Ex-NATO General: „The longer the war, the greater the risk of escalation“

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Elisabeth Hellenbroich

After the turbulent January 20th  gathering of defense ministers from almost 50 countries at the US airbase in Ramstein (Germany), that took place under the auspices of US defense minister Austin, German Chancellor Scholz in response to the immense pressure that was imposed on him and his new defense minister Pistorius by the US and NATO, finally gave in and decided on the 25th  January to deliver 14 modern 2 A6 Leopard tanks from German stocks to the Ukraine, even – as many experienced military observers stated –  if this  means  a further undermining of Germany‘s own defense capabilities. At the same time the US government under US President Biden announced its readiness to additionally send 31 of its modern Abrams tanks to the Ukraine. Other European countries have followed during the last days: Thus Spain committed itself to send 50 Leopard tanks, the Netherlands 18, Poland‘s Prime Minister Morawiecki announced to deliver 14 such tanks, while aside the Scandinavian countries, France is still examining the possibility of delivering „Leclerc“ combat tanks.

Within hours the Ukrainian President Selenskij and his Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk declared that “more weapons” were needed from Germany and NATO, including fighter planes, submarines and long-range missiles (!) to which France, Great Britain and the US have responded favorably. This is a dramatic turn and signals that Europe is sliding deeper and deeper into the morass of the Russia- Ukraine war. We are only a few steps aways before NATO countries and the US will send regular combat troops into the Ukraine, thus taking actively part in the „war against Russia“ as leading Russian politicians have described in their New Year’s press conference. What we are seeing is a dramatic “phase change” that also implies the danger of a nuclear war.

It is still not too late to change the dynamic of this horrendous war and there is still the  possibility to go back to the negotiating table as was the case April 2022 between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul, which ended with a “preliminary agreement.” In a You-Tube interview with the Swiss London based „Neutrality Institute”, former Slovak Prime Minister and Justice Minister Dr. Jan Čarnogursky characterized the war as a „dramatic fight for survival” that concerns the Ukraine, Russia as well as the US. If the US were to lose this proxy war, he stated, it would mean “the loss of the Dollar as Reserve Currency”; Ukraine would lose some of its regions in the East and South, while Russia would probably be split into pieces.

Čarnogursky also pointed out that the US, after having started to construct a military base in Otchakovo (near Odessa) could send, once the construction is completed, nuclear missiles that would reach Moscow within 6 to 7 minutes. Furthermore he emphasized that the war in Ukraine was not a fight of „democracy against autocracy,” given the fact that the chairman of the Ukraine opposition party, Victor Medvechuk (he is now living in Russia, after he was transferred to Russia during an exchange of prisoner) was put under house arrest one year before the outbreak of the war, while 11 opposition parties were banned in Ukraine. According to Čarnogursky, the Ukraine has „little chances to win the war”, but they will lose hundreds and thousands of people and the US is willing to fight „till the last Ukrainian.” Particular reference was made to the April 2022 negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, that resulted in “a preliminary agreement” between the negotiators. The agreement was however “abandoned” after the visit of British Prime Minister Johnson (!) in Kiev, he stated. This whole process demonstrated the resolve of the West to use Ukraine for “geopolitical reasons” against Russia. “Russia is a rich country that owns 35 % of the world’s natural resources and it is the desire of the West to fight this war against Russia with the aim to split up Russia into pieces,”  Čarnogursky said. While he still sees the possibility for a reasonable solution, this would among others imply a „ neutral Ukraine” with appropriate security guarantees from the West.

