The UN Vote against the Ukraine war, 3/6/2022
by Conrad Schuhler and Joachim Bischoff
For many abstaining states in the UN vote, Russia’s belligerent incursion into Ukraine should be rejected, but the U.S. should be denied its prosecutorial status as a champion of a just and peaceful international order, and Russia should be accorded legitimate security interests on its western border.
Contours of the New World Order? The UN vote against the Ukraine war
by Conrad Schuhler
[This article published on 3/6/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.isw-muenchen.de/2022/03/konturen-der-neuen-weltordnung-die-un-abstimmung-gegen-den-ukraine-krieg/]
The vote on the U.S.-introduced UN resolution against Russia’s Ukraine war illustrated the world’s dichotomy. Of the 181 votes cast, 141 countries, led by the US, supported the resolution. Five countries-Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea-voted no, while 35 countries, including the two most powerful countries of the global South, China and India, abstained. Ten countries, including Venezuela and Morocco, stayed away from the vote.
Different motives certainly went into the abstention votes. For many, however, the deciding factor was certainly the judgment that Russia’s belligerent incursion into Ukraine should be rejected, but that the U.S. should be denied its prosecutorial status as a champion of a just and peaceful international order, and that Russia should be accorded legitimate security interests on its western border. Ultimately, the interests of competing capitalist countries, those of the Western bloc with a resurgent Russian capitalism, intersect in Ukraine. Among the abstentions are the governments of Vietnam and Cuba, of Nicaragua and El Salvador, of Congo and Zimbabwe, of Algeria and Angola, of Algeria and Iraq, and many others that have had concrete experiences with the colonialism and imperialism of the West in the recent past. Libya, maltreated and bombed by NATO, voted in favor of the U.S. request, as did Afghanistan, just left in ruins after 20 years of NATO war.
The outcome of this UN vote may reflect a rough framework of future world political conflicts. The peoples who have experience in their own struggle for liberation against the colonial powers of the West, as well as the countries fighting in the geopolitical conflict for the chance of an independent, successful development, do not allow themselves to be taken over by the thundering war propaganda of the West, but also do not accept the bellicose chauvinism of Russia. Not least the long list of African states that have abstained speaks for this political awareness of the young nations. China, with its New Silk Road a powerful factor in international conflicts, is apparently standing by as the cornerstone of this new global force. Russia, whose undemocratic, kleptocratic-capitalist system with its war of aggression has become a burden for the still little structured global force against exploitation by the West, has to end its war as soon as possible, withdraw its troops and find democratic developments at home. Even if democratic changes do not occur in Russia, Putin-Russia must immediately end its war and Russian troops must leave Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, like any war of aggression, must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. A peace conference with the substantial assistance of China and India should provide for a new peace order in the entire Eurasian region. This perspective may be long-term, but a reordering of European issues must begin today. The cooperation of the U.S. must be accepted, as well as that of China. NATO’s current push to the east must be ended. Under the neutral supervision of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), a set of peace rules for Europe, including arms and nuclear arms control issues, must be established.
Nations that abstained on the UN resolution on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine include.
Equatorial Guinea Mozambique
China Sri Lanka
El Salvador South Africa
Iraq South Sudan
Kyrgyzstan Central African Republic
by Joachim Bischoff: Historical Background and the Consequences of War
[This article published on 3/6/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,
Russia invaded Ukraine after decades of a frozen major conflict in the successor states of the Soviet Union. In much of the public, the war over Ukraine is being used as a general reckoning with the policy of peaceful coexistence during times of systemic confrontation. Putin’s large-scale attack on Ukraine explodes the post-war order in Europe.
This development has brought critics onto the scene for whom peaceful coexistence during the Cold War and the policy of détente were a thorn in the flesh: all leading politicians in the Federal Republic of Germany had encouraged a policy of appeasement with the “modernization partnership” and the arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the CIS states.
This argumentation boils down to the thesis that sharp confrontation and demarcation could have strengthened the collapse of the Soviet system and turned it into a lasting victory for the West. Instead of forcing a Western-style reordering at the time, détente politicians of all parties would have pursued the fixed idea that the West could influence Russia’s foreign policy calculations and domestic development through dialogue and economic interdependence.
In fact, the policy of détente and cooperation has not been successful in the case of Ukraine. The “Normandy format” developed by Angela Merkel and François Hollande has not been able to resolve the long-standing civil war in Ukraine since 2015. The annexation of Crimea has also been an open wound in the international legal order ever since.
Immediately before the outbreak of the Ukraine war, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borell had tried to launch the implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreement to regulate the conflict in the Donbass. Both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Selenskyy had accepted such a path, at least verbally. The civil war over the breakaway Moscow-backed “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk was to be finally resolved by resuming the Normandy format with representatives of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine.
Members of the Ukrainian government, even more so parts of the opposition, had assessed the implementation of the Minsk Agreement as destructive for the nation and torpedoed it from the beginning. They see in the Minsk document the signature of Russia, which promised itself influence on future Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy – and thus also on Kiev’s ties to the West – through the agreement and its implementation.
