Cuba and the Ukraine crisis and Putin’s War
by Klaus Joachim Herrmann and Ingar Solty, March 2022
History repeats itself after all. What as the Cuban Missile Crisis left the world balancing on the precipice is exemplified by the Ukraine crisis. Starting in 1959, the USA stationed nuclear-tipped medium-range missiles in Italy and Turkey aimed at the USSR. The latter responded with medium-range nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba in 1962.
Cuba and the Ukraine crisis
by Klaus Joachim Herrmann
[This article published on 2/14/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Kuba und die Ukrainekrise | Linksnet.]
When Russia and the United States will sign a new declaration on ending the Cold War can only be dreamed of,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary confided to Komsomolskaya Pravda. Its correspondent had recalled February 1, 30 years ago, when Presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin did just that at Camp David. They proclaimed an era of “friendship and partnership.” On the almost-forgotten anniversary, Dmitry Peskov complimented the questioner, “Dreams are not what we are paid our salary for.” The Cold War, declared over, is not only darkened past, but bitter present as Cold War II. Farewell to illusions.
History repeats itself after all. What as the Cuban Missile Crisis left the world balancing on the precipice is exemplified by the Ukraine crisis. Starting in 1959, the USA stationed nuclear-tipped medium-range missiles in Italy and Turkey aimed at the USSR. The latter responded with medium-range nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba in 1962. In the struggle for power and influence, one superpower tried to get as close and dangerous as possible to the other. Soviet missiles on Cuba then, Ukraine and more and more NATO allies with US missiles on the border with Russia today. Barely any warning time, less security. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with a withdrawal on both sides – and U.S. assurances that it would not attack Cuba militarily. A success for both adversaries and the world. A pattern?
“There is no security for Europeans if there is no security for Russia,” the French president dares to admit. For his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, Zeit Online slaps him down: “Emmanuel Macron is thinking one size too big.” Forced to abdicate was the German navy chief, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach. He ventured the insight that it was “nonsense” that Russia was “interested in a small piece of Ukrainian soil.” Putin wants respect, he said, and he “probably deserves it.” Russian demands for a legally binding end to NATO’s eastward expansion and its retreat to 1997 positions were headlined in Russia’s Kommersant with the slogan “Forward to the Past.” The offer that neither side should harm the security of the other could also be seen as a lesson from the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The camps are fortified. The U.S. is calling and the transatlanticists are willingly stepping up. On the other side, three old friends, Russia, the People’s Republic of China and Cuba, are moving closer together again – rather an unintended side effect of geostrategic proportions. Of all partners, the smallest proves to be the most experienced in this ice-cold confrontation. Cuba has been besieged by the superpower USA with relentless vindictiveness for more than half a century. Even in times of a murderous pandemic, it is even to be cut off from medical supplies. It succeeded in developing its own vaccine against Covid 19, but imports of syringes remained banned. A truly lethal punishment.
Sanctions and embargo are euphemisms for a medieval brutal siege. “The U.S. blockade against Cuba, which has been in place for 60 years, is the longest and harshest in human history and has so far caused – conservatively estimated – damages in Cuba amounting to more than 138 billion U.S. dollars,” protested the German solidarity organization Netzwerk Cuba against this “blatant violation of human rights.” On February 3, 1962, superpower President John F. Kennedy had imposed a total blockade on the insubordinate island state with its eleven million inhabitants. Washington’s tightening of the blockade follows just as regularly as its condemnation by the UN General Assembly.
But some do dare: In 2021, according to Havana, the island received some 135 shipments of donations from 40 countries. From Russia came more than 70,000 protective suits, three million syringes, and 200,000 masks. Russia and the PRC also face sanctions and their tightening. But it makes a difference whether these sanctions apply to an island in the Antilles or to the largest and most populous country in the world. But if they are not successful in one case, how should they be in the other?
