“Europeanization” of the Ukraine war: A trigger for all-out war?

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By Elisabeth Hellenbroich

The author of this article recently listened to a speech that was given by a former US diplomat in Germany. He presented his views about the consequences for Germany, which would follow, if Ukraine lost the war against Russia. The diplomat started from the assumption that the Europeans are inherently incapable to keep the present world order (it’s the implicit assumption that only the US is capable of doing this) and emphasized that the year 2024 will be a “fateful year” for Ukraine. If Ukraine were to lose this war, the consequences would be “fateful”, he warned. Since the West doesn’t have a “unified” idea, how “victory” can be strategically realized, the decision whether we let Russia defeat Ukraine is “our responsibility.”  He particularly pointed to the special German role. It not only sent vast amounts of weapons to Ukraine, but has also participated in the training of Ukrainian soldiers. Therefore “it is extremely important to prepare for war with Russia. (…) Germany must be fit for war against Russia.” (sic)

On this background one should look at an article that was published by the NYT on February 25th under the title “The Spy War: How the C.I.A. secretly helps Ukraine fight Putin” (by Adam Entous and Michael Schwirtz) . The article is a bombshell since for the first time it admits that claims made by President Putin, according to whom the West has prepared and in part orchestrated the war in Ukraine, are true. All those who portray the Russian president as a “liar” and an “evil monster” are part of a false “narrative” that hides the truth. The article boasts that in the past 8 years the C.I.A.  has been constructing “networks of spy bases” that include 12 secret locations in Ukraine along the Russian border and it described in detail the close Ukrainian intelligence’ cooperation with U.S. Intelligence: “These intelligence networks are more important than ever,” the article stated, “as Russia is on the offensive and Ukraine is more dependent on sabotage and long- range missile strikes that require spies far behind the enemy lines. And they are increasingly at risk: If Republicans in Congress end military funding to Kyiv, the CIA may have to scale back.”

Ukraine war – a “Menetekel” for Europe

On 15th February the former chairman of the NATO Military commission, as well as former Inspector General of the German Armed Forces, Gen. Harald Kujat, gave a speech in front of the “Eurasia Society” in Berlin. At the occasion he warned that the Ukraine war is only a “prelude” to the real fight of the US with China and that the US is committing a “strategic mistake” by engaging in a two frontal war in Ukraine and Mideast. He qualified this as a “Menetekel”, a warning-sign on the wall for Europe, by adding that Germany is only a “figure in the geopolitical chess board.” He made reference to George Friedman (American strategist) who at the end of the Cold War in the 1990ies had warned that Germany and Russia together could threaten the US: namely the combination of German capital and technology linked with Russia’s resources potential.

According to Kujat the Ukraine war has strengthened the formation of “geopolitical blocks”. On the one side there is the West- and its main allies US -Europe; on the other side there is China- Russia and the BRICS organization, which aside its members Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, has been joined by new BRICS members at the beginning of this year. This includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Egypt and Ethiopia. BRICS accounts for 3,8 billion (!) people world- wide, its GDP is higher than the one from the G7 and its member states have increasingly begun trading in national currencies. More than 30 countries would like to join.

In a short review in which he presented some aspects that had led to the Ukraine war, Kujat reflected about the reasons for the growing deterioration of US -Russian relations:  One of the causes was the “one- sided cancellation” of a whole series of “arms control packages” by the US: Hence 2002 marked a major strategic turning point, when the US cancelled one-sidedly the “ABM treaty.” This was followed immediately by the stationing of “Missile Defense Systems in Europe.” (Rumania and Poland supposedly were chosen to function as a “shield” against incoming Iranian missiles E.H.). In 2019 the INF treaty was cancelled one-sidedly. According to Kujat the US left to Russia no other way but to build up its nuclear potential. In 2020 there was the US cancellation of the “Open Sky agreement”. Then in 2021 the intercontinental Strategic Missile Treaty “New START” (which is in the direct interest of the US in relation to Russia) was prolonged for 5 more years. For Ukraine a security policy turn was marked by the Bucharest NATO summit in 2008.  Given that the attempt by the US, to get Ukraine and Georgia immediately join NATO failed, vague promises for the Ukraine to join NATO were included in the communique.

