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Opinion. Thomas Kaiser ( ch )

While official reporting on the Ukraine war sticks to the black-and-white scheme - good in the sense of Ukraine, Zelensky and NATO, Russia and Putin bad - fortunately, there are always voices that look at things soberly, without moral hyperbole and political arrogance. You have to look for them, but you will find them. As a war-monger, however, Green (in both senses of the word) German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock is the undisputed leader. But those who fabulate about "tank battles in the 19th century" and about countries "hundreds of thousands of kilometres away" either lack knowledge or have lost touch with reality.

During her recent visit to Ukraine, she promised further arms deliveries. In addition to the Marder tanks already delivered, she advocates the delivery of Leopard battle tanks. It seems Annalena Baerbock wants to go down in history as the "first tough female militarist".

It is madness because it makes Ukraine feel like it can beat Russia with a few infantry battles and battle tanks, which several former and active senior military officers say belong to the realm of fantasy. US Army Commander-in-Chief Mark Milley clarified, "The probability of a Ukrainian military victory - defined as the expulsion of the Russians from all of Ukraine, including Crimea - is militarily not very high in the near future." Former top general and inspector general of the Bundeswehr, Harald Kujat, similar to the head of the army in Switzerland, also considers it a dangerous illusion to believe that Ukraine could win the war militarily if it was only properly supplied with weapons: "The prospect of a total victory over Russia is completely out of the question. You cannot defeat a nuclear power.

Although there are experts who rightly hold this title because of their in-depth knowledge and military experience, and not because they represent the mainstream, Western governments do not care in the least about the warnings of professional military experts. Former Swiss army colonel and strategic intelligence officer Jacques Baud, a first-time agent, is ignored by officials in Switzerland.

Upgrading Western armies in a hurry

The war has been going on for almost a year now and it is incumbent on serious journalism and government to carefully analyse the causes of this conflict before spreading 'truths'. It was often said that Putin had started this war out of nowhere and wanted to implement his sinister plans. Some warned against Putin's alleged plan to restore old Tsarist Russia and take everything that was then part of the territory of the Russian Empire; others want to see the restoration of the old Soviet Union as the goal of the Russian attack. Mostly in the same breath, the media report that the Russian army is in a desolate state, soldiers have deserted in ranks and the Russians' strategy is completely outdated. The weekly Focus headlined: 'Documents reveal catastrophic state of Putin's troops. German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau never tires of describing Russia's actions as amateurish: "Russia is using outdated World War II strategies in Ukraine." If the state of the Russian army is so disastrous, why is it necessary to rush to arm Western armies? Scholz has allocated 100 billion euros to make the German army combat-ready. On the other hand, the Ukrainian army is praised for its alleged fighting strength. If the media statements are all true, the Ukrainian army would have thrown the Russians out of the country long ago or the Russians must have covered the Baltic states, Poland (as part of tsarist Russia) and other countries with war long ago. So which is true?

None of this has happened so far and there are no signs of it. We are being held up, led around by the nose and followed on an anti-Russian (war) course with all the propagandistic tricks. That this is not just happening today, but that anti-Russian sentiment has been laid over a period of years, is detailed in books published in 2014 or 2015, shortly after the Maidan unrest and the overthrow of democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych. Among others, Wilfried Scharnagl, long-time editor-in-chief of the Bayernkurier and confidant of Franz-Joseph Strauss, published a critical review in 2015 with the telling title: "On the Abyss - polemic for a different approach to Russia".

Distorted view of Russia and its president

As a conservative, Scharnagl certainly cannot be accused of an anti-American or anti-EU stance, but his portrayal, as in other books (cf. Adleheid Bahr: Why we need peace and friendship with Russia Frankfurt 2018), focuses on the real circumstances.

