There is little truth in war. If you want to survive, any means must necessarily be acceptable. In this scenario, lying is not a sin, not something to be outlawed, but simply an option to achieve one’s own goals. It is therefore normality. Basically, no one who is in a war can be accused of lying, because the logics of humanity and decency are then suspended.
The Prince of Hell
After Volodymyr Selenskyj directly accused the Russians of bombing Poland, doubts about the Ukrainian administration are growing in the West.
by Roberto J. De Lapuente
[This article posted on 11/30/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Der Höllenfürst.]
Is there any spiritual lightening now – of all places in the previous heart of darkness, that is, among the leadership of the United States? While two weeks ago for German media and politicians the matter was quite quickly clear, namely that Russia had attacked Poland, the U.S. administration, NATO and also Poland itself expressed themselves more cautiously. They rejected hasty conclusions. For them, it was a Russian stray missile, but probably even a Ukrainian missile that “took a wrong turn”. Even if this reticence should not be interpreted as a signal to Russia, one thing is clear: Western allies are now clearly having doubts about the Ukrainian leadership and its interpretive approaches.
Finally – one might say. And at the same time they are looking with concern at the German foreign minister and the German press that is submissive to her. They would have ice-coldly exploited the incident to finally get to where they have wanted to go for quite some time: Into an open escalation of the conflict. It took a long time before the Ukrainian president and his camarilla were no longer believed unquestioningly. Months of war have passed since then. Now people are getting irritated because it is becoming clearer and clearer: Selensky is not so particular about the truth. Why is this irritating? Is it because war governments lie? Is this something new? Haven’t we seen this before?
Sexiest Warrior Alive
On February 24, 2022 Volodymyr Selensky was suddenly rehabilitated. Until that day, the Western press was quite critical of the Ukrainian president, who came to power in a rather strange way, with the financial help of an oligarch and patron. Corruption and the taking of advantage were still a topic of discussion – and criticism – before that date. Selenskyj was considered the worst president imaginable, backpedaling against a devastated Ukraine and disappointing his own people.
Then came that Thursday last February: from one moment to the next, his image changed. No more talk of machinations and rope-a-dope schemes. Instead, the Ukrainian president and commander was invited to every suitable and unsuitable occasion: If he couldn’t be there in person, he could at least be there via Zoom. People applauded the man who had just been considered the gravedigger of his country. Vogue photographed him and his wife: they both looked good. War could be sexy, if only it and its generals were put in the right light.
Since those days in February, Volodymyr Selenskyy was considered the Sexiest Warrior Alive: suddenly camouflage shirts and khaki shirts were considered especially chic. No matter what his administration trumpeted to the world, people listened to what was said with awe.
Doubts were avoided. If someone at war claimed something, was apparently the watchword of the day, then one should not be skeptical: That would be unkind – one had to be empathetic, to believe without reflection. People at war deserve not to be questioned.
Nothing could be more wrong than this approach. There is little truth in war. If you want to survive, any means must necessarily be acceptable. In this scenario, lying is not a sin, not something to be outlawed, but simply an option to achieve one’s own goals. It is therefore normality. Basically, no one who is in a war can be accused of lying, because the logics of humanity and decency are then suspended.
War is hell
William T. Sherman coined the famous saying that war is hell. For in war the noblest minds become monsters. They have to be. Survival in such a scenario only works if you freeze your moral compass. Sherman knew what he was talking about: He was a general of the Northern States in the American Civil War. While he abhorred war, he made himself guilty during the bloody years. For example, he left “scorched earth” behind him, causing hunger and deprivation. In his own army, he was known as a butcher.
The General of the Army was more or less an insider: he did not simply lose his morals in the war – but he put them on the back burner. For he who is at war adopts its accursed logic. War is the total loss of morality. On every level, on every front, it is suppressed. Whoever is coy here does not simply lose a battle and end up in the history book as a loser: no, he loses his house, his farm, risks the lives of his loved ones – and yes, his own life as well.
All sorts of pure souls have already become beasts in war. Sherman had seen this with his own eyes, he detested war, but as a general he could not make his dislike an agenda: He was subject to the logic of war. Even if the cause of war was just, he considered, the war itself was not. To young men who went to war with enthusiasm, who ran after the glory that could be acquired on the battlefield, he explained again what war really is: namely, hell.
To accuse people in war of using every trick, every twist, purely for the sake of their own advantage, is therefore very convenient. In war, not other rules apply, there are no rules at all – at least hardly any. This is just as true for soldiers in direct contact with the enemy as for responsible commanders in their headquarters.