Kujat underlined that there are people in the US who are convinced that the war could “have been avoided.”   He added that 6 weeks after the war Ukraine and Russian delegates met in Istanbul, which resulted in a draft agreement end of March 2022.  Among other things it was decided that more Russian troops would withdraw from Ukraine and that Ukraine would be neutral.  Yet – due to pressure from the West (US and GB) – the agreement did not get signed by President Zelenskyy.  As of now the Ukraine is entirely financed by the West and as long as war continues, Ukraine is totally dependent on military and economic support from the West. In light of the fact that the planned military aid package of $60 billion may not pass the US congress, Kujat warned that “Europe now is supposed to completely replace the US (!)”

“Hence the Europeanization of the War” has made a big step forward, he stated. The USA takes care of education, training and reconnaissance for Ukraine, which is all done operationally in the US Army HQ of Wiesbaden. But there are also people in Germany who loudly propagandize for directly targeting Russian territory with the German Cruise Missile “Taurus.” Yet the Ukrainians have essentially lost the capacity for “a full land offensive” and since October Russian Armed Forces have been moving forward and gained the upper hand.

The open question remains therefore, whether the Ukraine war (very similar to the 1. World War, which according to historians was “the great seminal catastrophe of the 20th century”- George F.Kennan- ) may become the second “great seminal catastrophe of the 21rst century”, Kujat stated.

The new “narrative” about Russia preparing for an attack against Europe

In another interview made with the Swiss magazine “Weltwoche” (February 22nd) Kujat gave more details about the military situation on the ground in Ukraine. He referred to the interview by former Ukrainian Chief of Staff Valerii Zaluzhnyi with “Economist” last November, who had stated then that the Ukrainian offensive had failed and led to a “standoff.”

Kujat emphasized that at present the U.S. has a different emphasis, whose aim is to have the Europeans shoulder most of the military and economic burden for in the Ukraine in the next 10 years. This led to different “security guarantee agreements” made by Chancellor Scholz in the last three weeks with President Zelenskyy as well as security guarantees given by Great Britain and France.

While in the US Congress the $ 60bn aid package is still blocked, there is also the concern that in case of change of the US government “the entire Ukraine war challenge will be relocated to Europe.” This means a change in terms of “burden” put on Europe.  But there are real doubts whether Europe can replace the US. Kujat underlined that Ukraine should give up some of its strategic aims that it had wanted to achieve. Russia suffered a painful setback, with the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.  But also the US has suffered a setback in the war. Russia is much stronger than it was before the war. What was not reached was to “weaken a big geopolitical rival” – as it was intended – a rival that has moreover turned to China.

Yet he also pointed out that after the failed “Ukrainian summer offensive”, when Ukraine suffered a heavy defeat, a new “narrative” was developed by the West, namely that “Russia will attack us” in the span of the next 5 years. Therefore the line is: Europe has to arm Ukraine and prepare for war with Russia. Kujat emphasized that he now sees a “third phase” which is based on the idea: “We must declare Russia as strategic adversary. It means reduce Russia and wipe it out. This would mean that we would participate in the war against Russia.”

Being asked by Weltwoche what Russia intends and whether  Russia is ready or capable of attacking NATO, Kujat recalled that the offensive which was launched 2 years ago was based on 175.000 -190.000 Russian soldiers. Against this the Ukraine had 500.000 soldiers mobilized, that had been well trained by the West. The number of Russian soldiers “indicates” that Russia did not want to conquer all of Ukraine, Kujat stated. He also referred to the “Istanbul peace negotiations” that had been moderated by Turkey between Russia and Ukraine, which at that time prompted Russia to withdraw its forces from Kiev. Nobody who had wanted to occupy the country would have done this, he said. Russia’ interest is to secure a “cordon sanitaire” in respect to Ukraine.

