Alfred de Zayas, former UN Independent Expert on International Order

As more and more politicians and scholars recognize that the Ukraine conflict cannot be solved militarily, that there will be no winners but only losers, we should concentrate on stopping the slaughter. This is the only rational policy we can follow, and should be advanced by all United Nations agencies, notably the General Assembly, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization, etc. 

My blueprint for peace is simple.

  1. Ceasefire based on the UN Charter.
  2. A ban on deliveries of weapons to the belligerents.
  3. UN organized international assistance to all populations suffering because of the war, lack of energy, lack of food.
  4. UN organized and monitored referenda in Donbass and in the other Russian-speaking provinces that Russia has declared part of its territory. Negotiations on the status of Crimea.
  5. Lifting of sanctions that nullified the benefits of globalization, broke supply chains, upset international trade, endangered food security.
  6. Drafting of a new security architecture for Europe that includes Russia.
  7. Coordinated efforts by States and UNHCR to facilitate the repatriation of Ukrainian refugees “in safety and dignity”.
  8. A Global fund for reconstruction of infrastructures in all regions affected by the war.
  9. Establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to hear grievances from all sides.
  10. Investigation and punishment of war crimes by the respective governments as stipulated in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and 1977 Protocols: Ukrainian crimes to be prosecuted by Ukrainian judges, Russian crimes to be investigated and prosecuted by Russian tribunals.

There is a pre-history of this catastrophe. If we want to arrive at a viable peace settlement, we must understand the root causes and create an atmosphere of mutual trust.  We must also analyse the conflict not only from the US, Western European or Eastern European perspectives, but also take into account the views of 1.5 Billion Chinese, 1.5 Billion Indians, 240 million Pakistanis, 170 million Bangladeshis, 280 million Indonesians, 220 million Nigerians, 220 million Brazilians, 140 million Mexicans etc.  The stakes are too high, and we Americans and Europeans have no right to risk the survival of the planet because of an internal European dispute. Indeed, for the average African, Asian or Latin American, it is wholly irrelevant whether Crimea is in Russia or in Ukraine. 

African leaders have come forth with a 10-point roadmap to peace1, and China has issued its own 12-point proposal.Both initiatives are balanced and neutral.

What is crucial is to agree NOW on a cease-fire and bring in mediators like Pope Francis to make concrete proposals.  Professor Jeffrey Sachs has given numerous lectures urging a negotiated end to hostilities and warning about the danger of a nuclear war.3 He quotes a 1963 speech by John F. Kennedy:

“Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy - or of a collective death-wish for the world.”4

A realistic blueprint for peace in Ukraine cannot expect to go back to the world before 24 February 2022.  The unipolar model is no longer viable. A new order is emerging in which the Global South will be having greater influence than before.

Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk will never go back to Ukraine, because after the shelling of these territories by the Ukraine since 2014, a considerable level of hatred toward the Ukrainian authorities has emerged. It is not a matter for NATO to decide, but exclusively a matter of self-determination and the decision of the populations concerned.

The right of self-determination of peoples (arts. 1, 55, Chapters XI and XII UN Charter) is solidly anchored in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  It is for the UN to organize referenda, which would be monitored internationally.  But the UN failed the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, when it failed to organize and monitor referenda in these Russian-populated territories in 1991, when the Ukraine unilaterally split from the Soviet Union, or in 2014 following the Maidan coup. A referendum 2014 would have prevented the tragedy we are witnessing today.

As the Kosovars will never consent to be reincorporated into Serbia, the Russian populations of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk would rebel against any such proposal. A new European security architecture should be built that takes into consideration the legitimate security concerns of all persons living in the area. The independence of Ukraine must of course be guaranteed, as indeed the independence of Russia. As Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg recently said, Russia exists and will not go away: “We cannot cancel Russia. We cannot do ghosting on it”.5

War in Ukraine was eminently avoidable. Russia’s two draft treaties of December 20216 deserved honest discussion, but they were rejected out of hand by Jens Stoltenberg. Peace would have been possible if the mediation of Turkey and Israel had not been torpedoed by those who really believed that “victory” over Russia was at hand.

Among the many obstacles to peace are lack of imagination and trench mentality. Whether we in the West agree or not with this assessment, NATO’s eastern expansion was perceived by Russia as an existential threat. Sooner of later Russia would react, as George F. Kennanand John Mearsheimerwarned. Let us not forget that from 2014 to 2022 Russia participated in the Minsk Accords, in OSCE meetings, in the Normandy Format. Russia acted in conformity with article 2(3) of the UN Charter and spent 8 years trying to solve by peaceful means the issues arising from the 2014 Maidan coup. Alas, it was Ukraine, supported by the US and UK, who refused to implement the Minsk agreements.

As a UN official, I had the opportunity to learn the Russian language and obtain my proficiency certificate. I had the chance to use Russian at OHCHR during numerous missions to the Baltic states and Russia, and in 1994 during missions to Ukraine to monitor the parliamentary and presidential elections. Doubtless, the vast majority of the people in Donbas and Crimea feel Russian.


There is no doubt, that Russian soldiers have committed atrocities in Ukraine, and that Ukrainian soldiers have committed crimes, NATO forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo as well. It is unhelpful to prepare war crimes trials, because experience shows that such trials can only take place if there has been unconditional surrender, as 1945 when Germany and Japan capitulated.

Today’s scenario is different, because there is zero chance that Russia would surrender.  If the escalation of tensions continues, there is a danger that someone at NATO will propose a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against Russia. This would trigger a nuclear response from Russia.  Let us remember that the oceans are alive with NATO and Russian submarines all equipped with nuclear warheads. Thus, we should not provoke a nuclear confrontation that could very well terminate human (and animal) life on the planet.

Common sense tells us that we must reduce tensions and try to reach a compromise, a modus vivendi, even though it will take many years before relations between NATO countries and Russia can be restored to a respectful co-existence. What we need is reconciliation, not the continuation of the war by war crimes courts.

There are many historical precedents of major wars ending with amnesties.9 The Thirty Years War (1618-48) that wiped out some 8 million Europeans did not envisage retribution. The 1648 Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück stipulated in common Article 2: "There shall be on the one side and the other a perpetual Oblivion, Amnesty, or Pardon of all that has been committed ... in such a manner, that no body ... shall practice any Acts of Hostility, entertain any Enmity, or cause any trouble to each other."10 The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 has gone down in history as a milestone of international law.11

We can refer to article 3 of the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697), which ordained amnesty for the soldiers of the French and British monarchies.  Article XI of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna (1815) stipulated amnesties notwithstanding the atrocities of the Napoleonic wars.  In the Brest-Litovsk treaty of 3 March 1918, a treaty imposed by the Central powers on Russia, the parties renounced any claims for their costs of warfare as well as any compensation for war damages. No war crimes trials were envisioned. More recently, Chapter II of the Evian Accords of 1962, which ended the ferocious Algerian war of independence, ordained an amnesty for both sides. The idea of reconciliation was behind article 6 of the 1977 Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which stipulates in part: “At the end of hostilities, the authorities in power shall endeavour to grant the broadest possible amnesty to persons who have participated in the armed conflict.”

Admittedly, today’s world does not like the concept of “amnesty” and seems to be hooked on revenge.  This is dangerous, as we dance on the rim of the precipice. 

1 https://todaynewsafrica.com/african-leaders-present-10-point-solution-to-putin-urging-resolution-of-war-with-ukraine/
2 https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202303/1286595.shtml
3 https://www.jeffsachs.org/interviewsandmedia/sfky22dggez9rmkpet9dnthx3yt6ll
4 https://www.jfklibrary.org/archives/other-resources/john-f-kennedy-speeches/american-university-19630610
5 https://vk.com/wall-221571675_1272
6 https://archive.org/details/russia-draft-agreements-nato-usa-december-2021/Agreement%20on%20measures%20to%20ensure%20the%20security%20of%20The%20Russian%20Federation%20and%20member%20States%20of%20the%20North%20Atlantic%20Treaty%20Organization%20-%20%D0%9C%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%80%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%BE%20%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BD%D1%8B%D1%85%20%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BB%20%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B8%CC%86%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B8%CC%86%20%D0%A4%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%B8/
7 https://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/05/opinion/a-fateful-error.html
8 The Great Delusion, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2018.
9 Alfred de Zayas, “Amnesty Clause” in Rudolf Bernhardt (ed.) Encyclopedia of Public International Law, vol, I, North Holland, Amsterdam, 1992, pp. 148-151.
10 https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/westphal.asp
11 Alfred de Zayas, “Westphalia, Peace of” in Bernhardt, Encyclopedia of Public International Law, vol. IV, pp. 1465-1469, North Holland, Amsterdam 2000.

With its role in the Ukraine war the European Union may risk its own political future

Michael von der Schulenburg, Hans-Joachim Funke

The deteriorating military situation in Ukraine and the United States increasing withdrawal from this war created a situation in which the EU is now pushed into the forefront in dealing with this problem. Probably for the first time since the end of the Second World War, the EU would thus have the opportunity, independent of US geopolitical considerations, to take a lead in determining Europe's fate in such a crucial issue as war and peace in Europe. One would hope that the EU that was once created as a European peace project, would use this opportunity to pursue a policy for finding a peaceful solution to ending the Ukraine war.

Troublingly is, however, that this is not the case. On the contrary! While calls in the American political establishment for negotiations with Russia without precondition are intensifying, the ruling politicians of the EU and of almost all its member states are taking exactly the opposite approach. They rule out such negotiations and pursue instead a policy of intensifying the war with senseless military posturing. Among EU politicians, possible venues for a diplomatic solution to the underlying conflicts that led to the war are not even considered.

This convinced a major Dutch newspaper NRC, which, like the established German media, has so far been a supporter of continuing the war, to publish for the first time a warning under the title "The Netherlands is sleepwalking into a new world war". Such a warning certainly also applies to the entire EU. Is a political elite in the EU risking Europe's future out of a false sense of self-righteousness?

The United States increasingly withdraw from the Ukraine war

This year, President Biden began his State of the Union address by once again pledging his full support for Ukraine. Only, this time it sounded rather unconvincing. Two other remarks in his speech were probably much more important: Firstly, he emphasized that he would in no way send American soldiers into the war on Ukrainian soil and secondly, he reiterated that only Ukraine could stop Russia. Biden did not explain how Ukraine should do this after two years of a war for which Ukrainians have already paid with a huge blood toll and the destruction of much of their country. Nor did he mention what form US support would take. It is therefore easy to understand why the wife of Ukrainian president Zelensky declined President Biden's invitation to attend his speech in the US Congress. The Ukrainians - and President Zelensky in particular - must feel quite bitter about the US de-facto abandoning them.

After all, while the Ukrainian armed forces are suffering ever greater losses, the USA had largely stopped its financial and military support to Ukraine over the last months. There is no longer a majority for this in the US House of Representatives. Even in the recently approved US emergency budget covering the next six months, no mention is made of any support for Ukraine. As we approach the US presidential election in little more than seven months, the chances that Congress would approve such a large assistance package for Ukraine are fast dwindling. At the same time, the chances for Donald Trump of becoming the next President of the United States are increasing. In this case, we may expect a complete change in US policies towards Ukraine. In all likelihood, Trump could negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine with Russian President Putin over the heads of the Ukrainians and Europeans. For him European interests would hardly matter. The EU could find itself left in the cold, having squandered an opportunity to take charge of its own future.

But it's not just Trump who may seek an end to the Ukraine war. Also, an increasing number of powerful US political analysts and policy makers in the anti-Trump camp now accept that this war can no longer be won for Ukraine and must be resolved through negotiations - without preconditions - with Russia. The influential foreign policy magazine Foreign Affairs has just published an article by Charap (RAND Corporation) and Shapiro (European Council on Foreign Relations) under the title “How to pave the way for diplomacy to end the war in Ukraine”. In January, Foreign Affairs had already published a surprisingly reconciliatory article by Shapiro and Kimmage entitled “The Myths That Warp How America Sees Russia—and Vice Versa: How Mutual Misunderstanding Breeds Tension and Conflict”.

In February of this year, the Washington-based Quincy Institute published an article by Beebe and Lieven entitled “The diplomatic path to a secure Ukraine”. In this article, they even argue that ceasefire negotiations would be extremely urgent for Ukraine, as "the war would not lead to a stable stalemate, but to a collapse of Ukraine". Last year, Haass (then still President of the US Council on Foreign Relations) and Kupchan, also member of the Council of Foreign Relations and one of the most influential US foreign policy advisors to the government, had already appealed for a negotiated solution in their article “The West needs a new strategy for Ukraine: from the battlefield to the negotiating table”. Last year, General Milley, then still Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces, repeatedly warned against continuing the war and suggested starting ceasefire negotiations.

The unexpected resignation of Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the US State Department must also be seen in this context. With her resignation, one of the main architects of the disastrously failed US policy of expanding NATO into Ukraine and Georgia and a radical anti-Russia voice is leaving Washington's political stage. Her greatest intellectual contribution to diplomacy was probably her statement "Fuck the EU".

European Union’s irresponsible approach to the Ukraine war

This could have been the European Union's hour to take greater responsibility in showing a peaceful way out of the Ukraine war. After all, it was unresolved conflicts in Europe that caused humanity to descent into the catastrophe of two World Wars. Europe should not again be the source of such a human disaster and therefore accept it historic responsibility by taking a reconciliatory approach to the Ukraine war. After all, this is the first war in human history in which nuclear arms play a strategic role and any miscalculation could bring an apocalypse on humankind that is unimaginable greater than anything we know from the two World Wars.

And yet, peace is not part of the EU’s discourse. It is the language of war that unites the majority of European governments and the established media today – and this, although there is no common EU strategy on the Ukraine war, no common approach on what can be achieved and how. The Polish Prime Minister, for example, declared that Europe was already in a pre-war situation, perhaps already at war, and Sweden's Prime Minister called on Swedish families to prepare for war. The President of the EU Commission can think of nothing else but to demand more and more money, more weapons and more ammunition and demands a conversion of Europe to a war economy. Even Chancellor Scholz, who we must thank for having prevented the deployment of Taurus missiles so far, only talks about Russia not being allowed to win the war. Wouldn't it have made more sense for him and his European colleagues to think rather about how to win peace in Europe? 

The acrimonious and irreconcilable attitude of the EU towards Russia is particularly evident in Germany in the two motions tabled by the governing and opposition parties in the Bundestag, the German parliament, on the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine. These motions read more like declarations of war against Russia, in which highly questionable arguments are combined with unrealistic maximum demands and simultaneous threats. They leave no room for compromise. Hence, any attempt at negotiations is made impossible from the outset. After two years of war, this approach is tantamount to a denial of reality. It is a policy of clinging to a continuation of the war, knowing full well that there is no realistic hope of a victorious peace in Ukraine.

This may also explain why individual EU member states are plunging into irresponsible actionism.  This includes France's proposal to send NATO troops to fight in Ukraine and its plans to station French units in Moldova. It also includes once again the believe in a miracle weapon by German political hardliners and their demands on making Taurus missiles available to Ukraine. Such plans appear to be ill-conceived and therefore potentially dangerous. They are also unrealistic. The EU has neither military capabilities, nor sufficient political unity nor any popular support for individual states or the EU as a whole to launch such adventurous ventures. In any case, they would be unlikely to change the course of the war but would lead to further killing and destruction in Ukraine.

Furthermore, such plans run the risk of leading to an escalation of the war in Ukraine, with the frightening prospects that this could develop into a pan-European or even a nuclear World War. When a French president claims that such considerations are just a sign of cowardice and a German Green party tells us that there is no nuclear risk at all, even if Moscow or Russian military nuclear installations are attacked, they are gambling with the survival of us all. And for what? Just because we don't want to admit to ourselves that we can no longer win this war and that negotiations are the only option left. 

The EU could break over the Ukraine war

In a best-case scenario, the EU's Ukraine policy will only undermine its credibility; in a worst-case scenario, the EU could break apart over its misguided Ukraine policies. While the EU's political elites continue trying to convince us that this war can still be won with ever more powerful weapons or even direct military intervention, they are losing the support of a growing majority of the European population and with it the touch to reality. Due to the negative economic effects of this war, more and more people could turn to anti-European parties.

Time is also running out for the EU in another respect. In just a few months, political relationship with the USA could change dramatically should Donald Trump become US President. There are already considerable differences among the EU member states, and a political landslide in the USA could divide the EU member states rather than bring them closer together. With its uncompromising pro-war and anti-Russia policy, the EU will also further isolate itself from most non-NATO states in the world. There will be no understanding there for continuing to escalate militarily while at the same time refusing to negotiate with Russia without preconditions.  

The EU sets itself up for a massive failure if it continues its current path of seeking solutions through ever more weapon deliveries and sanctions. In its own interests, the European Union urgently needs a change of strategy that must aim at a pan-European peace and security order based on the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe and that must include Ukraine and Russia.

The forthcoming elections to the European Parliament would therefore be an opportunity for Europeans to say no to the EU’s militant policies by voting for peace on June 9.


Michael von der Schulenburg was a former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and worked for over 34 years in many war zones around the world in a leading role in UN peace missions.

Hans-Joachim Funke is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the Otto Suhr Institute of the Free University of Berlin and author of "Ukraine - Negotiation is the only way to peace". (Berlin 2023)

Ending the war by a negotiated peace

Legitimate self-defense and the quest for a just and lasting peace are not contradictory

Negotiation proposal by Professor Dr. Peter Brandt, Professor Dr. Hajo Funke, General (ret.) Harald Kujat and Professor Dr. h. c. Horst Teltschik

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression on 24 February 2022, Ukraine has been waging a legitimate war of defense in which its survival as a state, its national independence and security are at stake. This statement is true regardless of the democratic and rule of law situation and constitutional reality and also regardless of the war’s much more complicated antecedents and its equally complicated global political backdrop.

However, the legitimacy of armed self-defense on the basis of Article 51 of the UN Charter does not release the government in Kyiv, and the states supporting it, from the obligation – not least vis-à-vis its own people – to exercise restraint, not to overreact by increasing violence and destruction and to promote a political settlement on the basis of a just and lasting peace. Even during the war – and especially during it – constant efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution must not let up.

This applies just as much to those states indirectly involved, including the Federal Republic of Germany, which is particularly obliged by the peace imperative of its Constitution. Moreover, on 2 March 2022, a few days after the start of the Russian attack, the Federal Government agreed to a resolution1 tabled by Ukraine and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, calling for a "peaceful settlement of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine through political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means". On 23 February 2023, another UN resolution2 called on member states and international organisations to "redouble their support for diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine". This commitment also applies to the Ukrainian government, which continues to reject negotiations with Russia.3

Ukraine has so far resisted the Russian war of aggression thanks to comprehensive Western support. However, far-reaching decisions on the expenditures necessary to continue the war, contrary to all reason and despite the unachievable nature of the political goals, must not be left to the Ukrainian government alone. The constant ramping up of the war has already led to large numbers of Ukrainian casualties, both military and civilian, as well as to substantial destruction of infrastructure. The longer the war goes on, the more Ukraine’s casualties and destruction will increase and the more difficult it will be to achieve a just and lasting negotiated peace that also provides security for the states supporting Ukraine. There is already the potential for further escalation through foreseeable offensives by Russian forces, in the battle for Odesa and through the conflict that has broken out again over Ukrainian grain exports.

Since 4 June 2023, Ukrainian forces have been trying to break through the deeply layered Russian defensive positions and sever the land bridge between Russia and Crimea in order to cut off Russian forces from the logistics hub of Crimea. Ukrainian forces are losing large numbers of soldiers and (Western) armor in the fighting, without having achieved any sweeping success so far.

If the counteroffensive fails, it is to be expected that Ukraine will demand that Western soldiers follow Western weapons, as even the planned Western arms deliveries cannot compensate for the enormous losses of Ukrainian military personnel. Russia, on the other hand, has not yet deployed the mass of its active combat troops. It can therefore be assumed that after further Ukrainian losses in the counteroffensive, Russia will move to secure the annexed territories and thus achieve the goal of the "special military operation".

