Yves here. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated in two recent interviews that she had supported the Minsk Agreement, designed to resolve the conflict in Donbass, merely to buy time for Ukraine to arm. Some commentators, like Alexander Mercouris and Bernhard at Moon of Alabama, take the view that Merkel was sincere at the outset but lacked the courage to arm-wrestle the US, and so came to fall in with the US/UK maximalist position. They further contend that Merkel is now claiming to have been duplicitous from the get-go so as to remove any taint within Germany as to have formerly been willing to accommodate Russia.
Below you will see John Helmer takes a much harsher position.
Note that Helmer also brings up an idea he discussed in a post, that of settling the conflict by establishing a very large demilitarized zone (which might be not too hard implement and maintain if Russia deprives it of all electricity). While that is a possible outcome, I suspect Russia’s end game for Ukraine has now become fluid and very path-dependent. For example, Scott Ritter argued in a recent talk that Russia is managing the conflict so as to avoid formal NATO participation. The concern is that NATO simply cannot tolerate losing to Russia, which seems like an inevitable result given Russia’s advantage in manpower and materiel, as well as having large battle-seasoned forces. But NATO cannot tolerate a defeat, so Russia believes NATO would escalate to tactical nukes, which = end of the world as we know it.
Having said that, at this juncture Ukraine tactics are favoring Russia’s desire to slowly bleed NATO. Ukraine is continuing to pour troops and weapons into Bakhmut to be destroyed. The leak that the US will be sending Patriot missiles to Ukraine is arguably another favorable development. Admittedly, foreign personnel will have to operate the air defense system, but that has been true with the HIMARS too (as in the US and NATO are escalating by not hiding their role). However, the Patriots are not expected to prove all that effective (see Brian Berletic for details) and they are in very short supply. The more the US and NATO deplete their weapons stockpiles while fighting can be presented to the Collective West as mired in Donbass, the better. However, once Russia has gotten the Ukraine military to the point of collapse, it presumably will start making advances in Ukraine. That will be undeniable on a map and will pressure Western leaders to Do Something.
Tamas Gergo Samu interviews John Helmer. Originally published at Dances with Bears
Tamas Gergo Samu conducted this interview by email earlier this month. Samu, a journalist, has been a Hungarian parliament deputy in Budapest; then an adviser to the head of the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom), a key party in the parliamentary opposition bloc known as United for Hungary (EM). He left the Jobbik party two years ago, and is now an independent Bekes county councillor. The interview is to appear in Erdélyi Napló (“Transylvanian Journal”), the leading Hungarian weekly published in Cluj-Napoca, capital of the Transylvanian region of Romania.
TGS: People usually want to look at a problem in a simplified way. In this war most of the western countries blame Russia as an aggressor. Usually we want to see the world in black and white terms. But is this war the struggle of the good (Ukraine) and the bad (Russia)?
JH: This war which Russia is fighting is a continuation of its defence against the war aim of Germany, the United States, and the British since 1939. That aim has been the destruction of Russia as a European power on a parity with the others, with regime change in the Kremlin and liquidation of the country’s military and economic resources as the methods. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s objectives are not different from Chancellor Adolph Hitler’s, but she has not made Hitler’s mistakes of fighting the British and Americans at the same time, nor of launching her military operation against Russia too soon. The race hatred against Russians which Merkel has stoked, along with the US and the NATO allies, is the substitute today, motivating and propagandizing the war in Europe, as race hatred for the Jews was in Hitler’s ideology.
When Merkel told the Germans a few days ago that she intended Germany’s agreement to the Minsk accords of 2015, in order to give time for the military preparation of the Ukraine, she was repeating the time-buying pieces of paper which Hitler agreed with Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain in 1938. The piece of paper Neville Chamberlain told British voters he had signed with Hitler to assure “peace in our time” proved to be false within a year. Merkel’s Minsk agreement she now acknowledges was false from the start on her side; she has admitted this only now, seven years later.
