NATO intervention seems unlikely so far, after U.S. President Biden ruled out direct military intervention even in the run-up to the war…Nevertheless, a further escalation of the war cannot be ruled out. At present, the powerless left has only the option of fighting for peace and of educational work: of emphasizing the survival necessity of a post-capitalist system transformation… (TKonicz)
Negotiated solution – No alternative!
by Wolfgang Herzberg
[This article posted on 1/5/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.ossietzky.net/artikel/verhandlungsloesung-alternativlos/.]
As a descendant of Jewish-German survivors and a political author of many years’ standing, whose family members lost their lives in the genocide of the Nazi regime or were scattered all over the world, but whose parents also – after the Second World War – returned to Berlin out of a deep sense of political responsibility, Wolfgang Herzberg is one of the most important authors of his time. World War II, out of deeply felt political responsibility, returned to Berlin to help build an anti-fascist and peaceful Germany, I ask myself, against the background of these existential family experiences, the following fundamental questions about the war over Ukraine, which I would also like to address to the public and all those politically responsible:
Can the enormous military, economic and financial means that have so far been brought to bear by NATO to end the Russian campaign in Ukraine actually bring about a “values-based foreign policy” (Baerbock) and thus an end to this most dangerous war on European soil since 1945? Or will it achieve exactly the opposite? Does it really defend “our European peace order,” “international law,” the “free democratic order of values,” or are these noble goals not rather destroyed and reduced to absurdity by a wrong choice of means?
For what we hear every hour in the form of extraordinarily disturbing news from the media and from leading politicians on all sides speaks a steadily increasing, dangerous language of war and leads to the ever further escalation of this terrible conflict. Could it be, not only I ask myself, that this logic of war is also based on the continuation of a wrong, because precisely not “value-based policy” of the West, but means the failure of this policy all along the line? Does anyone really believe that more and more state-of-the-art weapons, no matter how tough sanctions and huge financial injections could produce peace? Current developments, most recently the Russian partial mobilization, the accession of eastern Ukraine to Russia, the attack on the pipelines, show abundantly clearly that this is precisely not the case. I firmly believe that only a policy of diplomatic negotiated solutions can lead to peace. This is the intuitive view of many people I have spoken to in recent months. But so far, these warning voices have hardly penetrated a broad political public. Such discourse, at eye level, is not wanted and is pushed to the sidelines. This is a dangerous ostrich policy.
On the other hand, we are drifting into an ever faster spiral of war. A negotiated solution capable of compromise, which in my view is the only alternative, seems to be unwanted, especially by NATO and the Ukrainian rulers. They rather count on a capitulation of Russia, on an illusory victory peace against Russia, which has been allied with China for a long time, a Russia which once could not be brought to its knees and defeated neither by the Swedes or the Huns, by Napoleon, by World War I, nor by the wars of intervention, let alone by World War II. Russia and China together represent the largest, industrially and militarily highly developed and most populous territorial countries on earth. For the time being, I am merely stating these geopolitical connections on a factual basis, irrespective of who really caused the escalation of this global conflict. For the answer is by no means as simple as the “West” would have us believe.
Could it be that the warring party of the West is again betting on the completely wrong military card, after the recent failure in the Afghanistan war? Are these the right lessons to learn from this grandiose disaster, where supposedly the enforcement of human rights was also at stake? Where even hundreds of modernly equipped army contingents from all over the world fought for two decades with heavy losses, only to be defeated in the end by the much weaker Taliban free fighters?
I therefore ask urgently: What kind of “values-based policy” is this that accepts thousands upon thousands of deaths on all sides? On what “values” is a policy based, in the execution of which more and more war destruction is being wrought – in areas that are supposed to be liberated from it? What kind of “value-based policy” is this, which creates more and more misery for refugees and streams of refugees on all sides, and thus also drives many votes to nationalists and racists worldwide? What kind of “value-based policy” is this, through which a global energy crisis and world hunger crisis is in reality getting worse and worse, the catastrophic consequences of which are also to be “cushioned” in the West with a hectically reacting, social symbol policy after the fact by billions of new debts? On what “values” is a policy based, as a result of which global supply chains collapse and inflation rates for all living costs explode?
