What’s the goal of the West in the Ukraine war?

This article originally appeared on Nachdenkseiten.

The West is delivering weapons, tearing down the last diplomatic bridges and showing tremendous solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The solidarity of the people will certainly be well intentioned. It tears the heart. But if you want to minimize people’s suffering, you shouldn’t rely on escalation, but on de-escalation. Whether we want it or not, this war can only be ended at the negotiating table, and whoever drags it out will ultimately only cause more suffering – also and above all in Ukraine. The geostrategic conflict between the West and Russia is carried out on the backs of the Ukrainians and an end is not only not in sight, but probably not even wanted by the West. Ukraine threatens to become a superpower battlefield, a new Afghanistan. This is not a desirable perspective for the Ukrainians either.

Listening to security and military experts’ assessments of the war in Ukraine these days, most are surprised at the strategic mistakes of the Russian military leadership. However, if you ask them how they assess Ukraine’s chances of military victory, the answer is unanimously: “zero”. At the end of the day it’s all about how long this war lasts and what the casualties are that you inflict on each other. There is also consensus that the longer the war lasts, the greater the dire consequences for the Ukrainian civilian population. Now, putting two and two together, one can only conclude that any prolongation of the war will only increase the suffering of the civilian population. Arms shipments do not alleviate the suffering of Ukrainians. In fact, the exact opposite is the case.

Most of the well-meaning supporters of such arms deliveries among the people are certainly not so aware of this. However, the situation is different for the political leaders. The Washington Post reported last December on plans by the US government to turn Ukraine into a new Afghanistan for Russia. There is talk of dragging Russia into a guerrilla war on Ukrainian soil, which the West is waging in a “legal gray area” with no direct involvement through arms sales and support to Ukrainian insurgents. If you read through the reports of arms deliveries, which Germany has also approved in the past few days, you have to conclude that our government is involved in precisely this US strategy. It was never about preventing a war in Ukraine. They wanted to set a trap for Russia and the Russian bear fell into this trap.

What now? Without even greater loss of face, Russia cannot reverse the war of aggression that violates international law, and it will not do so anyway without security guarantees from NATO. However, security guarantees can only be given at the negotiating table. There is no alternative to diplomacy and negotiations if you want to end the bloodshed. The West may or may not like that. And yes, it is not exactly satisfying for the sense of justice if, in the end, those who break international law can achieve their goals. But is that new? Were Serbia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or Iraq ultimately able to assert their interests against the interests of the West, which was attacking in violation of international law? That doesn’t make Russia’s war of aggression any better and shouldn’t justify or embellish anything – but please don’t pretend that this is an isolated case and that the value west on the other hand always adheres to international law.

As “unfair” as one may find it, there will be no return to the Europe of before the Ukraine war. On a purely rational level, Ukraine has a choice between a lesser evil and endless war as the battlefield of the superpowers. Greetings from Afghanistan. Would it be so bad for the people of Ukraine if, for example, an agreement could be reached that Ukraine renounced Crimea and the disputed areas in Donbass and committed itself to being neutral and demilitarized? This would be a possible compromise that could form the basis for an agreement between the West and the East. The alternative would be a permanent civil war in Ukraine – a second Afghanistan in which not only thousands of young Russians but also thousands of Ukrainians lose their lives in a senseless war between an occupying power and insurgents.

Every other day in this war people die. Existence is destroyed, the future destroyed. Anyone who – like all of us – wants the killing to end as quickly as possible should not deliver weapons to the war zone, but bring the conflicting parties to the table. But who should do that?

Let’s not fool ourselves. Neither the US nor NATO have an interest in it. Nothing could be better for the US than for Russia to be impoverished by sanctions and bled dry by the war in Ukraine. Perhaps the long-awaited regime change in Moscow will actually come about in the end? And no one is now claiming that the United States or its Western partners are even remotely concerned with the “poor Ukrainians”. They’re just unfortunate pawns in a cynical geopolitical chess game.

The only chance for a not completely catastrophic outcome of the war would be if “the West” recognized that it is not a homogeneous bloc, but that there should be different interests within the West. Germany and France cannot have any interest in a “new Afghanistan” on their own doorstep and should also have no interest in a new spiral of arms build-up and an “iron curtain” that permanently separates Central and Eastern Europe. In order to prevent this, however, they would have to emancipate themselves from the USA and its vassals in Eastern Europe and – as difficult as that is to imagine this week – approach Russia and negotiate a lasting peace as honest brokers. However, that is further than ever. If there was ever a glimmer of hope for overcoming US dominance in Europe and thinking within NATO logic, it has faded with Russia’s war of aggression. NATO is more powerful than ever and Germany, too, has sunk deeper than ever in the maelstrom of transatlantic escalation politics, at the latest since Olaf Scholz’s war speech last Sunday. This also means that the suffering of the Ukrainians will continue – not despite, but because of our false “solidarity”.

Jens Berger

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