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Beware of Monotones!

by Charlotte Wiedemann Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014 at 4:04 PM

There are voices beyond the monotone, nuances from the side of writers, scholars and economic experts.. Every war and conflict needs a narrative that defines good and evil, that classifies, simplifies and serves interests.


By Charlotte Wiedemann

The Ukraine shows simple stories of good and evil are misleading

[Charlotte Wiedemann as a free journalist writes about Muslim countries. This article published in March 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.taz.de.]

When Vladimir Putin announced his “humanitarian mission” in Crimea, he annexed a term to which only our world is entitled. People react to a stolen concept and a shrill mission. Our hearing is calibrated and separates the admissible from the inadmissible. There is no waste of time.

I have often asked how this hearing comes about, this instinctive self-positioning that allows most people to have an opinion on complicated international crises in no time. In these days we can learn how an echo-chamber arises. What is exclaimed is echoed back in a monotone quality that was long held to be over in our splintered publics of the 21st century.


Political journalism is at the barricades and nails great words to the quickly assembled boards: Free World, only here! No Munich II, no appeasement! Putin-Hitler or Putin-Goliath: this was a Spiegel cover as from the propaganda museum.

There are voices beyond the monotone, nuances from the side of writers, scholars and economic experts. On the other hand, political journalism always tends to manifest where it is not needed any more since the public is influenced and hearing calibrated in a non-journalistic way.

Every war and conflict needs a narrative that defines good and evil, that classifies, simplifies and serves interests. Then that great machine is set in motion guided as by a magic hand that seems to know only one direction. Journalism is a perpetrator as well as a victim. Simple guarantees have become harder today. Western policy deals with moral standards and principles of international law with a massive contradictoriness: Kosovo, Croatia, Libya, Egypt, South Sudan, Mali, Syria and Central Africa. Whether new states are allowed, whether a referendum has authority, whether a coup-de-etat is legitimate, an intervention is justified and a bombardment is commanded – all this is simply a question of interests. Any blogger in the so-called third world can write that without spin.

For us this could be a good time for independent journalism. The terrific speed of events (or the speed with which we note them), the sequence of rebellions, overthrows of presidents and ethnically or religiously derailed conflicts would be an invitation to somewhat more modesty.


Others also have their narratives. What is celebrated here as a humanitarian mission occurs as a shrill mission in differently calibrated hearing, for example as greed for Africa’s raw materials by glossing over morality. The war on terror does not only belong to us. Nearly epidemically governments of Muslim countries declare their respective adversaries as terrorists.

Concerning the narratives, we live more and more in a polycentric world. This could be salutary because it limits the once global power of the western narrative. It can also be dreadful, the propaganda-cacophony in the form of an ultimatum. In these days one feels this with the general attacks on journalists in the Ukraine who are treated like weapons. Using or neutralizing them is vital.

I do not plead for a value-relativism but for allowing doubt, for a culture of doubt, for deviating from the monotone, for opposition and contradiction against the hegemonial narratives at least on a trial basis. Recently there were debates on different forums in the US and Europe on the distinction between activist and professional journalism. The latter like to claim neutrality for themselves while the activist is committed to certain interests and goals. In the case of the Ukraine, the activism of the mainstream is on display. Whoever feels as a member of a collective writes with little doubt, not free of doubt. In this regard, the mainstream and its half-truth or fish-story of the free world is only the greatest conceivable collective. There are silent agreements in this collective; they are mostly not conscious and therefore not very effective.

The implicit commons is vital. In these days, all arrangements are recalled: the anti-Soviet and anti-Russian orientations of the western attitude toward life. Maybe I am mistaken or completely wrong.


Such arrangements condense whole epochs and complex experiences to particular words and pictures that are considered valid and suitable. It may sound strange but I paid attention to Putin’s phrase humanitarian mission because I wrote a book on an African theme… What words should I share with my readers? What silent arrangements will I make? Will I be understood if no one is black?

The term “mission” is charged with colonial history and therefore is so popular. No one can be made liable for a humanitarian mission. On the other hand, Putin can be made liable. We want him naked and ugly. I plead for breaking the monotone and allowing doubt, not for a value-relativism.


By editors of Junge Welt

At a meeting in Kassel, the German Peace Council resolved to give an opinion on the Ukraine conflict

[This press release published on 3/11/2014 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.jungewelt.de/2014/03-11/032.php.]

The peace movement in Germany is worried about recent developments in and around the Ukraine and urges all parties to the conflict to solve the disputes by negotiations. Since the conflict has a history that goes back to attempts of the West for years to uncouple the Ukraine from Russia’s sphere of influence and subordinate the Ukraine to the market conditions of the European Union, the disputes have assumed an international dimension. (…) The conflict did not first begin with Russia’s intervention in the Crimea.

