Andriy Melnyk did it again. The Ukrainian ambassador bluntly rebuffed a call by well-known intellectuals such as the philosopher Richard David Precht for a “ceasefire now”. Such a thing is not wise. Something else is smarter.
Melnyk recently had to apologize for his “liver sausage” comparison to the Federal Chancellor. After all, the undiplomatic diplomat did so publicly and, unlike many politicians in comparable blunders (“I’m sorry if I was misunderstood…”), also unreservedly.
So the question is: why didn’t Melnyk learn from his mistake? Melnyk should know that in democracies debates cannot be suppressed. Especially not those that go to the “soul” of the population, so to speak.
In Germany, the longing for peace is particularly strong, and spiritual people from A for Jakob Augstein to Z for Juli Zeh express this widespread feeling. Now that I’m writing these lines, more than 200,000 people have read the appeal on “Zeit Online”, where it was first published. It’s hard to ignore.
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Also: These philosophers (Julian Nida-Rümelin), social psychologists (Harald Welzer), filmmakers (Alexander Kluge) and actors (Edgar Selge) are blessed with such self-confidence that they certainly don’t go “to hell” just because Melnyk whose opinion is stupid or harmful or just “defeatist”.
Rather, they will take it as an incentive to start the next call or sit on the next talk show. Condemning opinion leaders because you don’t like their opinion is the wrong approach. Anyone who disagrees with Precht and Co. is spared no choice but to deal with them seriously. It’s worth it, because the peace appeal is quite vulnerable.
What does it mean, for example, when the “restoration of stability” is called for? The Soviet Union was also stable, also because of its concentration camps, the gulags. The GDR was also stable, from which one could only move westwards at the risk of being shot at the border.
The Cold War was also stable, because it prevented the transition to a hot war for 50 years. Stability had a Soviet price: peace in the grave, cowardice, lack of freedom, and compared to the prosperous West: relative poverty.
Next: What does it mean when the authors demand to do everything “so that an early ceasefire and the start of peace negotiations are possible”. And “to refrain from anything that stands in the way of this goal”. That is the last sentence of the appeal. The authors openly call for the end of Western arms deliveries.
However, today the news went through the agencies that the Ukrainians had succeeded in driving the Russians off Snake Island. This is because, as strategy expert Carlo Masala from Munich’s Bundeswehr University puts it, “French artillery made conquest impossible”.
At least that’s what a war correspondent for the British Telegraph reports, based on posts by the Russian military on the Telegram service. In any case, the conclusion is obvious: “Should someone say again that arms deliveries have no effect,” says Masala.
The Ukrainians used the French Caesar artillery system on Snake Island – it may be the first demonstrative case in which the Russian military has felt the effectiveness of modern Western weapons.
The intellectuals’ appeal says “only” a major diplomatic offensive “can lead out of the current impasse”. Based on history, this would be the first time a war has ended through negotiation. Wars are generally decided first on the field, only then are the terms of a peace negotiated. The results of the war are decisive for these conditions.
At least that’s how it was at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1971, at the end of the First World War in 1918, at the end of the Second World War in 1945. The Vietnam War did not end with negotiations between the Americans and the Vietcong, but rather with the humiliating departure of the Americans Saigon.
The first Afghan war also did not end with negotiations, but with the ignominious defeat of the Russians. The second Afghan war also needed no negotiations to end. This time Americans and Europeans left, also humiliated.
These examples show that conventional wars can and have been won, even against nuclear powers. What is important with regard to the reasoning of the intellectuals’ appeal, which warns of a military “escalation” in Ukraine and then beyond it, i.e. of a nuclear war.
Unfortunately, this appeal also leaves open how negotiations with the aggressor, Vladimir Putin, are supposed to come about if he just doesn’t want to negotiate. The Russian President has recently reaffirmed his original war goals – and they boil down to the end of Ukraine and driving NATO out of Europe.
According to the appeal, only negotiations could prevent major humanitarian catastrophes, i.e. famine in African or Asian countries. Only: The – military – success of the Ukrainians on the island of snakes speaks against this thesis.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has just declared that the withdrawal of its soldiers shows that Moscow is constructively supporting the United Nations’ search for opportunities to deliver the stalled Ukrainian grain to the world. The course of the war suggests the other version: Russia will cave in on wheat deliveries if it is forced to do so militarily.
The appeal gives no answer as to how it could even get Western countries to undertake a diplomatic peace initiative. Because both the G7 summit and the NATO summit decided exactly the opposite: to support the Ukrainians militarily for as long as Kyiv deems necessary.
And: “Exclusively” Ukraine will decide on a negotiated peace. And not filmmakers and writers. Finally, the appeal gives no answer as to what the goal of a ceasefire should be.
Reality, however, gives an answer as to what the actual effect of an “instant armistice” would be: the Russians stayed where they are now. And, to put it completely unemotionally, “Russification” with expulsions, oppression, torture and censorship in order to erase the identity of Ukraine.
Here is a final comment from Prof. Masala: “It scares me a little how weak parts of society are. I’ve always understood ‘Never Again’ to mean that we oppose aggressive wars with everything we have.”