But Merkel has been following Hitler’s lead for longer. His Austrian Aschluss of March 1938 and takeover of Sudetenland six months later were shadowed by Merkel when she agreed to the February 21, 2014, agreement with Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich – at the same time as Merkel also agreed to the US plan for the Maidan coup d’état replacing Yanukovich in Kiev and starting the plan to turn the Ukraine into a gun platform aimed squarely at Moscow. The Maidan coup turned the Ukraine into Merkel’s lebensraum – membership of the European Union and of the NATO alliance is the contemporary name for it.
Merkel wasn’t as impatient as Hitler for an invasion like Operation Barbarossa of 1941. She refused to agree to the Dutch plan for military intervention in Donetsk after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in July 2014. Merkel thought that plan was premature and would trigger a Russian counter-attack risking the total destruction of the Ukrainian forces. She and US leaders weren’t as impulsive as the Dutch; they had all been surprised by the swift effectiveness of the Russian takeover of Crimea. So they began to plan for the longer run. Merkel also didn’t agree to break off the lucrative economic ties with Russia on which German business and trade unions depended – and also the votes she required for her re-election in 2017; she won that despite an 8% swing against her. So Berlin didn’t stop the Nord Stream gas project; instead Merkel delayed its implementation and bought more time.
Merkel then paid a visit to the bedside in Berlin of Alexei Navalny in September 2020, revealing thereby the full engagement of the chancellery and the German secret services in the Novichok story. That’s an example of the fabrication of the good versus evil ideology you identify in your question, and at its centre, the epitome of the Russian evil, the demonization of President Vladimir Putin whom Merkel was as sworn to destroy as Navalny declared himself.
The clock for this war plan against Russia didn’t stop for Germany when Merkel was replaced in the Berlin chancellery by Olaf Scholz in December 2021. It ended on February 24, 2022, when Russian forces began the special military operation.
What is special about this operation is that it was not quite the war for Europe which the Germans, the Americans, and the British have been planning. It is special because it is aimed by Russia to dismantle the Ukrainian gun platform and prevent it threatening to attack. However, if the Germans, Americans and their allies in Europe aim to fight to the last Ukrainian, and continue to run this war against Russia from the Ukrainian borderlands — from Galicia on both sides of the Polish border, from Transcarpathia on both sides of the Hungarian border, and from across the Romanian and Moldovan lines, then the special operation will have become a general operation. That’s to say, the resumption of war in Europe against Russia.
TGS: Is the bombing of the civil infrastructure acceptable? What is the difference between civil and military infrastructure?
JH: Siege warfare is as ancient and as moral as the Israelites around the walls of Jericho, the Masada defence of the Judaeans against the Romans, or the European Crusaders around Jerusalem. The objective is to persuade the targeted civilian population and military forces, no matter how hostile they may be, to give up their capacity to wage war. The lesson of the history is that the longer the city walls or the citadel barbicans hold out, the more destructive the result for the civilians – unless they are relieved or rescued by a force superior to the siege force.
In the history of the European wars, the crusaders’ campaign was first decided by a consensus of the European Christians meeting in France and summarized by Pope Urban II in November 1095. Hungarian forces joined in the crusades, first under Andrew II against Jerusalem and Damietta , and later against Bosnia, then Varna. You know much better than I do what ideological fabrications and race hatred were mobilized to motivate the troops and raise the money to pay for those campaigns.
The British and Americans introduced innovations like the Dam Busters attack on German dams in May 1943 and the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945. The special US innovation was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The US Air Force followed with the saturation and firebombing of North Korea, when the destruction orders included “every installation, facility, and village in North Korea [and] every means of communications and every installation, factory, city, and village.” As you all know, the saturation and fire (napalm) bombing by the US of Vietnam was more geographically extensive, more intensive in explosive power, and more prolonged over time than Germany, Japan or North Korea had experienced.
Left: Dresden, Germany, 1945; right, Pyongyang, Korea, 1953.