With great anxiety, the internal development in the Ukraine is seen that – with massive support from the West – makes possible extremist rightwing and fascist groups like “Svoboda” or the “right sector” to become spokespersons on the Maidan and occupy key positions in the “transitional government.” Remember 14 EU states issued sanctions against Vienna when the rightwing populist Haider party FPO joined in the Austrian government. Today fascist bands in Kiev and other parts of the Ukraine rage without the little word of distancing being heard from the EU. On the contrary, financial support in the billions is promised the rightwing transitional government. With so much political-moral depravity, the EU foreign policy is manifestly guided by pure striving for power and interests and not by its noble principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

On this background, the Russian reaction to the Ukrainian development was not a surprise for us. The resolution of the Russian parliament to send “armed troops” to the territory of the Ukraine to protect “our compatriots and the relatives of units of the Russian armed forces” if necessary “until the social and political situation in this country has normalized” was an inadmissible overstretching of the stationing agreement in breach of international law. According to the Charter of the United Nations, secession is inadmissible even if it is based on an amicable regulation of the concerned parties – in this case all Ukraine (…). Moscow’s argument to station troops for the “protection” of the population is also problematic. There is no right to a “humanitarian intervention” and the peace movement has often taken positions against similarly justified military actions (for example the NATO war against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan war, Iraq war, air-war against Libya and France’s war in Mali).

We emphasize that the Russian measures can only be understood on the background of the massive incursion of the West in the internal affairs of the Ukraine and the escalation of violence in Kiev. (…)


War can come out of intervention. Peace movement: the West is the problem, not Russia.

Opinion of the German Peace Council on the threatening development in and around Ukraine

[This opinion of the German Peace Council published in March 2014 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

Leading politicians from NATO, the European Union and the German government act as though a problem in the Ukraine first arose with Russia’s military measures, as though the strengthened Russian Black Sea fleet on the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea threatens peace in the region and in Europe and as though the presence of Russian troops and the take over of certain public offices in several cities of southeast Ukraine populated by a majority of Russians aggravate the violence conflict in the country.

Such a black-white thinking leads us astray. It was the West – led by the German government, the commission of the European Union and the US government – that for years attempted economic and political extortion with all means to uncouple the Ukraine from Russian’s sphere of influence, subordinate the Ukraine to the market conditions of the EU by means of the concept of “eastern partnership” and integrate the military structures of NATO. The EU’s disappointment was great when the Ukrainian president Janukovich suspended the association agreement with the EU at the last minute and as an alternative recommended joining the customs union of the Eurasian economic community. The rapprochement to the EU was popular in the population of the Ukraine because they hoped – probably wrongly – for an economic upswing. Anti-Russian forces in the Ukraine who could rely on a large part of the population in the economically backward west Ukraine immediately mobilized against a stronger eastern orientation.

The German government stylized the inner-Ukrainian conflict over the right foreign trade orientation into a struggle between two options: a west-orientation bound with a decision for democracy, freedom, human rights and prosperity on one side and an east-orientation synonymous with dependence, bondage and economic misery on the other side. The shattering of economic bonds between the Ukraine and Russia would obviously lead to further impoverishment of all parts of the Ukraine and its citizens. Conversely the majority of the Ukrainian population would lose more than they would gain from a pure west-bond or “integration” in the EU under the dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the EU Troika. A glance at the “transformation” societies of Bulgaria and Rumania should be enough warning.

The US was not afraid to demonstratively support the opposition in Kiev from the start – without asking who this opposition was. A cursory glance at the composition of the opposition and the spokespersons and organizers of the protests on the Maidan would have revealed that the rightwing-nationalist party “Svoboda” and the militant and armed “right sector” set the tone and direction of the protests. For two decades, its leader Dimitri Jarisch trained armed nationalists so his “right sector” has several thousand armed fighters. He calls to a “national war of liberation” and for the “de-Russification of the Ukraine” (Spiegel online, 3/3/2014). These forces captured a movement initially ruled by peaceful demonstrators, occupied town halls, the parliament and the government of the president and avoided all attempts at moderation and compromise. The agreement between the acting president Janukovich and the opposition (represented by Klitschko, Janzenjuk and Tjagnibok) was not accepted by the rightwing radicals. They insisted on chasing away the president and threatened with more violence if their radical demands were not met. The president fled the country and later emerged in Russia. He admitted that his car was shelled.

