Interests, values and the Ukraine war
Author: Dr. Wolfgang Sachsenröder
The surprise was immense. President Macron dared to talk about European interests in Beijing. Does Macron doubt that Europe would be helplessly exposed to Russian aggression without the American nuclear umbrella? This is almost reminiscent of the anti-American policy of his predecessor Charles de Gaulle, who wanted to keep Americans and Brits, the „Anglo-Saxons,“ both out of Europe. While this facilitated the Franco-German reconciliation, it did not prevent his German partner Konrad Adenauer from tying the Federal Republic closely to the United States by rearming it and joining NATO in 1955. This US-Western Europe alliance had its ups and downs, but is still considered strong and more strengthened now by the Ukraine war and joined by Eastern European nations and Scandinavia. Before the Russian invasion, hardly anyone has been able to perceive a threat from Russia, let alone define it in military terms. However, it should be questioned to what extent this view is a European self-perception and how the “national interest” of the USA is being fully shared by the Europeans. Let us take the example of Germany. Of the more than 200 U.S. military installations in this country only 40 remain today. However, these are extremely important and helpful to the American Army. Ramstein Air Base in the Palatinate rarely appears in the German media, in the social media occasionally a bit more critical as an American enclave without access for Germans. As a secure intermediate base for flights to the Middle East and now toward Ukraine, it remains indispensable. The huge military hospitals in Ramstein and Landstuhl, which are mentioned even less in the media, may be far more important because wounded soldiers from missions east and south of Germany receive initial care there until they are sufficiently fit for transport and can be returned home.
Even if it has hardly been asked, the question of how far the U.S. bases also serve European interests is probably justified. The reference to the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” has so far obscured rather than legitimized the question, especially because until February 24 of last year, especially Germany perceived Russia far more as a partner and energy supplier than as a threat. The Russian language skills of Chancellor Merkel and President Putin’s German seemed to prove that the German-Russian relationship was problem-free and downright friendly. And for the Western European countries, nuclear powers France and Britain, the distance to the Russian border looked safe enough. Only the Eastern European countries with their memories of Soviet occupation retained their suspicions.
In contrast to the United States, which likes to invoke the „national interest“ in its global actions and has been more intensively involved in Kiev at least since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, a corresponding European debate on interests remained underdeveloped. There was never any talk of a „national interest“ in Ukraine. Firstly, because the term was not popular anyway, and secondly, because the country made gas imports more expensive by transit fees in the billions and was not a particular priority for the European export industry. Wheat and animal feed were imported, but grain is ultimately produced more than sufficiently in the EU and its own agricultural industry costs considerable subsidies anyway. Ukrainian domestic politics were largely perceived as chaotic and corrupt, the Orange Revolution seemed puzzling and perhaps best explained by the dark side of the Slavic soul. With the two Minsk agreements, Europe’s duty to participate as peacemakers seemed fulfilled. If one follows the subsequent comments by Merkel and Hollande, even overfulfilled, namely as a boost for Ukraine’s self-defence. However, this aspect remained hidden from the public and the media until the outing of the ex-chancellor and the French ex-president. This marked the beginning of a turning point of a special kind, and with Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022, Europe suddenly discovered its national interest in Ukraine. It is obvious that this was less about material economic interests. With 5.4 billion euros in 2021, Ukraine ranked 41st among Germany’s trading partners and even less for the other EU-partners.
The New Debate on Values
With the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the ideological debate about democracy and socialism was over, the national interest was in the material sphere, in infrastructure and the equalization of living conditions in Eastern Europe. The Ukraine invasion on 24 February 2022 shifted any priority from interests to values. Of course, Russia violated the United Nations‘ ban on the use of force, and just as naturally, Ukraine has the right to defend itself. Europe joined the American sanctions against the aggressor and consciously accepted economic losses, not a few with the ban of Russian oil and gas. The whole complex process became the start of an adjustment of the security policy, which was declared to be a „turn of the times,“ though the technical implementation is dragging on. But it also set in motion a wave of moral indignation against Russia that reached an unprecedented level of intensity in the media and especially in the social media. This outrage appears to be value-driven and all non-compliant contributions to the debate are rebuked with inquisitorial furore.
What about peace values?