In Europe, according to a US Air Force University thesis, “the USAF has long favoured attacking electrical power systems. Electric power has been considered a critical target in every war since World War II, and will likely be nominated in the future… The evidence shows that the only sound reason for attacking electrical power is to affect the production of war materiel in a war of attrition against a self-supporting nation-state without outside assistance.” This was written in 1994. In May 1999 the USAF demonstrated its operational concept of the “future” in the bombing of Serbia and Belgrade.
There is a difference between that Anglo-American military approach and the Russian one in the Ukraine. The Russian aim is to persuade the Ukrainian cities and towns, as well as Ukrainian army units, to accept terms of settlement at least cost of casualty or physical destruction. This is how the Battle of Mariupol concluded.
It has not been the policy of Vladimir Zelensky’s regime, or of the US and NATO forward command centres in Lvov, Germany, and Poland to accept these terms. Instead, they have attacked by long-range artillery, by missiles and mortars, as well as by commando operations, the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam. The first use of military force against water supplies was the Kiev operation cutting the North Crimean Canal in mid-2014.
This isn’t the time or place to investigate the evidence of the war crimes against civilians alleged to have been committed by Russian forces in the Ukraine, such as the so-called Bucha massacre. In the cases I have investigated thoroughly, such as the MH17 shoot-down, the evidence is of fabrication by the Ukrainian security service, the SBU, aided and abetted by the NATO allies.
TGS: Is there a result which ends the war which is possible for the two sides?
JH: Let’s be clear that the sides in this war are the US, Germany, and NATO versus Russia. The Americans are fighting to the last Ukrainian. There are German, French, Canadian, British and other military officers engaged in directing war operations; there are Polish combat troops on the ground. The weapons supplies have come into the Ukraine from all over the US-allied world, from Greece to New Zealand. Zelensky in Kiev is no more capable of representing what he calls his side as Ngo Dinh Diem was in Saigon, Vietnam, or Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan. The US allies, by contrast, have also attacked the Nord Stream pipelines to prevent any German gas supply negotiation with Moscow. The recent Ukrainian missile attack in southeastern Poland is also a US warning to Warsaw not to contemplate any Polish accommodation with Moscow.
Once we are clear what the sides are, then what are the capacities of the US side to keep fighting in the present conditions along the front east of the Dnieper River – once resupply of troops, fuel, food, weapons and ammunition have been stopped moving eastward, and evacuation of casualties westward likewise? Within days or weeks to come, this cutoff may become clear.
What then become the fresh risks to Poland of the spillover of the war through the Galician and Belarus borders — and not only of refugees? And similarly, what will become the risks of spillover from Transcarpathia into Hungary? And of the war spilling over the Romanian and Moldovan borders?
The installation of US nuclear missile units at Deveselu, Romania, since 2018, and at Redzikowo, Poland, since earlier this year have been already been identified by Putin as “red lines” directly threatening Russian security. Romania and Moldova allow their airspace and airfields to be used by NATO reconnaissance and intelligence operations which provide targeting data to Ukrainian units on the ground. Accordingly, if the Poles and Romanians aim to fight against Russia to the last Ukrainian, they must begin to count the risk and the cost to themselves when the war against Russia runs out of Ukrainians willing or able to fight it.
Left: US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work inaugurates the Aegis missile base at Deveselu, Romania, May 12, 2016. Right, the Redzikowo base, Poland, January 2022.
What terms of settlement are possible, you ask, at least in the period past the US presidential election in November 2024 and the German parliamentary election in September 2025?
The significance of Merkel’s admissions, and of Scholz’s attempt this month to destroy the only German opposition to the war, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is that the Russian terms must now address the fact that the US is preparing to fight to the last German, and also to the last Pole. Many Polish sources believe the election for the Polish parliament scheduled for the autumn of next year will result in the replacement of the Law and Justice (PiS) government with the more pro-American Civic Platform (PO).
In these circumstances, what do the prospects look like from Budapest, if Hungary’s national interests are to be preserved?
