What could be done to achieve peace? – Why doesn’t everyone pull on the same rope and want peace? Why do we talk about the use of nuclear weapons and not about peace? – What would it take and what are the chances?
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is an epic in which many stories are told and around which a love story entwines like roses around a pavilion. In the end, Natasha and Pierre find each other, a story that finds a romantic ending despite the great slaughter – a happy ending Russian-style.
If we take the Swiss literary heavyweight Friedrich Dürrenmatt as a guide, the outlook is considerably bleaker: the Swiss poet of the century said: “A story is only finished when it has taken its worst possible turn”.
Will the story of this conflict end à la Tolstoy or à la Dürrenmatt?
When countries are in a state of war, peace can be achieved by two means: Negotiate or keep fighting until one side surrenders. In the Second World War, the Allies demanded unconditional surrender from Nazi Germany. The reason for this was, among other things, that the Allies in the West and East did not trust each other and wanted to prevent Germany from concluding a separate peace with one or the other side, which would relieve the Wehrmacht on one or the other side of the front.
The Allies achieved their goal: on 8 May 1945, after five years of war in which over 70 million people lost their lives, Germany capitulated. The greatest blood toll was paid by the Soviet Union. Numbers speak: During the war in the East, the Soviet Union lost over 21,000 lives – each day, mind you.
The Second World War thus shows that fighting to the bitter end is the most inhumane way to end a war. So much for the Dürrenmatt variant.
It should therefore be the goal of every politician to prevent such a bloodbath, especially under the premise that today the existence of the entire human race is at stake due to nuclear weapons on more than one side.
However, the positions and the interests of the parties do not allow for optimism.
Reason for war and responsibility for war
The Western view is the following: Russia attacked its peaceful neighbour, the sovereign country of Ukraine, on 24 February without any comprehensible reason under international law and is thus solely responsible for the war. Russia seeks to expand and rebuild the Soviet empire.
Russia justifies the attack as follows: In addition to the five NATO expansions (1999 [Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary], 2004 [Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia], 2009 [Albania and Croatia], 2017 [Montenegro] and 2020 [Northern Macedonia], which were contrary to the agreed terms, the democratically elected government of Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014 by US-led coordination. The ensuing civil war between the new – illegal – regime of Ukraine and the Donbass, could not be ended by the Minsk agreements, as the Ukrainians failed to implement the agreement in violation of the treaty. Between 2014 and February 2022, 16,000 civilians in the autonomous Donbass were killed by Ukrainian artillery fire, which Russia considered genocide. The special military operation is aimed at correcting this situation. There is absolutely no intent to expand.
The two opinions are so far apart that it is unlikely that negotiations will lead to a consensus on the cause of the war.
The USA as a war party
Another reason that stands in the way of a quick peace is that the parties fighting the conflict militarily are by far not the only ones who have interests in this war and even participate in it; first and foremost, the USA.
The USA is never far from the scene of military conflicts in this world. Since 1945, the Americans have officially taken part in 46 wars, according to Wikipedia. Never was the USA attacked. The only thing in danger was – from the US point of view – the interests of the United States. In addition to these 46 military conflicts, the CIA also stirred up the map.
In 1953, for example, the CIA – together with the British MI6 – overthrew the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in Operation AJAX in order to restore the Shah to the Peacock Throne. The reason, as so often, was the black gold.
Secret services not in the public service, but as stooges of the oil industry. It was only in 2013, 60 years after this coup, that the archives opened in the USA and the truth came out. This coup, which the Americans naturally qualify as statute-barred, was one of the main reasons why the Middle East has been in flames again and again for 70 years.
The USA thus interprets the right of “self-defence” as the hegemon of this world much more broadly than it concedes to other countries. This is a fact and should be stated here without making judgements. The British behaved no differently during their time as hegemon. Hegemons have to behave in this way, otherwise they quickly lose their status. This, in my view, is the core problem of hegemony. That the US sees itself as a benign hegemon is pure propaganda and has nothing to do with the bloody reality.
Now what are the reasons that motivate the USA to send Ukrainians into the fire for American interests? From a bird’s eye view, it is discernible that the dominance of the USA is coming to an end. The homo novus in the great game is not Russia, but China. Russia has never been a hegemon and does not want to become one; quite apart from that, Russia’s population is probably far too small to be able to realise such an undertaking. The giant empire poses absolutely no threat to the US.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, and especially over the last 20 years, I believe the US has made a capital blunder in its approach. Instead of reaching out to Russia and embracing it in the West, which the Russians would have been so eager to allow, Russia was virtually forced by the anti-Russian policy of the USA to lean closer to China.