Specifically, the Minsk agreement was about pacifying a civil war over the breakaway “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, which had been ongoing since 2015 and had recently intensified. As a result, Russia denounces Ukraine’s failure to abide by the agreements and its eventual desire to abrogate them. Putin’s support for the separatists therefore grew, and most recently the Russian Duma demanded their recognition by a large majority. This contradiction between the de facto disregard on the part of the political class in Kiev and the growing pressure in Russia for further steps toward political and economic integration of the two entities was to be mediated or even resolved by reviving the Normandy format.
Putin had also intervened against an EU rapprochement and against the repeatedly raised demand for Ukraine’s NATO membership. Behind this conflict, he said, lurked the seeds of a military confrontation between Russia and the West because of its claim to the Crimean peninsula, which had not been extinguished. NATO, he said, was strengthening Ukraine and creating a dangerous situation. Putin again complained that Russia’s demands to the U.S. and NATO for security guarantees-including, first and foremost, an end to NATO expansion, the withdrawal of NATO troops to the 1997 borders of the alliance, and a rejection of the deployment of offensive weapons near the border-had been insufficiently answered. The massive troop buildup in Russia and Belarus was intended to lend weight to the demands, and was the precursor to the invasion of Ukraine that followed.
Disintegration of the SU and the CIS promotes abuse of power and corruption
As a result of enormous internal contradictions, the Soviet-oriented states of real socialism in Eastern Europe imploded. The end of the USSR itself was sealed on December 8, 1991, by the Belovezhye Agreement establishing the “Commonwealth of Independent States”(CIS), signed by the then heads of state of Russia (Boris Yeltsin), Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk) and Belarus (Stanislav Shushkevich). The highly explosive legacy included highly armed armies and multi-ethnic states that were the result of the Communist Party’s nation-building policy that had existed for more than 70 years.
For 70 years, the Soviet Union had postulated “friendship of nations” and equality of nations. In reality, there were occupations, numerous deportations of entire peoples and the suppression of national independence movements. The desired “Soviet” identity, which was ostensibly supranational, was exposed as an illusion in the collapse.
The continuation of the cooperation policy by the West accompanied the dissolution of the military arsenal – including nuclear weapons – and at the same time opened the space for a transformation of the planned economy into market-based capitalist systems. When Putin took over the political leadership in Russia in 1999 after considerable turmoil under the Yeltsin regime, there was little doubt that this transformation had failed in all the successor states to the Soviet republics except the Baltic states.
Everywhere, representatives of the old Soviet elites moved to the top of the former Soviet republics: former party secretaries, ministers, army and intelligence service generals. Business leaders were also recruited from the old leadership strata. Within a short time, a new kind of interconnection between politics and business emerged: the elites hijacked and privatized the structures of the economy. The mechanisms by which money can be converted into power and vice versa formed a neo-feudalistic system. The lower levels paid with loyalty and received protection and sinecures. Corruption and abuse of power are still part of everyday life.
The new businessmen exploited the gray areas and black spots of a transformation economy; they were a constantly bubbling source of corruption in countries where, in many places, state structures no longer functioned or functioned only as “profit centers. In the 1990s, the privatization program “loans against shares” laid the foundation for many an immense fortune. Under this scheme, businessmen who extended credit to the state were given the right to buy state assets. The auctions were non-transparent and dominated by political dealings. Putin cleaned up the “wild growth” in Russia and stabilized the system.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western politics and the media have focused on the resulting “oligarchs” in imposing harsh sanctions. The sanctions lists are also an inventory of a feudalistic economic and power structure. Russian oligarchs and elites, who support the economic system of “crony capitalism” and derive their wealth from corruption, should no longer be excluded from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities (see also my article “The Ukraine War and the Oligarchy”).
Oligarchs are not an exclusively Russian phenomenon; they also shape Ukraine’s economy. As long as property rights are not secured, the rule of law is deficient, and both investing in and selling a business is often difficult, powerful businessmen are part of the problems of a transition economy.
The consequences of war on the ground …
The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposes the fragility of the previous security order on the continent, and forces new solutions. It is still unclear what the new post-war order will look like. Unlike the disintegration of the communist Eastern bloc, it is by no means clear at present where the road might lead. The hope for a quick end to this madness is based less on the actions of politicians offering mediation. Putin and his entourage will be forced to retreat when the regime’s inner workings are manifestly threatened by protest or continued overburdening of economic performance.
With the eruption of nation-state conflicts frozen for decades and their instrumentalization by military alliances, we are again faced with the threat of a major war: After more than a quarter of a century, we must confront a dangerous paradox. As a subject of international law, the USSR together with its elites has indeed disappeared, but as a legacy there are structures that have little in common with democracy and the right to self-determination, with freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, as they could be fought for even in capitalist societies.
