In a very impressive interview (August 31st in “Weltwoche” Magazine with Roger Koeppel) former Inspector General of the German Federal Army and Chairman of the NATO Military Commission Harald Kujat gave a strikingly sober strategic evaluation about the ongoing Russia- Ukraine war. The interview reflected a deep understanding of the essential principles of the Clausewitz military doctrine. Starting from the principle that the “truth is the whole”, 4-star General Kujat urges the need to open discussion about a “ceasefire and peace negotiations under the direct mediation of the UN Security Council as well as the need for a new European security architecture” – similar to the CSCE and the Charter of Paris Conference- where both Russia and Ukraine will have a place. The General explains in the interview a key principle of Clausewitz who advised that the capacity to think what the other side, “the counterpart” is thinking, must always be taken into consideration. It should go together with a “healthy judgement about one’s own strength and weakness.” Kujat sees a fundamental “deficit and lack of capacity for strategic thinking” in today’s leading political circles that goes along with a “certain incompetence in foreign and security policy.”
The present Russia- Ukraine war was qualified by the General as a conflict taking place on three levels: there is the “military conflict”, an “economic war” and an “information war,” the latter one being reflected in a totally one- sided press coverage that is nourishing fake “expert opinions”. According to Harald Kujat “this war cannot be won neither by Russia, nor by the US or by Ukraine. “Economically the West has already lost this war and we will live with this experience for years and decades,” Kujat stated. On the military side we see that Russia has chosen a “strategic defense” –having used all those past months at the front in order to construct an in depth first and second and third defense line. Since start of the Ukraine counteroffensive on the 4rth of June this year, we see according to Kujat, an “asymmetric war”, where the Ukraine attacks, since they want to step by step conquer territory and each square meter they conquer is seen as success. But this means a lot of blood and victims, as the Ukrainian General Chief of staff General Valerii Zaluzhnyi had said.
According to the General Russia wants to decimate the Ukrainian armed forces, and make the enemy defenseless. Kujat critically remarked that with the Ukraine suffering enormous losses, the West still believes that with more weapon deliveries it can compensate the Ukraine for those losses. He gave a very detailed description of the battlefield where the main battles are taking place and comments that when we today hear about Ukrainian successes, this concerns combat taking place in a special zone, where so far no real break- through has become visible. Russia on the other side has two advantages: one is the effect of highly modern Russian weapons at a distance of 3000 km. The Ukraine tries to defend itself against this with the help of Western Air defense systems. He pointed to the ongoing discussion in Germany about the highly modern “Taurus” cruise missiles with a range of 500 km, which has an enormous escalation potential, especially in light of the German history and the situation after 1945. The second advantage is the Crimean which is used by Russia as a logistical hub to support the Russian Armed Forces. Therefore, the aim of Ukraine is to block the Crimean and concentrate there. However Kujat points out that after three months of Ukrainian counteroffensive what is shown is that they “don’t have a real breakthrough.”
In the Interview Kujat makes clear that further “weapon system deliveries” will not really “change the strategic situation” and be a “game changer.” The Russians have aerial superiority and Ukraine’s drone attacks in Russia have no strategic significance for Russia. He states that more dangerous indeed would be attacks by Taurus cruise missile which could bust leadership bunkers and if we hold against this the statement by President Zelenskyi who said that we get where the war originated from -this means that we are reaching a “critical point.” He reminds at one point that at the end of last year the Ukrainians launched an attack against the Russian air base Engels, near the city Saratov, where nuclear capable strategic bombers are stationed, which could have had very dangerous consequences.
The General also points to another dilemma: The Russians so far got Kupiansk and Liman as well as Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. And he reasons: Let’s suppose there are further military deliveries. “Would the West allow military defeat? Or would it say we have to send more soldiers on the ground?” Definitely we should avoid a “point of no return”, i.e. avoid having to send in troops.
Kujat underlines that so far the strategy of the West has been a “military and economic failure.” For Kujat it is clear that “we have lost he economic war.” It didn’t have any real effect on Russia since the Russian GDP is positive whereas ours is negative.
How to get a ceasefire and peace negotiations
A very important part of Kujat’s interview is dedicated to explain the significance of the recent call for “A ceasefire and peace negotiations” which was published in the Swiss paper “Zeitgeschehen im Fokus” as well as by “Wirtschaftsnachrichten” (see also previous article by the author). The call as Kujat reiterates, was signed by Prof. Peter Brandt, Prof. Hajo Funke, by Gen. Kujat and by former advisor to Helmut Kohl, Dr. Horst Teltschik, with whom Kujat worked in the Chancellor’s Office. The General qualified the “call” as an attempt to show a way for a ceasefire, followed by peace negotiations. The call intends to show that there exists a way out of the conflict.
