In the Amnesic Dizzinness of a “Turn of the Times,” 3/2/2022
by Rainer Werning and Petra Erler
When, with the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, the entire military alliance of this rival collapsed, this could/must have been the prelude, according to rational criteria, to mothballing NATO in return. But exactly the opposite was to occur – a path based on rigid reinforced concrete of power, hubris and geostrategic calculations.
In the Amnesic Dizziness of a “Turn of the Times”
by Rainer Werning
[This article published on 3/2/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Im Amnesie-Taumel einer “Zeitenwende“]
With the fast pace of times, the danger of falling into memory loss grows. This can form the humus for a policy that turns against one’s own interests. In the past, U.S. forces in particular pulled out all the stops to prevent an understanding with Russia. Some preliminary thoughts on war and peace. By Rainer Werning.
First of all, let’s be clear: The military campaign and war of aggression against Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin is criminal in several respects. It is a crime against the Ukrainian civilian population, as it causes devastation and death. It is a crime – with respect to Russian civilians – because legitimate dissent and criticism of the Russian government are being crushed anew. It is contrary to international law and poses a grave threat to the regional security situation.
In view of this development, cynics might be inclined to wish for the darkest times of the Cold War once again. Old leftists of the 1968 movement, supporters of Brandt’s East-policy, young members of the peace and environmental movements and the masses of cosmopolitically oriented people endowed with reason would not have been able to imagine at the beginning of this year, under the sign of the black water tiger, in their most daring trains of thought such a second round of arms in Europe after the military dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1999 in violation of international law.
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We live in politically turbulent times. Above all, however, we live in fast-moving times, which make it impossible for many people to find their bearings and stability – not to mention the growing number of people who are already living in precarious conditions. And with the fast pace of life, the danger of falling into complete amnesia grows exponentially. Even partial amnesia forms the humus for a policy that ultimately turns against one’s own interests. All the more so when a caste of politicians all too readily sees itself only in the role of “decision-makers.” This is convenient, if only because it is so easy to escape responsibility. They can feel exculpated even when the damage they caused – as, for example, during the so-called financial and banking crisis of 2008 – was immense for the common good.
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Long before the amnesia frenzy, there was a euphoria frenzy. Just think of the moving and stirring images in Berlin and in other capitals of Eastern Europe, when real socialist regimes – including their citadel, the Soviet Union – imploded and disappeared from the political scene. In the “West,” first and foremost in the United States, this frenzy was accompanied by triumphalism as one’s own system triumphed over that of its former fiercest rival. When, with the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, the entire military alliance of this rival collapsed, this could/must have been the prelude, according to rational criteria, to mothballing NATO in return. But exactly the opposite was to occur – a path based on rigid reinforced concrete of power, hubris and geostrategic calculations.
Just at the time – 1991/1992 – plans were being hatched in the citadel of the triumphalist victor, in Washington, D.C., that explicitly envisioned not allowing the emergence of a potential rival at all again. The principal architects of such plans were Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, individuals who, along with Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, later formed key figures in the administration of President George W. Bush (2001-09) and were commonly respected or ostracized as neoconservatives. Associated with the name Bush Jr. is a doctrine named after him that was hard-nosed – without any regard for friends, allies, or allies – in favor of a unipolar world order. Moreover, the guardians of this unipolar world presumed to strike (militarily) everywhere and whenever actual or supposed rivals arose.
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So it was not surprising that this arrogance of power, especially after 9/11, led to the destruction of a number of countries and regions wherever “hotbeds of terrorism” were suspected. The concerns of the respective civilian populations were completely lost sight of. The result was a trail of devastation – whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya or, most recently, in Yemen, which has barely attracted any media attention. When a decades-long debacle on the part of the U.S., NATO and the EU came to an end in mid-August of last year, not only was the full-bodied announcement of a “coming to terms” quickly dropped like a rotten apple. The deeply maltreated and humiliated Afghan civilian population was simply “forgotten” or left to fend for themselves. How one would have wished then for just a tenth of the attention, helpfulness and rescue of these people – all steps with which the Ukrainians are met today. Which is fully justified and welcome! While Ukrainian refugees are today unbureaucratically offered the prospect of a longer stay in various EU countries, Afghan “local forces” and former helpers of the “West” who have been acutely endangered in life and limb for months have damn bad cards. Without them, the legions of foreign politicians, military officers and (development policy) NGOs would have wandered through the country like disoriented boy scouts.
* * *
The situation six months later is different.