The return of a major war in Europe, with massive destruction of social structures, many dead and injured and, not least, a large movement of refugees, has disturbed large sections of the population and – as evidenced by aid campaigns and peace demonstrations – mobilized them. The Ukraine war is already one of the darkest days in our recent history. The attack that was warned about nevertheless came as a surprise. But the poison of hostility had long been ripening.
Many say that President Putin alone is responsible for this war and speak exclusively of “Putin’s war.” These analyses of the insanity of Russia’s bellicose policy remain wan and superficial. Putin alone is blamed not only for the direct suffering of populations and the destructive consequences of war, but also for a geopolitical and economic setback.
Western sanctions target the kleptocratic structures of this “crony capitalism,” and at the same time severely affect not only the elite but also the Russian population. Financial institutions close to the regime are excluded from international payment transactions, the central bank loses access to about half of its reserves, and major Western investors abandon their commitments. The consequences of Putin’s campaign are being felt by the population at large, especially in the form of rapid currency devaluation.
However, the sanctions do not create new structures. In contrast to an order based on property rights and the rule of law – on which free markets are based – “crony capitalism” means a massive distortion of the mechanisms of exchange and the laws of appropriation of bourgeois society. Its fabric is gradually being replaced by “political markets.”
An enormous challenge is emerging for Ukraine, which cannot be met by the population alone. In view of the continuing destruction of productive potential and infrastructure, the demand for a cease-fire and the management of the large movement of refugees are at the heart of a peace policy. However, one should also be aware that Ukraine was one of the weakest economies in Europe and in the former Soviet space even before the Russian invasion.
As a result of the transformation process and the long civil war, Ukraine is now only a shadow of its former self. The long-term record is clear. If the World Bank’s 2017 figures for GDP per capita in purchasing power parity and in dollars are anything to go by, its economic history since the end of the Soviet Union has been one of descent into hell.
Post-Maidan governments have made little progress on the most important priority, fighting corruption. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirms this; it highlights how in this area, as in the functioning of the judiciary, the gap with Poland (which is anything but exemplary in this area) has steadily widened between 2013 and 2018, while Ukraine has liberalized the “labor market” even further.
The IMF study points out that the rule of law issue is central to Ukraine’s future development. Without it, a new economic start is not possible, and the solution to this problem would have to take place even under the dramatic destruction. As early as 2019, the IMF identified three main reasons why international investors avoid the country: Corruption, the legal system and the “capture of the state by the oligarchy.”
… and in the Berlin Republic
Putin’s major attack on Ukraine is burying the postwar order in Europe. At the same time, a new narrative is becoming hopeful in the political establishment of the Berlin Republic, according to which the bankruptcy of 25 years of Berlin’s East-policy is also evident. All parties, all leading politicians in the Federal Republic have misjudged the dictator Putin since he took office in 1999. Even the former chancellor has held on to cooperation with Putin’s Russia despite Russian military interventions in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine.
After all, he said, the German traffic light government had made a radical turnaround with Chancellor Scholz’s government declaration and disposed of the ideological ballast from the old Russia policy. The mantra repeated until the invasion, according to which “security can only be achieved with and not against Russia,” had had its day. The warlike events would make brutally clear that the Kremlin was not primarily a partner in dialogue, but a danger. The long-prevailing naiveté toward Putin’s system should not only be seen as an individual mistake, but rather as a systematic failure of the political class.
All political forces were responsible for the new policy on the East and peace based on the Putin and Russian friendship of the SPD and CDU/CSU, because during 23 years of Putin’s rule, the Social Democrats were in government for 19 years, the CDU/CSU for 16 years, 12 of them even together. They therefore bore the main responsibility for the fiasco of Germany’s East-policy.
The new cross-party course is therefore correct and without alternative: rearming the Bundeswehr by setting up a special fund worth 100 billion euros, strengthening NATO, German arms deliveries to Ukraine. How the special fund, which the Chancellor wants to anchor in the Basic Law so that it cannot be cashed in by a future government, is to be financed in concrete terms remains unclear. The FDP has ruled out tax increases in principle for this legislature. For this to be enshrined in the Basic Law, the CDU/CSU must also agree, which it has already signaled but tied to conditions yet to be negotiated.
Massive rearmament is as little a continuing response in this upheaval of Europe’s political-social order as the retrospective condemnation of peace and cooperation policies. There has been little protest against this massive change of course by the SPD leadership and the traffic light coalition. The SPD leftists have been caught ice-cold by the political will of the party leadership to rearm. They want to stick to the peace and détente policy. The next few weeks must show whether a large majority of the party will support this paradigm shift in foreign and security policy.
The Left Party has been considerably unsettled and politically paralyzed by the Russian aggression. Compared with this uncertainty throughout the left spectrum, the question of further developments with Russia and Ukraine after the war recedes completely into the background. One can argue about the best ways to support Ukraine after the war. How to deal with Russia, whether as a result of a cease-fire or as a result of a burgeoning resistance to Putin, will also raise questions for the political establishment.