In respect to the call Kujat points out threes aspects that should be taken into consideration in order to reach a ceasefire and peace negotiations and a stabile peace architecture in the tradition of the former CSCE and Charter of Paris. “Some of the acting politicians must decide.” Therefore the call is addressed to Scholz and Macron, so that they in discussing with the American President Biden and the Turkish President agree to discuss and then tell Ukraine that now it’s enough. “We must have reason prevail since we don’t want the war to escalate.”
The General underlined that if we look at the world around us, an entirely different process is taking place. He particularly emphasized the significance of the recent BRICS conference in Johannesburg (South Africa) and the “emergence of a new multipolar world.” Being asked about his biggest concern and to what extent the war could lead to a third world war, he states that his greatest concern is a “Europeanization of the War”. If one takes into account that Storm Shadow missiles have been delivered to Ukraine and reflections given to the delivery of “Taurus” – all being weapons from Europe- “I am concerned that the Europeanization of this war will continue further” and that from the side of NATO a “coalition of the willing” may be formed to go further, hence the “risk exists for a limited nuclear war,” in which Russia is also not interested.
Contrary to the wide spread line that President Putin never wants to negotiate, that he is a slaughterer and war criminal, the General underlines that in fact Putin did negotiate. The fact that Ukraine deploys “cluster ammunition” which is banned, given its devastating effects on the civilian population, shows that crimes are committed on both sides. Aside the horrendous losses on the Ukrainian side, Kujat emphasizes, that one should see the absurdity of the argument (Zelenskyy) who would “out of principle” accept another 100.000 more dead soldiers, in order to get back territory from the Russians, a territory -mostly a Russian speaking population- whose minority rights didn’t get respected by the Ukrainian government. Equally absurd is the refusal by President Zelenskyy to not “negotiate “with Russia, for principled reasons. The reality is however, according to Kujat, that at the beginning of the conflict, the Ukraine d i d negotiate with Russia. He also referred to the Africa summit in St. Petersburg June 17th, where Putin had stated “I am ready to negotiate about principles that are coherent with the principle of justice and recognition of legitimate security interests.”
UN Security Council: key role for restoring peace and security
According to Kujat a key role should be played by the UN Security Council that along Art. 24 of the UN Charter should take the decision in “favor of restoring peace and security.” In this UN Security Council, there are also the main actors the ,US and Russia, present. If a UNSC decision were to be taken for a ceasefire, all steps would follow. It’s like solving the “Gordian knot” with a flash of insight. The decision would be based on the principle that a demilitarized zone would be created comprising 50 km in Ukraine to the Russian border and from Russia 50 km till the Ukraine border, including Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk etc. After that a UN peacekeeping troop should be sent into this demilitarized zone, in order to keep the enemy forces apart, which the OSCE can’t do (as had been proven before in Donetsk where the OSCE had only protocol like functions).
This step should be accepted by both conflict parties. No further weapons should be delivered by Ukraine or by Russia in the zone. The point that should be reached is to start negotiations under the chairmanship of the UN General Secretary or under a UN High Commissioner for peace and security in Ukraine, at the UN HQ in Geneva. In terms of Russia’s and Ukraine ‘s position, one should see that Russia, on 17th December 2021, formulated its security concerns. The Ukraine position goes back to the Istanbul negotiations, spring 2022, the results of which at the time were widely accepted by Russia. Kujat pointed out to the very ingenious “China Peace Proposal” that while having been judged negatively by many, had “two interesting aspects.”
“The Chinese peace proposal referred to the UN Resolution at the UN General Assembly March 2022 in which all states were urged to do their best to come to negotiations. And it refers to a UN resolution from February 23rd 2023, where the states were told to double their peace efforts. The importance about the China peace proposal, according to Kujat, is that they emphasized that “negotiations must continue and start from the moment where a “common platform was reached” (for example Istanbul).
Powerful group around BRICS emerging – which can prevent the desaster
Being asked where we are heading to, Kujat makes reference to the drive of various players in the 19th century for “hegemony” which ended in the disastrous First World War, the “primal catastrophe” of the 20th century, as it is often called. Today the Russia- Ukraine war could become the “primal catastrophe” of the 21st century (!). What we see on the other side is the emergence of a very powerful block around BRICS, which China and Russia are part of, and 30 countries lining up for its membership. On the other side we see the US trying to form a counterweight, by using NATO as a bridge to draw Europe into this block and by trying to find allies in the Indo- Pacific region.
Despite the fact that probably a “hot war” around the Taiwan issue is in the making, and in light of the new NATO Strategy (June 2022) that aims to weaken Russia and China, Kujat remains optimistic. Having frequently visited the US, he underlines that one should not confuse the American people with the current incompetent US administration.
Hopefully the assessment of General Kujat will be used by responsible leaders in Germany and France and Turkey to show a way out of the present crisis.