomed “allies” of the American secret services since the end of the second world war.
Hannes Hofbauer has written two articles: one about the “Orange Revolution”, well demonstrating who the forces were – coming from the United States – that had controlled the first overthrow in 2004. The information in his second article about poverty and social contrasts in the Ukraine will be new to most German-speaking readers. Hannes Hofbauer describes that the Ukraine was the economically weakest country among a number of former European Soviet republics after 1991 and that the program of the IMF for the country will make matters even worse. It becomes clear what madness it meant for the country to have to choose either the EU or Russia before the election. He also explains what the Ukrainians will have to expect, after “their” government agreed to the conditions of the IMF-loans. In Spring of 2014, the interim government stated in their letter to the IMF that the people would have to bleed for the credit amounting to 17 billion US$.” At the same time the government promised to make sure that the wages would not rise in the next 12 months. The minimum wage amounted to 74 euros in Spring 2014. The collective agreement on wage freezing at the level of 1 January 2014 would complete one-third of all planned budget savings. The Coalition wants to attain […] more than 25% savings by means of ‘cutting social spending’. On the side of incomes the new Kiev government promised the IMF to stop subsidizing the gas price for end-consumers and to increase the price by 56% by 1 May 2014, which actually happened a short time later. On 1 May 2015 the gas price will rise again by 40%.”

Still Mackinders Heartland theory?

Kurt Gritsch calls to mind the fatal consequences of the NATO’s eastern enlargement and NATO’s increasing confrontation with Russia. The enclosed map illustrates the numerous US bases around Russia and the ironic caption was “Russia wants the war. Look how closely they have put their country to our military bases”.
There is an excellent contribution by Jochen Scholz, who brings the events around the Ukraine during more than 100 years of Anglo-American geostrategy in line and submits important world-historical and political considerations: they concern the Anglo-American naval powers’s quest for world domination based on Halford Mackinder’s concept formulated in the early 20th century and still valid today. (see box) According to this, one must dominate the Eurasian continent to achieve world domination and one has to prevent by all means an independent rival on the Eurasian continent, that would emerge, for example, in case of closer German Russian relations.
The connecting line to the TTIP is interesting: “Even the currently negotiated free trade agreement between the EU and the United States (TTIP) serves primarily to stop centrifugal tendencies in the Alliance in order to tie Germany and the EU closer to the United States again, to prevent a common economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok and to exploit the EU for national US interests.”
The joint statement by the Presidents of France, Russia, the Ukraine and German Chancellor on 12 February 2015 in Minsk referred exactly to this concept and in it they confessed their commitment to the “vision of a common humanitarian and economic area from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean”. Jochen Scholz wrote his article before Minsk II. But now one can understand better why some people in the United States do not want the resolutions of Minsk II being actually implemented and go to great pains in order to ensure that the conflict will escalate further – for example by arms supplies to the Ukrainian army – and that an understanding between Russia and the rest of Europe becomes impossible.

What TTIP has to do with the Ukraine

What Jochen Scholz could only hint at in his contribution, is in detail explained in the fourth book recommended here. Its title is “Wir sind die Guten Ansichten eines Putinverstehers oder wie uns die Medien manipulieren” (We are the good guys. Views of a ‘Putin-Understander’ [a term used by media for somebody who agrees to Putin’s politics] or how the media manipulate us) and was written by two journalists, Mathias Bröckers and Paul Schreyer. The book, published in early September 2014 for the first time, among others contains quotes from the speech of the Commissioner of the US-Government for Europe Victoria Nuland, which she held before a Committee of Senate on policies of the US-Government in Ukraine in November 2013. In this speech, she mentioned not only the 5 billion US dollar, spent since 1991 to enforce “the transition of Ukraine to democracy and market economy”. She also delivers an interesting assessment about the EU “Eastern partnerships”. One has to properly translate the many euphemisms: “In the end, the Eastern partnership means far more than a closer relationship between the EU and various countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. It is as well a step towards the long-term vision of a networked economy, which ranges from Lisbon to Donetsk and is stimulated by market-oriented reforms, growing prosperity and deepening democracy. With this intention the EU and the United States negotiate the transatlantic free trade area TTIP, which promises growth, investment and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as a rule-based global trading system with high standards. This larger vision of a networked economy in Europe is becoming increasingly real and attractive and could include not only Europe, but the whole transatlantic area. We and the EU believe that an investment in the Eastern partnership is therefore in everyone’s long-term interest.” The book adds an appropriate comment: “So that is it, the very big arch, the noble goal, the global vision and at the same time, the rejection of any form of multi-lateralism. From now on there is to be only one system, rather than several, possibly equally ranking ones. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ is the military wording for this, ‘Integrated global trading regime’ the economic term. Ultimately it is a totalitarian claim to power, which would be the basis of the alleged promotion of prosperity and democracy even in ‘everybody’s long-term interest’.”
By the way: Already Zbigniew Brzezinski had requested in his book “The grand Chessboard” a transatlantic free trade area as part of a US “geostrategy for Eurasia”: “A Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, already advocated by a number of prominent Atlantic leaders, could also mitigate the risk of growing economic rivalry between a more united EU and the United States.”
Together with the analysis by Jochen Scholz and his hint to MacKinders Heartland theory it becomes also understandable what George Friedman, operator of the US private Intelligence Agency STRATFOR, said in February 2015 in Chicago and what was known at the beginning of March in Germany (www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=25398 and www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=25405): the United States wanted to prevent in the 20th century that Russia and Germany united on the Eurasian continent. After the end of the Cold War the point was to pull a “line” from the Baltics to the Black Sea, to contain Russia and to disturb its relations with Germany, a kind of new “iron curtain”. Willy Wimmer, the former Under-State Secretary in the German Ministry of Defense and Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, had learned of these plans already in the year 2000 at a Conference of the US State Department in Slovak Bratislava and publicly announced these plans in 2001.