Western spokesmen of sanctions under the sign of “value-based” policy and respect for human rights punish some and let the others go. But the torture prison in Guantanamo is not a Cuban but a U.S. facility far from any law. When U.S. President Joe Biden laments structural racism and “a stain on the soul of our nation” in the face of deadly police violence, he is referring, mind you, to his own nation, not the multicolored Cuban nation. An archaic electoral law from the days of the Wild West is supposed to prevent undesirable results in the United States through the shamelessly tendentious drawing of electoral districts and the exclusion of voters. There is no need for the loudly lamented alleged influence of the Moscow Kremlin if the manipulation lies within the country’s own system.
But Putin is always guilty. He is charged with malice for what comes from his own Pandora’s box. Striving for world and supremacy, fabricated pretexts for wars, murders, espionage, cyber attacks and so much more. But the phony war on Iraq, the destabilization of the Middle East, drone assassinations, the NSA’s global and immoderate cyber snooping on even its closest allies all stem from the U.S. arsenal. Putin would certainly not be asked if he thought Biden was a murderer. Biden or whoever in the White House is the good guy and his leader.
For, as Professor Noam Chomsky, probably the world’s best-known critic of U.S. policy, puts it, “Whatever the world may think, the actions of the United States are justified. Because we say so.” This principle, he said, was enunciated by eminent statesman Dean Acheson in 1962. At the time, he had lectured ,the American Society of International Law that “no legal problem would grow out of the United States responding to a challenge to its ‘power, position, and prestige.'”
The Forward, in a review of his book “Who Rules the World?” summarized that for political thinker Chomsky, the United States was “the leading terrorist state.” Countless assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, support for the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua, invasion of Iraq – including serious human rights violations in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.” Torture, Chomsky writes, is “the least of the many crimes” of which the United States and other great powers are guilty. Worse still are “aggression, terror, subversion and economic strangulation” emanating from Washington.
The West’s anger and contempt, however, are directed in moral complacency at the enemy in the East. In order to be credible as a concern for human rights, the vociferous demand for the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Nawalny from camp detention also included an energetic commitment to the founder of the WikiLeaks disclosure platform Julian Assange. The whistleblower of U.S. war crimes is being mercilessly hounded and threatened with 175 years in prison. Both have challenged the state in their own way. Just as charged as someone who murders from a pistol in Berlin’s Tiergarten park from a bicycle were those who do such things by the tens of thousands with high-tech drones in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Those who condemned the Soviet invasion of the country in the Hindu Kush and rearmed the Afghan resistance should not subsequently go to war there themselves. The West should have learned from the Soviet Union’s defeat. For the West was also forced into an ignominious retreat.
The current confrontation does not bode well either. Half an hour of war has already taken place. Fortunately, only at the Bloomberg agency on February 5: ” The headline ‘Russia Invades Ukraine’ (Russia Invades Ukraine) was inadvertently published on our website at around 4 p.m. today. We deeply regret the error.” The day before the hoax, Bloomberg TV had conducted an interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is not known for moderation. That carried the dramatic headline, “‘Real Danger’ of Russia Invading Ukraine, NATO Chief Says.” For a nervous hand on the Red Button, Stoltenberg and Bloomberg’s evocation of the real danger of a Russian invasion could have already brought on a war.
On the geopolitical consequences of the escalation in Ukraine
by Ingar Solty
[This article published on 3/1/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Putins Krieg | Linksnet,]
For all people interested in peace and security in Europe, in Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, in Russia and in Western Europe, February 22, 2022 was a pitch black day. February 24 is even blacker, because Russia has started a war of aggression against its neighbor Ukraine, which cannot be justified by anything. Russia must end this war immediately and without conditions to clear the way back to the negotiating table.
By bombing targets in Ukraine and invading ground troops, Russia has shown its full potential for aggression and broken international law. The ones who suffer are the Ukrainians, who now find themselves in a war situation that will most likely cause very large movements of refugees from all parts of the country. The escalation of the conflict by Russia is intolerable and cannot be justified by anything. For peace and security of the people in Ukraine, for the territorial integrity of the country, there could have been peaceful solutions. In perspective, there would also have been better solutions for Russia’s legitimate security interests – and also for peace and security throughout Europe. What will happen now, in all likelihood, is not in the interests of Ukrainian civilians, Russian civilians, or Western European civilians – and, because their state is also a very significant player, equally not in the interests of U.S. civilians.