Neither side can win the war

It has been clear for some time that neither Russia nor Ukraine can win this war, as neither will achieve the political goals for which they are fighting. Ukraine cannot defeat Russia militarily, even with Western support in the form of arms and ammunition and the training of Ukrainian soldiers. Even the delivery of "miracle weapons"4, which has been demanded by laymen time and again, will not be the hoped for "game changer" that could shift the strategic situation in Ukraine's favour. At the same time, however, there is an increasing risk of even greater escalation, leading to a military conflict between NATO and Russia and the real danger of a nuclear war limited to the European continent, although the USA and Russia want to avoid it.5

This eventuality should be averted, as it would be most of all in Ukraine's interest to seek a ceasefire as soon as possible, opening the door to peace negotiations. It is equally in the interest of the European states which unconditionally support Ukraine but lack a discernible strategy. And due to the increasing attrition of the Ukrainian armed forces, the risk is growing that the war in Ukraine will escalate into a European war over Ukraine.

Ukraine is increasing this risk by launching an increasing number of attacks against Russia's strategic infrastructure with Western support, like the one against the Engels nuclear strategic base near Saratov on 26 December 2022 or the Kerch Bridge.6 Moreover, the West might feel compelled to intervene actively to prevent a crushing Ukrainian defeat. There is a growing realisation that this is a real danger. (Daily Telegraph: “Ukraine and the West are facing a devastating defeat.”)7

Is it possible to negotiate with Putin?

So far there is no evidence that the political goal of the "special military operation" is to conquer and occupy the whole of Ukraine and that subsequently Russia is planning to attack NATO states. Nor is there any evidence that Russia and the USA are making preparations for this eventuality. From a military point of view, however, one cannot completely rule out the possibility that Russian forces intend to conquer areas west of the Dnieper, as they have not yet destroyed the bridges over the river, although this would be to their advantage in the current configuration. Putin vigorously refutes that he is pursuing – as is often claimed – the imperialist goal of restoring the Soviet Union: "Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart, whoever wants it back has no brain."8

Putin was willing to negotiate with Ukraine and certainly still is – but always on the condition that the other side – the American, Ukrainian and Western sides – also want to negotiate. Putin has made several positive statements in this respect. For example, on the occasion of the declaration of partial mobilization on 21 September 2022: "This is what I would like to declare publicly for the first time. After the start of the special military operation, in particular after the Istanbul talks, Kyiv representatives voiced quite a positive response to our proposals. [...] But a peaceful settlement obviously did not suit the West, which is why, after certain compromises were coordinated, Kyiv was in effect ordered to wreck all these agreements."9

Also on 30 September 2022, in the declaration on the annexation of the four regions: "We call on the Kyiv regime to immediately cease fire and all hostilities; to end the war it unleashed back in 2014 and return to the negotiating table. We are ready for this, as we have said more than once."10

On 17 June 2023, Putin told the African peace delegation: "We are open to a constructive dialogue with all those who want peace, based on the principles of justice and taking into account the legitimate interests of the different sides. "11/12 On this occasion, Putin demonstratively showed an initialled copy of the draft treaty from the Istanbul negotiations.

The "Welt" wrote in a detailed editorial on 23 June 2023 that the Russian media also spoke of negotiations; one can assume that this was done with the approval of the Kremlin. The African initiative had been widely picked up and favorably commented on in Russian news coverage on the occasion of the Russia-Africa summit. The state news agency, RIA, published a commentary deploring the failure of the previous peace initiatives. Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonjan, who had previously called for tougher action by the Russian army, advocated a ceasefire and a demilitarised zone secured by UN peacekeepers. It was right to stop the bloodshed now, she said. Ukrainians should then vote in referendums to which country they want to belong. "Do we need territories that do not want to live with us? I am not sure about that. For some reason it seems to me that the president doesn't need them either," Simonjan said.13

The war could have been prevented,14 had the West accepted a neutral status for Ukraine – which Zelensky was initially quite willing to do – renounced NATO membership and enforced the Minsk II agreement on minority rights for the Russian-speaking population. The war could have ended in early April 2022 if the West had allowed the Istanbul negotiations to be concluded. It is now once again, and possibly for the last time, the responsibility of the "collective West" and especially the USA to set a course towards a ceasefire and peace negotiations.

It is imperative to ward off danger

Imperial rivalries, national arrogance and ignorance triggered the First World War, which has been called the seminal catastrophe of the 20th century. The Ukraine war must not become the seminal catastrophe of the 21st century! The increasing Europeanisation of the conflict threatens to slide into a major war between Russia and NATO, which neither side wants and, in view of the acute threat of nuclear catastrophe in such a case, cannot possibly want. Therefore, it is urgent to stop the escalation before it develops a momentum of its own that escapes political control.

Now it is up to the European states and the European Union, whose global political weight is constantly being reduced in the war and by the war, to direct all their efforts towards the restoration of a stable peace on the continent and thus prevent a major European war. Averting this requires the commitment of leading European politicians, namely the French President and the German Chancellor15 in a joint effort and in coordination with the US and Turkish Presidents, while there is still time and the "point of no return", to which Jürgen Habermas has specifically referred, has not yet been passed.

Peace is possible – a way out of danger

Positions of the warring parties:


- Negotiations only after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory or after the liberation of all Russian occupied territories.

- Obligation on Russia to bear the costs of reconstruction.

- Condemnation of the Russian leadership responsible for the attack.

- NATO membership after the end of the war.

- Security guarantees by states designated by Ukraine.


- Consolidated neutrality of Ukraine – no NATO membership.

- No stationing of American and other NATO troops on Ukrainian territory.

- Recognition of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions as Russian territory.

- Ceilings on Ukrainian armed forces in general and for each armed force in particular.

- Arms control negotiations with the USA/NATO, in particular on verification mechanisms for NATO's Ballistic Missile Defence System/BMDS in Poland and Romania.

Both warring parties have set preconditions for the start of negotiations after Ukraine's withdrawal from the Istanbul agreements, and the Ukrainian president has even issued a decree forbidding negotiations. Both sides have also made demands for the outcome of negotiations that are impossible to fulfill in this way. Therefore, it is essential that all preconditions for the start of negotiations are dropped. The Chinese position paper offers a reasonable approach. It calls on the parties to "resume peace talks [...] resumption of negotiations".

The USA has an important role to play in bringing about negotiations and would have to pressure the Ukrainian president to negotiate. In addition, the USA (and NATO) must be prepared to engage in arms control negotiations, including confidence-building military measures.


Phase I – Ceasefire

To start the peace process, the UN Security Council should consider a draft resolution along the following lines and mandate further measure as outlined below:

  1. The UN Security Council:
  • shall adopt, in accordance with Article 24(1) of the UN Charter, a timetable and schedule for a ceasefire and for negotiations to end the Ukrainian war and restore peace, consistent with the primary responsibility assigned to it by its members for the maintenance of international peace and security,
  • shall decide on a general and comprehensive ceasefire between the warring parties, Russia and Ukraine, with effect from "Day X". The ceasefire shall be without exception and without limitation or special arrangements, irrespective of the deployment of the opposing armed forces and weapons systems. It shall be binding and implemented in a general and comprehensive manner,
  • shall entrust a High Commissioner for Peace and Security in Ukraine with the political responsibility for the implementation of the timetable and schedule as well as all measures decided by the UN Security Council in this context,
  • shall decide on the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force16 in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter, tasked with observing and enforcing the ceasefire and the security and military measures agreed between the parties to the conflict.
  1. The parties to the conflict shall cease all hostilities on the date determined by the UN Security Council ("Day X").
  2. No more weapons and ammunition shall be supplied to Ukraine from that date. Russia shall also cease supplying arms and ammunition to its forces in the territories occupied since 24 February 2022 and Crimea.
  3. All irregular foreign forces, military advisors and intelligence personnel of both warring parties shall be withdrawn from Ukrainian territory by Day X +10.

Phase II – Peace Negotiations

  1. Peace negotiations shall begin on Day X +15 under the chairmanship of the UN Secretary-General and/or the UN High Commissioner for Peace and Security in Ukraine at UN Headquarters in Geneva.
  2. Both parties to the conflict shall reaffirm their determination to conduct the negotiations with the firm intention of ending the war and seeking a peaceful and lasting settlement of all issues in dispute. They shall take account of Russia's letters to the United States and NATO of 17 December 2021, insofar as they are relevant to the bilateral negotiations, and Ukraine's position paper for the negotiations of 29 March 2022, and build on the results of the Istanbul negotiations.
  3. Elements of a negotiated settlement:
  4. a) The parties to the conflict

- would not consider each other as adversaries in the future and would undertake to return to the principles of equal and indivisible security,

- would undertake to renounce the threat and use of force,

- would undertake not to take any preparatory measures to wage war against the other party,

- would undertake to show transparency in their military planning and exercises and greater predictability in their military and political actions,

- would accept the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force on Ukrainian territory in a 50 km wide zone from the Russian border, including the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson within their administrative boundaries,

- would undertake to resolve all disputes without the use of force through the mediation of the United Nations High Comissioner or if necessary, by the guarantor states. The right of Ukraine to individual and collective self-defense under article 51 of the UN Charter would not be affected.

  1. b) Russia

- would withdraw its armed forces from the territory of Ukraine to the borders of 23 February 2022,

- would withdraw its armed forces on its own territory to no less than 50 km from the Ukrainian border, if they have been deployed to this zone since 24 February 2022.

  1. c) Ukraine

- would withdraw its armed forces from a zone no less than 50 km from the Russian border, including the regions of Luhansk Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson,

- would declare as permanent its status as a neutral state and would not join any military alliance, including the North Atlantic Alliance. Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and state independence would be guaranteed by corresponding pledges of guarantor powers.17 The guarantees would not apply to Crimea, and the regions of Luhansk Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson within their former administrative borders,

- would renounce the development, possession, and deployment of nuclear weapons on its territory,

- would not allow the permanent or temporary deployment of the armed forces of a foreign power or its military infrastructure on its territory,

- would not permit exercises and manoeuvres by foreign armed forces on its territory,

- would implement the agreed ceilings18 on Ukrainian armed forces within two years.

  1. d) The problems related to Crimea and Sevastopol would be negotiated bilaterally through diplomatic channels within 15 years and resolved by renouncing military force.
  2. e) The future status of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions would be mutually agreed in the negotiations. Russia would allow refugees to return. If the negotiating partners failed to reach an agreement on this issue, the United Nations High Commissioner for Peace and Security in Ukraine would hold a referendum within two years of the peace treaty coming into force, in which the population would decide on the future status. Ukrainian citizens who were permanent residents of these regions on 31.12.2021 would be eligible to participate. Russia and Ukraine would undertake to recognize the results of the referendum and implement them in their respective national legislations by the end of the year in which the referendum took place. For the population of regions that decided to remain within Ukraine, the Ukrainian government would incorporate into its constitution minority rights according to European standards and implement them by the end of the year in which the referendum took place (in accordance with the Minsk II Agreement).
  3. f) Guarantor states, which are members of the European Union, would promote Ukraine’s membership by supporting rule of law and democratic reforms.
  4. g) The reconstruction of the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure would be promoted through an international donor conference.
  5. h) Both Parties would participate in and constructively support a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in the CSCE format with the aim of establishing a European security and peace order. The conference would take place within one year of the entry into force of the Peace Treaty.
  6. i) The Treaty would enter into force as soon as both Parties and five guarantor states had signed the Treaty and, to the extent necessary, the parliaments of these states had approved it, and Ukraine had enshrined its status as a neutral, independent and non-aligned state (without the goal of NATO membership) by amending its constitution.19
  7. k) Any delays would not justify either breaking the ceasefire or withdrawing from the agreements reached so far.

Phase III – A European Security and Peace Order

In the long term, only a European security and peace order can guarantee Ukraine's security and freedom, in which Ukraine and Russia have their place. This European security architecture would ensure that Ukraine's geostrategic position would no longer play a key role in the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and Russia. The way to achieve this is through a conference in the CSCE format that builds on the great progress made in the "Charter of Paris" and develops it further, taking into account the current security and strategic framework.


Published: 28/8/2023

1 www.un.org/depts/german/gv-notsondert/a-es11-1.pdf
2 www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/a_res_es_11_6.pdf
3 According to FAZ, Ukraine still sees no chance for a negotiated peace with Russia. "This peace must be fought for. And Russia must be defeated. Otherwise, there will be no peace," the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, Oleksii Makeiev, told the newspapers "Rheinische Post" and "General-Anzeiger".
4 German politicians, who do not understand the strategic principle of end-means relationships, are again demanding the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles. https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ukraine-liveticker-deutsche-politiker-fordern-lieferung-von-marschflugkoerpern-faz-19030454.html
5 And then there's the whole question of, if Ukraine is really losing, let's assume that the Ukrainian military cracks […] and the Ukrainians are on the run. Again, I'm not saying that's going to happen, but it is a possibility. What is NATO going to do? Are we going to accept the situation where Ukraine is being defeated on the battlefield in a serious way by the Russians? I'm not so sure. And it may be possible in those circumstances that NATO will come into the fight. It may be possible that the Poles decide that they alone have to come into the fight, and once the Poles come into the fight in a very important way, that may bring us into the fight, and then you have a great power war involving the United States on one side and the Russians on the other. https://mate.substack.com/p/john-mearsheimer-ukraine-war-is-a?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email
6 seymourhersh.substack.com/p/opera-buffa-in-ukraine
7 www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/07/18/ukraine-and-the-west-are-facing-a-devastating-defeat/
8 https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/why-john-mearsheimer-blames-the-us-for-the-crisis-in-ukraine
9 http://www.en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69390
10 http://www.en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69465
11 www.mdr.de/nachrichten/welt/osteuropa/politik/ukraine-krieg-russland-putin-afrika-friedensmission-100.html
12 Azali Assoumani, President of Comoros and Chair of the African Union, after meeting President Putin: "President Putin has shown that he is ready for dialogue and to find a solution, and now we have to convince the other side. I hope we will succeed." https://augenauf.blog/2023/07/28/afrikanische-union-waffenstillstand-in-ukraine-ruckt-naher-wenn-selenski-will/
13 The editorialist of the "Welt" writes: “Putin currently considers negotiations and a ceasefire to be the most advantageous option. At any rate, a better one than having to decide for himself how many of the conquered territories he can hold. For Ukraine's counteroffensive is advancing. The costs of the war are also growing with each passing day and are detrimental to developments in the country. The population feels this, and Putin, who does not want any social tensions around next year's presidential election, knows it.” The author concludes: “Should the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia be taken up seriously at some point - for example, because Ukraine's counteroffensive has not produced the desired results - nothing will have changed in the conflict: Ukraine will need credible security guarantees from the West so that Russia does not invade Ukraine again after the ceasefire.

At the very least, it is a sign that the Kremlin is testing the waters, but it should be heeded because it takes up what the Chinese initiative has always emphasized, namely that the Istanbul negotiations, that were not finalized, should be "resumed". (Compare Harald Kujat's ceasefire and peace plan, printed in Funke: "Ukraine. Negotiation is the only way to peace". Berlin 2023: S. 100-104).
14 Jeffrey D. Sachs: "In fact, the war was provoked by the U.S. in ways that leading U.S. diplomats anticipated for decades in the lead-up to the war, meaning that the war could have been avoided and should now be stopped through negotiations." consortiumnews.com/2023/05/24/the-war-in-ukraine-was-provoked/
15 President Biden on 31.05 2022 in NYT: "As President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said, ultimately this war will only definitively end through diplomacy." www.nytimes.com/2022/05/31/opinion/biden-ukraine-strategy.html
16 The selection and composition should not follow the usual force generation procedure of the UN, but the troop contributors should be coordinated by the negotiating partners. Military contingents of the following states could be acceptable to both sides: Austria, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Switzerland, Turkey.
17 In its position paper on the negotiations in Istanbul on 29 March 2022, Ukraine named the following states as its favored guarantors: Russia, Great Britain, China, USA, France, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, Israel.
18 On the basis of the text of the treaty as annexed to the initialed Istanbul text and its listed ceilings.
19 Ukraine could make the entry into force of the treaty dependent on a nationwide referendum.

«A recapture of the territories taken by Russia is unrealistic»

«Ukraine's military potential is slowly being depleted»

Interview with Jacques Baud*

In the mainstream media, the image is currently being conveyed that Russia is not making any progress militarily due to the resistance of the Ukrainians. Can you confirm this statement?

No. This has never been the case since the beginning of the conflict and it is still not the case today. The Russians and their allies in the Donbass republics have been advancing certainly at varying paces, depending on the Ukrainian defense, but they have always been making progress. I would like to stress that the only advances made by the Ukrainian army (in Kharkov and Kherson) were possible because the Russians had previously judged that these territories were not worth the risk of defending them. The Ukrainians were then able to advance after the Russian troops withdrew. The reconquest of these territories was done without battles. However, the Ukrainian troops were met by Russian artillery and suffered very heavy losses, while the Russians suffered almost none. In Kherson, the Ukrainian troops came to the same conclusion as the Russians and evacuated the city right after «retaking» it!

Since February 2022, our media (in particular: the RTS or the NZZ in Switzerland, LCI, France 5 or BFM TV in France) try to make us believe that Ukraine is winning, that the Russian troops are incapable, are badly led and suffer heavy losses. Today we can confirm that all this was totally false.

The biggest mistake you can make in war is to underestimate your opponent and overestimate your own capabilities. Our media has pushed us to do this.

Our media - and even our military! - understand war as big arrows on a map and territorial conquests. This was the logic of the Western powers in Iraq or in the Sahel, but it is not the rationale of the Russians in Ukraine. As Winston Churchill said: « No matter how enmeshed a commander is in the elaboration of his own thoughts, it is sometimes necessary to take the enemy into account ». Since February 24, 2022, our media and politicians have replaced the reality on the ground with a propaganda narrative not designed to understand the situation, but to mobilize minds against Russia.

In Ukraine, the Russians have always said that their goal was to neutralize the threat against the people of Donbass by "demilitarizing" and «denazifying» it. These two objectives were aimed at achieving a solution for the security of the Russian-speaking population of Donbass.

Russia's objective was therefore to neutralize - through political agreement or destruction - a potential, not to seize territory. This solution should have come from the Minsk Agreements, but the West explicitly refused to implement what they signed. So Russia decided to impose this solution by military intervention.

That said, Russia has consistently maintained that it favors a negotiated solution. That is why it accepted all the negotiation proposals launched by Zelensky in February 2022, March 2022 and August 2022. These attempts were systematically prevented by the European Union and Britain, which - on the contrary - fuelled the conflict with weapons. As a result, the Russians realized that the only way out of the conflict is to systematically and methodically destroy Ukraine's military capability.

The objective of «denazification» was not aimed at the Ukrainian government, as our propaganda claims, but explicitly at the ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi paramilitary militias whose threat is very real1, but whose existence is denied by Western sympathizers2. According to the Russian military itself3, this objective was achieved at the end of March with the siege of Marioupol, home of the AZOV regiment, whose crimes were accepted and carefully covered by our media. The neutralization of the military threat (demilitarization) could have been achieved as early as February 25, 2022, by proceeding with the negotiations proposed by Volodymyr Zelensky, but which were prevented by the European Union.

The option of negotiation having been rejected by the West, all that remains for the Russians is the definitive "grinding" of the Ukrainian military potential. Logically, this is what is happening now and the Russians are probably no longer in a hurry to enter into negotiations.

The Western powers never wanted to make peace and some forces within the Ukrainian government are pushing Zelensky to play their own game. Today we even have confirmation from Major General Kirill Budanov, Head of the Ukrainian Main Directorate of Military Intelligence (GUR), that Denys Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators (and a member of the GUR) was eliminated by the Ukrainian State Security (SBU) at the end of February along with several other pro-negotiation figures. I had already written about this in my book "Operation Z", but here the director of the GUR himself confirms the story4. Once again, the journalists of the Blick or of the Télévision Suisse Romande (who nevertheless called me an "agent of Putin") have lied.

The delivery of heavy military equipment, which Selensky has been demanding for a long time, is supposed to enable Ukraine to retake the territories controlled by the Russians. Is this wishful thinking?

Yes. First of all, the West's insistence on supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine is an admission that the situation is not working to its advantage. And this did not happen overnight. The main capabilities of the Ukrainian army were destroyed in the summer of 2022. That's why, since that time, Zelensky is asking for weapons. In other words, our media, diplomats and politicians have systematically lied about the situation and capabilities of Ukraine.