China might well have the potential to knock the US off its throne. However, it seems that China is not seeking to become hegemon itself, but rather to take a leading position in a multipolar world. This seems to be the intention of many non-Western countries that rally around organisations such as BRICS and SCO. More on this in my article The Unstoppable Rise of the East.
Confronted with this challenge, the Americans probably came to the conclusion that the chunk of China-Russia for which they are responsible is too overwhelming. Thus, the USA applied the proverbial principle of ancient Roman foreign policy: Divide et impera.
If the USA succeeds in weakening Russia in the long term, the Russia-China partnership will also be weakened and, as a consequence, China will become weaker, because Russia’s wealth in raw materials is an essential component of the Chinese strategy. By weakening Russia, the Americans would have achieved a milestone. China alone and weakened is a more digestible portion than China-Russia in a double pack.
The Americans have proved over the last 100 years that they are masters at achieving much militarily with homeopathic doses of their own blood. In World War I, the USA confined itself to supplying war supplies to England and France almost until the end of the war and became very wealthy as a result. In World War II, they continued this strategy in the European war until Hitler declared war on them after Pearl Harbour. Nevertheless, with comparatively few losses themselves, they managed to emerge as the big victor in the war and finally took over the sceptre from the British. Think what you will of the US, but this strategy deserves respect. They became hegemons at a half price.
In the current conflict, it is an open secret that American troops, politically correct “advisors”, are already present in Ukraine. However, they are waging the war again from a safe distance mainly through gigantic arms deliveries to Ukraine; a hell of a business for the American arms contractors – in the truest sense of the word.
The EU as a war party
The EU – above all Germany – thinks it is representing its own interests in this conflict, but fails to grasp that it is merely a piece on the American chessboard. In addition to weakening Russia, the Americans are pursuing another goal: increasing Europe’s dependence on America. This strategy, by the way, is far from new.
The Americans did not appreciate it at all in the 1970s when Germany began to buy cheap natural gas on a large scale from the Soviet Union, which had a double effect: firstly, it led to more independence from the Middle East and thus indirectly from the USA and, secondly, the cheap natural gas paved the way for Germany to become the world’s export champion.
Helmuth Schmidt, Federal Chancellor 1974-1982, and the American President Jimmy Carter clashed over this issue. Schmidt called President Carter a “peanut farmer” and denounced American influence. Among other things, he stated: “Those who trade with each other do not shoot at each other”. The years of rope-pulling over North Stream, which culminated in its partial destruction, thus appears in a different light from this perspective.
There were times when Germany stood up to the USA in the pursuit of its interests. However, those times are over, if only because of the lack of suitable staff. Compared to Helmuth Schmidt, Chancellor Scholz is an exceptionally weak figure at a time when Germany needed strong leadership.
NATO as a war party
NATO did train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers per year between 2014 and 2022 in preparation for war against Russia, but it is probably overestimated as a military force, since without the Americans it is not much more than a schmoozing club. The European armed forces – apart from the Turks – are a pitoyable bunch. In Germany, for example, military helicopter pilots fly ADAC helicopters to complete their compulsory hours because the bulk of the Luftwaffe is not fit to fly.
NATO’s sabre-rattling is probably more like US sabre-rattling on a second channel.
Peace failed at the last moment
Shortly after the conflict began in March, the Ukrainians and the Russians met in Istanbul and negotiated a peace at a very early stage. By March, there was reportedly a document ready to be signed that both the Ukrainians and the Russians could have lived with.
But then Boris Johnson flew to Kiev twice – not as a dove of peace, but as a warmonger representing US interests, and things turned out the way the US wanted: The war continued.
As late as March, the West was still talking peace. Sanctions were imposed on people close to the Kremlin to make the Russian leadership concede – or so they said. Then followed a storm of sanctions, where every wealthy Russian became an oligarch, Russia was excluded from SWIFT and the foreign currency reserves of the giant empire were frozen. Over 2,500 sanctions were imposed. The West was sure of its cause and announced that Russia would go to its knees within weeks.