On the evening of February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin granted recognition as sovereign states to the secessionist so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. It is an expression of double standards when the Russian president on the one hand grants the Donbass republics the right to secession today, but the Russian state has denied the same right to the Chechens with two bloody and devastating wars (1994-1996, 1999-2009).
Prior to the recognition of the Donbass republics, Russia issued more than 700,000 Russian passports to part of the population in the separatist areas in the last two years. The Ukrainian government has so far not recognized the governments in Luhansk and Donetsk, and since the takeover of power by interim President Poroshenko – who was confirmed in elections a short time later – has used armed force against the breakaways, pushing them back to part of their original territory, including with Western weapons. The Russian state now justifies its actions by claiming that it is preventing a “genocide” of the ethnic Russian population in eastern Ukraine, which has strong economic ties with Russia. It does this because it needs to justify the war of aggression internally and to the world public. This is a typical monstrous war lie.
At the same time, the Russian president claims a kind of “responsibility to protect” for himself in the name of the “Russians abroad”, as it was previously put forward by the West and NATO, for example in Libya in 2011, as a justification for their own warlike measures and regime change policy. Moreover, the secession and state recognition of the Donbass republics copies the Western model of the secession and recognition of Kosovo as a result of the NATO war against the “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” (Serbia-Montenegro) in 1999. And the propagandistic war lies of a presumably imminent genocide, which Putin now cites as justification, are also similar, For the bombing of the “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” (Serbia-Montenegro) was also preceded by the invention and propaganda of the existence of a Serbian “horseshoe plan” on the part of the then German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping (SPD), i.e. a supposedly imminent genocide of the Kosovo-Albanian population by the Serbian-Montenegrin government. In doing so, the West provided the Russian state with a blueprint for its actions in violation of international law. This does not justify anything. But it does explain how dominant the logic of the military and the law of the strongest have become in politics today.
The question is what war aims Russia is pursuing. It has become clear that Russian action was not aimed solely at stationing Russian “protection troops” in the Donbass. Paradoxically, that would have frozen the conflict precisely because of the superiority of Russian armed force, since the U.S. and NATO have signaled they will not enter into open warfare with nuclear power Russia for Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden had previously stated that they would sanction Russia and send weapons and money to Ukraine, but not troops of their own.
The Russian president, in his recent speech on the night of Feb. 23-24, 2022, declared “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine as Russian war aims. In addition, those responsible for acts of violence in the context of the Ukrainian civil war, including the perpetrators of the attacks on the Odessa Trade Union House, are to be apprehended, the statement said.
The airstrikes in all parts of the country are apparently intended to destroy military infrastructure, but they also hit civilian infrastructure. It is questionable what purpose this is supposed to serve: Is it for short-term goals in the war against Ukraine or for longer-term ones such as destroying infrastructure that could serve Ukraine as a staging area for NATO troops in the event of a Westward linkup? The latter would undoubtedly be short-sighted because Russia, with the various NATO eastward enlargement rounds, has very many other direct borders with NATO countries, from the Baltics to southeastern Europe. So the assumption is obvious that immediate war aims are at stake, as well as preparations for unimpeded special forces operations on Ukrainian territory.
Nonetheless, it is also clear that with the “denazification” formula, Putin is not only evoking popular and popular memories of the “Great Patriotic War” and the Red Army’s liberation of Europe from German fascism and suggesting a repetition of history in which Russian troops moved westward against fascism, but he is apparently leaving open the option of a much more wide-ranging operation with ground troops, even “regime change” in Kiev. Admittedly, the number of 120,000 to 150,000 Russian troops mobilized so far is probably too small for such a war. In the 1990-91 Gulf War, for example, the United States mobilized 400,000 troops on a much shorter border. But since the deployment area is immediate border territory, a correspondingly rapid move-up is quite conceivable and such a regime-change war cannot be ruled out.
