By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
A close look at the actual state of the Western world, which celebrated its solidarity and unity with Ukraine in the fight against Russia (G7 summit in Elmau and NATO summit in Madrid), shows that cracks in the system are emerging. Statements from military experts such as Erich Vad, military advisor to former Chancellor Angela Merkel, from 99 year old diplomat Henry Kissinger, as well as from military Russian observers, note – in contrast to the official press hype- that the military situation on the ground in Ukraine is much more “complex” than is officially admitted and that an “operational break” followed by ceasefire and peace negotiations is more desirable than endlessly prolonging the war. It makes no sense to further isolate Russia from Europe, but Russia is needed in the search for a constructive solution in Ukraine as well as around the globe.
Ukraine war: An operational break is desirable
According to the former military advisor to Angela Merkel, Erich Vad (in a ntv interview July 13) he very much doubts whether it makes sense to continue the war in its present from. He pointed to the immense Russian air superiority, emphasizing that Russia in the battlefield will remain a powerful actor, despite the arrival of highly modern heavy weapons from the US and Europe. Vad stressed that the eastern part of Ukraine has been largely conquered and that 80% of the population have been evacuated. The Russians have occupied Luhansk and the war is carried more and more into the cities. According to Vad the “Russians clearly have the escalation dominance” and are capable to easily transport as many weapons as they want from their own Russian territory into the Ukrainian battlefield. The Ukraine has in part started a counter- attack in the South of Ukraine, a “limited offensive”, but the idea “that 1 million men are ready for an offensive in the South” (as Selensky had proclaimed) “is not visible on the horizon.”
The Russian military almost controls the entire Black Sea Coast and keeps striking at military supply routes for the Ukraine. According to Vad, what is needed right now is an “operational break” in order to negotiate. If that opportunity is gone however, the Russians will go ahead as far as to the Dnepr region and incorporate it. Militarily the Ukraine believes that if the war is prolonged with the help of Western weapons and if there is a war like in Afghanistan or according to the Vietcong style, then they would have the chance to win the war. “I do not wish that for the Ukraine. Aside there is the huge danger that the war would escalate. So there should be negotiations between the two sides.” Vad stressed again that the so called counter offensive of the Ukraine in the South is “wishful thinking.”
Concerning the arrival of heavy weapons (including US Multiple Rocket Launchers HIMARS) as well as anti-tank and air defense weapons from Europe, he pointed to an obvious “logistical gap” concerning the transport of such weapons to the Ukraine. While Russia can be supplied easily from its own hinterland with new weapons, artillery and tanks, the weapons for Ukraine have to be transported logistically by train, at a distance of 800 km. In addition, what is needed for the use of such sophisticated weapons is “training”, as well as constant “maintenance” and the availability of “spare parts” for those systems. Drones (like the ones supposedly proposed by Iran to Russia) are efficient, Vad said. Being asked to what extent the Ukraine could “liberate Russian occupied territory”, Vad emphasized that the only chance for the Ukraine is to switch into a “guerilla mode of operation.” But it is unclear whether this would yield results. “Militarily speaking the Ukraine can’t really turn things around and neither NATO nor the US wants to become part of the war. The whole thing may escalate. Fact is, if there are no negotiations possible, the Russians will get militarily the upper hand.”
Erich Vad was one of the signatories of German intellectuals, military advisors and diplomats that had signed the “Appeal. War in Ukraine: Ceasefire now!” The appeal, which called for ceasefire and negotiations, was published June 29th in the German weekly “Die Zeit”. Similarly in the weekly “Focus” (29.06) several researchers form the “Institute for peace and conflict research” at the European University Viadrina (Frankfurt/Oder), had called for a ceasefire and the need for multilateral peace negotiations that would take into account Putin’s demand for multipolar directed New World Order.
Kissinger: Ceasefire needed
The doyen of diplomacy, 99 year old Henry Kissinger in an interview with the German Magazine “Der Spiegel” about his new book The art of statecraft: Six Lessons for the 21. century was asked how the Ukraine war could be brought to an end. Kissinger underlined that in order to end the war, the best dividing line would be a return to the “status quo ante”, which comprises approximately 93% of the country. Restore this status quo ante would mean that the aggression is not going to be successful. In other words, what is needed is a ceasefire along the contact line of the 24th of February. “The area controlled by Russia would comprise 2,5 % of Ukrainian territory in Donbass as well as on the Crimean Peninsula. That should become part of continuing negotiations.”
Kissinger emphasized in the interview that he never said that the Ukraine should give up part of its territory. He referred to Selensky who in an interview with Financial Times had stated, that “the return to the status quo ante would be victory and, that one would have to fight diplomatically for the rest of the territory.” The Ukraine war, according to Kissinger, is “a balance of forces” fight between the great powers, while on the other side it shows elements of a civil war. It is a combination of a “classical European conflict” and a global one. Once the war ends, the question will be, whether Russia could define its relation to Europe which it always wanted, or whether it becomes an “outpost of Asia on the border with Europe”, Kissinger said.