Obviously, the sanctioning countries made the mistake that happens time and again with Russia: The bear was underestimated.
In 1941, for example, Adolf Hitler announced about the Soviet Union: “All we have to do is kick open the door and the whole rotten building will come crashing down”. What followed was the bloodiest armed conflict in the history of mankind, which the Russians finally won, if that word can be used at all in this context.
Russia’s financial resilience
The sanctioning countries completely misjudged the financial resilience of the Russians. They compared Russia with Italy, for a start, because the gross national product of both countries is about the similar. However, the West failed to realise that Russia is very structured very differently from Italy: Firstly, Italy is one of the most indebted countries in the world – Russia, on the other hand, is the only industrialised country in the world that has no net national debt. Secondly, Russia is not only by far the largest country in the world, but also the country with the largest reserves of raw materials.
Unwillingness to go along with the West
The second misjudgement of the West was that they assumed that the rest of the world would join in the economic war against Russia. The rest of the world, however, is sceptical about American foreign policy.
This was demonstrated in March 2022 when, much to the West’s dismay, many countries were in no way willing to sacrifice their economic interests for the West’s propagated community of values – such giants as China and India. These countries may or may not approve of the Russian military operation, but they are not willing to sacrifice their own economic interests to Western ideology.
The sanctioning countries currently combine only 15% of the world’s population. Thus, the economic war against Russia has failed and Western Europe has become a prey to its own sanctions.
Russia has so far conquered about 20% of Ukraine’s territory and after the referenda in the Donbass, Zaparoshe and Kherson regions, four regions were incorporated into Russia.
Although the retreats of the Russian army around Kharkov and Kherson are described by the West as the beginning of the end of the Russian army, there is no support for this. Since the beginning of the conflict, the Western media have written that the Russian army is going under, that the Russians are running out of weapons and ammunition, that a civil war in Russia is imminent, that President Putin is terminally ill, that the Chinese are turning away from Russia, and that Russia is totally isolated internationally. None of these reports proved to be true, however, and appear to be pure propaganda.
In addition to the partial mobilisation of 200,000 soldiers, 70,000 volunteers came forward, which does not indicate that the Russian leadership has lost the support of its people. There is certainly criticism of the Kremlin’s strategy, but much of this criticism is aimed at the Kremlin being too hesitant.
The Russians are now preparing for winter war and it seems more likely that the Ukrainians have won Pyrrhic victories, suffering huge losses.
The military situation thus seems anything but negative for the Russians.
And where is the peace now?
The Russians are and have been willing to negotiate since February and are very interested in seeing an end to this conflict. If they had still been content in March to keep Crimea, to declare the Donbass autonomous if Ukraine’s neutrality was secured, things have probably changed since the referenda. Kherson, Zaporozhe and the Donbass now belong to Russia. The Russians are unlikely to surrender these territories.
However, the Russians do not rely on the principle of hope. On the contrary, Russia is preparing itself for a long armed conflict and does not rule out military intervention by NATO. They are preparing for the worst.
The Ukrainian people certainly want peace, because no people ever want war in their own country. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and thousands of civilians are already dead.
President Selensky, however, does not represent the interests of his own people. He had pitoyable approval ratings before the war, and they have certainly not improved since. His existence rests on the will of the US. If US military and financial support breaks down, President Selensky will be immediately overthrown.
The EU is bearing the brunt of the economic burden of the failed sanctions. In addition to the inflation and weak economy that were already rampant before the conflict, fears about energy supplies are spreading in Western Europe. The mood in Western Europe could thus soon tilt, especially if there are supply disruptions in the winter.
The decisive factor is the attitude of the USA. On the surface, the Americans seem to be successful: The Ukrainians are waging a war for the Americans against the Russians, which is exactly in line with their geopolitical goal. The American arms industry giants have full order books and the EU has so far been obeying.
This is countered by an extremely vulnerable economy: The USA is broke, large parts of the population are suffering from rampant inflation, the real estate market is in a catastrophic state, the losses on the financial markets are already considerable and the huge fluctuations on the stock markets show that the nerves are on edge. More and more people are waiting for the spark in the powder keg or the proverbial black swan.
If there is a collapse in the financial markets, the cards will be reshuffled.
Unfortunately, it seems that so far the doomsayer Dürrenmatt has the upper hand.