The danger of Third World War

According to Kujat the “danger of a third world war” exists and this depends on what will happen with Ukraine. “We are more or less directly involved. I think the destiny of Ukraine will be decided this year, rather sooner than later. It depends how our support will be, because Ukraine is not capable of a “land war” and it lacks soldiers.  The Russians have the time to continue their own military operation and create facts on the ground. Since the Ukraine wants to show their military capability to act, more attempts are being made to conduct the war on a different level, by bringing the war much further into Russian territory and  against Russian strategic targets.  For example “if Germany delivers further weapons that can hit such targets”. The Ukraine has got already cruise missiles from England and France. Some people in Germany bow demand that we need additional weapons, such as the cruise missile “Taurus”, which Ukraine could use against strategic targets. Such targets could for example include areas where nuclear missiles are located.” Kujat referred to a major incident that happened on 26th December 2022 in Saratov- Engels, which got attacked by drones- at a site where a Russian nuclear base was situated. If it had succeeded then, Kujat stated, we would have “nuclear winter.” He warned that if somebody is with the back against the wall and this kind of offensive is carried out, then a potential reaction may be a nuclear attack with disastrous consequence. If for example Russian command centers got attacked, a major escalation would follow, “in which we would be directly involved.”

According to Kujat “our biggest problem is to believe in “Wunderwaffen” – as “game changers” like the German cruise missile Taurus. Since Ukrainian soldiers don’t have the capability to use them, it means that German soldiers would have to do this.  If that’s the case it would mean a direct entry of Germany into the war (!) i.e. “we would participate in the planning and execution in the war.” “My impression is that the German Chancellor is conscious about this problem. We as Germans can’t do this on the basis of our constitution. I can only hope that the Chancellor remains resistant. We can’t control anything once it gets deployed.  And we should not use a system which could mean total defeat of Ukraine.” Kujat qualified the attitude of those Germans who vociferously promote the “Taurus” as a game changer in the ongoing war, as “unpatriotic”, which shows a “total disregard for international law.” Most of these German propagandists lack the capability to judge the matter competently. He added that such people who show such disregard for international law that aims for “the well- being of the people”, similarly show disregard for the principle of the German constitution.   Anyone who deals with “security” and the “well- being of our people” in such a way can’t be fit for political office. This is related to all parties. He stated that what is happening in Germany is “incredible” and “unbearable” and that many people only formulate “opinions” instead of thinking competently.

The need for dialogue and peace

Kujat emphasized that luckily there are other voices for example in the US that call for a ceasefire and peace dialogue, like the “Quincy Institute for responsible statecraft”. He also mentioned the new Finish President Alexander Stubb and underlined that China would have a role to play in peace initiatives.  “I have the impression that the Chinese could play a role.  A year ago they presented a ten point program, which could build bridges, by referring to the UN Resolution in which all nations states had stated that they want peace initiatives.”

At this year’s Munich Security Conference meeting Febr 16-18, whose atmosphere was overall characterized by pessimism, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reconfirmed in his speech China’s desire to contribute to peace and dialogue in the Ukraine conflict. He stated that China’s position is to have “talks for peace and dialogue” based on the principles of the UN Charta. “There is the pressing need to oppose cold war mentality and block- confrontation.”

Kujat referred to the Istanbul negotiations and suggested that we should continue the negotiation process where it had stopped.  He underlined that since March 2022 a lot has happened. Russia’s readiness for negotiations is there.  One should get into dialogue again and also make clear to the US that they need to get into the discussion with Russia.  Of course the presidential election campaign in the US does not help, Kujat stated. “The fact that Putin in the interview with Tucker Carlson said that he would prefer Biden as U.S. president, may probably be a hint”.  In line with the process of peace negotiations there should be security guarantees that are given for Ukraine as well as arms control agreements and the CSCE treaty should be put on a new level. There should be a new beginning, since it concerns the future of Europe. Not only the long-term future but also the European security and peace order.

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