It is also conceivable that the destruction of the military infrastructure is primarily intended to support the separatists of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. Admittedly, in the meeting in the Russian Security Council – which was undoubtedly staged and planned long in advance – the Russian president had rejected the claims made by individuals in this direction. Moreover, Russian “genocide” arguments always referred to a population of four million “people in need of protection,” which corresponds to that within the current borders of the “people’s republics.” But even so, it cannot be ruled out that the Donbass “people’s republics” will now make advances – with Russian support – directed against the Ukrainian military and the far-right Azov militias allied with it, in order to recapture lost territories – Mariupol, and so on. That would be the end of the already extremely fragile ceasefire in the Ukrainian civil war since 2014.
The Russian government knows that the U.S. and NATO are not ready for Ukraine to enter into a conflict with another nuclear power. As a non-NATO member, no NATO Article 5 alliance case applies either. At the same time, it is questionable what Russia’s interests should be in such an open war with the Ukrainian military. The “regime change” perspective could be aimed at making the pro-Russian leader of the “Opposition Platform – For Life,” Viktor Medvedchuk, president and thus installing a force with a similar foreign policy orientation as the “Party of Regions,” which ruled the country under President Yanukovych until 2014. Such a strategy, however, would be somewhat self-defeating, not to say insane. It is true that Medvedchuk’s opposition party was ahead in some election polls until his house arrest – declared by Ukraine’s National Security Council in May 2021 – because of dissatisfaction with economic developments and the corruption scandals of President Selensky (who originally opposed corruption).
However, the current Russian actions and violence are naturally strengthening the conviction among the Ukrainian population that EU and NATO membership should be sought for their own security. If this has not been the case so far, there will be lasting majorities for such a perspective after this war, especially since the opponents of such a development in eastern Ukraine will no longer be important; they would presumably no longer be part of Ukraine. This also means, however, that a lasting neutrality or even eastern integration of Ukraine would only be conceivable with formal, even military control of the country by Russia. Moreover, such a Ukraine would be confronted with a whole series of NATO states with borders to Russia, which would then be even more strongly oriented toward the West and which – like the Baltic States – have already been deployment areas for NATO troops time and again.
Either way, the Russian action is the final straw so far in developments since 2014. After the Euromaidan protest movement in Kyiv-which was not, as some have colocated, externally/western-directed-the overthrow of the previous, eastern Ukrainian-oriented Yanukovych government, the uprising in eastern Ukraine, and the start of the Ukrainian civil war (against the leaders of the Donbass uprising, who were declared “terrorists”), the “Minsk-II” peace process negotiated in 2015 provided, that the two parties agree to and maintain a ceasefire, then engage in dialogue with each other, and finally negotiate relatively broad autonomy rights for the Donbass in a country that remains united, thereby also stopping the influx of Russian nationalist fighters and weapons that Russia tolerates, if not encourages.
The Normandy format, a diplomatic body involving Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France, held the promise that Ukrainian and Russian security interests would not be decided over the heads of Ukrainians in Washington and Moscow and that Europeans could take care of their own security in a “common house of Europe.” From a peace policy perspective, the desirable outcome of this format could have been the development of a common European security architecture, including Russia, which would have involved Russia committing itself to upholding the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which was broken by the Russian state, and guaranteeing Ukraine’s security. The end result could have been the Europe whose construction was missed after 1991: a nuclear-free zone of intra-European cooperation as an alternative to NATO and to the various NATO eastward enlargement rounds in 1999 (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary), 2004 (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Baltic states), 2009 (Albania, Croatia), 2017 (Montenegro), and 2020 (northern Macedonia), which Russia sees as a threat to its own security.
Current developments in Eastern Europe have at least six medium- to long-term geopolitical consequences of concern.
First, Ukraine has been definitively torn apart by the tug of war between West and East that began long before 2014 and long before Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The Minsk II process, which aimed at an intra-Ukrainian ceasefire, dialogue between Kiev and the secessionist areas, and autonomous status in a territorially unified state, and which was blocked by the government in Kiev with reference to the “illegitimacy” of the “people’s republics,” is also history. The same applies to the Normandy format, that is, the negotiations between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, which can be seen as an attempt to decide our own fate as Europeans ourselves and without the United States.