Today, in the United States, even General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff5, and Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State6, recognize that a recapture of the territories taken by Russia is unrealistic. In a confidential hearing, the Pentagon informed the House Armed Services Committee that Ukraine does not have the capability to retake Crimea7.

First, on the societal level, we have to bear in mind that the population of these regions (Crimea, Donbass and the south of Ukraine) do not feel Ukrainian, because the Ukrainians in Kiev have never considered them as Ukrainians. Our view is distorted because our media have supported laws like the one that gives different rights to citizens of Ukraine, depending on their ethnic origin8. We refuse to understand that the regime that took power in Kiev in 2014 was never legitimate in these regions.

We should remember that the people of Crimea obtained by referendum in January 1991 to be administered by Moscow and no longer by Kiev. When Ukraine became independent, Crimea was therefore subordinate to Moscow, without being part of Russia. It was Ukraine that decided to annex Crimea in 1995, forcibly abolishing its constitution and overthrowing its president9. In 2014, the Crimeans simply took advantage of the illegitimacy of the new government in Kiev and the abolition of the law on official languages, to ask again to join Moscow. Therefore, one can imagine that if Ukraine managed to reconquer the Russian territories, it would meet a very strong popular opposition, as if the Russians were trying to take over the western part of Ukraine.




Figure 1 - Ballot of January 20, 1991. When Ukraine became independent in December 1991, Crimea was under the control of Moscow. It was Ukraine that literally annexed Crimea in 1995 by forcibly overthrowing the elected president.10 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1991_Crimean_referendum_ballot.jpg)

Second, in military terms, even General Zaluzhny, head of the Ukrainian armed forces, admitted in an interview with The Economist on December 15, 2022, that Ukraine was not in a position to regain these territories, unless it gets «300 battle tanks, 600-700 armored infantry vehicles, 500 pieces of artillery»11.

The problem is that the Ukrainian army has not been prepared for a war of movement against a mechanized opponent. Modernized and trained since 2014 by NATO, it has suffered from the lack of Western experience in this area, which has only been faced with technologically inferior armies and counterinsurgency situations.

This is why, since the beginning of the Russian offensive in February 2022, there have been no large tank battles, as in Kursk in 1943. The Ukrainians are fighting an infantry war, in trenches or in urban areas. This is what we saw in Mariupol, Severodonetsk or Bakhmut. I therefore believe that bringing in tanks, especially Western tanks with which the Ukrainians are not completely familiar, will not drastically change the situation.

I think that at this stage, even with new equipment, Ukraine is no longer able to reclaim the territories taken by the Russians. I would also like to remind you that if the stake of the West is the territory, the stake of the Russians is the potential. But, as I have already said, even if, in the best of cases, one can take back territories, one never recovers the lost human lives. Currently, the West is urging the Ukrainians to put their remaining human capital at stake. Our intellectuals see this as a great romanesque epic (it is easy to wage war with the lives of others) but we must think that Ukraine will have to rebuild itself.

Now, Ukraine has already lost a large part of its population since 1990, and it is unlikely that this population will return to a corrupt and destroyed country. In addition to this demographic deficit, there will be the loss of the country's vital forces that we see today...

What effect will the newly delivered tanks have on the course of the war?

First of all there is a political effect... in the West. When Zelensky went to Washington, he asked for M1 Abrams battle tanks. The Americans refused, but asked Germany to provide Leopard 2 tanks. Olaf Scholz answered quite logically that Germany would provide tanks only if the Americans agreed to do so first. At first, an American politician suggested that the United States deliver a single M1 tank in order to provoke the German decision12! The Americans have very well understood that the German political conduct is servile and corrupt...

The next part of the story was revealed by the Washington Post and was hardly reported by the European press13. And for good reason!

Thus, Joe Biden authorized the delivery of 31 M1 tanks. As expected, Scholz then authorized the re-export of Leopard 2s by European countries and approved the delivery by Germany of a number of these tanks. At that point, the United States declared that the M1s contained too much technology that should not fall into Russian hands and that the tanks could not be delivered immediately. In fact, they will be new tanks built especially for Ukraine, with an inferior protection (because the composition of the armor of the American version is classified), which can be delivered only in one year14!

In other words, the United States has "rolled Scholz in the flour"! This shows the state of relations between NATO members. We already know that it was a NATO member country that destroyed the Nord Stream gas pipelines. So it is Germany that pays the price of the war waged by the Americans against Russia... The Americans are right: if they have found a "sucker" they might as well exploit it, especially if the German people accept it without question! Each nation is responsible for its own fate. This applies to the Ukrainians, as it does to the Germans.

On a military level, it should be recalled that the Ukrainians had a little less than 1000 battle tanks in February 202215. To this number we can add, according to the West and our media, more than 500 captured Russian battle tanks16 and about 600 tanks received from the West in 2022. Moreover, we note that only the Russians are losing tanks. So we should have a clear superiority of Ukraine! However, today, according to General Zaluzhny, Ukraine needs 300 tanks to hold out17, and the West will only be able to provide a small part of this number before the summer of 2023.

I was commander of a Leopard 2 battalion. It is a formidable and remarkable weapon. In Switzerland, we manage to train tank crews in less than 4 months, so it is quite possible for the Ukrainians to do the same.

The problem is not really the technical training of tank crews. The most difficult part is the ability to integrate the tank into a battle system and to function in an operational coherence.

Tank technology has not really evolved in the last 20-30 years. Weaponry, mobility and protection have improved, but have not changed radically. What has evolved is the technology to integrate the MBT into a coherent battlefield management system (BMS). This is what gives the armour its real effectiveness. If we look at the different generations of Leopard 2 tanks, we see a radical change between the A4-A5 versions of the 1980s-1990s and the A6-A7 versions of the 2005-2020s.

However, the vehicles that are promised to Ukraine are mainly Leopard 2A4s and even Leopard 1s, which are of an old technology (without BMS) and whose ammunition is apparently not effective against the Russian T-90s18. It is clear that the Westerners do not want to give their most modern equipment, because they do not trust the Ukrainians and fear that the Russians will get their hands on Western high technology, such as the Chobham armour of the British Challenger tanks.

With the Leopards, it is even more dramatic, because the Germans have realized that the preparation of tanks for Ukraine will take longer than expected (perhaps this is a response to the US trickery?) and will only provide in the short-term Leopard 1 tanks from the 1960s-1980s, with a 105 mm gun... for which ammunition is scarce!

The Russians have their weapons systems fully integrated into what they call the «Reconnaissance-Strike Complex» (Razvedivatel'no Udarnyy Kompleks or RUK), which is a battle management system that combines their weapons systems into one battle system. This allows them to fight effectively with significantly smaller forces than the Ukrainians.

After the destruction of most of its potential in 2022, the Ukrainian army is today a heterogeneous collection of equipment from different sources, with different capabilities and logistical chains. The problem for the Ukrainians is not really the lack of weapons, but the ability to integrate them into an optimal and efficient command structure. One example is the M777 howitzer, which the West saw as a «silver bullet», but which could not deliver its full potential because it is only used as a «normal» howitzer19.

This is also the problem of anti-missile capabilities. Since March 2, our media have been saying that the Russians have exhausted their stockpile of missiles. Therefore, it was not considered useful to give the Ukrainians anti-missile systems. As early as October 2022, after the Kerch bridge bombing, the Russians started to strike the electrical infrastructure (as NATO had done in Serbia, the Americans in Iraq, Syria and Libya...). The West therefore urgently sent ground-to-air missiles. But these weapons systems, which come from several countries, are not really interoperable and are not in an integrated combat management system. As a result, several missiles are fired at a single target during each attack. The Russians have understood the problem and send «decoys» with their missiles. The Ukrainians thus fire many more missiles than necessary with each Russian attack and their potential rapidly diminishes.

In the end, Western equipment was unable to compete with the Russian ability to destroy them. On 24 January, Estonia announced that it would give all of its 155-mm howitzers, i.e. 24 FH-70s, to Ukraine20. A week later, on 31 January, France offered 12 CAESAR self-propelled howitzers in addition to the 18 it had already supplied to Ukraine21. But, according to the Moonofalabama website22, which counted the announcements of the Russian General Staff, the Russian army destroyed 40 howitzers, 32 self-propelled howitzers and 8 multiple rocket launchers during the same week. These figures cannot be confirmed, but they show that Western arms deliveries are barely enough to compensate for Ukrainian losses.

What consequences will this have on the number of dead and wounded?

We have pushed the Russians into the situation of having to systematically crush all Ukrainian potential. Those responsible for this are those who refused to condemn the massacre of civilians in Donbass between 2014 and 2022, those who misinformed us about the Minsk agreements so that they would not be implemented, and those who hid the real reasons for the Russian intervention: they are our media, dogmatic, ideological and living off the blood of others.

Since the beginning of their operation, it is very clear that the Russians wanted to minimize the losses on both sides. This was observed by the Pentagon early in the conflict, as noted by the American magazine Newsweek23. This was confirmed on January 23 of this year on the Ukrainian website Mriya by Oleksei Arestovitch, close adviser to Zelensky: the Russians "tried to wage an intelligent war «by trying to minimize losses. For "the few who resisted (...) they did not even eliminate them, but offered to surrender, to change sides, to understand, etc. They didn't want to kill anyone.24»

Today, the Russians have understood that even if there was a negotiation process, the West would use it to freeze the conflict and resume it later, as they did with the Minsk Agreements. The Russians know that the word of the West is worthless. In 1990, April Glaspie, the American ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam Hussein that the Americans would not object to an invasion of Kuwait25. She lied. In 2015, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the European Union (EU) and Iran signed the Vienna Agreement (better known by its Anglo-Saxon abbreviation: JCPOA). Iran, Russia and China have respected it26, not the West27. In 2020, the Americans and the Taliban agreed on a date for the withdrawal of the United States28. The Americans did not respect their word and unilaterally postponed the date by more than 4 months. And in November 2022, Angela Merkel and François Hollande confirmed to Russia that Germany and France are countries whose word is worthless .

So before we can go to the negotiating table, we need to rebuild trust. Arms deliveries do not contribute to this. Let us not forget that the Westerners have the same position as the Swiss ambassador in Kiev, who sees negotiation as «a reward for the aggressor»29! Fortunately, the Taliban, the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese, the Libyans, and many others do not think the same way, because then we could simply disband the United Nations!

Since no one wants to restore this trust in the West, the Russians will systematically destroy the Ukrainian potential. In October 2022, General Surovikin, newly appointed Commander of the Group of Forces in the area of the special military operation in Ukraine explained: «We have a different strategy. [...] We do not look for a high speed of advance, we spare each of our soldiers and methodically 'grind' the advancing enemy.30»

Contrary to what our «experts» say, Ukraine has a huge personnel problem. It has conducted 8 mobilizations since February 2022 and is reaching the end of its potential and is forced to resort to forced enlistment of its citizens. This personnel crisis is not new and has prompted the Ukrainian army to call for a tougher law against desertion and refusal to serve31. This law was signed by Zelensky in January 202332.

A Swiss-French neo-Nazi politician had called me a "Putinolater" for having mentioned the suicides of the Ukrainian army before 2022. Today he can hurl his insults at British parliamentarians, because they themselves have noted that the suicide rate there is alarming33. So we have foolish politicians, who blind themselves with their lies, instead of anticipating the problems!

The forced recruitments seem to primarily affect minorities, in particular the Hungarian minority34. This has triggered Hungary's anger35. Today 97% of Hungarians are opposed to the European sanctions against Russia36.

What is happening is that not only is Ukraine's military potential slowly being depleted, but the loss of life may affect the reconstruction of Ukraine for a generation or two. The combination of a decimated workforce, destroyed infrastructure and increased emigration may make Ukraine a country on life support at a cost that the West can hardly sustain for long.

The German Foreign Minister Baerbock said in a speech to the Council of Europe: "We are fighting a war against Russia." Since then, attempts have been made to correct this statement, that we are not at war, but only supporting Ukraine in its self-defence. Hasn't Germany been at war with Russia for a long time? Does Baerbock's statement define the true goals of the West, not primarily to help Ukraine, but to fight and defeat Russia?

We know since 2014, that the West is not trying to protect Ukraine, but to destroy Russia37. This was also stated by Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Economy, on March 1, 2022, who referred to «a total war»38. So nothing very new here, and this was explained in the American media Jacobin, of democrat tendency, at the beginning of February 202239.

 In March 2019, Oleksei Arestovich, a close adviser to Zelensky, explained very clearly in an interview with the Ukrainian channel Apostrof, the mechanism of events40.

The Ukrainians' goal is to join NATO. But some NATO members remain very reluctant, because existing tensions with Russia mean that the risk of having to activate Article 5 is high. It is like trying to contract an insurance policy for a risk that has a 100% probability of occurrence! The solution is therefore to involve Russia in a conflict that would lead to its definitive collapse. Arestovitch even envisages this confrontation in 2021-2022!

The outline of this strategy was elaborated by the Rand Corporation in a document entitled "Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground": the idea is to find a pretext for imposing sanctions on Russia in such a way that its economy will not survive them. To do this, Ukraine was used as "bait". In short, this is the pattern that was observed in February-March 2022.

The problem is that Western leaders did not want to listen to the warnings in the same document, which cautioned that « this could produce disproportionately large Ukrainian casualties, territorial losses, and refugee flows. It might even lead Ukraine into a disadvantageous peace».41

In other words, the West and Ukraine have engaged in a strategy that everyone knew already in 2019 would be paid for by the Ukrainians! Ukraine was used in a bid to destroy Russia. At the same time, the talks to encourage the development of independence movements were to allow the dismemberment (the term used officially by the Americans is: decolonize)42 of Russia.

Thus, the sanctions that affect the Russian population, including Russians abroad43, such as flight connections or goods trade have only confirmed Vladimir Putin's statements that the West is trying to destroy Russia44. The Western action has only strengthened the confidence of the Russian population in its leaders. Vladimir Putin's popularity, which was 77% in September 2022, rose to 82% in January 2023!

It was a strategic mistake not to invite Russia to the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, but to invite the representatives of a government that celebrates the "great deeds" of Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War. This was another opportunity for Europeans to remember the grandfathers of Ursula von der Leyen, Olaf Scholz or Chrystia Freeland... This even shocked Arno Klarsfeld, a Nazi hunter who is not very pro-Russian45.

It is obvious that NATO is aiming for an escalation of the war. The former Inspector General of the German Armed Forces, Harald Kujat, said in an interview that a nuclear power, i.e. Russia, cannot be defeated. How do you judge this statement?

First, we have to be precise with the wording. Some NATO countries are involved to various degrees in this conflict, but not NATO as an alliance or as a structure.

Second, I don't think NATO countries are trying to create an escalation. Their problem is that they are trapped in their narrative, and they don't know how to get out of it without losing face. We have already seen in previous interviews that the official narrative is that Ukraine is winning the war and Russia is losing it. But today, the reality on the ground shows that this has been false for a long time. It is today that we would need a credible neutral country that could offer a way out of this crisis for the Ukrainians, the Westerners and the Russians.

I'm not sure you can't defeat a nuclear power. Nobody is invincible. There are two questions, "At what cost?" and "Is the cost proportionate to the benefit?"

Let us assume that Russia is a dictatorship, which even fiercely anti-Putin analysts decline to assert46. Is regime change in Russia worth the destruction of Europe? Isn't this a problem that the Russians should decide and solve by themselves? However, it is noticeable that Vladimir Putin's popularity is only increasing and that Russians do not seem to be looking for regime change. In fact, the Russophobia that has come to light in the West has only strengthened the Russian population's confidence in Putin. It is almost as if one wonders whether primary and stupid articles about the «fetishism» of the letter «Z» on Russian tanks47 are not intended to strengthen the will to resist of the Russian people!

It is easy to wage war with the money and the lives of others...

How has Russia reacted to the increased arms deliveries and what could be the next stage of escalation from the Russian side?

Russia's objective is to neutralize the threat to the people of Donbass and Russia. Therefore, the more this threat is fed, the less likely it is that the conflict will end. The greater the range of weapons that are supplied to Ukraine, the more Russia will have to control the depth of Ukrainian territory. This was said by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in July 202248, and he repeated it on February 249. It would be good if we listened to what the Russians say, instead of being surprised when they do what they have announced!

Currently, we are doing everything we can for Russia to totally destroy Ukraine. As for the question of the "aggressor's reward", we should have thought about it between 2014 and 2022, and implemented the Minsk Agreements, which nobody - the Ukrainians first - wanted to do!...

Ukraine is now demanding additional fighter jets and warships from the NATO states. Do you think this is a possible scenario?

Western leadership is so irrational, that anything is possible! We are led by fanatical fools, who accepted the massacre of Russian-speaking civilian populations in Donbass between 2014 and 2022, who signed the Minsk agreements knowing that they would not respect them. How can one imagine that they could have matured in a few months?

The problem with providing the Ukrainians with fighter planes and warships is that they have no airfields or safe military ports to refuel. Therefore, they would have to be based on NATO territory. In other words, this would mean a direct involvement of NATO countries in this conflict.

It is not the fact of supplying weapons that implicates Western countries, but their integration into the Ukrainian army's logistics chain. We have already reached the limit now, because Western countries, especially France and the United States, are technically part of the Ukrainian logistics by repairing damaged weapons and providing a flow of ammunition.

Why is it that, apart from you and General Kujat, there are no sensible military leaders who advocate an immediate halt to the war in order to put an end to the bloodshed?

This must be carefully nuanced. First of all, it must be remembered that in a state governed by the rule of law, the Armed Forces are normally subordinated to the political authorities. The military executes the decisions on behalf of the political authorities, but it is not its role to make political decisions. This explains why officers who speak out are no longer serving.

That said, we can see that, as a rule, the military has a more nuanced view on the war than politicians; that the Anglo-Saxon military has a more balanced view than its European counterparts; and that Europeans from «old Europe» (Western Europe) have a more professional analysis of the conflict than their counterparts from «new Europe» (Eastern Europe), as Donald Rumsfeld would say.

The problem is the independence of mind in which the military works. A commander has to work with the realities on the ground to achieve the goal set by the politicians. The problem is that in the West, nobody seems to know what the objective is in Ukraine. In Switzerland, the opinion of the military seems to be aligned with the Kiev propaganda. In short, one could say that the less operational experience one has, the more important what Kiev says is in the analysis...

Did the Swiss military once contact you to benefit from your experience and analysis?

No, never. But you have to consider the positive aspect! When I see the deplorable quality of the "Swiss Security Report 2022", published in September50, I am glad I was not involved! I only regret that this report does not draw the right conclusions and ultimately goes against the interests of Switzerland!

Mr. Baud, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

published February 10, 2023$

*Jacques Baud holds a master's degree in Econometrics and a postgraduate degree in International Security from the Graduate Institute of International Relations in Geneva and was a Colonel in the Swiss Army. He worked for the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service and was an advisor on the security of refugee camps in Eastern Zaire during the Rwandan war (UNHCR - Zaire/Congo, 1995-1996). He worked for the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) of the United Nations in New York (1997-99), founded the International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva (CIGHD) and the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). He contributed to the introduction of the concept of intelligence in UN peace operations and headed the first integrated UN Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) in Sudan (2005-06). He was head of the Peace Policy and Doctrine Division of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York (2009-11) and of the UN Expert Group on Security Sector Reform and the Rule of Law, worked in Nato and is the author of several books on intelligence, asymmetric warfare, terrorism and disinformation.

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[2] https://youtu.be/bEv4-IJsl9k?t=414

[3] Matthew Loh, « Russia is prepared to drop its demand for Ukraine to be 'denazified' from its list of ceasefire conditions: report », Business Insider, 29 mars 2022 (https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-nazi-demand-for-ukraine-dropped-in-ceasefire-talks-2022-3).