As a result, a new government was installed – bypassing the Ukrainian constitution and under the pressure of the Maidan. Its deficient legitimacy made it easy for Russia to refuse dialogue. More importantly, a series of rightwing radical and anti-Russian nationalists obtained important ministries and functions… The chairperson of “Svoboda,” Oleg Tjagnibok, faced a trial on account of his inflammatory rabble-rousing anti-Semitic speech (“The Ukraine is governed by a Jewish-Moscow mafia”)…

Nothing good could be expected from the first “official acts” of the parliament – that stood under the threatening “observation” of the rightwing scene. Thus the liberal language law was abolished that gave the right to a second official language to lingual minorities where more than 10 percent of the population of a region does not speak Ukrainian (which is the case in many districts of south and east Ukraine where Russian is spoken). Alarmingly the prohibition of fascist propaganda was annulled. Imagine national socialist writings, emblems and so on freely allowed again in Germany. Imagine armed rightwing radicals occupying town halls, courts and offices of the earlier government parties, hunting for disagreeable politicians and threatening Jewish citizens or foreign language citizens! Israel sent a team to Kiev to protect Jewish citizens and train Ukrainian Jews in self-defense.

Russia understands its military measures on the Crimea Island as an answer to the fascist danger and the anti-Russian excesses. In Sewastopol, Russia has a strategically important naval base allowing the presence of its Black Sea fleet and 25,000 military personnel, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored tanks and 22 military aircraft. At the same time Russia has two air force bases (in Kacha and Gwardeysky). The resolution of the Russian parliament to deploy “armed troops” on the territory of the Ukraine if necessary to protect “our compatriots and the relatives of units of the Russian armed forces until the social and political situation in this country has normalized” goes beyond the stationing agreement. All measures that amounted to a unilateral severance of Crimea or other regions from the Ukrainian state association would be unlawful – even if approved by the majority of the population. According to the Charter of the United Nations, secession is inadmissible – even if it rests on an agreed regulation of the concerned parties – in this case all Ukraine. The separation of Tschechnya and Slovakia or south Sudan’s independence was examples of allowed “secessions.” On the other hand, the unilateral declaration of independence of the Serbian province Kosovo was in breach of international law because it occurred against Serbia’s will.

We also regard Moscow’s argument of stationing troops to “protect” the population as problematic. There is no right to a “humanitarian intervention” and the peace movement has often opposed military actions established that way.(for example the NATO war against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan war, Iraq war, air-war against Libya and France’s war in Mali). We will do that in the case of Russia’s military invasion in the Ukraine that goes beyond the legally allowed framework in Crimea. The Russian measures can only be understood on the background of the massive incursion of the West in the internal affairs of the Ukraine and the escalation of violence in Kiev. According to the statement of the Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet, the wirepullers or brains behind the snipers who killed dozens of persons (and members of the opposition and the acting government) come from their ranks. When certain US or Polish politicians supported anti-regime demonstrators on the Maiden, when the CIA in Kiev signed on opposition politicians, when NATO and the EC from the start worked toward a regime change, when billions of dollars were invested to tear the Ukraine from its historical relation to Russia and when lastly the illegal measures of the Ukrainian parliament (from the dismissal of the elected president to annulling the language law) are accepted without comment and the fascist machinations are passed over in silence, the West has lost all credibility for criticizing Russia’s measures with reference to international law and playing events up to an international crisis of the first order.


In the highly explosive present situation, multilateral discussions and negotiations should be carried out on all questions concerning Ukraine on the basis of the principles of the OSZE as a system of mutual collective security. Special responsibility comes to the German government that contributed to the current crisis through its permanent incursions in the affairs of the Ukraine.

The following arrangements could be realized in such negotiations:

• Participation of rightwing-extremist and fascist forces in the transitional Ukrainian government must be excluded. The fascist forces in the Ukraine must be disarmed. The murders by snipers on the Maidan should be investigated by an independent side.

• All unilateral measures for the succession of Crimea or other districts of the Ukraine must be stopped. Secessions can only be amicably realized results of an all-Ukraine process that safeguards the rights and interests of minorities (for example the Tartars in Crimea).

• The relations of Russia and the Ukraine are special. NATO should take seriously the security interests of the Russian Federation and the interests of the Ukraine

• The alliance-freedom of the Ukraine should be accepted by all parties to the conflict.

• The transitional Ukrainian government should stop the mobilization of the armed forces. The Russian government should keep the agreement on Crimea and the US and the EU should discontinue sanctions against Ukraine.

• All arms exports from the EU zone to Russia and the Ukraine should be stopped.

We expect from the German government:

• ending the anti-Russia campaign and

• stopping the construction of the so-called missile defense screen on German soil viewed by Russia as a threat.

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