Čarnogursky’s observations should be considered on the background of some articles that were published in the American press two weeks ago: In the Washington Post, Jan 7 2023, the neoconservative politicians Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates, in an article entitled  „The time is not on the side of the Ukraine“,  demanded  a “dramatic increase in military aid from the US to Ukraine.” They both underlined that the present fight is about the „indispensable role of the US as world power.” The magazine „Foreign Affairs” (January 9th 2023, I.H. Daalder and J .Goldgeier) in an article entitled „The Long war in Ukraine: The West needs to plan for a protracted conflict with Russia“,  sees as a more likely outcome of the war a „prolonged, grinding war that gradually becomes frozen along a line of control that neither side accepts“. The article added that “the reality is that even the United States is running out of excess capabilities to provide to Ukraine. Take Artillery shells. In the past year Ukraine fired as many of them in a week as the United States can produce in a month…. Then there is the danger of escalation and a third world war. It is easy to dismiss these fears, as many seasoned observers do. But it is crucially important that the United States take the risks of escalation seriously and continually weigh the risks of not doing enough to help Ukraine against the consequences of doing too much, including the possibility that Russia might use tactical weapons.“ The same magazine called for a policy of isolation, containment and strong sanctions against Russia.

Harsh warning from former experienced NATO General Harald Kujat    

The former Inspector General of the German Armed Forces and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Harald Kujat, former Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council as well as the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council of the Chiefs of Staff, who is one of the few decorated and highly qualified Generals in Germany, January 18th gave an interview to the Swiss newspaper “Zeitgeschehen im Fokus.” He like Erich Vad (Brig.General)  who unlike many other generals speak from an “informed standpoint” are systematically blocked away from the German mainstream media.  In a very precise language, the General pointed out, that now would be the right time to resume the broken off negotiations concerning the Ukraine war. Experts and specialists from Europe, Russia, Asia and Latin America, that read the interview and were asked for their opinion about the interview by the author of this article, assessed the interview as “excellent.”

In contrast to the loud mouthing statements coming from German politicians such as the German Foreign Minister A. Baerbock, ex-NATO General Kujat pointed to the mendacity and lying of the German press in their political coverage about the Ukraine war.

He described the Ukraine war not only as a military conflict, but also as an economic and information war and warned: “In this information war, one can become a participant in the war if one adopts information and arguments that one can neither verify nor judge on the basis of one’s own competence.” Ideological motives also played a role, especially in the media, which predominantly “features ‘experts’ who lack knowledge and experience concerning security policy and strategy, and therefore express opinions that they draw from publications by other ‘experts’ with comparable expertise,” he said. The debate about the delivery of certain weapons systems makes clear that the intention of many media is that they want to make policy on their own. Kujat finds it particularly annoying that so little attention is paid to German security interests and the dangers arising for our country from an expansion and escalation of the war.

According to General Kujat, the longer the war lasts, the more difficult it will be to achieve a negotiated peace. “The Russian annexation of four Ukrainian territories on September 30, 2022, is an example for a development that will be difficult to reverse. That is why I find it so regrettable that the negotiations, which were held in Istanbul in March (2022), were broken off after great progress and a thoroughly positive outcome for Ukraine. Russia had apparently agreed during the Istanbul negotiations to withdraw its forces to the level of February 23, that is, before the attack on Ukraine began.  Now complete withdrawal is repeatedly demanded as a precondition for negotiations.” Kujat emphasized that Ukraine had offered at the time “to renounce NATO membership and to not allow the stationing of foreign troops or military facilities on its territory.  In exchange, it was to receive security guarantees from states of its choice. The future of the occupied territories was to be resolved diplomatically within 15 years, explicitly renouncing military force.”

Asked why the treaty, which could have saved ten thousands of lives, was not signed, Kujat replied that, according to his “reliable information”, the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intervened in Kiev on April 9 and prevented a signing. His argument was that the West was “not ready for an end to the war”.(!)

At the same time, as the General stressed, the average citizen never learned anything about the details for the breakdown of negotiations. In contrast, the British “Financial Times” had reported on progress at the time. And even President Putin in September had stated that Ukraine had responded positively to the Russian proposals in March 2022: “But a peaceful solution does not suit the West, so he (Boris Johnson) actually ordered Kiev to nullify all agreements.”  Likewise, U.S. media such as “Foreign Affairs” and “Responsible Statecraft” published very informative reports, including Fiona Hill, a senior staff member of the White House National Security Council. The pro-government “Ukrainska Pravda” had also reported about it on May 9. The German media however were “not” prepared to take up the issue, despite having access to the sources, which shows a blatant lack of security policy foresight and strategic judgment.