In this debate, which apparently unites a large majority of the participating public with politics and the media, it was probably unavoidable that peace demonstrations were slammed. A peace manifesto in Germany by prominent feminist Alice Schwarzer and the left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht was dismissed and ridiculed, despite the nearly 800,000 signatures it collected. Peace negotiations, the moralists said, were pointless because Russia understands only the language of force. Views on China and the Taiwan issue have developed similarly, and this while economic ties with both countries are several dimensions more important to Europe than with Ukraine and Russia combined. The Pentagon leaks have not changed this one-sided climate of opinion; now the whole EU remains the U.S.’s most important ally, and French President Macron must be wrong.
With this inventory, the question remains whether it is politically and ethically responsible to rely solely on punishment and a military defeat of the aggressor Russia, which even American military officials like Chief of Staff Mark Milley doubt. To rule out negotiations as futile can only be explained by a narrowing of value-based policies, which should be committed to the protection of peace and human rights as well. In view of the hundreds of thousands of war victims on both sides and the material destruction in Ukraine, including environmental damage, it would make sense to explore all conceivable approaches to compromise solutions that could bring the dying and destruction to an end. In the media, their letters to the editor pages and social media, it is noticeable that there is hardly any discussion about the loss of human life. Emotionally, climate protection, animal welfare or minority rights are apparently more important goals than an end to the killing in Ukraine. Human rights include first and foremost the right to life, but apparently, we have become so accustomed to the deaths of other human beings because of constant bloody conflicts around the world that “value-based politics” can do without peace initiatives and make punishing the aggressor the top priority. Most Europeans apparently agree with this.
Let them die?
In his book „On Killing,“ first published in 1996, the American military psychologist Dave Grossman described the mechanisms of drilling soldiers to overcome their natural inhibition to kill and the psychological stress that results. But he also describes the habituation of the entire society to everyday violence, not least through films and computer games, to which even children are exposed. He calls the result „acquired violence immune deficiency“, an acquired insensitiveness towards the killing of fellow human beings. The extent to which we are all affected by this would be worthy of more debate.
Singapore, 23 April 2023
Global Review comment:
Well, nuclear protection only supposedly covers up and “obscures” real national interests, if you don’t want to see it as Germany’s real core interest in relation to a nuclear-armed Russia. Force de frappe as the core of Europe’s own nuclear protection or Brexit-GB as a protecting power or Germany’s own nuclear weapons do not seem credibly deterrent, nor do they seem feasible, especially since the political decision-making processes are too complicated, if at all producible. China and Putin don’t give a fuck about human lives and how many of them are sacrificed and also their populations. Conversely, most Americans (Nixon’s „silent majority“) didn’t even care about most of their nation’s wars if they weren’t affected themselves, especially about economic disadvantages such as inflation, debt, social cuts or whatever. It is also significant that 9 11 was also the first time the USA itself was attacked, because people always felt safe. But that was just a terrorist attack and the war in Afghanistan became a forgotten war over the years, just like it was in Germany. As long as FC Bayern is winning, Uta Pilcher or Tatort is on TV, nobody cared what the Bundeswehr is doing at the Hindu Kush, where German security was said to being defended. During the Vietnam War, it was also the television pictures of Napalm burned Vietnamese children or the execution of a Viet Cong by the Saigon police chief, a Buddhist monk who set himself on fire, that caused the home front to crumble, which is why it is also a protective mechanism to censor it like it is Then it happened with the embedded journalists, although later war pictures were completely dispensed with and whistleblowers who leaked pictures of US war crimes were immediately and draconically pursued and taken out of circulation. But in this respect most nations and their populations agree that they mostly don’t care about their nation’s wars in other countries or proxy wars as long as they are not affected in some way, be it through energy prices and inflation. And the Iraq war and Syria war only really interested when the waves of refugees reached Europe and Germany. To quote Goethe: „What do I care if wild peoples crush their skulls in distant countries?“ Well, since the Ukraine war, it was almost right on the doorstep and the Ukrainians, although Slavs, were white Europeans. And that’s only secondary to video games. In addition, German television and the media, unlike Russia’s media, are full of daily reports of victims of Ukrainian children, women and civilians and this constant stream of rain and constant outrage also has a certain deadening effect and habituation effect and you don’t just want to hear about dead people, corpses and war every day , although then in the flood of German crime novels then again in homeopathic doses. This is less due to video game conditioning, although it is no coincidence that CNN’s images of the 1991 Gulf War resembled video games. It is an abridgement to assume that the conflict is about Ukraine. It’s about the fight for a New World Order and it doesn’t end with a ceasefire or a Korean solution for Ukraine, but only then really gets going. Xi has given Putin the green light to invade Ukraine at the Olympics because he, like Putin, believes the West is indecisive, divided, in decline, rotten and that the Ukraine war will, as Western military experts have all predicted, be an easy 3-week affair.