For this reason, too, war is to be outlawed as a means: Its logic no longer allows for humanity, for sincerity. It is a moral downward spiral from which there is hardly any release.
Warlords are kept at a distance
The last sentences are not meant as a free pass for the Ukrainian president. As a persilschein to be allowed to place him as a pop star at Zoom conferences, because he is not responsible for the dynamics of the war. In this case, however, the responsibility does not lie with him, but with those who applaud him, encourage him, and dress him up for Vogue. That Selenskyj goes along with this in order to increase his benefit is obvious. It is the other side that should, indeed should, keep its distance: namely, Western society, which encourages him and transfigures him into an icon.
The man is a warlord. And because of this status, he becomes more unpredictable every day. Whoever drags him in front of the camera, fades him in at book fairs or award ceremonies, lets someone who is in hell fraternize with an audience that knows nothing about this moral perversion, and indeed wants nothing to know about it. Should one sympathize with the leader of a warring nation so openly and unabashedly, cozy up to him?
War is a crime. And crimes happen in every war. There is no such thing as morally sound warfare. However, one likes to present this theory to the public in order to gain approval.
The moment you get close to someone who is at war, you accept his values perverted by the events. One descends with him into hell. And one loses the sober view. In Germany, you can feel this in the fact that the rhetoric of many people already sounds as if they, too, were directly in the war zone.
No, one should rather keep these warlords and commanders at a distance. And bring them to you only if they want to sit down at a negotiating table where they are ready to renounce hell. In any case, Selenskyj can hardly be blamed for taking advantage of the media presence in the West: for him, it is part of warfare.
Those who grant him this warfare: You have to be tough with them. For they place among us a man who no longer has a moral compass, nor can he. They incite him with it also still, provide for the fact that the hell perpetuates itself. Those who give him a forum keep the war alive and slowly but surely transfer those who have to live in it to death.
Roberto J. De Lapuente, born in 1978, is a trained industrial mechanic and ran the blog ad sinistram for eight years. Since 2017, he has been co-editor of the blog neulandrebellen. In 2012, he became a columnist for Neues Deutschland, and since 2018 he has written regularly for Makroskop. De Lapuente has a daughter and lives with his partner in Frankfurt am Main. In March 2018, his book “Right Wins Because Left Fails” was published.
Peace in Ukraine is possible: here’s what it could look like
by Jeffrey D. Sachs
[This article posted on 12/9/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Frieden-in-der-Ukraine-ist-moeglich-So-koennte-er-aussehen-7370912.html?seite=all.]
Artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd’s sculpture “Non-Violence” or “Knotted Gun” under a blanket of snow at UN headquarters in New York City.
The war in Ukraine is an extremely dangerous war between nuclear superpowers. Now there are positive signals from Washington and Moscow for negotiations. The mistakes of the past must be corrected.
There is a new glimmer of hope for a quick end to the war in Ukraine in the course of negotiations.
In his press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Joe Biden stated:
I’m willing to talk to Mr. Putin if he actually has an interest in finding a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that so far. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French friends and my NATO friends, I’m open to sitting down with Putin to see what he wants, what he has in mind.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman countered that Russia was ready for negotiations aimed at “safeguarding our interests.”
Jeffrey D. Sachs is a professor at Columbia University. He has advised three secretaries general of the UN.
Now is the time for mediation based on the core interests and negotiating leverage of the three main parties to the conflict: Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
The war is devastating for Ukraine. According to EU President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine has already lost 100,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians. Not only Ukraine, but Russia, the U.S., and the EU – indeed, the entire world – could benefit enormously from an end to the conflict, as both the nuclear threat that hangs over the world today and the devastating economic consequences of the war would be eliminated.
No less a figure than Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley has urged a negotiated political solution to the conflict, noting that Ukraine’s chances of military victory are “not high.”
There are four key issues that must be negotiated: Ukraine’s sovereignty and security, the thorny issue of NATO expansion, the fate of Crimea, and the future of the Donbass.
Above all, Ukraine demands to be a sovereign country, free from Russian domination and with secure borders. There are some in Russia, perhaps including Putin himself, who believe that Ukraine is truly part of Russia.
There will be no negotiated peace unless Russia recognizes Ukraine’s sovereignty and national security, backed by explicit international guarantees from the U.N. Security Council and states such as Germany, India, and Turkey.