Raison d’ être for the Ukraine war

According to Kujat, while the Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country, “the two main actors in this war are Russia and the U.S. Ukraine is also fighting for U.S. geopolitical interests. This is because their stated goal is to weaken Russia politically, economically, and militarily to the point where they can turn to their geopolitical rival- which is China, the only one capable of threatening their supremacy in the world. (…) This war is not about our freedom. The core problem of why the war has broken out and still continues, while it could have ended long ago, is quite different.”

In respect to the Russian perspective on the Ukraine conflict, the general emphasized that “Russia wants to prevent its geopolitical rival from gaining strategic superiority that would endanger Russia’s security, be it through Ukraine’s membership in the U.S.-led NATO, be it through the deployment of American troops, the relocation of military infrastructure of joint NATO maneuvers. Also the deployment of American missile defense systems in Poland and Romania is a thorn in the eye of Russia. Because Russia is convinced that the U.S. could also knock out Russian intercontinental strategic systems from these launch facilities and thus endanger the nuclear strategic balance.” An important role is also played by the “Minsk II agreement, in which Ukraine pledged to grant the Russian-speaking population in the Donbas, minority rights standard by the end of 2015 through a constitutional amendment with greater autonomy for the region. There are now doubts as to whether the U.S. and NATO were prepared to negotiate seriously on this issue before the Russian attack on NATO.”

Kujat warned very strongly that “the longer the war lasts, the greater the risk of expansion or escalation.” In respect to more weapon deliveries Kujat pointed to the danger of early elimination or even the risk that the weapons fall into the hands of the enemy. “The question of the means-to-purpose ratio also plays a role, namely what purpose should Western systems serve?”

How does Ukraine plan to achieve its military goals?

General Kujat pointed out that he agrees with what the U.S. Chief of Staff General Mark Milley had stated (which was again repeated during the Ramstein gathering Jan 20th E.H.) whereby “Ukraine has achieved what it could militarily. More is not possible.  So diplomatic efforts should now begin to achieve a negotiated peace.”

According to General Kujat “both warring parties are once again in a stalemate, which is exacerbated by the restrictions imposed by the time of year. So now would be the right time to resume the broken negotiations. The arms deliveries mean the opposite, namely that the war will be senselessly prolonged, with even more deaths on both sides and the continuation of the destruction of the country. But also with the consequence that we will be drawn even deeper into this war,” Kujat warned.

In reference to the “Die Zeit” (German weekly) interview with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel (early December 2022), in which Merkel had stated “The Minsk Agreement of 2014 was an attempt to give Ukraine time (…) It also used this time to become stronger, as can be seen today,” Kujat noted, that the statement that the Ukraine had been given time to rearm militarily, had been “understandably called a fraud” by Russia. “Merkel confirms that Russia was deliberately deceived. One can evaluate this as one likes, but it is a blatant breach of trust (!) and a question of political predictability. However, it cannot be denied that the Ukrainian government’s refusal to implement the agreement – in the knowledge of this intended deception – just a few days before the start of the war, was one of the triggers for the war. In his interview the General referred to the fact that the German government had committed itself in the UN resolution to implement the “entire package” of agreed measures at Minsk II.  In addition, the Chancellor signed a declaration on the resolution with the other participants in the Normandy format, in which she once again expressly committed herself to implementing the Minsk agreements.”

(According to the UN resolution from 17.02. 2015 “Unanimously adopting Resolution 2202” it states: “By resolution 2202 (2015), the UN Security Council called on all parties to fully implement the ‘Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements,’ adopted on 12 February 2015 in Minsk, Belarus.” ! E.H.)

Kujat correctly commented that this is “a violation of international law (…) You have to imagine the situation today. The people who wanted to wage war from the beginning and still want to do so, have taken the position that it is impossible to negotiate with Putin. He will not keep the agreements anyway. Now it turns out, we are the ones who do not keep international agreements.”

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