By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
As of writing this article, the USA, France and the UK have launched in the night of April 13th to 14th 2018 a joint military operation against Syria. They used 100 cruise missiles, which were directed against Syrian targets in Damascus and Homs, hitting according to the latest reports supposedly Syrian chemical research and production facilities. The joint air strikes came in response to a chemical weapon attack, April 7th, in Douma (Eastern Ghouta) that was allegedly carried out by Syrian military forces against their own civilian population. It was reported that Russia was informed about the impending attacks, which in violation of International Law ,were neither preceded by a UN mandate nor an independent fact finding commission and OPCW investigators on the ground. The military strikes were intended to send a strong political signal to Russia, Syria and Iran, namely that the West will not tolerate any crossing of a „red line“.
In a TV address to the American people US president Trump explained the motive for the joint actions by stating: „One year ago Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20% of the Syrian air forces. Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians, this time in the town of Douma near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons used by that very terrible regime…“ These he underlined „are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead. (…) No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators. In 2013 President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad’s recent attack and today’s response are the direct result of Russia‘s failure to keep that promise – Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nation as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia and maybe even Iran, but maybe not.“
The attacks were supported and hailed by French President Macron, British Prime Minister May and the British Defense establishment as well as by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Substantially this will not change the situation on the ground in Syria – whose government – following the assessment of many experts- for example from Germany (like Alexander Rahr, well known political scientist on Russia and the former Soviet Union e.h.) is firmer in power than at any time before. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Sacharowa, it is noteworthy that the military actions were planned at the very moment when a peaceful settlement is in sight in Syria and after the terrorist IS has been successfully driven out of most regions in Syria.
So the question is: what can one conclude from the attitude of an elite that irrespective of not existing or publically presented proof concerning the alleged chemical weapon attack by Assad, wants to „punish“ the Syrian regime, a regime that in the words of Trump is considered a „rogue regime“. What can one conclude if the action is seen in the context of the 2003 war against Iraq that was conducted on the basis of manufactured facts and lies, plunging the entire Mideast region into chaos? Where does one find voices of reason that instead of war and punitive acts, demand a new beginning in diplomacy, combined with a peaceful settlement and reconstruction of the war torn region?
Dialogue instead of escalation
On Thursday 12th April the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) published a public call that was signed by several experienced former German politicians. Among them former State-Secretary in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1987-98) Helmut Schäfer ; Dr. Horst Teltschik (former chairman of the Munich Security Conference 1999-2008); Günter Verheugen (former EU Commissioner 1999-2010) and Antje Vollmer (former Vice President of the German Federal Parliament (1994-2005).
In the call the authors express grave concern about the escalating conflict between Russia and the West, which- they state- is characterized by mutual sanctions, the rapid closing down of institutions and dialogue platforms which once had served as platform for dialogue, understanding and cooperation. „We are confronted with a worrisome alienation“, the authors write. The relation is determined by mutual accusations, blaming each other guilty, by suspicion and military threats. “
The authors emphasize that the memory of the millions of victims which the previous two world wars left behind, seem to fade away while underlining that end of the Cold War (1989) was proclaimed by both sides (the West and the SU) and that one should be aware of the term „Common House of Europe“, and President Putin’s speech in front of the Federal German Parliament (2001), in which he outlined a broad cooperation proposal for Germany and the West. The authors criticize that „we block out our responsibility for the failure of the pan- European Project. The key question is right now, whether the West wants to recognize Russia as an equal partner in all global questions or not. From our point of view there is no reasonable alternative to an equal partnership. “
As the authors observe, many West Europeans are alarmed by the fear of war. (In a recent survey by one of the leading German TV stations, ZDF, April 13th, it was reported that 80% of the Germans reject war against Syria E.H.) Many simply don’t understand, it is argued, why Germany, the country which once has been the main promoter of a detente policy, that essentially contributed to the reunification and the concept of a „Common European Peace Order. “ „The promise that was enshrined in the Charta of Paris 1990 has never been fulfilled.” Instead the authors observe a new rearmament spiral that has been set into motion which is increasingly getting „detached from the true causes and reasons.” Contrary to the period at the end of the Cold War, the present world situation is shaped by „disorder” and “unpredictability”. A collapse of the Western- Russian relations and the halt of almost all dialogue platforms, threaten to endanger the last remnants of global stability. The memory about two world wars seems to evaporate. They demand that everything be done to overcome the present stand-still and speechlessness. „There should be an open debate about all conflicts and points of disagreements with Russia, without any precondition, threats prejudices. „We should develop a policy which takes as basis the International Law and the common responsibility for the destiny of mankind. Germany and the EU should take initiatives in this direction.” The idea of a pan- European partnership may be not new, but it needs to be realized. This is the decisive foreign policy subject for the new German government. And whoever doesn‘t want to see that, is blind about the danger of a third and last World War.“
Sergej Karaganov: The West’s unilateral Cold War
A complementary element to this urgent call by former experienced German politicians, is given by an article that was written by influential Russian strategic advisor Sergej Karaganov (March 20th) under the title „The West’s unilateral Cold war”.
Karaganov comments in this article that the present relations with the United States, and now also with the UK, „are worse than in the 1950s, and the chance of a direct conflict is higher than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis. Given the complexity of today’s strategic nuclear weapons and the system designed to neutralize them, one cannot rule out the possibility that some actor on either side, or third party, could provoke escalation.“
The key problem which Karganov identifies is „the total lack of communications and mutual trust on both sides of US and Russia.” While on the American side he observes a feeling „close to hatred”, many Russians regard Americans with „disdain“. The backdrop in relations is, according to Karaganov, „worse than during the Cold War.” He holds against this that „Russia has no intention of waging another Cold War.” Given its culture and civilization – it also embraces „universal values such as trust in God, family and country as well as self-fulfillment through service to society and nation.”
A new Cold War, Karaganov concludes, „even if largely one- sided, would be extremely dangerous for humanity. Therefore he urges that „the world’s major powers should concentrate on strengthening international strategic stability through dialogue; reopening channels of communications between militaries; and restoring civility to their interaction. We should also consider establishing more diplomatic, legislative, academic, and education exchanges. „Most of all, though, we must stop demonizing each other“. He concludes that „the previous Western- led system has collapsed. To ensure a peaceful future, we need to start working together to build a new one.”
Wiesbaden, April 14th 2018