The best outcome from this perspective coincides with a Russian plan for armistice and a demilitarized zone removing all offensive weapons and military formations westward.
But how far west of the Dnieper River? This depends on the course of military operations over this winter, and the readiness of cities to come to their own terms like Odessa and Nikolaev in the south; Sumy, Kharkov, and Poltava in the north. If the Ukraine is to be partitioned by a Ukrainian Demilitarized Zone (UDZ) – which may meet the first of the Russian strategic objectives announced on February 24 — what is to become of the Galician region around Lvov if it continues to be as nazified as Berlin and Warsaw have encouraged and financed to date?
For more discussion read: http://johnhelmer.net/
Scholz’s attack on the AfD of December 7 is not as lethal as Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives of June 30, 1934. However, the political objective is the same, and Scholz enjoys the propaganda advantage Hitler never had — Europe-wide and US endorsement and support. When race hatred for Russians extends all the way west to Berlin, what becomes of the denazification objective of the war? This changes the way to look at the armistice map for the Ukraine
From the Russian point of view, Putin reacted to Merkel’s admissions: “The issue of trust is at stake. Trust as such is already close to zero, but after such statements, the issue of trust is coming to the fore. How can we negotiate anything? What can we agree upon? Is it possible to come to terms with anyone, and where are the guarantees? This is, of course, a problem. But eventually we will have to come to terms all the same. I have already said many times that we are ready for these agreements, we are open. But, naturally, all this makes us wonder with whom we are dealing.”
Former president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy secretary of the Security Council, has replied to the Scholz attack on the AfD: “Germany does not have full sovereignty on its own territory. Decisions on issues of German energy, industry and defence are made by the deep American state – and by no means by Scholz’s baloney or even by elderly Washington men who are in partial dementia.”
What then are the terms for Russia’s security to conclude this war? These were made clear in the texts of the two non-aggression treaties which the Russian Foreign Ministry presented to Washington and Brussels on December 17, last year. Note that Article 4 of the proposed pact says: “The Russian Federation and all the Parties that were member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as of 27 May 1997, respectively, shall not deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe in addition to the forces stationed on that territory as of 27 May 1997.”
Bear in mind that Hungary and Poland did not join NATO until March 1999; Romania in March 2004. The longer the US and Germany aim to wage their war against Russia, the less military value there will be in Ukrainian territory as a buffer zone, in NATO membership, and in the NATO Treaty’s Article 5 provision. This modern reminder of the oath of the three musketeers — one for all, all for one – will turn into a cartoon comedy if today’s Athos, Portos, Aramis and D’Artagnan lose their swords.
TGS: The Baltic states and Poland regard Russia with their bloodshot eyes. Is it possible for these states to expand the war?
JH: The old adage — sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me — hasn’t been translated into the Baltic languages or Polish. Their race hatred against Russia is talk and propaganda. The intention is murderous, as the Balts and Poles demonstrated when they thought the German Army would stay with them. But the Wehrmacht didn’t, and the US Army won’t.
As the recent attempt by Lithuania to impose a rail and road blockade on Kaliningrad shows, Baltic war talk turns into boomerangs against their own economies. The Ukrainian missile attack on Poland, and President Duda’s telephone call with the fake Emmanuel Macron demonstrate there is no Polish will to fight; there isn’t even a Polish fear that Russia will invade unless the Poles themselves provoke it. For the time being, the Poles hate the Germans almost as much they hate the Russians. For Warsaw, the war against Russia is only worth pursuing if it increases US and European cash flowing into Polish pockets.
TGS: There are many articles and analyses about the Polish claim to Ukrainian territories; less common are discussions of the Hungarian claims. Is there a realistic chance of annexation of the western territories of Ukraine to Poland, Hungary or Romania?
JH: This depends on the course of the military operations; on the capacity of Lvov to function as Zelensky’s new headquarters; and on whether in their desperation Zelensky and his men turn punitively against the Hungarian population of Transcarpathia.