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[5] Caitlin McFall, « Milley urges Ukraine to negotiate with Russia, saying chances of total military victory 'unlikely' », Fox News, 16 novembre 2023 (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/milley-urges-ukraine-negotiate-russia-saying-chances-total-military-victory-unlikely)

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[8] « Нардеп від «Слуги народу» Семінський заявив про «позбавлення конституційних прав росіян, які проживають в Україні» », AP News, 2 juillet 2021 (https://apnews.com.ua/ua/news/nardep-vid-slugi-narodu-seminskii-zayaviv-pro-pozbavlennya-konstitutciinikh-prav-rosiyan-yaki-prozhivaiut-v-ukraini/)

[9] https://youtu.be/CI22-w0i-RM

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI22-w0i-RM

[11] https://www.economist.com/zaluzhny-transcript

[12] Tal Axelrod, « McCaul calls on US to send 'just one' Abrams tank to Ukraine to spur European support », abc news, 22 janvier 2023 (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/mccaul-calls-us-send-abrams-tank-ukraine-spur/story?id=96584865)

[13] By Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe & Loveday Morris, « Short on time, Biden sought new Ukraine tank plan to break stalemate », The Washington Post, 28 janvier 2023 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/01/28/inside-story-biden-ukraine-tanks/)

[14] David Axe, « The Tungsten M-1—How Ukraine’s Tanks Will Differ From America’s », Forbes, 27 janvier 2023 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2023/01/27/the-tungsten-m-1-how-ukraines-tanks-will-differ-from-americas/)

[15] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-60798352

[16] https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/02/attack-on-europe-documenting-equipment.html

[17] https://www.economist.com/zaluzhny-transcript

[18] Thorsten Jungholt, « Bundeswehr-Kampfpanzern fehlt wirksame Munition », Die Welt am Sonntag, 26 avril 2015 (https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article140083741/Bundeswehr-Kampfpanzern-fehlt-wirksame-Munition.html)

[19] Alex Hollings & Sandboxx News, « Ukraine's troops have been highly effective with the M777 howitzer, but US troops can turn it into a 'giant sniper rifle' », Business Insider, 18 septembre 2022 (https://www.businessinsider.com/us-targeting-system-makes-m777-howitzer-highly-accurate-2022-9?r=US&IR=T)

[20] Joe Saballa, « Estonia Sending All Its 155-mm Howitzers to Ukraine », The Defense Post, 24 janvier 2023 (https://www.thedefensepost.com/2023/01/24/estonia-sending-howitzers-ukraine/)

[21] « La France va fournir douze canons Caesar supplémentaires à l'Ukraine », France 24, 31 janvier 2023 (https://www.france24.com/fr/europe/20230131-en-direct-macron-re%C3%A7oit-le-ministre-de-la-d%C3%A9fense-ukrainien-kiev-r%C3%A9clame-des-avions-de-combat)

[22] https://www.moonofalabama.org/2023/01/nato-continues-its-disarmament.html#more

[23]  William M. Arkin, « Putin’s Bombers Could Devastate Ukraine But He’s Holding Back. Here’s Why », Newsweek, 22 mars 2022 (https://www.newsweek.com/putins-bombers-could-devastate-ukraine-hes-holding-back-heres-why-1690494)

[24] https://en.mriya.news/58331-they-didnt-want-to-kill-anyone-arestovich-spoke-about-the-beginning-of-the-nwo

[25] « Confrontation In The Gulf – Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting With U.S. Envoy », The New York Times, 23 septembre 1990) (https://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/23/world/confrontation-in-the-gulf-excerpts-from-iraqi-document-on-meeting-with-us-envoy.html).

[26] Daniel Larison, « IAEA Confirms Iranian Compliance for the Fifteenth Time », The American Conservative, 31 mai 2019 (https://www.theamericanconservative.com/iaea-confirms-iranian-compliance-for-the-fifteenth-time/)

[27] Mark Landler, « Trump Abandons Iran Nuclear Deal He Long Scorned », The New York Times, 8 mai 2018 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html)

[28] Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America, state.gov, 29 février 2020 (https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Agreement-For-Bringing-Peace-to-Afghanistan-02.29.20.pdf)

[29] https://www.rts.ch/info/suisse/13567448-claude-wild-la-suisse-nest-pas-neutre-dans-le-conflit-en-ukraine.html

[30] « Суровикин: российская группировка на Украине методично "перемалывает" войска противника », TASS, 18 octobre 2022 (https://tass.ru/armiya-i-opk/16090805)

[31] « Ukraine’s Top General Supports Harsher Law for Deserters and Draft-dodgers », Kyiv Post, 20 décembre 2022 (https://www.kyivpost.com/post/5943)

[32] « Zelensky Signs Controversial Law Toughening Punishment for Desertion in Army », AFP/Kiyv Post, 25 janvier 2023 (https://www.kyivpost.com/post/11498)

[33] « Ukrainian soldiers are committing suicide due to war stress, says Duncan-Smith », Politics.co.uk, 16 janvier 2023 (https://www.politics.co.uk/parliament/ukrainian-soldiers-are-committing-suicide-due-to-war-stress-says-duncan-smith/)

[34] Füssy Angéla, « Mint a barmokat, úgy fogdossák össze a férfiakat Kárpátalján – Nézze meg helyszíni videóriportunkat! », PestiSracok, 23 janvier 2023 (https://pestisracok.hu/mint-a-barmokat-ugy-fogdossak-ossze-a-ferfiakat-karpataljan-nezze-meg-helyszini-videoriportunkat/)

[35] Chris King, « Shocking claims of ethnic Hungarians being forcibly drafted into Ukrainian military in Transcarpathia », Euro Weekly News, 24 janvier 2023 (https://euroweeklynews.com/2023/01/24/shocking-claims-of-ethnic-hungarians-being-forcibly-drafted-into-ukrainian-military-in-transcarpathia/);

[36] Robert Semonsen, « 97% of Hungarians Reject Brussels’ Sanctions Against Russia », The European Conservative, 17 janvier 2023 (https://europeanconservative.com/articles/news/97-of-hungarians-reject-brussels-sanctions-against-russia/)

[37] Seumas Milne, « It's not Russia that's pushed Ukraine to the brink of war », The Guardian, 30 avril 2014 (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/30/russia-ukraine-war-kiev-conflict)

[38] Branko Marcetic, « A US-Backed, Far Right–Led Revolution in Ukraine Helped Bring Us to the Brink of War », Jacobin, 7 février 2022 (https://jacobin.com/2022/02/maidan-protests-neo-nazis-russia-nato-crimea)

[39] Branko Marcetic, « A US-Backed, Far Right–Led Revolution in Ukraine Helped Bring Us to the Brink of War », Jacobin, 7 février 2022 (https://jacobin.com/2022/02/maidan-protests-neo-nazis-russia-nato-crimea)

[40] « Predicted Russian - Ukrainian war in 2019 - Alexey Arestovich », YouTube, 18 mars 2022 (https://youtu.be/1xNHmHpERH8)

[41] James Dobbins, Raphael S. Cohen, Nathan Chandler, Bryan Frederick, Edward Geist, Paul DeLuca, Forrest E. Morgan, Howard J. Shatz, Brent Williams, « Extending Russia : Competing from Advantageous Ground », RAND Corporation, 2019, p.100 (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR3063.html&usg=AOvVaw2E35ojBbRg6-xMic0-9WPs)

[42] https://freenationsrf.org/

[43]  Angélique Négroni, « Comptes bancaires bloqués, insultes, vandalisme... Le quotidien des Russes de France », le Figaro, 22 avril 2022 (https://www.lefigaro.fr/international/comptes-bancaires-bloques-insultes-vandalisme-le-quotidien-des-russes-de-france-20220422)

[44] « Address by the President of the Russian Federation », kremlin.ru, 21 septembre 2022 (http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/69390)

[45] https://youtu.be/I-yCq8M9ab0

[46] Bruno Tertrais, « La chute de la maison Russie », Institut Montaigne, 13 décembre 2022 (https://www.institutmontaigne.org/analyses/la-chute-de-la-maison-russie)

[47] Alexander Etkind, « Warum identifizieren sich Putins Anhänger mit dem mysteriösen Zeichen Z? », NZZ Am Sonntag, 29 janvier 2023 (https://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/imperialismus-revanchismus-fetischismus-der-ukraine-krieg-ist-kein-krieg-zwischen-ethnien-sondern-zwischen-generationen-ein-gigantischer-oedipaler-konflikt-ld.1720903?reduced=true)

[48] Andrew Roth, « Russia may seek to occupy more territory in Ukraine, says foreign minister », The Guardian, 20 juillet 2022 (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/20/russia-may-seek-to-occupy-more-territory-in-ukraine-says-foreign-minister)

[49] Jon Jackson, « Russia Responds to West Reportedly Giving Ukraine Longer-Range Weapons », Newsweek, 2 février 2023 (https://www.newsweek.com/russia-responds-west-reportedly-giving-ukraine-longer-range-weapons-1778546)

[50] https://www.newsd.admin.ch/newsd/message/attachments/72369.pdf

"Sanctions are the cause of people dying"

Interview with Prof. Dr. Dr. hab. Alena Douhan*, international law expert and UN special rapporteur.

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus In the media, we constantly hear about the sanctions against Russia. But we never talk about how the civilian population suffers as a result. How do you assess this regimes of sanctions?

Prof. Dr. Alena Douhan As a professor of international law, I assess it from two sides. There must be a legal analysis, because countries, including the EU, never really even consider the legal basis. You cannot react to the behavior of other countries by illegal means. And from the other side – it is very important to assess humanitarian impact of unilaterally applied measures.

You visited Iran a few weeks ago. What kind of impression did you get during your visit?

It was my fourth country visit. Before going to Iran, I visited Venezuela, Qatar, and Zimbabwe. I must say, each country has its own way of being affected by sanctions and coping with them. Iran is a country that suffers from very serious sanctions imposed by the U.S. and by some other states. What is special about Iran's situation is that it was under UN Security Council sanctions for 10 years until August 2020, which no longer exist today. But there is a number of states that are still following these non-existing Security Council sanctions and additionally impose other unilateral sanctions referring to human rights violations, for example, concerning women's rights or rights of the LGBTQ community. That makes it complicated for me to assess the impact of these different sanctions separately. When people ask me how I assess the impact of the European Union sanctions, I can't answer the questions precisely, but I look at the comprehensive impact of all sanctions imposed by different countries. Meanwhile , the humanitarian impact is even greater—due to over-compliance of states, banks, businesses and private individuals.

How have you been able to get a picture of the situation in Iran?

The purpose of my visit was limited by the scope of my mandate – to assess humanitarian impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. For this purpose I talked to all affected groups, both governmental and non-governmental, and got the strong impression that the sanctions have a massive impact on people's lives. I met officials in hospitals, visited hospitals and universities, and business enterprises. I spoke with all 17 U.N. missions in Iran, as well as with embassy officials from both countries that support the sanctions and those that oppose them. I also visited Isfahan and talked to associations representing the Afghan community. There, I spoke directly with people affected by the sanctions.

What was your main impression?

What made a lasting impression on me was the impact of the sanctions on the health care system. I spoke with emergency patients, those suffering from genetic diseases, and some who were suffering from cancer. I also spoke with members of patient organizations that cared for people with serious diseases, such as various types of skin diseases, gynecological diseases, as well as blood diseases, severe forms of diabetes, etc. All of these people suffer from these diseases and even the appropriate medicines are not available.

Is the lack of medication a result of the sanctions?

The impact of the sanctions is not always clear but sometimes it is rather obvious. In the cases where health is at stake, it is very clear. Let me give you an example. For a while, Iran produces around 95 per cent of medicine domestically. After sanctions have been imposed Iran largely lost access to the raw materials or faces impediments in delivery of proper quality raw materials.

Where do the medicines come from?

The availability of medicines is another issue. After sanctions were imposed in 2010 and reimposed in 2018, Iran made great efforts to continue production of much-needed medicines. As reports indicated, Iran was producing 90-95% of its own medicines. The problem was that although it would have been possible to produce the drugs in the country, this would require raw materials.

Was it still possible to manufacture drugs?

The procurement of individual components to manufacture the medicines is a special issue. This is because the countries that had previously supplied Iran with the relevant substances refused to do so due to the renewed sanctions. This was the reason why Iran had to look for alternatives, running the risk of obtaining basic substances for the production of medicines that were of the low quality. They were not certified, and even if Iran could produce drugs with the basic substances it received, their quality is affected.

Could all the needed medicines be produced through this route?

Despite all efforts, only 90-95% of the drugs could be produced domestically. The missing 5-10% had to be imported from abroad. It refers on the first hand medicines for people suffering from rare or severe deceases. Today unfortunately drug companies are refusing to send medicines to Iran, despite formal announcement in the sanctioning regulations of the humanitarian exception.

Humanitarian exemptions however, do not work for a number of reasons. To activate humanitarian exemptions, it is necessary to get a license from OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) first of all. This is very problematic, the process is lengthy and expensive. However, when you get a license, it is usually valid for one month only.

What does that mean?

I spoke with UN institutions like Unicef and UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund], and they confirmed that it is a big problem, even for individual UN institutions, to get a license from OFAC to guarantee the procurement of drugs.

Even if the license is there, the pharmaceutical companies usually say no. They are afraid that if they trade with Iran, they will then also fall under the secondary sanctions as the wording of sanctions’ provisions is very unclear and confusing.

Can a company decide to supply the drugs? Is that possible in principle?

If companies are willing to work with Iran, there are two problems still. The first one is  the transfer of money. Even Unicef, which operates in Iran and works with a Swedish pharmaceutical company, cannot guarantee payment from Iran to Sweden as Iran is cut off SWIFT and banks decide not to risk. Thus, the payment had to be made in alternative ways via thirds countries.

If everything has still worked up to this point, then there is the problem of delivery. All transport companies in Iran are under sanctions. Anyone who delivers goods to Iran can be penalized by secondary sanctions. Any transportation insurance company is under sanctions against Iran.

I have talked to some of humanitarian associations. We have seen the documents that clearly show that they do not want to sell the drugs to Iran. I have talked to the Swedish and Swiss governments and to the pharmaceutical companies, because we have clear indications that there is a connection with the sanctions. Because of the lack of medicine, we have an increasing deterioration in the health of the population in Iran especially among people suffering from rare and severe deceases. You can see the increasing death rate not only in intensive care patients like diabetics, cancer patients and many others, but also in less dangerous diseases. Deaths have tripled.

Are there any specific examples here of how you see the problem?

I'll give you an example. For the disease thalassemia, there was an average of 25-30 deaths per year. The average life expectancy for these people is 45 to 50 years, if the medicine they need is available. When sanctions were reinstated in 2018, deaths increased to 130-170 in the last three years, and the average life expectancy is now less than 20 years. There are several organizations that look at the problems and come up with the same numbers.

Are all people affected by what is happening in the healthcare system?

The so-called middle class in Iran is accustomed to using private medical care and they were able to pay more. But that has now changed; it can no longer pay for private services that puts an additional burden over the public system.

What does it mean for Iran to be cut off from international payments?

For example, it is not able to make any payments to international organizations. If it is unable to make the appropriate contributions, it loses its right to participate in international bodies. This excludes Iran from all  the ability to participate in talks, to vote and thus to take part in decision-making. I have spoken with to some U.N. agencies that are assisting Iran in developing solutions to the payment problems, but so far there is no avenue available. Iran also cannot pay its dues to the UN like it does to WHO or Unicef.

What does that mean for interaction at the diplomatic level?

It is very limited. In addition, Iranian embassies in each of the countries that have adopted the sanctions are not able to pay wages to their embassy staff because Iran cannot open accounts. Iran is excluded from Swift, and therefore you can't pay with a credit card in the country itself.

What does this mean for trade?

All countries that want to maintain international cooperation with Iran, not only on the diplomatic level, are highly restricted. There are also restrictions on freedom of action at the individual level. Because of the exclusion from Swift, no one is able to book a trip to Iran, a hotel, or a flight. Iranians are not able to book flights and hotels abroad as well. Cooperation in the field of science, art and sports is also not possible. There is no possibility to pay membership fees in international professional associations / bodies and therefore cooperation with foreign professional groups is limited. Iranians also face problems in using online platforms for international interaction and teaching. Iranian athletes are limited in their ability to participate in international competitions because they cannot book a trip or stay in a hotel room. Scholars and students are prevented from subscribing at the international databases, their publications are often not accepted for editing process due to precaution of publishing houses.

Are these sanctions compatible with human rights?

There is clear evidence that a broad scope of human rights are violated by the sanctions; for example, unrestricted trade or the possibility of scientific exchange in all fields. I have talked to many students, and for them it is incomprehensible why they are excluded from international cooperation. It is an absurdity to prohibit scientific cooperation, because that is a basic element for the economic and social development of a country. These are essential elements of economic and cultural rights. Iran is a clear example where these rights are being violated.

What about the right to food?

The situation in Iran is not so bad, because the country can produce a lot of things domestically. The situation is much better in Iran than in Venezuela.

Have you also been able to talk to citizens?

Yes, I was able to experience how ordinary people are directly affected by the sanctions. One Iranian told me that he and his wife decided to forgo having another child because, due to the inflation in the country, it would be too much of a financial burden. The country has hardly any income coming from outside, because the flow of tourists has depleted. In addition to the limited supply of goods and low income, people suffer from extreme inflation. The state and companies cannot raise wages at the same rate and have to try to cut costs, so people are getting poorer and poorer.

Besides the sanctions, doesn't Iran have a large number of refugees to take care of?

Yes, Iran has 5.5 million refugees from Afghanistan and since August 2021, 5 to 10 thousand refugees are coming daily. All other countries neighboring Afghanistan have closed their borders. All statistics can be found on the UNHCR web page. An additional problem for Iran is the fact that most of the refugees (90 percent) do not have papers or a valid visa. Before my trip to Iran, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, was in Iran. He was very appreciative of Iran's efforts.

How is Iran coping with this huge burden?

For example, Iran gives refugees free access to primary health care and schooling, regardless of whether they are documented or non-documented. This is all paid for by the state and is an extreme burden. If five to ten thousand people come into the country every day, that means a new school and a new hospital would have to be built dauly. The Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan has confirmed—and this is also my impression—that more than half of the refugees are young people, because as a rule a family has five children. In addition to the shortage of medicines, the increase in patients who can no longer finance private care, and the large number of refugees, the health care system is under enormous strain.

How can Iran finance this?

This is a huge problem. Because of the shortfall in revenues, due to the sanctions, the state can hardly provide any support. Also, the number of social cases that rely on government support money is growing. Almost two months ago, just in when I visited Iran, there were big protests there against the change of the state support system. Basic foodstuffs have very low prices. That has changed now. The state has raised prices. But the very poorest still get financial support so they can afford the goods. Other people who used to get that were left out. The consequences have been protests all over the country.

When you talk to the states that imposed the sanctions and tell them what you saw with your own eyes, what kind of reactions do you get?

One of the most common responses from the states that imposed sanctions is that they didn't think the situation in the country was that bad. They would not have heard from other sources that the impact was so severe. When I visited Venezuela, I saw how disastrous these sanctions are for the people, because Venezuela has very low domestic food production.

I try to be very specific and look at every fact to be able to show specific impacts on health, nutrition, access to water, sanitation, electricity, education, and development. My intention is to remind all states that every human being around the world enjoys basic human rights and all actions can only be taken in accordance with international law.

What sources do you rely on?

To gather information, I talk to various stakeholders during country visits: governments, hospitals, university professors, non-governmental organizations, international and national humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, local associations, embassies, victims of human rights violations. One month before visiting the country, I publicly call for contributions. All information is collected and verified.

Unfortunately, some interlocutors have no intention of sharing information relevant to the work of the mandate, but instead launch defamation campaigns and distribute fake news.

Who is doing such defamation?

UN Watch and other NGOs outside Iran called "Human Rights in Iran" called me a puppet of China or Iran. When I came back from Iran, the slurs were so strong that I informed the office of the High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the Coordination Committee if the Special Procedures about the case. The fact that I come from Belarus became the reason to question my integrity. I am a professor of international law and have never belonged to any party. I do research in countries as an independent expert according to academic criteria and have no political agenda.

Were the attacks related to your report?

No, I guess that none of those who attacked me read the report. The goal was to shift the focus away from my findings and to make a scandal. This is something that is done all the time. People politicize the discussion instead of dealing with the specific content. I keep trying to point out that we should be dealing with the legality and humanity rather than politics. It's about international law and humanitarian issues. If there is any problem, you have to take legal means. It is about using legal means, not about punishing one country for not complying with another.

After all the things you have told, the question I have is whether these sanctions and their devastating consequences on the economy, on politics, and therefore on the civilian population are compatible with human rights.

That is an important question, and I hope I can answer it in brief. Unfortunately  this area is so highly politicized. It has usually been maintained that unilateral sanctions are imposed by "good guys on bad guys" for some “supreme purpose” and with good intentions —but unfortunately in reality that is the people of the country who are affected enormously.