Wilfried Scharnagl makes a historical reappraisal of the relationship between Germany and Russia. In the first chapter, he mentions the song composed specifically by a Russian soldier to bid farewell to Russian troops from East Germany. On 31 August 1994, the last Russian soldier left Germany according to treaties, so to speak, and a farewell parade took place at the Treptow monument in Berlin on this occasion. The song, sung by thousands of Russian soldiers, was worded in German as follows: "Germany, we reach out to you / and return to the homeland / The homeland is ready to receive / We remain friends at all times / On peace, friendship and trust / we must build our future. / The duty fulfilled! Goodbye Berlin! / Our hearts are moving home." (p. 71) The song was supposed to touch people's hearts and it seemed that a new era between the two states could indeed begin. But looking at today's situation, one has to realise with a certain disillusionment that nothing of the sort can be seen, and not just since Russia's attack on Ukraine. For years, a distorted image of Russia and its president has dominated our media and politics. Just think of Biden, who said Putin was "a murderer". Would he describe his predecessors in office and himself as such...?

Economic space from Vladivostok to Lisbon

Using Putin's speech to the German Bundestag on 25 September 2001 as a source, it is not difficult to see that the young president represented, as the last head of state of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, once put it, the vision of a reconciling world through a common security architecture and a common economic space from Vladivostok to Lisbon: "No one doubts the great value of relations between Europe and the United States.

But I believe that Europe can consolidate its reputation as a powerful and independent centre of world politics in the long term only if it combines its capabilities with Russia's human, territorial and natural resources, as well as its economic, cultural and defence potential." With this speech, Putin formulated his foreign policy goals at the beginning of his presidency. What happened next? Nothing that took Putin's forward-looking considerations seriously.

At the Munich Security Conference, six years later, Putin became clearer. In the meantime, NATO and EU eastward expansion had been carried out despite strong Russian security concerns. With the Baltic states joining NATO in 2004, the war alliance advanced towards the Russian border. Following NATO's lead, the countries were admitted to the EU. That Russia could not perceive this as a friendly embrace must have been clear to everyone on the political stage.

At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Putin made this move a problem by recalling the agreements related to the reunification of the two German states. "I think it is clear that the process of NATO's eastward expansion has no relation whatsoever to the modernisation of the alliance itself or to ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it is provocative and lowers the level of mutual trust. Now we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion directed?"

The Russian president continued, "I would like to quote from an appearance by NATO Secretary-General Wörner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. At the time, he said: 'The very fact that we are prepared not to station NATO troops behind the borders of the BRD gives the Soviet Union security guarantees.

No intention to expand NATO's defence area

But it was not only NATO's then secretary-general Klaus Wörner who made this promise. The then foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher was even clearer during a meeting with US Secretary of State James Baker in Washington, promising, "We agreed that there was no intention to expand NATO's defence area to the east. That applies not only to the GDR, which we do not want to include there, but also in general."

This promise, which the Russian government refers to to this day, has been reinterpreted by the West as not meant to be, and because it was not put in writing, declared obsolete.

A diplomat who had accompanied Foreign Minister Genscher in his younger days said 30 years later that, as foreign minister, Genscher would not have had the authority to say such a thing and that the Russians knew it. So the statement is irrelevant. In fact, however, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and thus the head of government, had said something similar. "There is no question that Helmut Kohl said to his partner Mikhail Gorbachev that the reunification of Germany did not mean extending the Atlantic Alliance to the East." It is surprising that a diplomat would say that. In NATO, at least to this day, the principle of unanimity applies. Even if the US wanted eastward expansion, implementation would not have been possible because Germany would very well have had the power to use its veto to prevent NATO's eastward expansion. The current example of Sweden shows that this would have been possible. Turkey rejects Sweden's accession to NATO, and as long as Turkey remains in its position, there will be no Swedish accession.

Russia surrounded by NATO

If you want to keep the peace and make a good living with neighbouring countries, you have to take into account the security needs of your neighbours. In the case of Russia, this did not happen - quite the contrary. The country was increasingly surrounded by NATO. Even former NATO commander-in-chief Philip Breedlove, certainly no friend of Russia, acknowledged the state of mind caused by an ever-increasing NATO approach to the Russian border: "We have to take into account that President Putin clearly feels harassed by NATO."