Russia’s main demand is that NATO drop its intention to expand to Ukraine and Georgia, which would completely encircle Russia in the Black Sea (adding Ukraine and Georgia to existing Black Sea Nato members Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey).
NATO calls itself a defense alliance, but Russia sees it differently, well aware of the U.S. penchant for regime-change operations against governments it opposes (including in Ukraine in 2014, when the U.S. was involved in the overthrow of then-president Viktor Yanukovych, who was a pro-Russian).
Russia also claims Crimea, where it has stationed Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since 1783. Putin warned George Bush Jr. in 2008 that Russia would retake Crimea if the U.S. extended NATO into Ukraine. Crimea had been handed over by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to Ukraine from Russia in 1954. Until Yanukovych’s fall, the Crimean issue was prudently handled through Russian-Ukrainian agreements that gave Russia a long-term lease on its naval facilities in Sevastopol, Crimea.
Great powers must show greatness
There are fierce disagreements between Ukraine and Russia over the Donbass, with its predominantly Russian population. While Ukrainian language and cultural identity predominate in most of Ukraine, cultural identity and language in the Donbass are Russian. After the fall of Yanukovych, the Donbass became a battleground between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian paramilitaries, with the pro-Russian forces declaring the independence of the Donbass.
The 2015 Minsk II Agreement was a diplomatic agreement to end the fighting based on autonomy (self-government) for the Donbass region within Ukrainian borders and respect for Russian language and culture.
After the signing, the Ukrainian leadership made clear that it rejected the agreement and would not honor it. Although France and Germany vouched for the agreement, they did not press Ukraine to comply. From Russia’s perspective, Ukraine and the West thus rejected a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
In late 2021, Putin reiterated Russia’s demand that NATO not expand further, especially to include Ukraine. The United States refused to negotiate NATO expansion. Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg provocatively stated at the time that Russia had no say in the matter and that only Nato members would decide whether or not Russia should be encircled in the Black Sea.
In March 2022, a month after the Russian invasion, Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyy made substantial progress toward a pragmatic end to the war through negotiations based on nonenlargement of NATO, international guarantees for Ukraine’s sovereignty and security, and a subsequent peaceful resolution of the problems in Crimea and the Donbass. Turkish diplomats were the very skillful mediators.
But then Ukraine left the negotiating table, perhaps at the urging of Britain and the United States, and pursued a policy of blocking negotiations until Russia was driven out of Ukraine militarily. As a result, the conflict escalated, and Russia annexed not only the two regions of the Donbass (Luhansk and Donetsk), but also the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.
Recently, Zelenskyy further inflamed the situation by calling for cutting Ukrainian ties to Russian Orthodox institutions, thus severing religious bridges between ethnic Russians and many ethnic Ukrainians that date back a millennium.
With both the United States and Russia now cautiously approaching the negotiating table, the time has come to mediate. Possible mediators include the United Nations, Turkey, Pope Francis, China and perhaps others, in whatever mix. The contours of a successful mediation are actually clear, as is the basis for a peace settlement.
The most important point for mediation is to recognize that all parties have legitimate interests and legitimate grievances. Russia has unjustly and violently invaded Ukraine. The U.S. unlawfully conspired to overthrow Yanukovych in 2014 and subsequently heavily armed Ukraine while pushing NATO expansion to encircle Russia in the Black Sea. After Yanukovych’s fall, Ukrainian Presidents Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky refused to implement the Minsk II agreement.
Peace will come when the United States refrains from further NATO expansion toward Russia’s borders, Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine, and refrains from unilateral annexation of Ukrainian territory. Similarly, Ukraine must end its attempts to retake Crimea and accept the Minsk II framework. All parties must agree to secure Ukraine’s sovereign borders under the UN Charter, guaranteed by the UN Security Council and other nations.
The Ukraine war is an extremely dangerous war between nuclear superpowers in a world that desperately needs peace and cooperation. It is time for the U.S. and Russia, two great powers of the past and the future, to demonstrate their greatness through mutual respect, diplomacy, and joint efforts to ensure sustainable development for all-including the Ukrainian people, who are most in need of peace and reconstruction.
This article appears in cooperation with US news portal Common Dreams. The English original can be found here. Translation by David Goessmann.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is a university professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed the Earth Institute from 2002 to 2016. He is also President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development. He has served as an advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General and is currently SDG Envoy to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sachs is the author of the recent book, A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2020). His other books include: “Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable” (2017) and “The Age of Sustainable Development,” (2015) with Ban Ki-moon.