In an interview, President of Ukraine Zelenskyy says that the “backbone of the Russian army is broken” and can’t get back on its feet. A NATO expert assumes the opposite. The Ukrainian army is being strangled by that very army. She speaks of the boa constrictor strategy.

In Berlin and Hamburg, in Passau and Husum, everywhere in Germany everyday life goes on: the baker bakes. The mason bricks. The teacher teaches. Everything looks the same as always. But inside us a storm is raging. History has intervened in our lives with a black brush. A bad word has moved from the foreign section of the newspaper to its front page: WAR is written there now as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The talk shows have recently been populated by military experts. The armaments companies drive extra shifts. The Russian President’s eyes have narrowed to loopholes. Our chancellor also wears a serious expression. Later in the history book it will say with the coolness of the chronicler: The post-war period came to an end on the morning of February 24, 2022 at 4:30 a.m. The question is not: Will the Ukraine conflict stay? But: Will the great European war come?

We haven’t gotten over our own bewilderment yet. Since February 24, Russia has been waging a war of aggression against Ukraine from the air and on the ground. Shortly before, President Vladimir Putin had denied Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state. Now an 800 km long front line meanders through Europe’s second largest country geographically. The whole thing acts like a stimulant on the media industry. CNN is now reporting from the war zone with around 200 journalists, technicians and its own drivers – more than the Spiegel has editors in Germany. War is also a business; and the big war is big business.

Our society is also changing under the pressure of events without the need for a party congress decision or a government decree. “The Summer of Love”, the long aftertaste of Woodstock, the scent of flower power in the political arena, all of that is now evaporating. From afar, Joan Baez can be heard with the acoustic guitar in hand: “Tell me where the flowers are, where have they gone. Tell me where the flowers are, what happened?”

The identifying mark of the earlier Greens was the sunflower. The hallmark of the new Green Foreign Minister is the bulletproof vest. The companies with the largest investment budgets in the country are no longer Mercedes or Siemens, but the Bundeswehr. The defense minister can now spend 150 billion euros, while the education minister has to be content with 20.3 billion euros, which is 500 million euros less than in 2021. The state has rearranged its priorities.

The media, meanwhile, is hastily retraining their viewers and readers from virology to militarism. The Franz Josef Strauss expression of “air sovereignty over the regulars’ tables” has shed its metaphorical body and established a new normality in the taverns and company canteens, which the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, with an ironic, distancing intention, describes as “healthy bellicism”.

Anton Hofreiter – one of these new, supposedly “healthy bellicoses” – may not fare any differently than the young Sebastian Haffner in World War I, who describes in “History of a German” how he discovered his passion for the showcases with the army reports. What he was reading was the serial of a life torn from routine: “Enemy attempts to break through repelled. Enemy positions shattered. Enemy positions shattered. “

Today’s army reports come from the pen of Volodymyr Zelenskyj and the showcase is called the Internet. Sometimes every hour he reports enemy losses, speaks of recaptured sub-areas and then announced the final blow at the weekend: Ukraine had “broke the backbone of the Russian army,” Zelensky said in a television interview broadcast on Saturday: “They won’t be for the next few years get on your feet more. “

But the old saying “The first casualty of every war is the truth” applied to World War I, applied to Hitler’s war and also applies to Putin’s war. They talk nice, dress up and lie – on both sides of the front line. So that we don’t have to repeat the disappointments of the young Sebastian Haffner (“I’m actually waiting for the final victory”), we should deal with reality, even if it is painful.

Who with the longtime head of the NATO Foresight Team, Dr. Stefanie Babst, who until recently was the highest-ranking woman in European NATO, came to completely different conclusions than Selenskyj.

According to this, Ukraine has by no means broken the back of the Russian army, but – on the contrary – it is being strangled by that very army. Ms. Babst speaks of the Boa Constrictor strategy: “The Russians have stormed the Ukraine from three sides and are now trying not only to decimate the Ukrainian armed forces militarily, but also to cut off the supply lines with economic means. You can see that very clearly in the south on the Sea of ​​Azov and on the Black Sea: three port cities have already been taken. The last remaining free Ukrainian port city of Odessa is under siege. “

She explains the deeper meaning of this military operation: It means that there are no more trade opportunities for Ukraine. The ports are blocked, mined and Russian warships are lurking in front of the port of Odessa. This is a rather precarious situation, also for the further central supply of Ukraine. “

If you add the occupied republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in south-eastern Ukraine and Crimea, which Russia had already conquered in 2014, then, says Ms. Babst, all that remains is a Ukrainian rump state. That is the real goal of the Russian generals: “Russia wants to turn Ukraine into a rump state, without a connection to the sea and without the really very important eastern industrial base, i.e. in the Donbass. “

At the same time, Russia is repeatedly advancing militarily into western Ukraine, with what she sees as a clear goal: the Russian government wants to keep the stress level among the Ukrainian population high. It’s awful living under constant gunfire or siren alarms. “ The signal works. According to the United Nations, 6.2 million Ukrainians have already fled. The Ukrainian rump state is weakening.

For now, we can only hope things turn out differently and the West is spared the disillusionment of young Sebastian Haffner. When the then 11-year-old read the conditions for ending the First World War at the kiosk, he recalled that they spoke “relentlessly the language of defeat”. And further: Defeat: That something like this could also happen for us – and not as an incident, but as the end result of sheer victories and victories – my head couldn’t take it. The whole world had become strange and uncanny to me. “

Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, CEO of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.