Does anyone seriously believe that more and more people in the West are not asking such probing questions as well, when this supposedly “values-based” policy is making them worse and worse off every day and eroding their hard-earned living conditions?
No, this supposedly “value-based policy” is not a goal-oriented peace strategy at all. It is the opposite of it. It is therefore doomed to fail again in Ukraine and worldwide, indeed, it even carries the danger of a 3rd world war, of unprecedented nuclear proportions.
I therefore ask: What is the basis for the misjudgements of this global conflict, especially also by the Western world, with the rulers in the USA at the top? Or does anyone seriously believe that only the rulers in Russia and China have to ask themselves these questions?
Hadn’t the policy of détente of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr, the “New Ostpolitik”, which finally focused on “change through rapprochement”, once helpfully begun to dismantle the walls of the “Cold War” step by step through tough negotiations, through the CSCE process, through disarmament agreements, finally through the treaties between the two German states? That was a “value-based”, a successful policy of détente and peace, which finally also led to the end of the German division and seemed to end the bloc confrontation after World War II. Wasn’t the life’s work of the late Michael Gorbachev recently praised hypocritically, according to whose foreign policy vision a “Common House of Europe” was to be created with fewer and fewer weapons?
Could it be that the Nato eastward expansions, which took place contrary to the promises of the West to Gorbachev, as well as the gradual Nato armament of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, symbolized the actual “turn of the times”, which was reintroduced in 1990 against the successful peace and détente policy by the USA, as a continuation of the methods of the “Cold War”? Could it be that the alleged “values- and human rights-based foreign policy” of the West, led by the USA, after 1990, starting with the Yugoslav war and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, actually represented a continuation of the peace-endangering armament and confrontation policy after 1945 – the attempt to impose an interest-led, Western foreign policy and a regime-change policy in order to finally install an alleged “democratic capitalism” worldwide? Was this the right response to Gorbachev’s accommodating foreign policy? It was apparently intended thereafter to finally create a Western world order in which capitalist globalization, “economic liberalism” and NATO’s global military strategy were given absolute priority over welfare-state influence through independent national politics. Is this not a neo-colonial understanding of values and society, in which economic growth and profit maximization primarily for wealthy minorities, is ascribed hegemonic priority and the repression of social, national and ethnic polarization and exploitation has become secondary?
Do the political leaders really believe that such an anachronistic, neo-colonial and imperial understanding of politics, which has been based on countless genocides, ethnic cleansing and enslavement for many centuries, is also compatible with a Christian worldview and could, for instance, be the model for a diverse and multipolar world of tomorrow? In view of the fact that over 80 percent of humanity does not live in the Western industrialized countries? It would be a world increasingly determined by social dislocation, ecological crises, exploitation and lack of democracy.
Is it not clear to the political leaders of the West that if they continue this violent foreign and domestic policy, they are in the process of destroying the value-based UN Charter created after 1945 as well as the entire post-war order of the United Nations, which had finally drawn the right conclusions in international law from the murderous basic experiences of World War I and World War II, with the express aim of securing world peace and international cooperation?
Is it not clear to them that from the letter and spirit of the peace and values order of the UN Charter and UN resolutions no claim to leadership of the USA and the Western world or of any nation, not even Russia or China, can be derived when it says in the preamble:
“We, the peoples of the United Nations – determined to save future generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold suffering to mankind.”
And further, Art.2 (1) therefore expressly states against any claim to leadership whatsoever:
“The Organization is founded on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.”
And in Art.13 (b), a values-based peace, security and cooperation policy is defined as follows:
“…to promote international cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, educational and health fields and to contribute to the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” I ask again: could Western wars after 1990 really enforce these UN values worldwide, or did they not thereby finally sink into apocalyptic chaos?
The political leaders of the Western world and the entire world public can now no longer avoid the burning question of the present and the future: Does not the unilateral NATO partisanship and war support for the Ukrainian rulers in reality violate the existential vital interests of the people both in the West and in Russia and Ukraine, and thus the “principle of sovereign equality of all its members”? Humanity, as before World War 1 and World War 2, is again at a crossroads in its history, and once again Walter Benjamin’s sentence acquires an oppressive topicality: “That it goes on like this is the catastrophe!”