Warmonger Xi gave Putin the green light for the Ukriane war like Stalin gave green light to Mao and Kim back in the Korean War, then to tie the US in Asia and distract from Europe, today in reverse to tie the US in Europe, distract from the Asian Pivot and weaken against China and as a battering ram and first step towards the military enforcement of the new world order.
As Lavrov noted at the MSC: A new international security architecture must first be in place, only then can regional conflicts such as Ukraine or Syria be resolved, but not the other way around. And the Global Times ran the headline: Vietnam Yesterday, Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow?. A great deal was expected from Putin’s Ukraine war by Xi, but the calculations didn’t work out for the time being and the West remained more unified than assumed, which is why the peace dove is now being played, especially China with its Global Security Initiative along with the Global Development Initiative including BRI and the Global Civilizational Initiative as part of the Xi Jinping Thought. China and Russia as new world peace doves who bring grain, peace, properity and economic development an d stabilizing Wagner troops to some failed state of the Global South in Africa. And China´s meta message: The USA as war power with double standards in human and political rights and trouble maker against peace, stability and prosperity and social development rights .
However: The Global South is not a homogenic and united „Damned of the Earth“entitiy, but also divided in at least 3 fractions: China, which claims to be a development state, but at the same time and on the other side the new world power, emerging economies like Brazil oder India which do not want to take sides and have more a „strategic balancing“ (General Asthana) , i.e. operate a kind of seesaw policy and multi-pronged approach (India: SCO, BRICS, but Quad and not RCEP and AIIB)-similar to Erdogan- Turkey and MBS- Saudiarabia, states which openly support Russia and China and states which support the USA and the West as they already made their own bad experience with the new antihegemonist and benign hegemon from the Middle Kingdom or don´t trust China´s peace dove slogans as they fear that even under a new tribute system they would be obiedient „dhimmies“in the future like under Muslim Empires of the past. Admittedly this peace talk by China is only a tactical adjustment and hope that the West would not be so united anymore. Then the real Chinese- Russian offensive will begin to establish their new multipolar world order under their leadership, even as Russia itslef becomes a new colony and appendix of China, a sort of nuclear and state Wagner for Chinese security, interests and sovereignity. And under their nuclear and military “protection” and “umbrella”. A „peace“ without human and freedom values anymore.
The new slogans of the new appeasement are partly „peace, peace above all“, „de-escalation“, „peace“ and now recently peace values instead of freedom values. Actually, the „Better red than dead“ and „Better dead than red“ debates of the 1980s are being repeated in a modernized form, especially since China is now posing as the global peace dove with its Global Security, Developments and Civilizational initiatives, even though Xi gave Putin the green light for the Ukraine war and like Stalin was and is the biggest warmonger in the Korean War, but his calculations didn’t work out that well. Perhaps slogans could also be: „Peace and Freedom“ or „Peace through Freedom“ or „Peace in Freedom“, since everything else sounds bellicose and allegedly warmongering in the struggle for the new world order. It is also clear that the USA and the West will no longer be as powerful in hard power and radiant in soft power as in the past, but at least the USA will still be a world power or, in the worst case, an American North Korea and Handmaid’s Tale -Iran under America First Trumps, who no one can avoid – liberal values, realpolitik or Trumpsitic. Especially since a multipolar world order, which has already exists to some extent since the fromation of the G20 and without UN security reform, does not have to be a multipolar world order under China’s leadership and the future Chinese state raw material supplier, gas station and Wagner appendage Russia. Yes, there are also plenty of countervailing forces that can be released in the Globa South against this new Chinese hegemonism. Therefore the former slogans are perhaps too radical front positions and wrong alternatives and options.
You should keep that in mind when making your peace appeals. An armistice or a Korean solution may come, possibly even after the new Ukrainian offensive, also because both sides are running out of ammunition and armaments production has not yet started up. But one should not give in to the illusion that a ceasefire interlude or a Korean solution is the end of the struggle for a new world order, which will continue to be fought militarily in the future, especially since more proxy wars will be fought and, if not directly, then because of strong deterrence and nuclear weapons on both sides. Although this does not necessarily have to be the case.