Toward the end of the 1990s, the Security Council was very active in issuing sanctions, for example, against Sierra Leone or Iraq, and legality of these sanctions have not been disputed. In this context, the Security Council decided to examine the humanitarian impact of sanctions. The effect appeared to be so huge that the UN Security Council changed its policy and stopped to use comprehensive sanctions. The UN Security Council also never threatened the public. Numerous threats however have become a part of the unilateral sanctions’ strategy, as we have recently seen as regards sanctions on Cuba, Iran or Russia. That is the reason why I think you should start to comply with the legal aspects.

It is hardly known that sanctions have a devastating impact on the respective populations. What is the reason for that?

The media hardly reports on it. They suppress the information, but people don't want to hear it either. It is something very unpleasant. But it is a reality for those affected. Sanctions are the cause of people dying. That is the reason why I am very concerned about the concept of planned prevention of disinformation. The EU has decided to launch a law against "disinformation," which is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil, Political and Cultural Rights, as well as calling into question the right to freedom of expression. I see this as a great danger to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to pass a law prohibiting sanctions that drive people into poverty?

Yes, there is no mechanism for evaluating unilateral coercive measures. In March of this year, I organized an expert consultation with nongovernmental organizations and another with academics, at which they argued that there should be a monitoring mechanism to assess humanitarian impact of unilateral coercive measures. We need to establish a uniform transparent methodology verify the impact of sanctions. Also, there are no avenues of redress against unilateral coercive measures. Iran has launched a case in the International Court of Justice, and Venezuela – in the International Criminal Court. But it is nearly impossible to refer a case of unilateral coercive measures to a U.N. treaty body as it is very complicated for individuals under sanctions and especially for those affected by over-compliance – to bring a case to the national court, such as in the United States, as that is too far away and extremely expensive. I am working on how to set up a mechanism that would allow legal action against unilateral coercive measures within the framework of the UN and help the victims to get their rights.

Professor Douhan, thank you very much for this interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser
Translation Nirmal Dass
published July 20, 2022


"By joining NATO, Sweden and Finland increase the risk of becoming involved in a nuclear conflict"

Interview with Jacques Baud*

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus You have worked for NATO and know the mechanisms of this organization very well. What does "NATO enlargement" mean in the current situation?

Jacques Baud In fact, despite the emphatic statements, the situation has not really changed. First of all, it must be understood that the announcement of the candidacies of Sweden and Finland is essentially political. The Madrid Summit merely accepted the candidacies of these two countries. I recall that according to Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, it is NATO that invites new members, not the new members that decide to join the Alliance. NATO needed a "small success". The forces it has funded and trained for eight years in Ukraine are failing against Russia. The problem is not the determination of the Ukrainian soldiers, who are certainly brave, but the inability of the military staffs to fight a war in a European tactical-operational environment. As a result, the Ukrainian military failure is therefore essentially also the failure of NATO. Added to this are the Western sanctions which tend to backfire on our economies. Thus creating a situation that has already impacted the governments of Bulgaria, Estonia, the UK, France, the Netherlands... and it is probably not over.

How long will it be before the two states are definitely accepted into NATO?

We will have to wait for the next NATO summit in 2023. Then the allies will decide whether to accept - or not - the actual membership of Sweden and Finland. But I expect that it will be done according to plan.

What is the role of Turkey, which wanted to prevent membership?

First of all, Turkey is not trying to "prevent" the membership of Sweden and Finland, but to preserve its own national interests. Secondly, it should be remembered that the admission of new member countries can only be done with the unanimity of the allies. In other words, every vote counts. Turkey is a staunch ally of the Alliance, which is not afraid to assert its national interests. I have worked a lot with the Turks during my time at NATO. One can agree or disagree with their policies, but one must recognize that they are probably the most consistent and honest members of the Alliance in asserting their interests.

Can you give a specific example?

Yes, when the United States wanted to launch its war in Iraq, Turkey opposed it because it felt that it would have an impact on the situation of the Kurds and thus on its own national security. But the Americans did not listen. Today, Turkey is arguing for its national security. Sweden and Finland have always been very supportive of the Kurds and have taken in many refugees, including members of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers' Party, which is considered as a terrorist movement in many countries. In fact, even the European Union considers the PKK a terrorist organization1. For Turkey, it is a matter of national security. It was therefore quite predictable that Turkey would ask for its own security interests in exchange for its voice. What is true for the Nordic countries is also true for Turkey.

Why did Turkey withdraw its veto for the time being?

First of all, it was to be expected that Turkey would not use its de facto veto right. The stakes are too high for NATO. It was clear that Turkey would be pressured to accept the candidacy of the two countries. Turkey is already subject to sanctions by the United States for having "dared" to buy Russian anti-aircraft missiles. It should be noted that the United States automatically applies sanctions to all countries that buy Russian military equipment. This is the CAATSA Act2. This is why Turkey was taken out of the F-35 fighter program and no longer receives spare parts for its F-16 fighters. So it was easy to trade the lifting of sanctions for its approval. But this also shows that Western unity is achieved through the threat of sanctions!

In the Western media, the future membership of the two states to NATO is being celebrated as a great increase in security and military clout. Is this assessment correct?

No, it will not be a radical change. First of all, you have to know that in the early 1960s, Sweden wanted to have nuclear weapons. The United States, on the other hand, wanted to keep its monopoly over these weapons. In order to convince Sweden to give up, the United States offered to provide its nuclear umbrella protection in case of aggression. In other words, since the 1960s, Sweden had the same nuclear protection as NATO members, without the same obligations in case of conflict. So Sweden has not significantly improved its security.

And what advantage does NATO have?

For NATO, Sweden's membership provides the advantage of having full control over the Baltic Sea passages to the Atlantic Ocean. But this is a very relative gain. For it is Denmark that really occupies a key position, and the military collaboration between Denmark and Sweden, especially for maritime control, works well. It should be remembered that Sweden claimed for years that it was the target of clandestine Russian submarine warfare. As a result, there was intense cooperation in anti-submarine warfare around the Baltic Sea, in order to identify secret Russian weapons. But they never found anything: in fact, it was herring flatulence, which produced the same sound signal as submarines!...

Even if this does little for either side, it does have an outward effect.

The membership of Sweden and Finland is certainly a political signal. NATO obviously sees it as a success. But the reality is more nuanced. For the two Nordic countries, I don't think it is an improvement of their situation. They have the same advantages as before, but with additional constraints. But here too we have to be careful. It is unlikely that the United States would use its nuclear weapons on Russian territory just to protect Helsinki or Stockholm: this would create a direct threat from Russia against Washington or New York. Instead, they would more likely use theater weapons against attacking forces on Swedish or Finnish territory. In other words, by joining NATO, these two countries have increased the risk of being caught in a nuclear conflict.

Don't the two countries also have to make concessions?

On the diplomatic front, Sweden and Finland have to expect a loss of the credibility they enjoyed thanks to their neutral or non-aligned status, especially in the non-European world.

In terms of their foreign and humanitarian policy, the price demanded by Turkey is very high, since it means no less than giving up their policy towards the Kurds. We do not know if they will fulfill their commitment to Turkey, but it is likely that they will have to do so, as this is an issue that Turkey perceives as existential.

We are reading less and less about Ukraine's "military successes" in the mainstream media. Did these ever exist or was the whole thing pure propaganda?

Our media are slowly beginning to portray a more nuanced reality than they have done since February. The irony of this is that by never questioning the Ukrainian government's narrative and by simply relaying its propaganda, our media have contributed significantly to the overconfidence that led to its defeat. As I have said from the beginning, our media bears a tremendous responsibility for the course of the war and the Ukrainian defeat.

What do you mean?

Our media never tried to help Ukraine, but to fight Russia. Don't forget that a Norwegian researcher revealed that a journalist described as a "Swiss-French conspiracy theorist" working with some mainstream media that "blacklisted" me in Switzerland3, inspired Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik, who is celebrated as a hero by most right-wing militant groups in Ukraine.

Why is the war dragging on for so long, and why is Ukraine making no attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with Russia?

The West and the Ukrainian far-right extremists are literally preventing Zelensky from reaching an agreement with Russia. This is what Boris Johnson went to tell Zelensky in Kiev on April 9: "If you negotiate with Russia we will stop delivering arms to you!”

Can we tell from the Russians' actions what the ultimate goal of this operation is supposed to be?

No, we do not know. But it is important to understand that Russia's objectives are not quantitative, but qualitative in nature. In other words, it is not about gaining territory, but about destroying the threat against the Russian-speaking populations of Donbass and Crimea. Being a bit cynical, one could say that the Russians do not need to advance to achieve their goals, but only need to let the Ukrainian military come to them. According to Ukrainian officials, Ukraine is losing 1,000 men a day (killed, wounded, prisoners or deserters). The British have started a training program for new soldiers and promise to train 10'000 men in 120 days. In other words, they will train in 120 days what Ukraine loses in ten days. We are not helping Ukraine: we are pushing it towards disaster.

"Der Spiegel" writes, "Putin's soldiers are committing the most serious war crimes." Do you know more details about this, or does this belong in the realm of propaganda?

I don't know, because making accusations is not enough, you have to prove them. As Ignazio Cassis, the Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: "These are not war crimes until a Court of Law rules so". In the absence of multi-party, international and impartial investigations, these accusations are unsubstantiated. Having said that, it is very likely that Russian military personnel committed war crimes. It happens in all wars and is almost inevitable. Only the Western armies do not seem to commit such crimes. For two reasons: because they do not prosecute their own soldiers and because slaughtering an Arab family is not considered a crime. You can see for yourself that Julian Assange has served more time in prison than the perpetrators of the war crimes he exposed! This tells you everything about the so-called "values" we defend!

When you read the Western media, you inevitably get the feeling that only the Russians are committing war crimes.

The problem is that our media NEVER mention Ukrainian war crimes. As a matter of fact, we mention Russian war crimes, while in Eastern Ukraine the Russians are often welcomed as liberators. But that too, we do not want to say: the German journalist Alina Lipp, who is on the ground in the Donbass, has been condemned by the German justice for having dared to say it! Claiming that Ukraine is a democratic country that does not commit war crimes is just a way to legitimize our blind support for the war against Russia.

On July 4th-5th , in Lugano was the so-called reconstruction conference. President Cassis wanted to use it to put himself in the limelight. The media response seems to have been rather limited. What is the point of such a conference?

I think the idea of such a conference is good. The problem is that it is totally premature. How to seriously mobilize donors to fund Ukraine's reconstruction means nothing until we have a clear picture of the final state of affairs. Will Western countries fund the reconstruction of Mariupol? Russia has already started to rebuild the cities damaged by the war. In Mariupol, schools have reopened since May and the Russians have already started to rebuild the destroyed residential buildings. Russia has restored banking services as well as telephone services. This is certainly in the realm of propaganda, but for the inhabitants it is a concrete result.

How is such a conference compatible with Switzerland's neutrality?

As a matter of principle, I think that by organizing such a conference, Switzerland plays its role. The problem here is that in this particular case, this conference is essentially partisan and its real purpose is propaganda.

Are there countries that are currently trying to find a negotiated solution to the Ukraine conflict, or is only the logic of weapons speaking?

This is probably what all Ukrainians are asking themselves. But do not forget that in May 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was threatened with death by his own neo-Nazi partners if he concluded peace with Russia. By the way, our media and our leaders also say that we should not negotiate with Vladimir Putin. So...

Mr. Baud, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

*Jacques Baud holds a master's degree in Econometrics and a postgraduate degree in International Security from the Graduate Institute of International Relations in Geneva and was a Colonel in the Swiss Army. He worked for the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service and was an advisor on the security of refugee camps in Eastern Zaire during the Rwandan war (UNHCR - Zaire/Congo, 1995-1996). He worked for the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) of the United Nations in New York (1997-99), founded the International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva (CIGHD) and the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). He contributed to the introduction of the concept of intelligence in UN peace operations and headed the first integrated UN Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) in Sudan (2005-06). He was head of the Peace Policy and Doctrine Division of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York (2009-11) and of the UN Expert Group on Security Sector Reform and the Rule of Law, worked in Nato and is the author of several books on intelligence, asymmetric warfare, terrorism and disinformation.

Translation Nirmal Dass

published July 20, 2022

1 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/DE/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32021R0138&from=EN
2 https://congress.gov/115/plaws/publ44/PLAW-115publ44.pdf
3 https://www.qub.ac.uk/Research/GRI/mitchell-institute/FileStore/Filetoupload,818003,en.pdf

International peacekeeping: "Security through cooperation, not confrontation"

"Switzerland's membership in NATO would call our security into question"

Interview with Jacques Baud*

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus The May 20 "New York Times" editorial questioned the sense of U.S. war strategy in Ukraine and questioned further involvement. How should this be understood?

Jacques Baud In the Anglo-Saxon world, the U.S. and European Union strategy is increasingly being questioned by military and intelligence officials. This trend is reinforced by U.S. domestic politics. Republicans and Democrats share a very similar view of Russia. They perceive however very differently the efficiency of the investments in support of Ukraine. Both share the goal of a "regime change" in Russia; but Republicans are concerned that the billions spent tend to backfire against the Western economy. In other words, not only does this objective not seem to be achieved, but it comes at the cost of a weakening of our economy and influence.

So, the Republicans don’t really have a different position from the Democrats?

In Europe, we tend to think of the Republicans and the Democrats as the political "right" and "left." That's not quite true. First of all, we must remember that historically, until the beginning of the 20th century, the Republicans were "left" and the Democrats were "right." Today, they differ less in their vision of the role of the United States in the world, than how they want to achieve that vision. That is why there are Democrats who are more “rightists” than Republicans, and Republicans who are more “leftists” than Democrats.

What does this mean for the Ukraine crisis?

The Ukraine crisis has been managed by a small minority of Democrats who hate Russia. They seem more interested in weakening Russia than strengthening the United States. Republicans see that not only this strategy against Russia does not work, but it leads to a loss of credibility of the United States. The upcoming midterm elections and the growing unpopularity of Joe Biden are fueling criticism of U.S. strategy in Ukraine.

Is this "rethinking" taking place only in the Anglo-Saxon media?

In Switzerland, France and Belgium, the narrative of the French-speaking mainstream media follows faithfully what the Ukrainian propaganda says. We are shown a fictitious reality that announces victory against Russia. As a result, we are not able to assist properly Ukraine in overcoming its real problems.

Do people in the EU really see it that way?

Yes, there is a general anti-Russian mood there. People tend to be more Catholic than the Pope. That was also the case with the oil embargo. The U.S. Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, advised the EU against an oil embargo. But the EU wanted to do it anyway, despite possible negative consequences against its own economy. So, it is obvious that there is a certain dynamic in the EU related to the generation of the current political leaders. These people are very young, with only limited real world experience. Their actions are rather ideology-based than objective oriented.  This is why Europe has no sober assessment of the situation.

What are the consequences of this?

In Europe, our understanding of the problem looks more polarized than in the USA. We are not able to discuss the situation calmly. In the French-language media, it is impossible to suggest an alternative view of the issue without being called "Putin's agent. The problem is not just an intellectual one, but is essentially and very concrete problem for Ukraine. By confirming the view propagated by the Ukrainian narrative, our media have pushed Ukraine towards a strategy that costs a great many lives and leads to the destruction of the country. Our media believes that this strategy weakens Vladimir Putin and that they should continue on this path. However, in the US, some seem to have realized that this is a dead end, as Joe Biden stated that military aid to Ukraine aims only at strengthening Ukraine's negotiating position.

What is the view in the U.S.?

In the U.S., one must distinguish between the government and military and professional intelligence circles. Among the latter, there is a growing feeling that Ukraine will suffer more from Western strategy than from a war with Russia. This sounds paradoxical, but more and more professionals are recognizing it. In Switzerland’s and in the EU’s establishments —in my experience—people do not perceive this, yet. They tend align themselves on the U.S. government’s rhetoric. This is an intellectually limited, extremely primitive, extremely dogmatic and ultimately extremely brutal view towards the Ukrainians. The Europeans tend to be more Catholic than the Pope, despite the growing sense in the US that their approach will lead to failure.

What does this mean in practical terms?

Let us consider the situation in Mariupol. Our media seem to regret that the fighters of the Azov Movement surrendered. They deplore it. Our media would have preferred that they die after a heroic and theatrical resistance. This is extremely inhumane. But their resistance had no longer any impact on the situation. According to the Swiss media, they should have fought to the death, to the last man. The Swiss media would have done a "wonderful job" in the battle of Berlin in April 1945! By an irony of history, the two situations are very similar. The situation in Berlin at that time was completely hopeless, and among the last fighters of the Third Reich—the last defenders of the Führer—were French volunteers of the "Charlemagne" division!

What does the use of such volunteers mean?

It is something quite remarkable, because they don't go into battle out of patriotic duty, but out of conviction and dogmatism, and note this is exactly the same mental scheme as some of our media. A soldier who defends his country does not do so out of hatred for the enemy, but out of a sense of duty and respect for his community and his country. A volunteer who becomes politically involved, like the volunteers of the SS division "Charlemagne" at the time, responds to some kind of vocation to fight. It is a different intellectual process. The same thing can be observed in Ukraine. These volunteers of the Azov Movement, called "republicans" by some Swiss politicians, threatened to kill Zelensky for accepting the surrender of Mariupol. These volunteers are not fighting for Ukraine, but against Russia. This is the same mindset as that of some of our journalists in Switzerland. They are just as extreme against Putin as these volunteer fighters. Same behavior, different weapons.

What is the worldview behind this?

Of course, the surrender of Ukrainian troops disrupts the narrative that Ukraine is defending itself heroically and that its determination is leading to Russia's defeat. Little David (Ukraine) defends itself against Goliath (Russia) and succeeds. However, the reality is quite different. More and more soldiers of the Ukrainian regular army say that they do not want to fight anymore. They feel abandoned by their leadership. Moreover, the Russians have a reputation for treating their prisoners well. Those who still are eager to fight are the paramilitary volunteers. The myth of a victorious resistance was created in the West; but today the Ukrainian military feels betrayed. Paradoxically, it is probably in large part because of the narrative promoted by our media that Ukraine is losing this war.

The fact that reality is being misunderstood can also be seen in the case of NATO. Those who are in charge are only too happy to declare that NATO keeps the peace and guarantees freedom and security in Europe.

These statements must be put into perspective. NATO is not a peace organization. NATO is essentially a nuclear-power organization, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. Its purpose is to bring the allies under the US nuclear umbrella. NATO was founded in 1949, when there were only two nuclear powers—the U.S. and the USSR. At that time, an organization like NATO was justified. On both sides of the Iron Curtain, some individuals wanted war. That was the case under Stalin, but also in the United States.

Some Western political leaders wanted to keep the war going?

Yes, that was the reason why Winston Churchill did not want to disarm part of the German Wehrmacht that had surrendered. A war against the Soviet Union was expected. The idea of a nuclear umbrella can be justified under these circumstances. But with the end of the Cold War, after the Warsaw Pact was disbanded, this justification faded.

Can a military organization be completely eliminated?

There is certainly a need for a collective security organization in Europe. There is no question that certain arrangements should exist for a collective defense. This idea is relatively well accepted. The problem is rather in the design of this organization and in the conception of the defense.  The challenge is to create a collective defense system that meets European security needs, without being at the service of US geostrategic interests.

What should have happened with Russia?

Since the early 1990s, the Russians had a vision of security in Europe that was inspired by the OSCE: security through cooperation, rather than confrontation. That's why they contemplated the idea of joining NATO at that time. But the very concept of NATO, with a dominant power bound to the very nature of the organization itself, cannot accommodate the Russian perspective. If we consider the current world challenges, the Russian vision should be seen as much more realistic than the Western one.

Why do you judge it that way?

Humanity is facing many complex challenges. We forget that in 1967, NATO published the Harmel Report in which it reflected on its own future. This is now more than 50 years ago. This report was exemplary and very modern. NATO described all the current and future challenges and outlined some guidelines for the development of the organization. It was very far-sighted, and I think it was a model of what NATO could be. In this report, the whole concept of security was rethought. In other words, environmental and social problems were integrated in the concept of security. When I look at the problems we are facing worldwide, and specifically in Europe, the Harmel Report provides a lot of food for thought and ideas.