I ask, moreover, whether it is compatible with the substantive terms of NATO’s treaty, as a “defense alliance,” that it has been instrumental as a belligerent for non-NATO member Ukraine both in bringing the current Ukrainian government to power and in its waging of the war today. Where is the call for an international court of justice that could independently judge this NATO strategy in legal terms? After all, the Ukrainian regime obviously rejected a federal solution with Russia, which had a centuries-long, albeit contradictory, economic, interethnic, intercultural, and interreligious history intimately connected with Ukraine.
At the same time, I wonder whether this violent foreign policy is compatible with the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, if not even unconstitutional, because Chancellor Scholz swore to the German voters and to no other people when he took office that he wanted to “avert harm from the German people.” Wouldn’t a legal clarification of this breach of oath before the Federal Constitutional Court be imperative here?
And lastly, I wonder whether a German government, whose predecessors killed millions and millions of people in the 1st and 2nd world wars, should be allowed to continue its work. World War millions and millions of dead Russians and Ukrainians as well as death and destruction with many other peoples with to answer for had, not least the genocide at the European Jews, to which also parts of my family belonged, that this today’s traffic light government has not just therefore the damned duty and guilt, to stand up for a negotiated and compromise solution without any alternative, instead of continuing to pour oil on the fire of this most dangerous global conflict since 1945, just in order to distinguish itself as a loyal vassal of the United States and the Western alliance in a misconceived show of solidarity.
Especially in Germany, the politically responsible people should decisively contribute to the fact that the peace-political and anti-fascist basic values of the United Nations, probably the most valuable diplomatic heritage of mankind since the end of the 1st and 2nd World War, which is in accordance with the oath of Buchenwald: “Never again fascism – never again war!”, will not be destroyed again by the wrong means of a mutual war policy.
I say all this at the same time in the full awareness that our Earth is known to be a unique planet. That in the infinite vastness of the universe we have found so far nothing comparable in wonderful nature, in creative, highly developed life in the universe. And I ask myself again and again, how responsibly do I myself, do we deal with our present world? What kind of irrational, anti-democratic, authoritarian master-man ideology would it be, if allegedly only the western world held the basic recipe for a humane future of the whole earth in its hands, in order to enforce it then also with warlike means? How can it be that in such an infinitely diverse world there should only be a warlike way out of the endangerment of our entire creation and not a peaceful and federal coexistence of many opinions and different social systems, which could fertilize, transform and approach each other in the future, just as the UN Charter prescribes?
Therefore my unmistakable message is once again: Only by an alternative-less negotiated solution, in the here and now, there can be a peace way to common security and cooperation in this crisis-ridden world in the future, a global war around Ukraine and also elsewhere can still be averted!
The author has just published: Jewish & Left. Memories 1921-2021. on the cultural heritage of the GDR, Berlin 2022, 500 p., 24 €.
Attack on Ukraine: Struggle for World Order
The rupture in German-Russian relations and the return of war as a continuation of imperialist geopolitics in Europe
by Tomasz Konicz
[This article posted on 2/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, EXIT! Krise und Kritik der Warengesellschaft.]
Shock and awe – this is the denominator of the massive Russian attack on Ukraine, in which dozens of targets have been shelled in a very short period of time in order to paralyze Ukrainian forces and prevent coordinated resistance to the Russian army’s advance in the east of the country (so far, Russian ground forces have been active only east of the Dnieper River). The large-scale nationwide assault, in which Ukraine’s command structures, depots, and air force were attacked and partially destroyed, is similar to the U.S. approach in the last Iraq war, when the U.S. Air Force also relied on an overwhelming assault against the military infrastructure of the ailing Iraqi regime.
The start of the war over Ukraine should teach the U.S. and the EU a lesson. By emulating the U.S. attack on Iraq, the Kremlin wants to prove that Russia is militarily on the very imperialist par with the West that Washington, Berlin and Brussels want to deny Moscow geopolitically. The imperial Russian sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space, which the economically declining Moscow no longer wanted to be granted – it is now literally being bombed back by the nuclear power Russia, while the West has to watch impotently, if it does not want to risk a nuclear doomsday. The Kremlin thus makes it clear that it will defend to the utmost its imperial position as a great power1 that wants to dispose of its “spheres of influence” just like the USA and Germany.