Bröckers and Schreyer: Global political context of the conflict in Ukraine

Mathias Bröckers’ and Paul Schreyer’s book is a treasure trove for those who want to bring the Ukraine conflict into line with the global political context. The starting point is a brief overview of the Ukraine’s history. It becomes clear for how many decades the American intelligence services have been active specifically in the Ukraine, how fragile this state has been since its foundation in 1991, and that one has so far not managed to build something like a nation of all Ukrainians but that the goal is still to build a nation with a constitutive people despite different ethnic groups.
This fragile structure is in the focus of a worldwide geopolitical conflict, and in its analysis the book by Bröckers and Schreyer focuses mainly on the western part of this dispute, the forces in the background – in particular the Atlantic Council – and the role of the Western media in this dispute.

Putting an end to US-American autocracy

Two excellent closing chapters finish the book. In the before last chapter the two authors write about the Ukraine dealing with the question, whether the US is able to keep the leadership-claim for a unipolar world or whether the concept of a multi-polar world will succeed: “A non-aligned, neutral Ukraine which unites its different regions under a federal state and sees itself as a bridge between East and West, EU and Russia, the Atlantic Ocean and Eurasia, would be the ideal development not only for the country itself but also for the ‘neighbours’ from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” In the last chapter which pleads for a new detente policy we read: “Wouldn’t it be high time among friends to say ‘No’ to a [US-] policy which tries to force its autocratic policies upon the rest of the world, striving for ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ and not hesitating to carry war to Europe again? Wouldn’t it be the right moment to put Anglo-American geopolitics to the test which by all means is trying to avoid a coalescence of the European-Asian ‘heartlands’? Should not ‘Old Europe’, as Donald Rumsfeld disparagingly called the European core-states, because they did not cooperate in the imperial campaign against Iraq as willingly as demanded, should not Germany and its direct neighbours in such a test realize that this Anglo-American policy runs contrary to their own basic core interests as European nations? Should they not have a vital interest in a policy shift, in trade and peaceful coexistence with their continental neighbours in Russia and China? Would in the long term an agreement about Russian commodities and Chinese high-speed trains to Duisburg not be more important for the future than secret TTIP-negotiations about transatlantic trade in junk-food?”
The book “Wir sind die Guten” (“We are the good”), has for weeks been ranking high on the Spiegel’s Bestseller-list. This proves how very interested citizens are in information that is independent of the mainstream media. In the above-mentioned speech George Friedman focused on Germany. This country is – at least in Friedman’s view – an “unreliable ally”, in whom one cannot trust and whose decisions and future direction are uncertain at present. This is the US-American view. The great interest in the book “Wir sind die Guten” shows that in Germany – but obviously not only in Germany – there are actually many people who do not want to let themselves be used for US-American politics and to let themselves be drawn into a military adventure against Russia. For Friedman also said: the best means in order to retain US-American power is to push potential enemies into war against each other, so that potentially weakened, they will no longer pose any real threat to US-American hegemony.

When does the West begin to respect Russia?