“Given the grotesquely one-sided news about the Ukraine war in the media, it is fair to say that in February 2022, America has become the country where history died”
wrote David Stockman, once a congressman from Michigan and director of the Office of Management and Budget during the reign of U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1981-89), on the pages of Antiwar.com on February 28, 2022. Stockman writes further there:
“To look at CNN’s and NBC’s sophomoric reporting, one would think that Ukraine’s borders have been universally recognized for eons, that the government in Kiev has done absolutely nothing to stoke Russian distrust and anger, and that Uncle Sam, NATO, and the European Union have been scurrying around in the terrain on Russia’s borders cheering democracy and selflessly handing out economic aid and cookies to the long-suffering Ukrainian people.
Well, no. Today’s outbreak of hot war in Ukraine would absolutely not be happening had it not been for a violent coup d’état in February 2014 that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected pro-Russian president; and that coup d’état was financed, organized and choreographed by Washington-based neoconservatives, blowhards and arms dealers who would otherwise have no reason to exist in the post-Soviet world.” (own translation: RW)
These forces pulled out all the stops to prevent any turn toward Russia. Acting like a bull in a china store was Victoria Nuland, who was then assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and is now in charge of political affairs at the State Department under President Joe Biden. Criticisms from EU countries were dismissed by this lady with a brisk “Fuck you”! No references to earlier promises by George H.W. Bush’s own administration (1989-93) and his Secretary of State James Baker not to expand NATO “one inch” eastward in return for Gorbachev’s agreement to the reunification of Germany and the actual end of the Warsaw Pact were of any use. Smoke and mirrors: since then, the latter has expanded its membership in the form of a “political jackhammer” (Stockman) from 16 to 30 countries – many of them right on Russia’s doorstep.
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At the time of the Bush war against Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction in 2003, Karl Rove, longtime adviser to the Republican Party and, as its chief strategist, Bush’s closest personal henchman, declared in no uncertain terms what is and must be:
“We are now an empire, and when we act, we create our own reality. And as you study that reality – carefully, as you will – we will act again and create other new realities for you to study as well, and so things will settle. We are the actors of history (…) and you, all of you, will only study what we are doing.”
Bitterly, Stockman and numerous U.S. critics of its own empire summed up:
“Without Washington’s machinations in February 2014, there would be no war in Ukraine today, but that crucial piece of history is now stone dead.”
* * *
Extremely vital is the current action of the “West”. At the latest since February 27, we know where the journey is going. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sharply condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine and called it a caesura. “We are experiencing a turn of the times,” the SPD politician said Sunday in a special session of the Bundestag.
Well, not so much the times are turning, but rather politicians and military strategists in them. Instead of joining all forces and working toward a de-escalation of the conflict as quickly as possible, the same was exaggerated, ideologized, ammunitioned and still militarily stoked in the largest possible coalition. And this in such a way that even dissent – not to mention open dissent – is stigmatized from the outset. Putin’s “repressive regime,” “autocracy,” “dictatorship” over there and “homeland, freedom and democracy” over here. Discords undesirable, door and gate wide open for the Bundeswehr, including a special fund of 100 billion euros for investments and armaments projects from the federal budget.
“One thing is clear: We must invest significantly more in the security of our country in order to protect our freedom and our democracy in this way,” Scholz said. The Foreign Minister took the same line, underlining what Annalena Baerbock (Greens) understands by “value-based action” and “feminist foreign policy.” The commitment, repeated tremolo-like for years, not to supply weapons to war regions was literally tipped away like sour milk. The minister stressed:
“We do this because human lives are at stake. We are doing this because our international order is at stake. We are doing this with prudence and out of responsibility for our peace in Europe.”
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“Our peace in Europe.” So it resounded to us from the valleys of the Hindu Kush. In the medium to long term, it will similarly spill over to us from the vastness of the Indo-Pacific. Then, of course, with the addition that the “freedom of international navigation” must not be impaired. One reservation remains: The “imperial tango” – please forgive the casual expression – will take place in this region, especially in Southeast and East Asia. There, NATO has already identified China as a “systemic challenge.” Today, the Russian sack is being beaten, even though the Chinese donkey and the North Korean pen are meant.
Cui bono? With so much goodwill – one might even call it vassalage – on the part of its partners and allies, the United States, as NATO’s leading power, has a good laugh. There, the big business of the military-industrial-IT-surveillance complex has plenty of reason to really pop the corks at Carnival anno domini 2022.
Russia, Ukraine and what next?
By Petra Erler
[This article published on March 1, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://petraerler.substack.com/p/russland-die-ukraine-und-wie-weiter?s=r.]
We are currently witnessing a development that could hardly have been foreseen. After NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, which violated international law, we are again witnessing a flagrant breach of international law on European territory. This time it is Russia that is violating the rules of the UN Charter. This time it is Ukraine.