Second: With the now final split of Ukraine, lived multiethnicity and multiculturalism are now permanently lost in another Eastern European country with a young nation-state, so that nationalist homogenization policies will probably intensify on both sides, which will tear apart families and their respective multiethnic, multilingual and also historically and ideologically diverse histories – between pride in the nationalist-Nazi collaborationist heritage on the one hand and pride in the Soviet heritage and the victory in the “Great Patriotic War” over fascism on the other. That anti-Semitism and anti-gypsyism will probably play some role in this politics on both sides is obvious. Anyone who remembers the terrible policy of homogenization in Central and Eastern Europe before (and under different auspices even after) 1945 will be terrified by this prospect.
Third, it also threatens spillover effects in other young nation-states in Eastern Europe (such as Hungary with its Great Hungarian dreams in relation to Hungarians abroad in Romania, Slovakia, etc.). For although there was no formal incorporation by the Russian state in the Russian-secessionist territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia either, and this is probably not to be expected now (Crimea with the Black Sea Fleet had a very different power-political significance for Moscow than the Donbass republics), spillover effects in other regions of the post-Soviet states, as well as in the rest of the world, are to be feared in this specific form of new border demarcation through secessions, which are likely to bring much violence and civil society suffering.
Fourth, Putin’s speech of February 21 shows that people in Russia have also given up hope for the “common house of Europe.” The Russian government’s January 2022 demands to the West to return to the post-1991 situation and the U.S. promise not to expand NATO eastward, not to station troops or even nuclear weapons (with a five-minute response time) on the Russian border were illusory in light of the balance of power in the West and the facts created by the West in five rounds of NATO eastward expansion. In the last 25 to 30 years, with NATO’s eastward enlargement, the NATO war against Serbia-Montenegro, the Iraq war and the Libyan war on the one hand, and the annexation of Crimea, the legitimization of the separatist areas in the Donbass and Russia’s current war of aggression against Ukraine on the other – so much china has been smashed by both sides that mutual trust has been permanently shaken. The civilian population in Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, in Russia, in Western Europe and in the USA must now pay the price for the wrong policy.
In a new age of great power rivalry, a new “Iron Curtain” is looming, steeled by both sides, running through the middle of Europe and deepening the dangerous bloc formation into “West” (as far as Ukraine) on the one hand and an alliance “East” led by China and Russia on the other. The joint statement of the Chinese and Russian governments on the occasion of the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2022 also indicates that Moscow and Beijing are preparing for such a new Cold War, even though the Chinese government on February 22 expressed its regret about the escalation in Ukraine, called for a return to dialogue and emphasized its intention to continue to cooperate with all parties to the conflict, but on February 24 did not see an attack in Russia’s actions. As a result, however, the global arms race will continue, which not only entails real dangers of war, but also ties up resources that are urgently needed to deal with global humanitarian issues – hunger and the social question, the ongoing climate catastrophe.
Fifth, Russia’s attack has finally destroyed the 1994 “Budapest Memorandum,” in which Russia pledged to respect Ukraine’s (and the other two states’) territorial integrity in return for Ukraine’s (and Kazakhstan’s and Belarus’) renunciation of (Soviet) nuclear weapons. In Ukraine, as a result, the partly agrarian Western oligarchs will also be strengthened, who, out of financial self-interest, want stronger ties to the EU and the West because, in contrast to the domestically or Russia-oriented, industrial Eastern oligarchs, they have nothing to lose by such a move, but much to gain.
Possibly and understandably, as I said, the percentage of the population that wants to apply for NATO membership will increase. Until 2014, only a small part of the population was in favor of it; in recent years, support for joining NATO has increased and is now, at the latest, a majority opinion. The Ukrainian constitution and the NATO statutes have so far stood in the way of such a membership perspective: The Ukrainian constitution stipulates a neutral status for the country until 2019 and NATO does not admit countries in conflict. Nonetheless, this is likely to be the direction in which the dominant Western elites and the population of (Western) Ukraine will push as the conflict escalates.