What happened to this report, or its ideas?

The Gulf War and then the Balkan War put us back into conventional thinking. Thus, NATO missed the chance to think in a new direction. Tanks, artillery, aircraft, etc. still define NATO's model of thinking. Not only was this model unsuitable for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but NATO did not really learn the right lessons from those wars. So, we have increased suffering and misery, without containing terrorism. This is a complete failure at the operational, strategic, intellectual, and human levels.

What do you see as the cause of this obvious failure?

Because NATO’s understanding of war was not suited to the realities.. NATO is a regional security and defense organization. It was designed in 1949 for a war in Europe with nuclear weapons, tanks, artillery, etc. But in Afghanistan, there were no nuclear weapons, no tanks, no fighter-bombers. It's a totally different kind of warfare. But NATO failed to identify the problem.

Why did NATO not grasp the situation correctly?

To make it simple, let's say that a war in Europe is a technical challenge. But a war in Afghanistan is a societal challenge. NATO failed to understand this important difference. I mentioned the war in Afghanistan because NATO was engaged there as an organization. It failed to understand that there are different types of warfare. Western armies are not prepared for that and have a dogmatic approach to warfare.

What does this mean for NATO?

The alliance has remained at the 1949 level, of course with more modern weapons; but the logic has remained the same. We see this also in the Ukraine crisis. NATO is certainly not involved in the fighting, but it is providing support through training, advice and reconnaissance. Ukraine's weaknesses are therefore NATO's weaknesses: they wage a war at tactical level, while the Russians are fighting at operational level. Ukraine was in the same operational conundrum in 2014. The Ukrainian army was poorly advised. Since then, NATO has trained more and more Ukrainian instructors who are making the same mistakes today as they did eight years ago. We see that NATO's conception of war is inadequate and does not follow developments in world’s societies. War is thought of as it was in the First World War. It is seen as a balance of power.

What should happen here?

I think that NATO should dissolve itself to be reborn in a different form. I think we need a collective security organization in Europe that is independent of the United States. But it needs to be tailored to modern security challenges and be able to deal with them cooperatively.

I would like to come back to the OSCE. You said that Russia favors this model. Wouldn't that be an alternative to NATO?

Yes, of course. By the way, this was a proposal of the last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. He was inspired by an idea of former French President Charles de Gaulle—a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Gorbachev called it "the common European house." Even today, it is a truism—the best way to avoid war is to have good relations with your neighbors. It sounds banal, but it is so.

Why don't states manage to do that?

There are several reasons. The first is the U.S. "obsession" since the 1970s with preventing closer cooperation between Europe and Russia. The Russian idea of a "common European house" would be a rapprochement between Russia and Europe that the U.S. does not want. This has focused particularly on Germany. Germany is the largest economic power in Europe, has historically been a strong military power, and has had a special relationship with the Soviet Union. The U.S. has always been afraid of having a large Europe as a competitor.

The second reason is that the former Eastern bloc countries that are now part of the EU and NATO have no intention of getting closer to Russia. Their reasons are historical, cultural and political. They have a culture of intransigence since the 1920s that continues to plague their domestic policies.

In what respect?

For example, in the supply of gas from Siberia. The U.S. arguments against "Nord Stream 2" are not new. Germany has been receiving gas from Siberia since the 1960s and 1970s. Even then, the U.S. feared that closer cooperation between the FRG and the USSR would have an impact on Germany's determination to remain in NATO. Therefore, they did everything they could to sabotage the gas pipelines.

Yes, I can still remember that. There were articles in Der Spiegel and other German newspapers reporting cruel working conditions for workers in Siberia, etc. It was the prevailing mood like we find again today.

In 1982 Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Executive Order authorizing the CIA to sabotage the "Brotherhood" gas pipeline between Urengoy (Siberia) and Uzhhorod (Ukraine). The pipeline was sabotaged but quickly repaired by the Soviets. Yes, that was the same rhetoric as today. It is tragic, but we are still in the same intellectual dynamic.

This shows that tangible U.S. interests are at stake here, and this will influence the whole development in Europe.

Yes, the idea of a common European house, as formulated by Gorbachev and favored by the Russians, is inconceivable to the United States. For this reason, Russia has always had a certain respect for the OSCE. After the end of the Cold War, this model could have been expanded to build security through cooperation rather than confrontation. This could have been a viable model. But NATO lacked the intellectual flexibility to rethink itself. NATO remained incapable of formulating genuine strategic thinking. NATO's output is intellectually extremely weak.

So, would Switzerland's rapprochement with NATO definitely be a step backwards into the Cold War?

No, not really, since we were never in NATO. Besides, a 2017 US Army study found that the USSR did not attack Europe because it never intended to. So, our security does not depend on NATO, but on our ability to have good relations with our neighbors. In fact, I believe that NATO membership would put our security at risk. That applies equally to Finland and Sweden.

Can you explain that in more detail?

There are two reasons. First, as a member, Switzerland could be involved in operations that are not necessarily related to its own national interests. In the fight against terrorism, for example, NATO does not have the doctrinal capacity to address this issue effectively. If we were to engage alongside NATO, we would only attract terrorism to ourselves. That's what happened with Germany, for example. Besides, it is not very satisfying intellectually to be involved in defeats. Secondly, our neutrality; and I am talking here about Swiss neutrality, which, unlike other countries, like Belgium, has been confirmed and internationally recognized by the major European powers. This recognition has successfully protected us over the last two centuries.

Even from attacks by Nazi Germany?

The Third Reich had planned at least three operations against Switzerland, but Germany never had the opportunity to implement them. That said, we have to remember that this planning was done because Switzerland had not behaved according to its neutrality policy.

In what respect?

One must not forget that the headquarters of the OSS [Office of Strategic Services] in Europe, under the direction of Alan Dulles, had been in Bern since 1942.

The OSS was the predecessor organization of the CIA. Swiss intelligence worked with the OSS and the British services to support resistance networks against the Nazis in Germany, in France and northern Italy. In addition, members of the 2nd Polish Infantry Division interned in Switzerland were clandestinely trained with the help of the Swiss Army to fight with the Resistance in France. Obviously, the neutrality policy was only a facade.

What were the consequences?

I certainly don't want to criticize Switzerland's involvement, especially because part of my family fought in the French Resistance. On the other hand, if we take a step back, we must acknowledge that Switzerland was not entirely neutral. And this had its price, because the Nazis knew about these activities. For this reason, Switzerland had to make concessions to the German Reich. The reasons for these concessions were never really explained to the Swiss people, but in 1995-1999 they were widely criticized in Switzerland.

What conclusions can we draw from this?

If neutrality is applied consistently, it also has a protective function. On the other hand, the protection that NATO would offer Switzerland is very limited. If an enemy were to reach the Swiss border in the event of a conventional conflict, this would mean that NATO already had an existential problem. In such a situation, Swiss neutrality would de facto fall. In case of a nuclear conflict, the USA would never bomb Moscow in order to liberate Bern. Anyone who believes this is a fantasist.

What about the new applicant countries?

The same applies to Helsinki and Stockholm. Anyone who believes that the USA would put Los Angeles, New York or Washington in danger is absolutely not of this world. The U.S. would attack Russia with nuclear weapons only in an extreme situation. In fact, the U.S. would do anything to keep a possible nuclear exchange on European soil. So, membership in NATO only has the effect of increasing the likelihood of being hit directly by tactical operational nuclear weapons. The idea of improving Swiss national security through a rapprochement with NATO is one of incredible naiveté.

The military chief strategist of the Swiss Department of Defense, Pälvi Pulli, openly pleads for closer ties to NATO. All this stems from the mood that has been created in recent years and months that Putin is pursuing an imperialist policy and wants to expand the country further and, in the end, even attack Switzerland. Surely this is nonsense?

I know Mrs. Pälvi Pulli. She is an intelligent person. But she is making the mistake that people in the West make and that results from the disinformation spread by our media. We start from the idea that Russia wants to conquer Europe and that Vladimir Putin is an irrational person. This is wrong. We know from Ukrainian and Western sources that the Russian decision had its origin in the planned Ukrainian offensive against the Donbas. So, Vladimir Putin's decision was perfectly rational, even if one can argue whether it was the best one. It is also clear that the Russians have tried to resolve all this diplomatically. This includes other sets of issues, such as nuclear weapons in Ukraine, joining NATO, etc.

Clearly, the West has not even tried to implement the Minsk agreements, or to solve the other problems politically. Russia perceives these problems as existential. It was ready to negotiate. Since the beginning of the Russian offensive, Zelensky was also ready to negotiate. He was prevented from doing so by the U.S. and the U.K., as well as by the far-right elements of the Ukrainian security apparatus, which is very strongly supported by our media. I don't think NATO is playing a stabilizing role in this crisis. On the contrary.

Mr. Baud, thank you for the interview.

*Jacques Baud holds a master's degree in Econometrics and a postgraduate degree in International Security from the Graduate Institute of International Relations in Geneva and was a Colonel in the Swiss Army. He worked for the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service and was an advisor on the security of refugee camps in Eastern Zaire during the Rwandan war (UNHCR - Zaire/Congo, 1995-1996). He worked for the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) of the United Nations in New York (1997-99), founded the International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva (CIGHD) and the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). He contributed to the introduction of the concept of intelligence in UN peace operations and headed the first integrated UN Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) in Sudan (2005-06). He was head of the Peace Policy and Doctrine Division of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York (2009-11) and of the UN Expert Group on Security Sector Reform and the Rule of Law, worked in Nato and is the author of several books on intelligence, asymmetric warfare, terrorism and disinformation.

Translation Nirmal Dass

published june 8, 2022


"Any military solution leads to disaster!"

"There is a need for a political-diplomatic solution in Ukraine"

Interview with Dr. Erich Vad*

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus In a German newspaper, you are quoted as saying that one must "think about the war between Ukraine and Russia from the end." What do you mean by that in concrete terms?

Dr. Erich Vad By this I mean that we have to think back from whatever political solution might come later and act in such a way that later diplomatic solutions are not made impossible. They must contain a face-saving way out for both sides. This is where I see a great danger in view of the emotionally charged debate about Russia and its president Putin.

In what way?

The understandably strong devaluation of himself and Russia as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the overvaluation of civilian "collateral damage" and abuses, such as the alleged massacre, which absolutely must be investigated by an independent commission and not strongly prejudged before all the facts are on the table, makes it more difficult to conduct subsequent political negotiations. In doing so, we run the risk of marching further down the path of escalation into nirvana or ultimately into nuclear war. "Thinking from the end" to me means being aware of what the consequences of unrestrained emotional ramping up of escalation might be.

You mentioned Putin. On the one hand, he is demonized as the aggressor, and on the other hand, he is portrayed as incapable because he supposedly cannot deal with Ukraine.

People underestimate Putin's role. There are analysts who say that Russia is a nuclear power, but whether Putin is ready to wage a nuclear war... I must say that this is reminiscent of childish behavior. When you're sort of testing how far you can go vis-à-vis your parents, it's completely inappropriate to the situation. It is highly dangerous. And there are actually military people who go along with this. They underestimate that Russia is a potent nuclear power.

But what is happening at the moment is that all the Western states are going to war....

It is a big mistake to rely on military solutions. I am a military man. If it is military solutions that lead to the end, to disaster, then this approach is wrong, so you have to "think war from the end".

What is your assessment of the further course?

It could be that the war lasts a long time, and the West wants to force Russia to give up, similar to what happened to NATO in Afghanistan. It had to withdraw because the costs were too high, and success was a long way off. But that won't happen in Russia's case. The country could hold out for years if it wants to – so could the Ukrainians if Western support measures continue. We will see, the solution will be to negotiate with each other at the end. One has to look for ways that end in a solution and not in an escalation that leads us to a 3rd world war in the end. The expansion of the war in Ukraine, even if it were not fought with nuclear weapons, would be terrible. For me, that is not a rational option. That's what I mean when I say, "You have to think about war from the end."

After your remarks – mind you, the remarks of a former senior military officer – one has to conclude once again that there is often more reason and foresight on the part of the military than among many politicians, who usually only react emotionally to momentary events. Why is this so?

People with a military background naturally know down to the last detail what war means. The national resistance in Ukraine, the "heroic rebellion" against a power like Russia, can be seen in a positive light. This is something that hardly anyone in Germany is familiar with. But of course you have to see clearly what consequences this resistance in an urban environment will have for civilians.

What are the consequences?

A house-to-house fight like the one in Mariupol, for example, is something bloody that you can hardly imagine. As a military, behind this positive national will to fight, you see the consequence of where this is going. That's why I say the longer the war lasts, the bloodier it becomes, the more civilian casualties there will be, especially if the defenders operate out of a civilian environment and ultimately accept civilian casualties as a result. The attacker then has a problem, of course. In order to save forces and blood – because clearing a building with soldiers alone requires 5 to 10 times the superiority – it is easier to shell the building and accept "collateral damage". This has always been the approach of Western states and their allies. Russia has given the fighters in Mariupol free withdrawal if they lay down their arms. But they have refused that and are accepting further casualties in the continuing fight. It is urgent to get out of this spiral of escalation.

It is important that in all the war hysteria there are critical voices who, on the one hand, know where this is leading and, on the other hand, are not afraid to say so publicly....

Here I have to add something. Ukraine keeps calling for a no-fly zone. "No-fly zone" is a euphemistic term. It sounds like "no parking." Everybody thinks this is a good idea. But if you think about it from the military side to the end, it means war in plain language. Someone has to monitor compliance with this no-fly zone and be ready to shoot down Russian planes in an emergency. That immediately puts you at war. This also applies to the "peace mission" initiated by Poland. According to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, this is a peace enforcement mission and thus, in effect, an entry into war. Operating with MIG fighter jets from NATO territory is also a de facto entry into war. Thus, the potential for escalation becomes greater and greater.

What do you say to the ever-repeated demand for the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine?

This is also a de facto entry into war. Giving heavy weapons quickly - that is not thinking through to the end. Delivering tanks within one or two weeks is not feasible at all. That would require training on the equipment. You can't just send Leopard tanks to Kiev like a VW and say, "Get in and go." To do that, you have to provide training personnel and technical personnel. You need logistics, a maintenance department, a whole apparatus. Without these specialists, you can't do anything with the "Leopard," and that means you're effectively involved in the war. These whole contexts are completely ignored, and people argue to "do everything to help Ukraine."

These suggestions mostly come from politics. One gets the impression that there is a complete lack of awareness of the situation.

There are actually politicians at work who have no idea about the military, let alone have ever done military service. They have no idea what war means. These are people who have never had anything to do with military force, who are completely out of their depth in the current situation, who advocate massive arms deliveries and have not the slightest idea of what the consequences might be. They have always professed pacifism and have only known peace conditions. Now, suddenly, they are confronted with military force and war, right on their doorstep. This leads – coupled with war rhetoric – to behaviorally conspicuous overreactions that are irresponsible and involve political romanticism, which are genuinely dangerous in consequence.

What is striking is that in the current reporting, previous wars are completely blanked out and Russian action is presented as something new and unique. How do you see that?

The actions of the Russians, as problematic as it is to wage war against a neighboring country – I also said this in another conversation – must be seen in relation to past wars of more recent date, such as the wars against Serbia, against Afghanistan, against Iraq, against Libya, against Syria. In those wars, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of civilians have died, there have been massacres, attacks, et cetera. As hard as the street and house fighting is in Mariupol, but when I think of Baghdad or Fallujah, it is nothing different. Compared to these wars, the actions of the Russians, as terrible as they may be in parts, do not stand out, on the contrary: the "collateral damage" in Ukraine is far less than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But this is not an issue, it is not talked about as if it never existed.

The big difference is this: Putin is not Miloševic, and Russia is not Serbia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Russia is a nuclear power, and that is the thinking mistake that many make. Let's take Iraq. The U.S. invaded there, eventually they left. The damage they did is enormous, and we still feel its effects today. It's the same in Afghanistan: they leave behind a field of rubble, but they leave unmolested. But it doesn't work that way with Russia. There is no all-important "battle of annihilation" in eastern Ukraine, which then leads to a "military solution" and thus to a solution of the political problem. There needs to be a political-diplomatic solution in Ukraine.

Who was talking about the battlefield solution? Wasn't it the EU's foreign representative Josep Borrell?

Even Graf-Lambsdorff, who otherwise argues in a very differentiated manner, said that there is only a military solution and therefore we must help Ukraine with weapons. No, there is no military solution! There is only a political solution. Any military solution leads to disaster! That must be made very clear to the ladies and gentlemen. Russia will not go home like the USA and NATO in Kabul. The latter are flying home, the chapter is closed. There is no more talk about it.

Yes, and no one talks about how the people have fared in the 20 years either. How many innocent civilians have died, how many children's lives have been destroyed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc., nobody talks about that....

Yes, that is so. Every person who dies innocently in such a conflict is one person too many. If you quantify that, then Russia in its military operations is not different from the US, the British or other states with intervention forces that have fought in the countries mentioned.

Why is there a complete absence of working toward a diplomatic solution? We hear "arms deliveries," "military solution," "fight against evil," etc., but we hardly hear anything about working toward peace.

I wonder about that, too. Maybe it's because Europeans don't see any political involvement at all, because the political decisions about war and peace are made in Washington, in Moscow or in Beijing, and certainly not in Berlin. There were the two Minsk agreements after the annexation of Crimea, involving France and Germany and also Switzerland. The questions that were settled diplomatically then are basically the same today: How do we secure the territorial integrity of Ukraine while including and taking into account the Russian minorities in the Donbas? Do we need partial autonomy there within the borders of Ukraine?

That would be a sensible solution...

Yes, but Selenskji has so far refused to do so. But from the point of view of the end, we have to go back to the framework that was set in these agreements, because there is no other way. Ukraine, too, will have to think about neutrality and non-alignment – Austrian model, Swiss model – otherwise it will not work. In the end, the political solution will be there. That is where we have to get to.

But when will that happen?

Right now the situation would be favorable to get out of here. The Russians, who have largely pulled out of Kiev – that to me is an indication that they have probably given up on regime change and are focusing on the Donbas, Crimea, and Mariupol to maintain a connection. I think those are good conditions for negotiations because each side can go into the talks from a position of strength. Ukraine has successfully defended itself and fought a successful defensive battle, at least so far. Russia could celebrate partial military successes at its May 9 parade. But I don't see the political will. It doesn't seem to be there in the United States. Washington would have to move and engage in serious negotiations with Russia.

That's basically what the Russians are asking for. They want to negotiate with the U.S. because, according to their perception, the U.S. is determining Selensky's course. In this context, the question arises whether Selensky would not have long ago entered into a compromise with Russia, but the U.S. does not allow it because it can weaken Russia with war.

Yes, one must ask the question: Cui bono? Basically, from the outside looking in, it's that the U.S. benefits greatly. The Western alliance has not been as strong and united as it is now for a long time. The 30 NATO states stand together, ultimately behind the United States. In almost all states, the two percent target has been reached, even in Germany (defense spending accounts for 2% of GDP), which was unimaginable a few weeks ago. In this respect, this is also an advantage for the U.S. when you see the economic consequences, but the big losers are the Europeans, especially Germany.

So what would have to be done from Germany's side?

One would definitely have to launch a diplomatic initiative. You can criticize former Chancellor Angela Merkel on many points, but after what happened in 2014, she was instrumental in pulling the strings and launching the diplomatic initiative to work out the Minsk agreements. In this way, she was able to make a political difference. We must have a solution for the situation after the end of the Ukrainian war. We must protect Russian minorities, pacify the situation in the Donbas and monitor the process, settle the issue of Crimea. All of this can only be resolved diplomatically. I hope that Germany will become a constructive co-creator here.

Dr. Vad, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

* Erich Vad, Brigadier General (ret.), was military policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2006-2013 and is now owner of the consulting firm Erich-Vad-Consulting.