As right and understandable as all the indignation, consternation, but also resonating fears about what the future may bring are about this, it is wrong and devastating to follow the hot heart and make policy decisions that are so far-reaching that no one can calculate their consequences anymore. As if in Twitter mode, the German chancellor has turned German foreign policy toward Russia on its head. Not everyone applauded.
At the same time, current events are really crying out for us to stop, think and look very closely at the fundamental question of what kind of world we want to live in tomorrow. Do we want to stand toe to toe, always distrustful, always exposed to the danger that one side will lose its nerve or something will go wrong?
What is happening is the opposite of what would be necessary: reflexes are being given in to the fright of a war that can only be condemned, of course.
But foreign policy does not mean following moral indignation, nor is it driven by anger and the desire for revenge. Responsible foreign and security policy requires a sober weighing of interests, a cool calculation of the opportunities and risks of each step. It requires strategy, thinking beyond the day.
And it requires honesty: This is not the first time that international law has been broken; it is broken all the time, but this is the first time that it has been howled at in blatant hypocrisy. Yes, Russia has broken international law. This breach is in line with all other breaches of international law in recent years. Each one was and is unforgivable.
But I don’t recall us howling about our involvement in the NATO mission in Kosovo either, commenting on or even sanctioning the American war on terror in any comparable way, even though it cost millions of lives and resulted in millions of refugees and displaced persons. I do not recall that the war in the Donbass, which has been going on since 2014, was worthy of us permanent broadcasts on German television or led to vigorous diplomatic missions to Moscow and Kiev.
What is degoutant is that those with the dirty collar now pretend that their shirt is spotless white. Even more lunatic is that some of those who were building bridges until yesterday are now yapping along on the front lines.
What we are witnessing in Ukraine today is not the result of Western weakness. Nor is it the result of peace-movement dreaming. It is the product of decades of confrontational politics, to which Ukraine is now falling victim. It is the result of years of fomenting conflict that made Russia a pariah that is now acting like a pariah.
After all, U.S. President Biden had assured everyone that with his assumption of power, Russia would already be held in check. The adults had taken the helm again. He believed that it was possible to combine deterrence and dialogue, to hate the enemy and tame him at the same time. Running and chewing gum at the same time, he called it. The EU and also Germany followed suit. It all failed miserably.
But instead of coming to their senses, the architects of failure are using our raw feelings of disappointment and also anger at what has happened to further fuel the confrontation. Is no one listening to the voices, especially in the U.S., that are now literally panting for war with Russia? Among them are former NATO supreme commanders, thus revealing their true nature. A no-fly zone over Ukraine, and it would be done.
Still the White House stands and thinks this is not a good idea. But in the case of Afghanistan, we learned that White House assurances have a short expiration time. Doesn’t that bring anyone here to their senses?
If we in Germany need anything now more than ever, it’s a plan for lasting peace in Europe, not against Russia, but with Russia. If we need anything now more than ever, it’s a strengthening of the United Nations so that the Charter is never broken again. By anyone.
We must put the rule of law above the rule of military might. We must no longer allow nuclear weapons possession to become the final barrier between war and peace.
More confrontation cannot be the solution if we want to live in reliable peace.
It is high time to return to the greatness of J.F. Kennedy, who presented his plan for a reordering of international relations on June 10, 1963.
It is time to remember the peace agreement between Gorbachev and Reagan, time to take out of the drawer the ambitions of the 1990 Charter of Paris that have been gathering dust there for over 30 years.
Time to put a stop to those who want to abandon the world community and divide the world into eternally hostile tribes.
In this way we could save Ukraine, Russia from itself and in this way we could save ourselves and in the end possibly the world.
A very thought-provoking article appeared in the USA. Very much what the author had to say I agree with.
Why John Mearsheimer Blames the U.S. for the Crisis in Ukraine
The political scientist John Mearsheimer has been one of the most famous critics of American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Perhaps best known for the book he wrote with Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Mearsheimer is a proponent of great-power politics—a school of realist international relations that assumes that, in a self-interested attempt to preserve national security, states will preemptively act in anticipation of adversaries. For years, Mearsheimer has argued that the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine. Indeed, in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea, Mearsheimer wrote that “the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for this crisis.”
The current invasion of Ukraine has renewed several long-standing debates about the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Although many critics of Putin have argued that he would pursue an aggressive foreign policy in former Soviet Republics regardless of Western involvement, Mearsheimer maintains his position that the U.S. is at fault for provoking him.
Quelle: The New Yorker