By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
In the past weeks in an almost routine like way a political correctness campaign has been launched by leading German media against a group of highly respected German senior politicians who all have expressed their criticism against EU- Russia sanctions. Among those politicians are some of the main architects of the policy of “détente” and of German reunification. It includes former German Foreign Minister Hans -Dietrich Genscher (FDP) who had harsh criticism against the EU sanctions; former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt ( SPD) who in a commentary in the German Magazine “Die Zeit”( 26.09.) warned about the EU imposed sanctions and respectively Russian reflexes. He underlined that for the first time since the end of the Cold War the Ukraine crisis could turn into a new “Cuban Missile Crisis;” and former Chancellor Helmut Schröder (SPD). All of these politicians have been defamed and portrayed by the German press as “Russland-Versteher” (“Russia understanders”).
A key example is former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who since almost six months hasn’t spoken in the public press after he had been targeted in a hate campaign as “Putin’s friend”.
At the occasion of a “Russia” Day- a regional economic conference -organized by the Minister President of the federal State of Mecklenburg –Vorpommern, Erwin Sellering, beginning October, Schröder spoke in front of 600 guests under thundering applause, stating: “I really want to understand Russia and its political leadership. I am not ashamed of it, on the contrary: I am proud of it.” Instead of constantly accusing each other and attack Russia and the Western value system, Schröder demanded a deeper understanding of history and presented as vision for the future: the idea that one day there should be a “joint European history book” which young Europeans should study . At the same event Russian Ambassador Vladimir M.Grinin emphasized the negative consequences which the actual sanctions already have on the Russian-German goods trade, which have shrunk by 25% in one month. He accused the EU of “intriguing” against Russia’s Eurasian economic space from Vladivostok to Lisbon.
Prof. Sergei Karaganov’s strategic observations about U.S.- Russia dilemma
A very clear commentary was also made by Russian security strategist and leading Valdai Club member, Prof. Sergei Karaganov. In an article for the Valdai Discussion Club September 23rd under the title “Russia and the U.S. – A long confrontation?”, Karaganov described the strategic dilemma which at present the superpowers U.S. and Russia are facing.
On the background of increasing difficulties domestically, Karaganov described the main strategy of the U.S. as “destabilizing key regions of the world (…) in order to weaken competitors and create conditions for a return in the future.” As result Iraq has been destroyed, Libya has collapsed and attempts are made to destroy Syria while the entire Mideast has become unstable after the failed Arab Spring. The present U.S. strategy is characterized as “a rearguard strategy of leaving behind zones of instability and potential dependence” which manifested itself “most graphically by first provoking a crisis over Ukraine and then blowing it up. The overall impression is that the United States is turning from a pillar of the world order and stability into a main spoiler and destroyer, while the task for the international community and Russia is the Western- proposed control of not so much the ‘rise of new powers’ as the weakening of old ones.”
On the other hand , Karaganov notes that Russia which “gnawed by complexes stemming from its previous humiliations and still struggling with the residual yet significant domination of the United States- has lost the opportunity to reach an agreement with the Americans similar to what existed during the brief period of U.S. constructiveness.”
According to Karaganov Russia failed to develop and implement a credible and effective development concept and having only paid “lip service to modernization”, and the Russian elite began “to look for excuses for its inaction and turned to the idea of external threat … first the ‘threat’ was consistently inflated and later it emerged as a real crisis to hit the country. However no mobilization for national development purposes took place, so there was nothing left to pump up the threat alone.”
Karaganov notes that there has been a slowdown (due to distraction) of Russia’s long- overdue economic reorientation is to Asia through the accelerated rise of Siberia and the Russian Far East.
A possible solution for the Ukraine crisis?
The most important task right now is to avoid a major war in Ukraine or a direct clash with the West, and the second task is to look for a long-term compromise and settlement. In looking for a settlement, Karaganov advises, a treaty fixing the new status quo in Europe and suggests that the territory of what is now Ukraine “should either be divided or, preferably, made an area of joint development.” While the U.S. seems to not be interested in a settlement, according to Karaganov, it remains to be seen whether Germany and other European countries which advocated close ties with Russia will be able to take the initiative, they have lost, along with confidence. Since both Russia and Europe needs peace, Karaganov draws the outline of a possible compromise based on:
1. “the eternal neutrality of Ukraine, codified on its constitution and guaranteed by external powers;
2. greater cultural autonomy for eastern and southeastern Ukraine;
3. economic openness of Ukraine to the East and West (ideally , a compromise allowing Ukraine to be both in association with the EU and the Customs Union);
4. Russian and German joint support for the economic development of Ukraine;
5. Termination by all involved, including Russia, of support for the sides in the civil war, and an appeal to them to renounce the use of force;
6. evacuation of refugees and resistance fighters;
7. mutual renunciation of sanctions and counter sanctions.