Published April 24, 2022. https://zeitgeschehen-im-fokus.ch/de/newspaper-ausgabe/nr-7-8-vom-24-april-2022.html#article_1348

Translation Zeitgeschehen im Fokus


"The policy of the USA has always been to prevent Germany and Russia from cooperating more closely"

Historical, political and economic background of the Ukraine war

Interview with Jacques Baud*

Jacques Baud (picture zvg)
Jacques Baud (picture zvg)

*Jacques Baud holds a master's degree in Econometrics and a postgraduate degree in International Security from the Graduate Institute of International Relations in Geneva and was a Colonel in the Swiss Army. He worked for the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service and was an advisor on the security of refugee camps in Eastern Zaire during the Rwandan war (UNHCR - Zaire/Congo, 1995-1996). He worked for the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) of the United Nations in New York (1997-99), founded the International Centre for Humanitarian Demining in Geneva (CIGHD) and the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). He contributed to the introduction of the concept of intelligence in UN peace operations and headed the first integrated UN Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) in Sudan (2005-06). He was head of the Peace Policy and Doctrine Division of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York (2009-11) and of the UN Expert Group on Security Sector Reform and the Rule of Law, worked in Nato and is the author of several books on intelligence, asymmetric warfare, terrorism and disinformation.

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus Mr Baud, you know the region where there is war now. What conclusions have you drawn from the last few days, and how could it have come to this?

Jacques Baud  I know the region we are talking about quite well. I was with the FDFA [Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs] and on its behalf I was seconded to NATO for five years top lead the fight against the proliferation of small arms. I contributed to projects in Ukraine after 2014. In addition, I know Russia, NATO, Ukraine and the related environment very well due to my previous job in strategic intelligence. I speak Russian and have access to documents that few people in the West look at.

You are an expert on the situation in and around Ukraine. Your professional activity brought you to the current crisis region. How do you perceive what is happening?

It is crazy, we can even say there is a real hysteria. What strikes me, and what bothers me a lot, is that no one is asking the question why the Russians launched their operation. No one wants to advocate war, and certainly not me. But as the former head of "Policy and Doctrine" in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York for two years, I always ask myself the question: How did we get to this point of starting a war?

What was your task there?

It was to understand how wars happen, what factors lead to peace, and what can be done to avoid casualties or how to prevent war. If you don't understand how war happens, then you can't find a solution. We are exactly in this situation. Every country is imposing its own sanctions against Russia, and we know very well that this is going nowhere. What particularly shocked me was the statement by the Minister of Economy in France that they want to destroy Russia's economy with the aim of making the Russian people suffer. Such a statement is outrageous.

Russia's goal of demilitarization and denazification

How do you assess the Russian offensive?

Attacking another State is against the principles of international law. But one should also consider the background of such a decision. First of all, it must be made clear that Putin is neither crazy nor has he lost touch with reality. He is a very methodical and systematic person, in other words, very Russian. I believe that he was aware of the consequences of his operation in Ukraine. He assessed – obviously rightly – that whether he carried out a "small" operation to protect the Donbas population or a "massive" operation in favour of the national interests of Russia and the Donbas population, the consequences would be the same. He then went for the maximum solution.

What do you see as his goal?

It is certainly not directed against the Ukrainian population. Putin has said that again and again. You can also see it in the facts. Russia is still supplying gas to Ukraine. The Russians have not stopped that. They have not shut down the internet. They haven't destroyed the electricity plants and the water supply. Of course, such services may have stopped in fighting areas. But you see a very different approach from the Americans, for example, in former Yugoslavia, Iraq or even Libya. When Western countries attacked them, they first destroyed the electricity and water supply and the entire infrastructure.

Why does the West act in this way?

The Western approach – it is also interesting to see this from the point of view of the operational doctrine – is based on the idea that if you destroy the infrastructure, the population will revolt against the unpopular dictator, and you will get rid of him that way. This was also the strategy during the Second World War, when German cities such as Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden etc. were bombed. They targeted the civilian population directly so that there would be an uprising. The government loses its power through an uprising, and you have won the war without endangering your own troops. That is the theory.

What is the Russian approach?

It is completely different. They have clearly announced their goal. They want "demilitarisation" and "denazification". If you honestly follow the situation, that is exactly what they are doing. Of course, a war is a war, and regrettably there are always deaths in the process, but it is interesting to see what the numbers say. On Friday (4 March), the UN reported 265 Ukrainian civilians killed. In the evening, the Russian Defence Ministry put the number of dead soldiers at 498. This means that there are more victims among the Russian military than among the civilians on the Ukrainian side. If you now compare this with Iraq or Libya, then it is exactly the opposite with Western warfare.

Does it contradict the way the West represents the situation?

Yes, our media claim that the Russians want to destroy everything, but that is obviously not true. I am also disturbed by the way our media portrays Putin suddenly deciding to attack and conquer Ukraine. The US warned for several months that there would be a surprise attack, but nothing happened. By the way, intelligence services and the Ukrainian leadership have repeatedly denied such American warnings. If you look carefully at the military reports and the preparations on the ground, you can see pretty clearly: Putin had no intention of attacking Ukraine until mid-February.

Why did that change? What has happened?

You have to know a few things first, otherwise you won't understand. On 24 March 2021, Ukrainian President Zelensky issued a Presidential decree to recapture Crimea. He then began to move the Ukrainian army south and southeast, towards the Donbas. So, for a year now, we have had a permanent build-up of the army on Ukraine's southern border. This explains why there were no Ukrainian troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border at the end of February. Zelensky has always claimed that the Russians will not attack Ukraine. The Ukrainian defence minister has also repeatedly confirmed this. Similarly, the head of the Ukrainian Security Council confirmed in December and in January that there were no signs of a Russian attack on Ukraine.

Was this a trick?

No, they said that several times, and I am sure that Putin, who also said that repeatedly, by the way, did not want to attack. Obviously, there was pressure from the US.

The US has little interest in Ukraine itself. At this point, they wanted to increase pressure on Germany to shut down Nord Stream II. They wanted Ukraine to provoke Russia and, if Russia reacted, Nord Stream II would be put on ice. Such a scenario was alluded to when Olaf Scholz visited Washington, and Scholz clearly did not want to go along with it. That is not just my opinion, there was also Americans who understood it that way: The target was Nord Stream II, and one must not forget that Nord Stream II was built at the request of the Germans. It is fundamentally a German project. Because Germany needs more gas to achieve its energy and climate goals.

"In a nuclear war, Europe will be the battlefield"

Why did the USA push for this?

Since the Second World War, it has always been US policy to prevent Germany and Russia or the USSR from working more closely together. This is despite the fact that the Germans have a historical fear of the Russians. But these are the two biggest powers in Europe. Historically, there have always been economic relations between Germany and Russia. The USA has always tried to prevent that. One must not forget that in a nuclear war, Europe would be the battlefield. That means that in such a case the interests of Europe and the United States would not necessarily be the same. This explains why in the 1980s the Soviet Union supported pacifist movements in Germany. A closer relationship between Germany and Russia would render the American nuclear strategy useless.

The US has always criticised energy dependence?

It is ironic that the US criticises Germany's or Europe's energy dependence on Russia. Russia is the second largest supplier of oil to the US. The USA buys its oil mainly from Canada, then from Russia, followed by Mexico and Saudi Arabia. This means that the USA is dependent on Russia. This is also true for rocket engines, for example. That doesn't bother the USA. But it does bother the US that the Europeans are dependent on Russia.

During the Cold War, Russia, i.e. the Soviet Union, always honoured all gas contracts. The Russian way of thinking in this respect is very similar to the Swiss. Russia has a law-abiding mentality; it feels bound by the rules very much like Switzerland. It doesn’t mean they don’t have emotions, but when rules apply, you go by the rules. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union never made a connection between trade and politics. The dispute related to Ukraine is mainly political in this regard.

Brzezinski’s theory that Ukraine is the key to dominating Asia also plays a role here?

Brzezinski was certainly a great thinker and still influences US strategic thinking. But I don't think this aspect is key to this particular crisis. Ukraine is certainly important. But the question of who dominates or controls Ukraine is not the main point here. The Russians are not aiming at controlling Ukraine. The problem of Ukraine for Russia, as for other countries, is a strategic one.

What does that mean?

In the whole discussion that is being held everywhere at the moment, crucial things are being ignored. Certainly, people are talking about nuclear weapons, but it's like in a movie. The reality is somewhat different. The Russians want a distance between NATO and Russia. The core element of NATO is US nuclear power. That is the essence of NATO. When I worked at NATO, Jens Stoltenberg – he was then my boss – used to said: "NATO is a nuclear power". Today, the US deploys missile systems in Poland and Romania, that include the MK-41 launcher systems.

Are these defensive weapons?

Of course, the US says they are purely defensive. You can indeed fire antiballistic missiles from these launchers. But you can also launch nuclear missiles with the same system. These ramps are a few minutes away from Moscow. If in a situation of heightened tension in Europe, the Russians detect, with satellite imagery or intelligence, activities around these launch pads indicating preparations for a launch, will they wait until nuclear missiles are possibly launched towards Moscow?

Probably not...

...of course not. They would immediately launch a pre-emptive strike. The whole situation escalated after the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty [Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty]. Under the ABM Treaty, they could not deploy such a system in Europe. The idea was precisely to maintain a certain reaction time in case of a confrontation. That was because mistakes could happen.

We had something like that during the Cold War. The greater the distance between nuclear missiles, the more time you have to react. If the missiles are deployed too close to the Russian territory, there is no time to react in case of an attack and you run the risk of getting into a full nuclear war much faster. This affects all neighbouring countries. The Russians realized this, that is why they created the Warsaw Pact.

The importance of nuclear weapons is growing

First there was NATO...

NATO was founded in 1949 and the Warsaw Pact only six years later. The reason for this was the rearmament of the FRG and its admission to NATO in 1955. If you look at the map of 1949, you can see a very large gap between the NATO nuclear power and the USSR. As NATO moved towards the Russian border by including Germany, Russia reacted by creating the Warsaw Pact. At that time, the Eastern European countries were already all communist and under tight control of their own communist parties. Almost worse than in the USSR itself. The USSR wanted to have a security belt around it, so it created the Warsaw Pact. It wanted to maintain a “glacis” so that it could wage a conventional war for as long as possible. That was the idea: to stay in conventional warfare as long as possible and avoid getting directly into the nuclear one.

Is that still the case today?

After the Cold War, nuclear strategy was somewhat forgotten. Security was no longer a question of nuclear weapons. The Iraq war, the Afghanistan war were wars with conventional weapons, and the nuclear dimension was somewhat away from sight. But the Russians have not forgotten that. They think very strategically. At the time, I visited the general staff Voroshilov Academy in Moscow. There you could see how people think. They think strategically, the way one should think in times of war.

Can you see that today?

You can see that very clearly today. Putin's people think strategically. The Russians have a strategic thinking, an operational thinking, and a tactical thinking. The Western countries, as we have seen in Afghanistan or Iraq, have no strategy. This is exactly the problem that the French have in Mali. Mali has now demanded that they leave the country, because the French are killing people without a strategy and without a strategic goal. With the Russians it is completely different, they think strategically. They have a goal. It is the same with Putin.

In our media it is reported again and again that Putin has brought nuclear weapons into play. Have you heard that too?

Yes, Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on Level 1 alert on 27 February. But that is only half of the story. On 11-12 February, the security conference was held in Munich. Zelensky was there. He indicated that he wanted to acquire nuclear weapons. This was interpreted as a potential threat, and the red light went on in the Kremlin. To understand this, we have to remind the Budapest Agreement of 1994. That was about destroying the nuclear missiles on the territory of the former Soviet republics, thus leaving only Russia as a nuclear power. Ukraine also handed over the nuclear weapons to Russia, and Russia assured the inviolability of its borders in return. When Crimea went back to Russia, in 2014, Ukraine said it would no longer abide by the 1994 agreement either.

Back to nuclear weapons. What did Putin really say?

If Zelensky wanted nuclear weapons back, that would certainly be unacceptable for Putin. If you have nuclear weapons right on the border, there is very little warning time. During the press conference after Macron's visit, and Putin made clear that if the distance between NATO and Russia was too small, this could inadvertently lead to complications. But the decisive element was at the start of the operation against Ukraine, when the French foreign minister threatened Putin by declaring that NATO was a nuclear power. Putin reacted to this by raising the alert level of his nuclear forces. Our media, of course, did not mention this. Putin is a realist; he is down-to-earth and purposeful.

What prompted Putin to intervene militarily now?

On 24 March 2021, Zelensky issued a Presidential decree to reconquer Crimea by force. He started preparations to do so. Whether that was his real intention or just a political manoeuvre, we don't know. What we have seen, however, is that he has massively reinforced the Ukrainian army in the Donbas region and in the south towards Crimea. Of course, the Russians have noticed this. At the same time, NATO conducted large exercises between the Baltic and the Black Sea in April. This understandably prompted the Russians to react. They held exercises in the southern military district to show the flag. Things calmed down after that, and in September Russia held long-planned "Zapad 21" exercises. These exercises are conducted every four years. At the end of the exercises, some troops remained near Belarus. These were units from the Eastern Military District. Most equipment left there was kept for a large manoeuvre planned with Belarus for early this year.

How did the West react to this?

Europe and especially the USA interpreted this as a reinforcement of the offensive capabilities against Ukraine. Independent military experts, but also the head of the Ukrainian Security Council, said that no preparations for war were underway at that point. The equipment left by Russia in October was clearly not meant for an offensive operation. However, so-called Western military experts, especially in France, immediately interpreted this as preparations for war and started designating Putin as a mad dictator. This is how the situation evolved from the end of October 2021 until early this year. How the US and Ukraine communicated on this issue was very contradictory. One warned about a planned offensive, while the other denied it. It was a permanent back and forth.

OSCE reports heavy shelling of Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics by Ukraine in February

What happened in February?

At the end of January, the situation appears to evolve. It looks like the US talked to Zelensky, and slight changes could be observed. From early February on, the US talk about an imminent Russian attack and start spreading attack scenarios. Antony Blinken, at the UN Security Council, presents how the Russian attack would unfold according to US intelligence. This is reminiscent of the situation in 2002/2003 before the attack on Iraq. There, too, the picture was allegedly based on intelligence analysis. That was not true then either. At that time, the CIA was not convinced of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As a result, Donald Rumsfeld did not rely on the CIA, but on a small confidential group within the Department of Defence, which had been specially created to circumvent the CIA's analyses.

Where is the information coming from today?

In the context of Ukraine, Blinken did exactly the same thing. One can notice the total absence of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies in the entire discussion that preceded the Russian offensive. Everything Blinken told us came from a "Tiger Team" that he himself set up, within his department. These scenarios that were presented to us did not come from an intelligence analysis, but from self-styled experts who invented a scenario with a political agenda. This is how the rumour that the Russians were about to attack was born. So, on February 16, Joe Biden said he knew the Russians were about to attack. But when asked how he knew this, he replied that the US had good intelligence capabilities, without mentioning the CIA or the Office of National Intelligence.

So, did anything happen on 16 February?

On that day, there was an extreme increase in ceasefire violations by the Ukrainian army along the ceasefire line, the so-called “contact line”. There have always been violations over the past eight years, but from February 12, the increase is extreme, including explosions, especially in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. We know this because it was reported by the OSCE mission in the Donbass. These reports can be read in the OSCE’s "Daily reports".

What was the objective of the Ukrainian military?

This was certainly the initial phase of an offensive against the Donbass. When the artillery fire intensified, the authorities of both republics began to evacuate the civilian population to Russia. In an interview, Sergei Lavrov mentioned more than 100,000 refugees. In Russia, this was seen as an indication for an imminent large-scale operation.

What were the consequences?

This action of the Ukrainian army actually triggered everything. At that point, it was clear to Putin that Ukraine was going to conduct an offensive against the two republics. On February 15, the Russian parliament, the Duma, had adopted a resolution proposing the recognition of their independence. At first Putin did not react, but as the attacks intensified, he decided on February 21 to respond positively to the parliamentary request.

Causes of right-wing extremism in Ukraine

Why did Putin take this step?

In this situation, he had little choice but to do so, because the Russian population would not have understood if he had done nothing to protect the Russian-speaking population of Donbass. For Putin, it was clear that whether he reacted and intervened just to help the republics or to invade Ukraine, the West would react in any case with massive sanctions. As a result, in a first step, he recognized the independence of the two republics. Then, on the same day, he concluded friendship and cooperation treaties with each of the two republics. From then on, he could invoke Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, allowing him to intervene to assist the two republics in the framework of collective defence and self-defence. He thus created the legal basis for its military intervention.

But he did not only help the republics, he attacked the whole Ukraine?

Putin had two options: first, simply to help the Russian-speaking Donbass against the Ukrainian military offensive; second, to conduct a deeper attack into Ukraine to neutralize its military capabilities. He also took into account that, whatever he would do, sanctions would rain down. This is why he has clearly opted for the maximum variant; it must be however noted that Putin has never said he wants to take over Ukraine. His objectives are clear: demilitarization and denazification.

What is the background to these objectives?

The demilitarization is understandable, as Ukraine had gathered its entire army in the south, between Donbass and Crimea. A quick operation would allow it to encircle these troops. This is what happened, and a large part of the Ukrainian army is currently surrounded in a large cauldron in the Donbass region, between Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk. The Russians have surrounded it and are in the process of neutralizing it. Remains the so-called denazification. When the Russians say this, it is not just an empty phrase. To compensate for the unreliability of the Ukrainian army, powerful paramilitary forces have been developed since 2014, including, for example, the famous Azov regiment. But there are many more. There are a huge number of such groups that are under Ukrainian command but not exclusively composed of Ukrainians. The Azov regiment, for example, comprises 19 nationalities, including French, even Swiss, etc. It is a real foreign legion. In total, these extreme right-wing groups have about 100,000 fighters, according to Reuters.

Why are there so many paramilitary organizations?

In 2015/2016, I was in Ukraine with NATO. Ukraine had a big problem, they were running out of soldiers, because the Ukrainian army had a lot of fatalities due to non-combat actions. They had many deaths due to suicides and alcohol problems. They were having a hard time finding recruits. I was asked to help because of my experience with the UN. So, I went to Ukraine several times. The main point was that the army had no credibility among the population and none within the military either. That is why Ukraine has increasingly encouraged and developed paramilitary forces. They are fanatics driven by right-wing extremism.

Where does right-wing extremism come from?

Its origins date back to the 1930s. After the years of extreme famine, which went down in history as the Holodomor, a resistance to Soviet power emerged. To finance the modernization of the USSR, Stalin had confiscated the harvests, causing unprecedented famines. The NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB (that was at the same time the Ministry of Interior and the Security establishment), implemented this policy. The NKVD was organized on a territorial basis and in Ukraine there were many Jews in the higher command positions. As a result, everything got a little mixed up: hatred of Communists, hatred of Russians and hatred of Jews. The first extreme right-wing groups date from this time, and they still exist. During World War II, the Germans needed these groups, such as Stepan Bandera's OUN, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and others to fight in the Soviet rear areas. At that time, the Third Reich forces were seen as liberators, such as the 2nd SS armoured division, "Das Reich", which had liberated Kharkov from the Soviets in 1943, and which is still celebrated in Ukraine today. The geographical epicentre of this extreme right-wing resistance was in Lvov, today Lviv, in Galicia. This region even had its "own" 14th Panzer Grenadier Division SS "Galizien", an SS division composed entirely of Ukrainians.

The OUN was formed during the Second World War and survived the Soviet period?

After the Second World War, the enemy was the Soviet Union. The USSR had not succeeded in completely eliminating these anti-Soviet movements during the war. The United States, France, and Great Britain realized that the OUN could be useful and supported it to fight against the USSR with sabotage and weapons. Until the early 1960s, Ukrainian insurgents were supported by the Western through clandestine operations such as Aerodynamic, Valuable, Minos, Capacho and others. Since that time, Ukraine has maintained a close relationship with the West and NATO. Today, it is the weakness of the Ukrainian army that has led to the use of fanatical troops. I think that the term neo-Nazis is not entirely accurate. They have very similar ideas, they carry their symbols, they are violent and anti-Semitic, but they are not really guided by a doctrine or a political project.

After 2014, two agreements were agreed to pacify the situation in Ukraine. What is the significance of the agreements in the context of the current dispute?

Yes, this is important to understand, because the non-compliance with these two agreements basically led to today's war. Since 2014, there was supposedly a solution to the conflict, the Minsk agreements. By September 2014, it was clear that the Ukrainian military was unable to manage the conflict, even though it was advised by NATO. It was regularly failing. That is why it had to commit to the Minsk I agreements in September 2014. This was an agreement between the Ukrainian government and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with European and Russian guarantors.

