The hawks want war

The hawks want war | Русская весна

Asle Toje - Norwegian foreign policy expert, Research Director at Norwegian Nobel Institute.

Few government leaders received worse reputation than Neville Chamberlain. He has become synonymous with weakness in the face of evil. Chamberlain appeasement under pressure from Hitler is a parallel that no politician wants to get thrown after him.

Allegations of «appeasement» is again in the wind. Now it concerns German Chancellor. The liberal hawks think Angela Merkel is not tough enough against Vladimir Putin. Briefly, Barack Obama (not further concerned with our continent) disposed dealing Ukraine crisis to Germans. When I recently discussed Ukraine with a senior US decisionmaker, he threw up their hands: Merkel is driving the train. It is Merkel who’s in control.

Frustrated with the missing progress of European diplomacy the leading American desktop generals start to wonder if the Germans are not threatening enough? The American political scientist Walter Russell Mead writes: «Putin believes that when all is said and done, they [the Germans] rather give up a thousand Donbass, than fight a single campaign." When he says 'Putin', he means himself. Aside from that, he is probably right. Germany will not under any circumstances go to war over Ukraine.

In the US, those who want to arm Ukraine trying to win the debate. A growing list of security experts are now openly promoting the idea to give the Ukrainians «lethal weapons». US NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder writes in the Financial Times: «Oh, arming Ukraine is the only way to peace».

It is a curious logic applied here — there is a lack of weapons which prevents Kiev to defeat the Russian supported uprisings. This logic ignores Moscow’s willingness to escalate. Every time Kiev has increased efforts, they met heavy resistance. OSCE head Lamberto Zannier drew the obvious conclusion: «Military Aid will only increase the scope of the war.»

The reason for the debate is that the Russian-supported separatists have gained the upper hand in the ten-month long conflict, according to the UN, has claimed 5,300 victims. In response went Angela Merkel and François Hollande this weekend to Kiev and Moscow trying to persuade leaders to accept the terms of a new peace initiative, which includes an immediate ceasefire and possible deployment of UN forces. There is a little evidence that this will succeed.

Merkel concluded that "there is no military solution to the conflict". She is wrong. There are actually two military solutions. Kiev could defeat uprisings and rebellions can defeat the Ukrainian army. The only problem is that arming Kiev makes the latter solution more likely. It is important to remember that the hawks in Washington are willing to defend Ukraine till the last Ukrainian is dead. Neither the United States is prepared to go to war over Donbass.

Should rapidly escalating conflict get out of control, Putin will face NATO which is about as well equipped as Chamberlain’s Britain was in 1938. Despite the fact that Europe is spending more money on defense than Russia, the European NATO cannot currently match Moscow modernized armies.

Nevertheless the West should not surrender Ukraine. Nor is it right to increase tragedy scope. In the new cold war climate we seem to overlook that Russia and the West actually has an important public interest: nobody wants a new Syria in Ukraine.

It is discouraging to see that influential elements in Washington are willing to pour gasoline on the fire in a conflict in Europe backyard, a conflict that they are not willing to invest diplomatic resources in. The elements of a diplomatic solution is at hand, if Obama is willing to dirty their hands with them.

There will not be neither beautiful nor «worthy» result. But it is easy to choose war sitting in a cosy armchair. Louis XIV cannons stood written: «Ultima ratio regum» — Kings’ last argument. War should be the last option, because war is usually worse than virtually all other solutions. Whoever would rather die than compromise, usually speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves.

There is also another bitter lesson here. We stand powerless and watch a small lobby group in Washington pressing for a conflict that goes against our national interests.