What complicates the present strategic situation, according to Kissinger, is the fact that aside nuclear weapons, today we are faced with Cyber war weapons and Artificial Intelligence technologies which are difficult to control for today’s political leaders, if it comes to war. Being asked about Biden, who had described the present situation as a “fight between democracy and autocracy” as well as the new German government’s definition of a “value based foreign policy,” Henry Kissinger answered that for him, given his personal history, “democracy is a desirable system. Yet, if such preference is seen as the ‘main goal’ in international relations (!) this will lead to a ‘missionary impulse’(!). It could again lead to a ‘military conflict similar to the thirty years war.’”
He furthermore stated that the “principle of sovereignty” on the basis of which international relations were first constructed in Europe and then in the whole world, has two consequences: On the one side it established what is called the “legality in international law (Völkerrecht)”. On the others side it splits the world, because in some states the principle of sovereignty ranks highest. “That’s a dilemma which is difficult to solve philosophically, since some countries on the basis of their cultural difference follow a different hierarchy of values.”
Being asked about Russia and to what extent the US was strong enough in order to fight two adversaries China and Russia simultaneously?, Kissinger answered: “ If that means to widen the war in Ukraine into a war against Russia and maintain at the same time hostile relations with China, this would be very unwise. I support the effort of NATO and the US to stop Russian aggression and restore Ukraine in in its previous dimension that it had before the war. And I do understand that Ukraine raises additional demands. This however should become subject of discussion within the broader frame of international relations. But even if that were to succeed, the future relation that Russia will have with Europe should be clarified (…) The question whether Russia remains part of European history or becomes permanent adversary, which is in alliance with other territories, will be central and it will be the case, irrespective of outcome of Ukraine war and its consequence.”
Civilizational confrontation between Russia and the West? A Russian viewpoint
One should hold against this a Russian point of view which was published in form of a military analysis in an article July 3rd : “What results can be achieved by the special operation in Ukraine.” Russian military analyst Yuro Apukhtin (from the circle of the Russian Foundation for Historical Perspectives) characterized the ongoing war (termed “special operation”) not “as a war with Ukraine, but a civilizational confrontation between Russia and the West on the Ukrainian bridgehead.” The price of victory would be very high for both sides. The conflict in Ukraine goes far beyond this territory because its outcome could fundamentally change the balance of power on the world stage and contribute to a multipolar world order.
The analyst sees Ukraine as a “chessboard” and its future will be determined by whoever wins this game. “Neither side has achieved a strategic breakthrough, he states (…), Russia did not manage to solve the military tasks of the special operation in the first stage within a short period of time. Nor did the West succeed in quickly breaking Russia by imposing a brutal economic blockade and forcing Russia out of the energy market, disconnecting it from the world trade and financial system and the insurance structures of trade and transport operations, and banning exports of high- tech products(…) The Western plan to economically strangulate Russia failed, it turned out to be one of the few countries that are pivot in the global industrial chain, and attempts to sever ties with Russia led to complete disorganization of the global economy. In Europe and the United States, the crisis intensified dramatically, production was curtailed, inflation was unprecedented, energy, fuel and food prices rose. Biden had to defend himself by claiming that “Putin did it all” for the price hikes in the U.S. (…) Russia has shown not only that it is not afraid of scanctions from the West, it can even create global economic problems and win in the economic confrontation. The confrontation between Russia and the West began to move to another phase and is determined not so much by the military situation on the Ukrainian theater, but by the balance of power in the global economic theater.”
Apukhtin concluded that “after four months, neither Russia nor the West has achieved a strategic breakthrough, while the West incurs much greater costs. Russia seeks to preserve the lives of its servicemen, to minimize the destruction of cities and infrastructure (this will all have to rebuilt later) and not to provoke the US into internationalizing the Ukrainian conflict.” For Russia- the longer the conflict lasts, the “weaker the West will be”, the analyst writes. He sums up his reflections by underlining that “The West has failed to crush Russia quickly with economic methods, its calculation that Russian society will immediately break down because of the difficulties, has not come true.” It is advantageous for the West to freeze the conflict and get a respite in order to solve their problems and accumulate strength,” and he added that “the stakes in trying to prevent a ‘takeover of Ukraine by Russia are so high that to achieve this goal, the US administration is willing to put up even with a global recession and food problems.”
It is indeed at this point appropriate to follow the advice of “realists”, such as Vad and Kissinger etc.– so as the find the time for a “ceasefire” – a “breathing space followed by subsequent negotiations”, that could show a way out of the present conflict. In the presently highly unstable situation of the global world economy such a “break” is beneficiary for the societies and the world economy.