Such a perspective is, of course, perfectly understandable from the (West) Ukrainian point of view. The Eastern European states, just like Russia, have legitimate security interests that are also based on historical experience. Especially Germany, which invaded, divided and colonized the Eastern European countries several times in the 20th century – in 1917 ff, 1939, 1941 – and was also significantly involved in the threefold division of Poland in the 18th century, must treat them sensitively. But this also includes the realization that the small Eastern European countries have had their own special experiences with Russia, which from the Polish partitions to the Hitler-Stalin Pact (and the Polish trauma of Katyn) also acted offensively towards the West and re-annexed parts lost to Lenin with the unilateral peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk with considerable cessions of territory in 1917. The security interests not only of Russia are legitimate, but – this should be clear by now at the latest – also the security interests of the Eastern European states, one of which is now being attacked from Russian soil.
Nevertheless, Ukraine’s accession to NATO would be a disaster in terms of peace, security and cooperation in Europe and the hope for a nuclear-weapon-free Europe, because in the worst case it would mean that in the present Ukraine the Western NATO nuclear powers and the nuclear power Russia would be directly facing each other. Ukraine’s alliance sovereignty is rightly cited by the West. The security of Ukraine (or other Eastern European states, such as the Baltic ones) was not and cannot be negotiated in Moscow or Washington without Ukrainian participation. But: It should be noted that when it ran counter to its geopolitical interests, the West was also often not serious about alliance sovereignty-for example, when revolutionary Cuba opposed U.S. invasions such as the one at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 the following year by requesting the Soviet Union as its protective power against U.S. imperialist violent policies, or when the Venezuelan state in the second half of the 2010s moved closer to China in terms of alliance policy, Russia, and Iran, to which the United States responded with destabilization, regime change policies, and invasion plans (by President Donald Trump).
As unlikely as the prospect of a collective European security architecture including Russia and with mutual security guarantees has become after the current escalation, this perspective nevertheless seems to be all the more without alternative if one wants to prevent the frontal confrontation between NATO and a Russian-Chinese economic and military bloc with all its consequences also for the major problems of humanity – from the peace issue to the social issue to the climate catastrophe.
Sixth, Germany’s attempt to play a mediating role by refraining from (offensive) arms deliveries to Ukraine and emphasizing the Normandy format has unfortunately also failed. As a result, the U.S. also gets what it has long pursued as its main geopolitical goals: on the one hand, the weakening of Russia – through sanctions, through the (potential) end of Nord Stream 2 (Economics and Climate Minister Robert Habeck of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen has put it on hold, yielding to U.S. demands in case of a “Russian invasion”) and through U.S. energy exports to Western Europe – and, on the other hand, the energy and thus geopolitical dependence of Germany and Western Europe on the U.S.. This dependence is one of the most effective means of pressure to bring Germany and the Western European NATO states to the transatlantic division of labor in the imperial “management” of global capitalism envisioned by the U.S., in which “we” are supposed to watch the U.S.’ back with more “military engagement” from Eastern Europe to the Middle East to North Africa, so that they can fully direct their dwindling power resources to their systemic conflict with China. The prospect of European “strategic autonomy” has thus been significantly weakened.
Published in Luxembourg Online, http://www.zeitschrift-luxemburg.de
 In fact, the German invasion of Poland in 1939 was also preceded by the same argumentation that it was necessary to protect the “foreign Germans”, i.e. the German minority in Poland, from anti-German pogroms.
 The constitutional amendment refers to the preamble, which now includes an orientation toward the EU and NATO. It was pushed in the fall of 2019 by then-President Poroshenko, who hoped it would boost his election campaign. As the amendment only relates to the preamble, it is the subject of controversy among constitutional lawyers in Ukraine. Some argue that it has as little binding status as the “pursuit of happiness” enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The new president, Zelensky, has been referring directly to the preamble for the past year, underpinning his claim to seek NATO membership. I owe these references to Ivo Georgiev, the head of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s office in Kiev.