Germany and Russia: close economic relations
The political and economic fallout from the war will be massive, especially for Berlin, as the Federal Republic continues to maintain close economic relations with Russia – although these have passed their zenith after the pro-Western overthrow in Kiev in 2014, including the subsequent Ukrainian civil war. The German-Russian trade balance peaked at a volume of 80 billion euros in 2012, only to fall to 48 billion euros in 2016 in the wake of the sanctions. Last year saw a slight recovery to just under 60 billion. Germany mainly exports high-tech products such as machinery and cars, while Russia exports raw materials and in particular fossil fuels with a slight trade surplus. Around 55 percent of the natural gas imported into Germany comes from Russian deposits. Germany is still Russia’s most important European trading partner – globally, the FRG was overtaken by China as a trading partner only a few years ago.
A major setback for Berlin’s energy policy ambitions is the cancellation of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the commissioning of which would have made the Federal Republic a central European energy hub. Instead, Germany’s consumers and industry must prepare for rapidly rising energy prices. According to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, they are likely to reach $2,000 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas soon. This economic fallout, which is now imminent, may have been the most important reason for Berlin’s hesitant attitude toward Moscow. In Washington, in the U.S. press, Berlin’s refusal to supply weapons to Ukraine or to abandon the pipeline project in the North Sea was sharply criticized for weeks.
Now that even the Tagesschau considers the course of German Russia policy, characterized by “dialogue,” to have “failed,” a fundamental reorientation of Berlin is likely to take place. Thus, for the time being, Berlin’s strategy of a mainly economic penetration of the post-Soviet space has failed because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ultimately because of Moscow’s military means. German think tanks like to substantiate this German path to geopolitical power deployment with the term geoeconomics as a complex strategy in which “trade, technology, finance, or energy policies are instrumentalized as means to achieve strategic goals. “2 Greece had to experience how such a geoeconomic conflict is played out in the course of the debt crisis in the summer of 2015, when the country, maltreated by then German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, was driven to the brink of economic collapse.3
German Geopolitics and Inner-Western Differences
But there is actually no single German policy on Russia; it has always been an expression of the shifting power constellation between Western-oriented forces within the German functional elites (often derided as Atlanticists) and the forces teased as “Putinversteher,” who advocated a Eurasian orientation toward Russia, China, and so on.
There is no complete overlap between the political spectrum and the respective geopolitical preference, as Eurasians and Atlantists can be found in varying proportions in almost all Bundestag parties – even if the SPD, the Left Party and, above all, the AfD have a particularly high proportion of “Putinverstehern”. Atlantists, on the other hand, are mainly to be found among the Greens. It is simply a question of the geopolitical orientation of the FRG as the dominant European superpower, within the framework of which its own global ambitions are to be realized: for example, the expansion of the German sphere of influence in eastern and southeastern Europe, which in the course of EU enlargement has long since been transformed into the extended workbench of the German export industry.
Against the background of this loose and changing faction formation within German functional elites, a double strategy emerged vis-à-vis Russia, which the German geostrategist Wolfgang Ischinger described as “congagement,” a neologism made up of the English words for containment and engagement. Economic cooperation, in which Russia in fact assumes the peripheral position of a supplier of energy and raw materials, was accompanied, with varying emphases, by German efforts to minimize Russia’s geopolitical influence in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space. The phase of tumultuous economic and political expansion in the 1990s-when Berlin supported the breakup of Czechoslovakia, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the eastward expansion of the EU and NATO-was followed by the phase of cooperation with Putin’s rise to power, which ended only in 2014 with the crisis in Ukraine.
In the wake of the pro-Western upheaval in Kiev, however, it also became clear that Berlin operates as an independent geopolitical actor and does not allow Washington to dictate its policy. In 2013, there was still agreement on the effort to remove Ukraine from the planned Russian economic union. At the time, Germany, through the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, built up the Klitschko party UDAR, which was aiming for a change of power through new elections and quickly came into conflict with more radical, U.S.-sponsored forces during the fighting around the Maidan. U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland’s famous “Fuck the EU,” published as a recording of a telephone conversation at the height of the crisis, reflects precisely these intra-Western differences, which also explain Germany’s current reticence.
