The Ukraine Crisis

15 May

This article is from the English section of DER SPIEGEL:

“Following the apparent failure of the Geneva agreements, the inconceivable suddenly seems possible: the invasion of eastern Ukraine by the Russian army. Fears are growing in the West of the breakout of a new war in Europe.

These days, Heinz Otto Fausten, a 94-year-old retired high school principal from Sinzig, Germany, can’t bear to watch the news about Ukraine. Whenever he sees images of tanks on TV, he grabs the remote and switches channels. “I don’t want to be subjected to these images,” he says. “I can’t bear it.”

When he was deployed as a soldier in the Ukraine, in 1943, Fausten was struck by grenade shrapnel in the hollow of his knee, just outside Kiev, and lost his right leg. The German presence in Ukraine at the time was, of course, part of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. But, even so, Fausten didn’t think he would ever again witness scenes from Ukraine hinting at the potential outbreak of war.For anyone watching the news, these recent images, and the links between them, are hard to ignore. In eastern Ukraine, government troops could be seen battling separatists; burning barricades gave the impression of an impending civil war. On Wednesday, Russian long-range bombers entered into Dutch airspace — it wasn’t the first time something like that had happened, but now it felt like a warning to the West. Don’t be so sure of yourselves, the message seemed to be, conjuring up the possibility of a larger war.

‘A Phase of Escalation’

Many Europeans are currently rattled by that very possibility — the frightening chance that a civil war in Ukraine could expand like brushfire into a war between Russia and NATO. Hopes that Russian President Vladimir Putin would limit his actions to the Crimean peninsula have proved to be illusory — he is now grasping at eastern Ukraine and continues to make the West look foolish. Efforts at diplomacy have so far failed and Putin appears to have no fear of the economic losses that Western sanctions could bring. As of last week, the lunacy of a war is no longer inconceivable.

On Friday, leading Western politicians joined up in a rare configuration, the so-called Quint. The leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and the United States linked up via conference call, an event that hasn’t happened since the run-up to the air strikes in Libya in 2011 and the peak of the euro crisis in 2012 — both serious crises.

Germany’s assessment of the situation has changed dramatically over the course of just seven days. Only a week ago, the German government had been confident that the agreements reached in Geneva to defuse the crisis would bear fruit and that de-escalation had already begun. Now government sources in Berlin — who make increasing use of alarming vocabulary — warn that we have returned to a “phase of escalation.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk spoke of a “worst-case scenario” that now appears possible, including civil war and waves of refugees. Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has even gone so far as to claim that “Russia wants to start a Third World War.” (Though, of course, Yatsenyuk also wants to instill a sense of panic in the West so it will come to the aid of his country.)

There may not be reason to panic, but there are certainly reasons for alarm. After 20 years in which it was almost unimaginable, it seems like a major war in Europe, with shots potentially being fired between Russia and NATO, is once again a possibility.

“If the wrong decisions are made now, they could nullify decades of work furthering the freedom and security of Europe,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) told SPIEGEL in an interview. Norbert Röttgen, a member of Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament, said, “The situation is getting increasingly threatening.” His counterpart in the European Parliament, Elmar Brok of the CDU, also warned, “There is a danger of war, and that’s why we now need to get very serious about working on a diplomatic solution.”

‘Against the Law and without Justification’

Friday’s events demonstrated just how quickly a country can be pulled into this conflict. That’s when pro-Russian separatists seized control of a bus carrying military observers with the Office of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and detained the officials. As of Tuesday, seven observers were still in detention, including four Germans — three members of the Bundeswehr armed forces and one interpreter.

The same day, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the de facto mayor of Slavyansk, told the Interfax news agency that no talks would be held on the detained observers, whom he has referred to as “prisoners of war,” if sanctions against rebel leaders remain in place. On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, condemned the detentions, describing them as “against the law and without justification.” He called for the detainees to be released, “immediately, unconditionally and unharmed.” German officials have also asked the Russian government “to act publicly and internally for their release.”

The irony that these developments and this new threat of war comes in 2014 — the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I and the 75th of the start of World War II — has not been lost on anyone. For years, a thinking had prevailed on the Continent that Europe had liberated itself from the burdens of its history and that it had become a global role model with its politics of reconciliation. But the Ukraine crisis demonstrates that this is no longer the case.”

Read the conclusion of this article here:

4 Responses to “The Ukraine Crisis”

  1. rangewriter May 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Excellent article, Auntyuta. Thanks for sharing this. You know, I get so discouraged by world events. Every seeming gain toward a peaceful society seems to leak violence from some other area. I’ve been thinking a lot about violence lately, given my travels through the American southwest, where evidence of ancient civilizations abounds. And along with that evidence is also the history of raids, plunders, territorial wars and atrocities by our most ancient ancestors. Violence appears to be rooted in our DNA. I see it even in the animal kingdom, where male posturing is a given and bloodshed occurs within species as well as across species. We are doomed.

    • auntyuta May 16, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

      Hi Linda, thanks for commenting. I still hope that good might win over evil in the end. Sure there is a lot of evil in this world. Not everything is good. But there is also a lot of goodness in people. First of all we have to find that inner peace in ourselves no matter how bad the world seems to be sometimes. There is still a lot we can be thankful for in our lives. We can only try to do our little bit to make the world a more peaceful place. Yes, wouldn’t it be good if everyone on this earth could live in a truly peaceful society? Why do we love some people and hate others? Shouldn’t we show some kind of love towards every human being?
      The problem in the Ukraine goes back in history, I think. A lot of people of Russian descent do live in the Ukraine now, especially in the Eastern part of the country. The problem seems to be that Ukrainians do not like Russians. They are like brothers or cousins, each with their own culture. They just do not like each other and want to be independent from each other. This is of course a generalisation. The question is which culture has the right to be dominant?

      • rangewriter May 18, 2014 at 2:02 am #

        Yes, these questions of dominance are always complicated and breed unrest and violence. Unfortunately.
        Peace be with you, my friend.

      • auntyuta May 18, 2014 at 6:50 am #

        Peace be with you too, dear Linda. 🙂

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