by Elisabeth Hellenbroich
Reflections about a speech by General Hans-Lothar Domröse, Commander of the Allied Joint Forces Command Brunssum
In the first week of September following the contact group meeting of Minsk (White Russia) developments occurred which could pave the way for a more comprehensive political solution of the Ukraine crisis: For the first time since the outbreak of military conflict in Southeast Ukraine in spring this year, joint efforts by Russian President Putin and Ukraine President Poroschenko have laid the ground for a comprehensive ceasefire. The agreed upon cease fire went into effect after a meeting of the contact group in Minsk, including representatives from Russia, from the Ukraine government, from the Eastern Ukraine pro Russia Militias and from the OSCE. The participants at the meeting signed a 12 point protocol whose main elements are: a ceasefire, border control, the freeing of hostages and humanitarian cordons for South Eastern Ukraine. Despite a few disturbances the cease fire has been maintained up to now. With the West still being doubtful on Russia’s reliability, the EU has ordered a new round of sanctions- in order to force Russia to show a more “constructive attitude” in the practical application of the ceasefire.
NATO summit – a summit of gestures?
The cease fire agreement coincided with the NATO summit which was held this year (5. / 6. September) in Cardiff (Wales). Despite a lot of propaganda preceding the summit, it turned out to be –as many observers noted in the West- “a summit of gestures”. The author had the chance to attend a presentation which was given in Mainz September 4 by the actual Commander of the Allied Joint forces Command Brunssum, General Hans –Lothar Domröse, a NATO insider who essentially gave a briefing about the main decisions which NATO was about to take. The main focus of his presentation had shifted due to recent events in Ukraine. The arguments developed by Domröse were: The West right now finds itself in a new geopolitical situation, largely determined by Russia’s actions in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, which in light of Russia’s drive to “revise the 1989 events”, has turned Russia into a main adversary of NATO.
Domröse specifically accused Russia of being engaged in “hybrid warfare” – a new term coined by NATO for what must be understood as “irregular warfare”. Illustrative for this, as Domröse commented, was the takeover of the Crimean peninsula and the involvement of “irregular Russian fighters” at the side of the rebels in Eastern Ukraine during the month of August, which prompted a sudden military turn on the ground. What he did not say is what was stated by informed Russia observers in the West: The Ukraine conflict can’t be won militarily.
As the General pointed out, the main concern of NATO in Cardiff was the security of the three Baltic states Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – all three being “Members of the NATO Club”. Estonia has 1,2 Mio inhabitants, 27,4% of which are Russian, who are “well integrated into the society”, Domröse said. It is possible however as the General pointed out, that one nice day “little green men” show up in some market place in Estonia engaging in provocations which could create the pretext for similar events like on the Crimean peninsula or like in some in parts of Eastern Ukraine during the month of August.
In case of such a provocation in Estonia, NATO would act in defense of Estonia—by applying the “collective defense clause”. Domröse accused Russia for trying a “complete
revision of the 1989”, including the plan to create a Nova Rossija, a land bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with South Eastern Ukraine.
Unlike Estonia, Ukraine is however not a Member of the Club, Domröse noted and “will not be for a while.” He further underlined that the West will not engage in military engagement with respect to Ukraine, which ultimately risks a war with Russia. He supported what then was later decided in Cardiff by the 28 NATO members: the agreement for the formation of a Rapid Response Force (6000 soldiers) of the allied countries which on a rotational basis can be rapidly deployed in Eastern Europe – in particular in the Baltic states, in case of new crisis emerging.
A way out for Russia and Ukraine
On the background of Domröse’s presentation which is in line with the actual NATO policy, it is worthwhile to study some commentaries which are looking at the present geopolitical situation differently and more soberly. Illustrative are two commentaries which were written by Western members of the Valdai Club. ( Founded in 2004 by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti, the Valdai Club represents a framework for leading experts from around the world to debate on Russia and its role in the world.)
One such Valdai Club member, Anatol Lieven ( US citizen, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar and author of the book “Ukraine and Russia: A fraternal rivalry”) published on September 3rd an Op Ed in the New York Times( NYT) under the headline “A way out for Ukraine and Russia”. In his analysis Lieven stressed that it was clear since the start of the Ukraine conflict, that there was never a chance for the Ukrainian government to win militarily: “Russia has demonstrated an ability to send in whatever lightly disguised forces are necessary to fight the Ukrainian army to a standstill. For the West to encourage Kiev to seek a military victory – as its governments seem to have been doing- could only lead to inevitable defeat. (…) The reported Ukrainian moves towards an agreement with Moscow on a cease fire with the rebels are therefore a logical step”, Lieven commented.
He further argued that even if the West were to provide Kiev with enough military aid to give a real chance of crushing the rebels, this would create a real chance of a full scale Russian invasion. Such an invasion could only be stopped by the introduction of a western Army- something which is simply not a possibility. “A Russian invasion would be disaster both for Ukraine and Russia and a disastrous humiliation for NATO and the West.” Hence the time has come for a political solution, which implies that “the West should take advantage of any cease fire efforts to craft and strongly advocate such a solution, and should negotiate with Kiev and Moscow a political solution which could consist of a special autonomous status for the Donbass region within Ukraine and separate Donbass in this way would allow the West to help developing and consolidating the rest of the Ukraine without constant disturbance in the East.”
The common interest between Russia and the West to fight Islamic terrorism
Valdai Club member Alexander Rahr (a well-known German Russia expert who works as senior advisor for the German oil and gas company Wintershall Holding GmbH) made a different emphasis in a commentary written for the Valdai Club September 1 under the title “Learning from Beslan. Ten Years later”, in which reflections are made about the need for a closer Russia- Western cooperation against Islamic terrorism. (Talking about Beslan, Rahr refers to the brutal Beslan – North Caucasus- school massacre which was carried out by
Islamic terrorists on September 1,2004. During the three day siege 1100 hostages, including 777 children, were taken and the brutal assault ended in the death of 334 people, sending shock waves throughout Russia at the time.) Rahr recalls that at the time of the Beslan terrorist attack the first International Valdai club meeting was taking place where Valdai Club members received a firsthand report from Russian President Putin “different from what Western media were publishing back then. (…) This horrible act of terrorism made clear to all those present at the conference the critical importance of deepening dialogue and finding common ground in order to combat Islamic extremism. I think it was precisely the atmosphere of the first conference that started off a whole series of trusted and candid conversations in subsequent years.”
Rahr noted that despite the fact that Russia has managed to expel from the North Caucasus international legionaries who fought on the side of the Chechen rebels and thus calmed down the situation in southern Russia, the threat of the most terrible and tangible conflict facing humanity is today coming from international Islamic extremism and new lines of international conflicts are drawn by Islamic terrorism. “The Ukrainian conflict will sooner or later come to an end, and a consensus will be found both within the country and on its borders”, Rahr concluded, but with Islamic terrorism gaining momentum “ the penetration of Islamic radicals into European societies is a major challenge to Western countries and Russia, forcing them to unite in the face of a common threat.”
[simpleazon-link asin=”0300211597″ locale=”it”]Ukraine Crisis: What it Means for the West[/simpleazon-link]
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