One has the impression that too many German language mass media and politicians ignore all these considerations. Theses, arguments, explanations and examples like the above-reviewed four books are discredited with a lot of polemic. What is the reason?
F. William Engdahl reported on his journeys to Russia in a contribution in early March 2015 (http://journal-neo.org/2015/03/09/russia-s-remarkable-renaissance-2/) what he had learned during conversations with young Russians. He calls to mind the “collective trauma” that many Russians witnessed after 1990 and compares the mood at that time with the current one. The starting situation: “Today […] Russia finds itself again confronted with a hostile West and with a NATO that does not only humiliate Russia, but also wants to destroy the well-functioning state, since it has the capability to interfere with the Western warfare plans not only in the Ukraine, Syria, Libya and the Iraq but also in Afghanistan, Africa and South-America.” But in the Russia of today “in many discussions with very different Russian acquaintances” he did “no longer come across a depressive basic mood, but feelings of pride and determination and the rebirth of a long suppressed self-confidence.” Engdahl shows by means of many examples, how and in what movements this new confidence, the new quality of Russian policy and also rejection of the West is articulated. And then he writes: “ For me the promising aspect of the Russian renaissance is the current generation of yet comparably young people between 37 and 49; they are highly intelligent and have a lot of experience not only with the Soviet-communistic bureaucracy, but also with the empty world of the US-led ‘Capitalism of the free market’”. And he lists, what Russia and these young people appreciate: a high standard of research and teaching at the universities of the country, classical education in the sense of Wilhelm von Humboldt, cultural and historical awareness. And finally he writes: “To my mind it is the heart of rebirth that beats in this young Russians’ generation, their pioneer spirit gives me hope for the future.”
Those who are responsible in our part of the world should recognize and appreciate these facts and developments – that is our wish. They are to deal seriously with what people like F. William Engdahl, authors of the volume by Sabine Schiffer and Ronald Thoden, Mathias Brückers, Paul Schreyer and Gabriele Krone-Schmalz and others, who could not be considered here, wrote and provided for all of us. All European peoples are interested that the conflict with Russia will be alleviated (schau dir mal das Wort defuse an, es ist offensichtlich, dass es mit Elektrizität zu tun hat!!!) and signals of relaxation will be sent.
The daily media harassment against Russia and the policy of its elected president is contradictory to the spirit and content of the UN Charta. It hurts the principles of the social life and the human social nature and is directed against the meaning of these principles for the community of all peoples and nations. It is an expression of the western complacency, a dangerous hubris and a real refusal of dialogue. It is unworthy and if exposed to it without defence it can make you ill. It is to silence everybody else with their considerations by perfidious language and shameless lies. It is an accumulation of grotesque and unbearable contortions, and it contradicts all healthy human endeavours. It exceeds the Cold War diction by far and with its hatred, parochialism and cynicism it is an attack on human and cultural achievements. This media harassment must have an end.    •

Mackinder’s theory of the Heartland

Throughout centuries on Continental Europe Great Britain had pursued a balance of power politics. Its aim was to contain the strongest power by coalitions with the next strongest power so that the supremacy of one state could be avoided. Since the foundation of the empire (“Reichsgründung”) and the rapid increase of imperial Germany allied with Habsburg to a scientific and economical big power the situation on the continent – viewed from an English perspective – changed. The former unquestioned world power and ruler of the world oceans had to face the possibility that its dominance could be challenged. Halford Mackinder, the British geographer, politician and initiator of the London School of Economics, later founder of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (“Chatham House”) and exalted consultant to the English Delegation at the Parisian Conference for Peace (1919 – 1920), responded to this new development with a strategy paper, entitled “The Geographical Pivot of History”, first published in the Geographical Journal in London in 1904. In his book “Democratic Ideals and Reality”, published at the Parisian Conference for Peace, he deepened the geo-political ideas of this paper, which were labeled the “Heartland Theory”. […] Mackinder himself summarized his own theory in three short sentences:
•    The one who reigns Eastern Europe, reigns the Heartland (Pivot Area).
•    The one who reigns the Heartland, reigns the World Island (Eurasia).
•    The one who reigns the World Island, reigns the world.
The theory was based on the assumtion that the Eurasian-African land mass contains the bulk of the world’s population and is blessed with the largest mineral resources.

Extract from: Jochen Scholz, Worum es geht. Die Ukraine-Krise und die geopolitische Konstante auf dem eurasischen Kontinent; in: Ronald Thoden, Sabine Schiffer (ed.): Ukraine im Visier. Russlands Nachbar als Zielscheibe geostrategischer Interessen, 2014, pages 89 – 107