By Reiner Braun
Nothing is harder and
nothing requires more character,
than to be in open opposition
to its time and to say
to say loudly: No.
I put this quote from Kurt Tucholski at the beginning of my remarks because it is also about countering the narrative of mainstream politics and media reporting with clarification and facts.
We are witnessing a massive relocation of troops and war material to the border between Ukraine and Russia as well as to the internal conflict line between Ukraine and the regions of Donbass and Lugansk that have declared themselves independent. The warlike clashes, the mutual shelling on the border between Ukraine and the People’s Republics have massively increased – with victims also among the civilian population and a renewed destruction of civilian infrastructure.
The government of Ukraine, contrary to all ceasefire and withdrawal agreements, has increased its troops in the crisis region to 90,000 (the opposite side has at most 30,000 people under arms),moved heavy artillery, rocket launchers and drones, as well as over 100 tanks to the region. (Data according to OEZE documents). In particular, the deployment of troops on the border with Belarus was expanded. Several thousand right-wing radical and fascist “fighters” are ready for action “at the front”.
The Ukrainian army has been massively modernized, especially with US but also NATO support, between 30%and 40% of Ukraine’s budget is spent on armaments. Up to 2000 US soldiers will be temporarily stationed in Ukraine in 2021 – a permanent stationing is forbidden by the Ukrainian constitution – flown in via Ramstein Air Base. Warships are moved to the Black Sea The signs point to a military offensive. The offensive plans are confirmed by the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Russian Khomchak.
At the same time, “Defender 21”, NATO’s largest military manoeuvre in Europe, will begin in 2021 with about 30000 female soldiers in South-East Europe and the Black Sea region (including Romania/Bulgaria and the Sea of Azov). In the manoeuvre in Poland and the Black Sea region, in many cases close to the Ukraine/Russia border, the “defines against an attack from the East” is the central challenge – according to official NATO propaganda. Germany is once again the hub for troop transports and is involved with 430 of its own female soldiers. Defender 21 is NATO’s largest manoeuvre, but by no means its only one. Other manoeuvres include Steadfast Cobalt, Ramstein Apex, Ramstein Ambition, Steadfast Defender, Noble Bonus, Steadfast Jupiter, and Steadfast Leda, reports “telepolis”. That these manoeuvres are Russia-versus-Russia is obvious.
Russia responds to the deployment, which is perceived as a threat, by moving 4000 troops to its border with the West
NATO military structures in Eastern and Central Europe are being massively expanded. After the Polish-US agreement on enhanced cooperation, 11 locations in Poland alone, including 7 air bases, were massively expanded and modernized (including Lask, Podwitz, Mieroslawiec, Deblin). The so-called missile defense shield of the USA/NATO in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria is operational and the defence systems can be quickly “reversed” to deployment systems for conventional and nuclear missiles. Then they are first-strike weapons to eliminate the “second-strike” capabilities of the adversary.
The NATO-Ukraine partnership is growing closer, NATO officers are training the Ukrainian army, new U.S. weapons (especially drones and missile launchers) are being procured. Ukraine’s president declares his country’s NATO accession the only way to resolve the simmering conflict in the Donbass. Stoltenberg made a demonstrative visit to Kiev and encourages the government to continue its provocative course. U.S. Defence Secretary Austen declared his support and underscored guarantees to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The deployment of NATO troops in Ukraine has been repeatedly described by Russia as crossing a “red line.” Backlash is more than likely. Nevertheless, Ukraine wants to become a member of NATO as soon as possible, although this is not possible under NATO’s statute, regardless of the geostrategic consequences and distortions.
This does not allow membership of a country with internal armed conflicts.
Ukraine plans to build two new military bases, one on the Black Sea and the other on the Sea of Azov, the waterway that separates Ukraine and Russia.
Ukraine and the Donbass and Lugansk People’s Republics have ordered mobilization for military service.
The goal of Ukrainian government policy is to internationalize the conflict and, in particular, to involve NATO even more actively in it. The dangers for European politics and security are obvious.
Russia, for its part, is significantly expanding its troop concentration on its border! For geostrategic reasons it is at least understandable in view of NATO’s policy of eastward expansion contrary to the agreement, including the attempted termination of the use of the port of Sevastopol.
Why this new massive escalation?
Central point: for domestic political reasons, the Ukrainian government still politically rejects the Minsk Agreement and relies on a military solution to the conflict. The prosecution of a parliamentary debate, the statements of many government representatives, and the media coverage and practical actions of the Ukrainian military make this clear on an almost daily basis. The Ukrainian government no longer wants to go to Minsk for talks under the agreement, citing “hostile rhetoric by Belarus” toward Ukraine. It persistently refuses, in accordance with the Steinmeier formula, to even consider, let alone politically address, the steps in the agreed sequence (autonomy regulation, regional autonomy enshrined in a new constitution, internationally supervised elections) and then regulation of border controls between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is being encouraged by the West, especially the United States and the German government, to act in a way that negates the Minsk Agreement, despite its verbal commitment to the agreement, contrary to the letter and spirit of the Minsk Agreement, which the West verbally supports.
The telephone conversation between U.S. President Biden and the Ukrainian President on 2.04.2021, the statements of the U.S. Department of State and Defence but on the statements of Foreign Minister Maas, among others, in the interview in the Tagesschau on 1.04.2021 have been taken there as reinforcement and approval of the aggressive course. ”Solidarity for confrontation and war – a clear no.