George W. Bush's failed attempt to nominate Ukraine and Georgia as NATO candidates at the 2008 Bucharest summit failed due to opposition from France and Germany. This is also proof that individual NATO member states do indeed have options to prevent negative developments. Nevertheless, the US has continuously worked to bring Ukraine closer to the alliance. The EU under Commission President José Emanuel Barroso ignored Russian concerns and also played a non-constructive role. It strictly demanded an either/or (either rapprochement with the EU - or cooperation with Russia) from then-President Yanukovych. In May 2014, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, known for his clear words and perceptive thoughts, commented on events in Ukraine and the EU's position. "The policy of the EU commissioners is 'megalomaniacal'," he said in an interview in 2014. Brussels meddles in world politics, provoking the danger of war. EU bureaucrats had presented Ukraine with the 'apparent choice' of having to choose between East and West." But the EU, in alliance with NATO, continued its policy. The highlight of the development was the coup against Ukraine's president, in which the US had its fingers in the game. The wiretapped telephone conversation in which US High Representative Victoria Nuland discussed the new government in Ukraine with the US ambassador to Kiev, Goeffrey Pyatt, while the elected president was still in office, undeniably testifies to US interference in the internal affairs of a state. This constitutes a violation of the UN Charter, i.e. a violation of international law. After that, the story took its course.

Not seriously committed to the Minsk agreements

Today, 8 and 9 years later, we have to note that the warning voices for an escalation of the Ukraine conflict have received little attention from some actors in Europe and North America. Even proposals for resolving the conflict, designed to prevent "a war growing out of a local military conflagration that cannot be considered dangerous enough in its spread and effect", were sabotaged. To curb this danger, as Wilfried Scharnagl had wisely recognised with foresight, it was hoped that the Minsk II agreement, which provided for far-reaching autonomy rights for Ukraine's eastern provinces and would be implemented after an amendment to the Ukrainian Constitution. But Ukraine made no attempt to implement this agreement. It was only trying to buy time. The Ukrainian government was supported by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who admitted in a recently published interview that she was not seriously committed to implementing the Minsk II agreement, but only wanted to buy time for Ukraine to become militarily stronger.

How lousy and humanly reprehensible is the German federal government's behaviour in violation of international law because the Minsk II agreement was approved by the UN Security Council in 2015 in resolution 2202, i.e. with a majority of participating states and without objection from any of the veto powers. As a signatory state, Germany is thus obliged to accompany the implementation of the agreement. The former Ukrainian president and oligarch, Petro Poroshenko, said the same in a video message.

It was agreed not to implement the agreement but to arm Ukraine to wage war against Russia. Instead, Ukraine daily strafed its own people in the eastern provinces with artillery, violating the Minsk agreements. Of course, Putin also realised this and repeatedly raised and criticised the West's lack of efforts to enforce the Minsk Accords.

When it became increasingly clear that peace under the Minsk Accords was fading into the distance, attacks by the Ukrainian army on the eastern provinces were escalating (OSCE reports) and NATO was considering Ukraine's accession, Putin - after being requested to do so by the Presidents of the independently declared states of Donetsk and Luhansk - took his decision.

West's own responsibility

It is true that by launching its "special military operation" Russia violated Ukraine's sovereignty and international law, as the US has done so many times in recent decades when it has interfered in the internal affairs of other states and waged war. (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria...) But what happened in the run-up to the Ukraine war - and only a small snippet has been documented here - shows at least that the West bears a fair amount of responsibility for this escalation, if not deliberately bringing it about. As Wilfried Scharnagl warned back in 2015, "There is no shortage of good reasons to be wary of anti-Russian one-sidedness in order to understand the other side and its position and motives. American, European and German politicians are strongly advised to abandon any confrontation."

Merkel's admission, however, shows exactly the opposite.

Neutrality sacrificed

The conflict between the West and Russia, fought in Ukraine, therefore has a long history, which will be known to very few and is not covered on our information channels, i.e. the media.

For neutral states like Switzerland, this would mean extreme restraint in unilateral accusations. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened. Switzerland, especially in the person of Ignazio Cassis, regardless of all the events leading up to the conflict, has sided with Ukraine in moral exaggeration, thus seriously damaging its neutrality. As has happened several times in recent times, it has carelessly squandered a potential opportunity for a peaceful negotiated solution and the prevention of continued bloodshed. Fortunately, other states are making serious efforts to end this war. Cassis' attitude has done immeasurable damage to Switzerland and its neutrality. This grave mistake can be corrected by parliament or the Swiss people. Whether this will happen remains an open question.

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