Ice Age: How Russia is demonized and why it is so dangerous
by Gabriele Krone-Schmalz
[This book excerpt posted on October 1, 2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=104523.]
What policy should we pursue toward Russia under the current conditions? Actually, this question should be openly argued. Instead, those who call for peace negotiations with Russia are defamed and ostracized as Putin-understanders. And this, although it is about the most important question of all: peaceful coexistence. Gabriele Krone-Schmalz presents an expanded and updated new edition of her book Eiszeit. Since the beginning of the war in 2022, the question for many is no longer whether one can speak of a demonization of Russia, as in the subtitle of this book. After all, what can be more criminal than invading a country? But is this true? Anyone who examines recent history cannot help but ask who is acting and who is reacting here. The NachDenkSeiten present here an excerpt from the book.
Back to the topic of conceivable exit strategies. What might they look like? For Crimea and the eastern territories of Ukraine, there will be no solution in the foreseeable future that will be accepted by both the Ukrainian and Russian sides. Both sides have blocked themselves with maximum demands. The idea that Russia has illegally appropriated these territories, so it must also withdraw completely from them before negotiations can even be considered, may sound like justice for Ukraine, but it is naive and unrealistic. The decision-makers in Washington and Western European capitals also know this. There will be nothing left to do but to leave these territorial issues aside, as best we can, for a while and find interim solutions, of which there are examples from recent history.
A serious exit strategy has to deal with two crucial realities. First, the war in Ukraine is not an exclusively Ukrainian-Russian affair, but another proxy war between Russia on the one hand and the political West in the form of NATO or the U.S. and the EU on the other. Brazilian President Lula da Silva has commented: "Russia bears sole responsibility for the outbreak of the war, but meanwhile the U.S. and Europe are responsible for promoting a proxy war." Secondly: As long as either side assumes it can win the war militarily - whatever that may mean in concrete terms - there is little willingness to negotiate. In the meantime, however, the war has reached a stage reminiscent of the wars of position of times past, associated with the cynical term "war of attrition."
On this basis, at least three parallel activities are necessary to break the vicious circle: External mediation between the two direct adversaries, Russia and Ukraine, international meetings along the lines of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 or an upgrading of the OSCE, and finally disarmament negotiations, after almost all the achievements of the policy of détente in this area have been eliminated, mostly at the instigation of the United States. Someone has to initiate all this, and as a European it irritates me very much that perceptible activities in this respect come mainly from China, the African states and the so-called global South. It irritates me all the more because this war is taking place in Europe and primarily affects Europe. It should therefore be in the Europeans' own interest to end this war and finally build a reliable security architecture, which obviously could have been established much more easily at the end of the 1980s than it is now. It is no use mourning after that. However, when I think of the results of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy, which would have provided a resilient basis for the construction of a European house, I feel an urgent need to apologize to him. It has very quickly been forgotten how high a risk the then Soviet President Gorbachev took for his country and not least for his family in order to make this foundation possible.
It's not as if there weren't thoughtful proposals on how to end the war with a negotiated peace. At the end of August 2023, Zeitgeschichte im Fokus, a Swiss magazine, published an article for which Professors Peter Brandt, Hajo Funke and Horst Teltschik, as well as retired General Harald Kujat, were responsible. The overarching motto reads like this: "Legitimate self-defense and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace are not contradictory." The detailed article, supported by sources, describes why neither side can win this war militarily. The steps of the exit strategy are described very specifically in three phases: Ceasefire, peace negotiations, a European security and peace order.
"The war could have been prevented," it says at one point, "had the West accepted a neutral status for Ukraine (which Selenskyj was initially quite willing to do), renounced NATO membership, and enforced the Minsk II agreement for minority rights for the Russian-speaking population. The war could have ended in early April 2022 had the West allowed the Istanbul negotiations to conclude. It is now once again, and possibly for the last time, the responsibility of the 'collective West' and the U.S. in particular to set the course toward ceasefire and peace negotiations."
It is time that even the last person understands how important it is not to miss the point of no return, because things are developing a momentum of their own that cannot be captured politically. Given the military capabilities and the fully stocked nuclear arsenals, this can only end in disaster. In comparison, even the threat of climate catastrophe will seem like a walk in the park. The problems associated with it will have been solved.
In my opinion, those who say that it should not be left to the Ukrainian government alone to decide how to proceed are right. Because in the EU, the position is quite unanimously held that it is inappropriate to press Ukraine into negotiations, that this is the sole responsibility of this sovereign state. This attitude of the EU, which is communicated to the outside world, ignores the role of the United States. This, in turn, is not insignificantly determined by the beginning election campaign and is anything but predictable with regard to the engagement in Ukraine. Either way - a lot depends on these decisions and a situation is looming in which the risks are no longer manageable. And once again, all of this is taking place in Europe, in the immediate neighborhood of our own country. Statements such as the following by Alfred de Zayas, U.S. international law expert and former U.N. official on the Human Rights Council responsible for promoting a democratic and just international order, also deserve to be heard: "Both Americans and Europeans have no right to jeopardize the survival of the planet because of an intra-European quarrel. For the average African, Asian or Latin American, it is completely irrelevant whether Crimea belongs to Russia or Ukraine. A nuclear war should never be ignited over this."
All the efforts that are being made to work out workable political solutions - mostly not to be found in the so-called mass media and not to be found in the political establishment in the so-called center either - of course only have a chance if the political will is there. This includes the willingness to break out of this vicious circle of hatred and retaliation. That does not seem to be the case at the moment. It is worth taking a look at other countries. After decades of apartheid policy in South Africa, which was associated with unimaginable cruelty, this country has made a new start with the help of a reconciliation commission. In Spain, it was a "pact of forgetting" to start anew after the crimes of the Franco dictatorship. In February/March 2020, there were indeed also discussions in Ukraine about such a reconciliation platform, in which "continental Ukrainians" and Ukrainians in the Donbas were to approach each other. At the time, the idea was conceived by a freelance advisor to the Secretary of the National Council for Security and Defense named Serhij Syvocho. However, this initiative was immediately defamed as pro-Russian and prevented.
I would like to see young people, who have shaken up societies around the world with their involvement in the fight against climate change, discover the issue of peace and work for it with the same vigor. Opinions on how best to do this may and must be debated.
The universally recognized publicist Hannah Arendt wisely observed that plurality of opinion is the engine of democracy. There is nothing to add to this.
Gabriele Krone-Schmalz: "Ice Age: How Russia is Demonized and Why That is So Dangerous," Frankfurt am Main, October 2023.