EU- Europe follows almost unconditionally the confrontational policy of the USA and NATO. There is no sign of active support, especially from Germany and France, for the jointly developed goals of Minsk 2; instead, there is a campaign-like, almost primitive condemnation of Russia. It should not be forgotten that the U.S. is not part of the Minsk 2 agreement and is probably still holds the “fuck the EU” position. You can also call it intra-imperial friction.
It is downright insane when NATO and also the German government keep talking about Russia’s plans to attack the West. The military expenditure alone shows the insanity of such a claim. NATO is spending 1, 1 Trillion dollars for confrontation and wars, Russia about 65 billion dollars.
Russia fears that Ukraine’s and NATO’s behaviour will lead to civil war in Ukraine. The fear is formulated by Russian military and politicians that a situation like 1999 in Srebrenica can arise (PK Kosak on 31.03). Women and men do not have to share this position, but it shows thought structures and assessments, which are certainly to be taken very seriously. At a press conference on 41.3.2021 the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration Dmitry Kozak stated that Russia would protect the Donbass inhabitants in case of emergency.
It should also not be forgotten that the interests of the two “people’s republics, which are also quite different and Russia’s policy, strategically and tactically do not fully coincide.
The reasons for the bellicose behaviour of NATO and especially of the USA appear to be:
- The extremely strong influence of right-wing radical and fascist forces on the government in Ukraine. The West is giving in to these more and more for domestic political reasons and is completely abandoning more realistic political positions, which were not really peaceful either, in favour of preparing for war. Peace on the basis of Minsk 2 is not on the agenda of Ukraine’s political elites, neither the government nor the opposition, which is trying to drive President Zelenskyy before it with even more aggressive rhetoric.
- Ukraine as a state is bankrupt and broke, impoverished and plundered, totally dependent on Western financiers and related sell-off of the country. The West and the IMF and World Bank donors are demanding further neoliberal reforms that continue to impose massive social burdens on the population and destroy agriculture. War as a system stabilization of a bankrupt system is not historically new. A small minority of oligarchs have enriched themselves without restraint. The domestic deep crisis, the social catastrophe leads – as historically often – to foreign policy aggressive, from the crisis distracting behaviour. The people are supposed to lurch nationalistically into war and not revolt against their own social impoverishment and send the entire elites to the moon. That is why the daily suppression of the small opposition against the policy.
- The NATO confrontation and defamation policy against Russia can be continued with this useful example of Ukraine. Since 2014, the West and the Ukrainian elites have been lying through their teeth, supporting coups, fascist structures and undemocratic changes. An image of Russia as an enemy has been built up, which can be used and expanded in order to secure one’s own interests, gains and positions of power. Ukraine as a multicultural society, as a pluralistic state as a bridge between East and West was deliberately destroyed in favour of integration into NATO and EU structures. The country was plundered, the already low level of democracy was destroyed and corruption grew to gigantic proportions. All this can only be maintained if there is an “external enemy” to which all aggressive rhetoric can be directed.
- It remains what Brzezinski and Kissinger wrote about again and again: whoever wants to weaken Russia decisively must actively pursue and achieve a detachment and enmity, of the always politically and spiritually divided country Ukraine from Russia. Here the weakening of Russia and its encirclement can be decisively advanced. The repeated – against the statute of NATO – and by the US heavily supported admission of Ukraine into NATO strengthens the confrontation policy, the aggravation of the situation in Europe and hinders a civilian, diplomatic solution of the conflict.
- Economic/geostrategic interest: Ukraine is still a central area for the transit of Russian gas and oil for distribution throughout Western Europe.
With necessary critical positioning also being the policy of Russia, which remains part of the logic of military and political deterrence and reaction policy, see their Crimea policy, the militaristic reaction to Western provocations, the often contradictory and dubious support of the movements in Donbass and Lugansk: even so, the responsibility for the current situation lies with NATO, especially the U.S., but also the German government. NATO policy is a policy of confrontation, which, by supporting the aggressive circles in Ukraine, at least approves of warlike confrontation.
The dynamics of the conflict are clearly and rapidly driving towards war (by which I do not mean that there is now peace in the region). Whether this will remain a regional skirmish (which will certainly also be extremely bloody and full of victims) is quite unlikely in view of NATO’s confrontation policy and Russia’s probable reactions. War is looming in Europe!
What is necessary now:
The peace movement is called upon: to educate and to actively intervene with actions for peace, disarmament in the region, for dialogue and a political solution.
A European peace order, which of course includes Russia, on the basis of the policy of common security, is the alternative to war and confrontation.
As a first step, there should be a “back to diplomacy.” What would be necessary, in view of the threat of escalation, would be for the German government to step up its diplomatic efforts for a rapid de-escalation and to counteract a further escalation in the relationship between NATO and Russia. Germany must not be allowed to become even more of a central NATO deployment area (Büchel, Ramstein, Ulm) for the development of a threat against Russia.
A return (or better, move forward) to the policy of “common security” is urgently needed.
In this context, the role of the OSCE must also be strengthened.
Reiner Braun is the Executive Director of the International Peace Bureau (IPB)