Oceania vs. Eurasia
Washington has since sought to drive a wedge between Berlin and Moscow through additional escalation to prevent the formation of a grand Eurasian alliance, while Berlin has sought rather to embrace Moscow to death and turn it into a periphery as part of a strategy of change through economic rapprochement. The declining empire in Washington sees China, together with a Eurasian alliance (keyword: New Silk Road), as the central threat to its eroding hegemony. The U.S. intervention in Kiev is therefore aimed at consolidating its own “oceanic” alliance, which extends as far as possible across the Atlantic and the Pacific and is ultimately directed against China.
Oceania vs. Eurasia – this is the denominator of the current global hegemonic struggle, with the imperialist camps striving to expand the borders of their spheres of influence. The U.S., for example, is trying to re-establish a firm foothold in its sphere of influence over the German-dominated EU, which has increasingly sought to act as an independent actor since the Trump era.
The increasing autonomy of action of the late capitalist states also comes to bear in the Eastern European countries, which are economically dependent on the Federal Republic but at the same time tended to pact with the U.S. (especially Poland and the Baltic countries) when it came to torpedoing further rapprochement between Berlin and Moscow. The old Central Eastern European fear of a renewed division of the region between Berlin and Moscow, revived by the Nord Stream pipeline, provided the U.S. with a good lever of power in the economic “backyard” of the FRG to push this agenda.
Ultimately, the increasing military confrontations in the semiperiphery of the world system, including Turkey’s imperial ambitions, are precisely due to U.S. imperial descent. Washington can no longer sustain the claim it made in the 1990s to be the “world’s policeman,” largely monopolizing the use of military means globally in bloody world order wars. Regional powers are pushing into the emerging power vacuum to enforce their imperialist ambitions by military means if necessary.
Shaky world order and crisis of capital
This is, in a nutshell, the much-touted “multipolar world order” in the socio-ecological crisis of capital. The decline of the U.S. has in fact resulted in the emergence of several small “offspring U.S.A.” that want to project the crisis-related increasing social (and, in perspective, ecological) distortions outward by military means: from Turkey’s war adventures in Syria, the South Caucasus and Libya, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the eventual showdown between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan.
The economic crisis, much like the 1930s, is breathing down the necks of shattered state apparatuses. The need to pass on the consequences of the crisis to others is growing steadily. In the course of its economic expansion, the Federal Republic literally managed to export the consequences of the crisis, such as debt or unemployment, by means of high trade surpluses – at the expense of the deficits of the importing countries of the German export offensives. The eurozone sovereign debt crisis of the last decade is a case in point.
In this context, it is not least the mercilessly over-indebted United States that is de facto forced to fight for the hegemonic position, since it must hold the dollar as the world currency. Without the greenback as the measure of value of all commodity things, which Washington until recently could print at will to finance the extreme U.S. budget deficit, the U.S. would degenerate into a gigantic, nuclear-armed debt state. The U.S. functional elites have therefore long since developed a similar paranoia of Russian influence due to the social disruption at home as exists in the Kremlin regarding Western-funded “colorful revolutions.”
But in the end it is precisely the socio-ecological world crisis of capital, concretely in the form of increasing inflation, which obstructs Washington itself this option of “deficit spending” with which the internal contradictions could be whitewashed.
Danger of a large-scale war
War as a means of politics will thus gain in attractiveness for the late capitalist functional elites. It forms a catalyst of the economic and, in perspective, also of the ecological crisis process: The resulting social upheavals find in it a violent medium of external discharge, which ultimately executes the self-destructive tendency of capital – up to the threat of a major nuclear war. In the case of Ukraine, one can still hope that the nuclear power plants in the country constitute the only nuclear danger: NATO intervention seems unlikely so far, after U.S. President Biden ruled out direct military intervention even in the run-up to the war.
Nevertheless, a further escalation of the war cannot be ruled out. At present, the powerless left has only the option of fighting for peace and of educational work: of emphasizing the survival necessity of a post-capitalist system transformation in order to prevent the barbaric collapse by means of a repeated large-scale war.