Duplicity of the EU and the USA

How did the foundation of these two republics come about?

To understand, we need to go back in history a little. In autumn 2013, the EU wanted to conclude a trade and economic agreement with Ukraine. The EU was offering Ukraine a guarantee of development with subsidies, with exports and imports, etc. The Ukrainian authorities wanted to conclude the deal. But this was not without causing problems, because Ukrainian industry and agriculture were oriented towards Russia in terms of quality and products. For instance, Ukrainians were developing engines for Russian aircraft, not for European or American aircraft. So, the general orientation of the industry was towards the East, not the West. In terms of quality, Ukraine could hardly compete with the European market. Therefore, the authorities wanted to cooperate with the EU while maintaining economic relations with Russia.

Would that have been possible?

For its part, Russia had no problem with Ukraine's plans. But it also wanted to maintain its economic relations with Ukraine. Therefore, it proposed to establish a tripartite working group to work out two agreements: one between Ukraine and the EU and the other between Ukraine and Russia. The objective was to cover the interests of all parties. But it was the European Union, through Barroso, that asked Ukraine to choose between Russia and the EU. Ukraine then asked for time to think about solutions and demanded a pause in the whole process. After that, the EU and the US did not play fair.


The Western press headlined: "Russia pressures Ukraine to prevent the treaty with the EU". This was not true. This was not the case. The Ukrainian government continued to show interest in the treaty with the EU, but simply wanted more time to think and consider solutions to this complex situation. But the European media did not say so. The next days, right-wing extremists from the west of the country appeared on the Maidan in Kiev. Everything that happened there with the approval and support of the West is truly terrible. But to detail everything here would be beyond our scope.

What happened after Yanukovych, the democratically elected president, was overthrown?

The new provisional government – that emerged from the nationalist extreme right coup – immediately, as its first official act, changed the law on official languages in Ukraine. This shows that the coup had nothing to do with democracy but was the product of ultra-nationalists who organized the uprising. This legal change triggered a storm in the Russian-speaking regions. Large demonstrations were organized in all cities of the Russian-speaking south, in Odessa, Mariupol, Donetsk, Lugansk, Crimea, etc. The Ukrainian authorities reacted in a very massive and brutal way, calling in the military. Autonomous republics were briefly proclaimed in Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Lugansk and Donetsk. They were fought with extreme brutality and two remained eventually: Donetsk and Lugansk, which proclaimed themselves autonomous republics.

How did they legitimize their status?

They held referendums in May 2014, to have autonomy, and that is very, very important. If you look at our media in the last few months, they only talk about “separatists”. But this has been a total lie for eight years: they always talked about separatists, but this is false, because the referendum mentioned very clearly an autonomy within Ukraine. These republics wanted some sort of Swiss solution, so to speak. After the people accepted autonomy, the authorities asked for recognition of the republics by Russia, but Putin's government refused.

Crimea's struggle for independence

Isn't the development in Crimea also related to this?

We forget that Crimea was independent, even before Ukraine became independent. In January 1991, while the Soviet Union still existed, Crimea held a referendum to be managed from Moscow and not from Kiev. It thus became an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Ukraine did not get its own independence referendum until six months later in August 1991. At that point, Crimea did not consider itself a part of Ukraine. But Ukraine did not accept this. Between 1991 and 2014, it was a constant struggle between the two entities. Crimea had its own constitution with its own authorities. In 1995, encouraged by the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine overthrew the Crimean government with special forces and abrogated its constitution. But this is never mentioned, as it would shed a completely different light on the current development.

What did the people of Crimea want?

As a matter of fact, Crimeans considered themselves as independent. From 1995, Crimea was governed by decrees from Kiev. This was in complete contradiction with the 1991 referendum and explains why Crimea held a new referendum in 2014, after the new ultra-nationalist government came to power in Ukraine after the illegal coup. Its result was very similar to the one 30 years earlier. After the referendum, Crimea asked to join the Russian Federation. It was not Russia that conquered Crimea, it was the people who authorized their authorities to ask Russia to take them in. There was also a treaty of friendship between Russia and Ukraine in 1997, in which Ukraine guaranteed the cultural diversity of minorities in the country. When the Russian language was banned as an official language in February 2014, it was a violation of this treaty.

Now it becomes clear that those who don't know all this, run the risk of misjudging the situation.

Back to the Minsk Agreements. In addition to Ukraine and the autonomous republics, there were guarantors, Germany and France on the Ukrainian side and Russia on the side of the self-proclaimed republics. They played this role within the framework of the OSCE. The EU was not involved, it was merely an OSCE matter. Immediately after the Minsk I Agreements, Ukraine launched an anti-terrorist operation against the two autonomist republics. The Ukrainian government completely ignored the agreement it had just signed to carry out this operation. The Ukrainian army suffered another total defeat in Debaltsevo. It was a debacle.

Did this also take place with the support of NATO?

Yes, and one wonders what the NATO military advisors did because the rebels' armed forces totally defeated the Ukrainian army.

This led to a second agreement, Minsk II, signed in February 2015, which was the basis for a UN Security Council resolution. This agreement was therefore binding under international law and had to be implemented.

Has this also been monitored by the UN?

No, nobody cared, and apart from Russia, nobody demanded compliance with the Minsk II agreement. Suddenly, there was only talk of the Normandy format. But this is totally meaningless. This "format" was born during the celebration of D-Day in June 2014. Former protagonists of the war, Allied heads of state were invited, as well as Germany, Ukraine and representatives of other states. In the Normandy format, only the heads of state were represented, the autonomous republics are obviously not present. Ukraine does not want to talk with the representatives of Lugansk and Donetsk. But if you read the Minsk agreements, there should have been a consultation between the Ukrainian government and the republics so that the Ukrainian constitution could be modified. So it was an internal Ukrainian process, but that is not what the Ukrainian government wanted.

But the Ukrainians have also signed the agreement…

... yes, but Ukraine always wanted to blame Russia for their domestic problem. The Ukrainians claimed that Russia had attacked Ukraine and that was the origin of the problems. But it was clear, it was a domestic problem. Since 2014, OSCE monitors have never seen Russian military units. Both Agreements are very clear and precise: the solution must be found within Ukraine. It is a question of obtaining a certain autonomy within the country, and only Ukraine could solve this issue. It had nothing to do with Russia.

For that, we need the stipulated adjustment of the constitution.

Yes, exactly, but it has not been done. Ukraine has not taken any step in that regard. The members of the UN Security Council have not committed themselves to this either, on the contrary. The situation has not improved at all.

How did Russia behave?

Russia's position has always remained the same. It wanted the Minsk Agreements to be implemented. It never changed its position for eight years. During these eight years, there have been various border violations, artillery shelling, etc., but Russia has never put the fulfilling of agreements into question.

How did Ukraine proceed?

Ukraine enacted a law in early July last year. It was a law that gives different rights to citizens based on their ethnicity. It is very reminiscent of the Nuremberg racial laws of 1935. Only true Ukrainians have full rights, while all others have only limited rights. Just after this, Putin wrote an article in which he explained the historical genesis of Ukraine. He criticized the fact that a distinction could be made between ethnic Ukrainians and Russians, etc. He wrote his article in response to this law. But in Europe this was interpreted as the fact that he did not recognize Ukraine as a state, and that his article sought to justify a possible annexation of Ukraine. In the West, people believe this, while no one knows why Putin wrote this article or what is its actual substance. It is obvious that in the West the aim was to give as negative an image of Putin as possible. I have read the article; it makes perfect sense.

Wouldn't the Russians have expected him to comment on it?

Of course, there are so many Russians in Ukraine. He had to do something. It would not have been right towards the people (but also from the point of view of international law, with the responsibility to protect) to accept this in silence. All these little details are absolutely part of it, otherwise we don't understand what is going on. This is the only way to put Putin's behaviour into perspective, and to see that the war has been increasingly provoked. I can't say whether Putin is good or bad. But the judgment we make of him in the West is clearly based on false elements.

Switzerland leaves the status of neutrality

What do you think of Switzerland's reaction last weekend?

This is a disaster. Russia has drawn up a list of 48 "unfriendly states", and you realize that Switzerland is also on it. This is truly an epochal change, but one for which Switzerland itself is responsible. Switzerland has always been "the man in the middle". We have facilitated the dialogue with all states and have had the courage to stand in the middle. There is hysteria regarding sanctions. Russia is very well prepared for this situation, it will suffer, but it is prepared to withstand their impact. However, the principle of sanctions is totally wrong. Today, sanctions have replaced diplomacy. We have seen this with Venezuela, with Cuba, with Iraq, with Iran, etc. These states have done nothing but having a policy that does not please the USA. That is their mistake. When I see that disabled athletes have been suspended from the Para-Olympic Games, words are missing. It is totally inappropriate. It affects individual people, it's just perverse. It is as mean as when the French Minister of Foreign Affairs says that the Russian people must suffer from sanctions. Whoever says this has no honour in my eyes. There is nothing positive about starting a war but reacting like this is simply shameful.

How do you see it, that people are taking to the streets against the war in Ukraine?

I ask myself: what makes the war against Ukraine worse than the war against Iraq, Yemen, Syria or Libya? In these cases, we know that there were no sanctions against the aggressor, the United States, or those who supply weapons used against civilian populations. Who is demonstrating for Yemen? Who demonstrated for Libya, who demonstrated for Afghanistan? We don't know why the United States was in Afghanistan. I know from intelligence sources that there was never any clear indication that Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden were involved in the 9/11 attacks, but we went to war in Afghanistan anyway.


On September 12, 2001, just after the terrorist attacks, the United States wanted to retaliate and decided to bomb Afghanistan. The Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force said that there were not enough targets in Afghanistan. To which the Secretary of Defence replied, "If we don't have enough targets in Afghanistan, then we will bomb Iraq”. I didn't make that up, there are sources, documents and people who were there. This is the reality, but we are being swayed to the "right" side by propaganda and manipulation.

If I may summarize this interview, your answers have clearly shown that the West has long been throwing oil on the fire and provoking Russia. However, these provocations are rarely reported in our media, but Putin's answers are given only partially or in a distorted way in order to maintain as much as possible the image of a warmonger and a monster.

My grandfather was French, he was a soldier in the First World War and often told me about it. And I have to say that the hysteria, the manipulation and the thoughtless behaviour of Western politicians remind me a lot of 1914 today, and that worries me a lot. When I see how our neutral country is no longer able to take a position independent of the EU and the USA, I am ashamed. We need to have a clear head and know the facts behind all these events. This is the only way Switzerland can pursue a reasonable peace policy.

Mr. Baud, thank you for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

(Translation "Zeitgeschehen im Fokus")

published 15 March 2022

"Has the West gambled away trust?"

Through détente and disarmament, the relationship between the great powers can be be improved

Interview with Prof. Dr. iur. et phil. Alfred de Zayas, international law expert and former UN mandate holder

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus What can be expected from the meeting in Geneva between high-ranking representatives of Russia and the United States

Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas It is important that the political leaders speak directly with each other and not just make official pronouncements. That's why the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council are important, because they address truths that have to be put on the table. It is then our task to ensure that the right priorities are set in the UN Security Council and at the meeting between Biden and Putin. The UN Security Council resolution of January 3, 2022, on the non-permissibility of the use of nuclear weapons is particularly timely. Indeed, the five permanent members recognized that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought"; they also want to strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

What should be the top priority at this meeting?
The main concern must be peace, to promote détente, to remove obstacles, to ban war propaganda, precisely in order to implement a disarmament policy. Here – as everywhere – it is a matter of correct information and a rational discussion about it, which also requires the good will or "bona fide" of both sides. But we are swimming in an ocean of disinformation and Machiavellianism.

How should we evaluate Putin's demands to the USA and NATO?
I assess them as positive and necessary. It is especially important that Putin's proposals are now public, because in this way the "narrative managers" of the US State Department and the Western media will not be able to falsify Putin's proposals or to reproduce them only selectively. And even if the cat is out of the bag, the media will try to paint it in different colors. Putin's demands are quite legitimate. But big politics is rarely balanced. People don't always speak the same language. "Democracy" does not mean the same thing in Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo, Moscow, Tehran or Beijing. 

Is Putin right to insist on an end to NATO enlargement?
Absolutely – and the Russian government should have demanded this back in the 1990s. But in Moscow sat a corrupt man, Boris Yeltsin, who behaved like a drunken puppet of the United States. The damage Yeltsin brought to Russia was colossal, but the Western media continues to paint a positive portrait of this traitor to his own people.

Putin wants a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Europe. Surely that would be a meaningful step toward peace?
Yes, certainly, but neither the Americans, nor the British, nor the French are mentally there. Our arms industry needs an enemy – and that is the role Russia has to play. We in the West live in our own propaganda, and we are paralyzed to the extent that we cannot free ourselves too easily from our own prejudices. NATO chief Stoltenberg is as much a warmonger, manipulator and propagandist as the politicians in Washington and London. 

What do you expect from the US president?
If Biden was an independent thinker, an enlightened mind and not an apparatchik, he would pursue real realpolitik. He would realize that a Third World War would mean the end of our world, that nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are the greatest danger to humanity – more than pandemics or climate change. He would understand that the Russians and Chinese also want to live on and will not disappear from the map. So you have to learn how to live in peace with them. Why does Washington have to preemptively declare the Russians and Chinese enemies rather than potential partners? I hardly think Biden can free himself from his own prejudices about Russia. He thinks Putin is something like a new Stalin – or a new czar. But Putin is not. Biden is following a political line that is prescribed to him by the "Brookings Institute," the "Heritage Foundation," etc. 

What advice would you give him?
If Biden wants to make a smart American policy for once, he would have to engage in a modus vivendi with the Russians. He could, for example, ask Putin about his ideas on disarmament or talk about possibilities for cooperation in space, about expanding cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS), about a return to the Open Skies Treaty. 

So there are definitely approaches to improving the relationship between the great powers in 2022?
Yes, of course, through détente and disarmament. That is why the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva should become active. This must be done on the basis of mutual respect and in the context of all relevant UN mechanisms. The attitude of the USA to see itself as the sole hegemon is, of course, a major obstacle. It is about the mental attitude of the American "elites" and media, which is not so easy to banish, because we Americans have had this habit for centuries. It's what we call "exceptionalism." Most Americans are virtually convinced that they have a "mission." Just as the British imperialists (Queen Victoria, Cecil Rhodes) believed in "The White Man's Burden" (Rudyard Kipling), the majority of Americans believe that they possess the truth and must export their idea of "democracy" and "human rights" to other countries. This is not a good condition for talks between sovereign states.

What role can NATO have then?
Preferably none, because its raison d'être no longer exists – it was established as a counterpole to the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Since 1991 at the latest, NATO has been obsolete, but it is looking for a new task. Like any organization, any apparatus, Nato wants to continue to exist. Thus, it has become an aggressive alliance, committing major violations of international law or human rights, e.g. in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. It acts against the Nuremberg Principles and against the Rome Statute.

Shouldn't these violations of human and international rights be punished?
Yes, of course! Actually, NATO war crimes and NATO crimes against humanity should also be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – because there are violations of Articles 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute. But let's not dream. The new chief prosecutor of the ICC is an Englishman who has already said he will not investigate NATO crimes in Afghanistan, although he has ordered an investigation into the crimes of the Taliban. In principle, NATO should be abolished without a sound bite. In the future, security issues should be dealt with solely by the UN Security Council.

Putin spoke of a European security architecture as early as 2007. Would that be a basis for more peaceful politics in the world?
That was true then and is all the more urgent today. This European security architecture would, of course, have to work together with the UN and not against it. Actually, we want a security architecture for the whole world – and that means nuclear disarmament and an end to the arms race.

What role could the OSCE play for peaceful coexistence in Europe?
A very positive role. Russia and Belarus also play a role in the OSCE – they are not excluded in advance.

From the West, the OSCE is always treated somewhat stepmotherly, although all of Europe sits at the table here. Why is that?
Not only the old Republican neo-cons like Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, etc. underestimated the OSCE – today in the US House of Representatives, Republican Mike Turner, wants to send U.S. troops to Ukraine to defend "democracy" against Russia. Not only the radical neo-cons think this way – also Democrats like Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State) and even Hillary Clinton think nothing of the OSCE or of the EU. Democrats also just want to give orders.

How must one understand that a meeting is scheduled with the OSCE but not with the EU?
The EU has maneuvered itself into a dead end. By actively participating in the Maidan coup against democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, by not defending the "rule of law" in Ukraine but immediately siding with the anti-democratic coup plotters, the EU has lost its credibility and authority. The way the EU is dealing with Ukraine and Poland proves that it is interested in power and violence – but not in dialogue or compromise. 

Is the fact that Russia is giving priority to the OSCE an affront to the EU, as some newspapers comment, or an expression of the fact that European states are ultimately dependent on the United States?
It is not an affront at all, but realpolitik. For decades, the European states have been lackeys of the USA. Moreover, the EU does not pursue a policy that conforms to the UN Charter and supports activities that are incompatible with it. It carries out war propaganda, agitates against Russia and China, but tolerates the crimes of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, etc. – violating Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits war propaganda.

What do you see as the reasons why the situation has visibly deteriorated in recent years?
In a sense, we in the West are in a constant state of flight. Things are not going well with our economy and finances. The US, in particular, have broken so many important treaties that its credibility has taken a serious hit. "Pacta sunt servanda" (Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties) – treaty compliance applies not only to ratified treaties, but also to oral agreements. Breaking a "gentleman's agreement" may not come before the International Court of Justice, but it still has all kinds of consequences for the present and the future. 

Is that what you mean with regard to NATO's eastward expansion?
Yes, the West wanted the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops from Central and Eastern Europe. Gorbachev promised that and carried it out. But as the statements of various responsible officials prove, NATO did indeed promise not to expand eastward. One thinks that Gorbachev could have demanded that Nato should dissolve just as the Warsaw Pact dissolved, that Nato should be abolished just as it was. Gorbachev did not demand that – but he did get a promise and a pledge that Nato would not go an inch to the east. The West did not honor this essential agreement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently denied that his predecessor Baker had made promises about NATO's possible eastward expansion.
This is easily refuted, as declassified documents prove that oral promises were indeed made and that they were part of the general agreement.¹ Legally, oral assurances are binding, even if not set in stone.
As early as April 2009, Gorbachev wrote: "Chancellor Helmut Kohl, US Secretary of State James Baker and others assured me that NATO would not move an inch eastward. The Americans did not abide by this, and the Germans were indifferent. They may even have rubbed their hands together at how great a job the Russians had been done. What did it bring? Only that the Russians now no longer trust Western promises."²
Baker had given assurances in a conversation with Gorbachev that "NATO's legal jurisdiction over NATO forces would not be extended one inch eastward."³

Similarly, in 1990, then-US Ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock told a U.S. congressional hearing that Gorbachev had received a "clear commitment" from the United States that "if Germany were to unify and remain in NATO, NATO's borders would not move eastward."⁴
Former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said on Feb. 2, 1990, after a meeting with then-US Secretary of State James Baker, "We agreed that there was no intention to extend the NATO defense area eastward. That applies not only to the GDR, but in general."⁵

Now, of course, the trust is disturbed…
Disturbed is too mild a word. After all, one of the greatest achievements of civilization and the rule of law is fidelity to contract. The obligation to keep one's word. When a promise is made, it must be implemented in good faith and not undermined, reinterpreted, softened. It is a matter of honor. But it seems that we in the West have no honor left – and that we have deliberately short-changed the Russians. We have created a "fait accompli" and expect the Russians to accept it that way.

But that happened in the course of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Yes, but in 1991 the Soviet Union was not a defeated state. Gorbachev wanted glasnost and perestroika in Russia, cooperation and peace with the West. He did not sign an unconditional surrender. Basically, the West lied to Gorbachev and the Russians, deceived them, hoodwinked them. But this fact most politicians in Washington do not want to admit. There is not a bit of remorse – we just deny everything. We play the innocent. This has consequences. Namely, it is about lack of "bona fide" – lack of good faith. Unfortunately, we have earned a bad reputation in the West. In order to regain credibility and become worthy of a contract, we must show political will, we must prove that we are a reliable contracting party. A true statesman understands this.

Haven't there always been word breaches in international relations?
Too many - and since biblical times. In the Renaissance, we read various amazing stories in the book "The Prince" by Niccolò Machiavelli. But take, for example, World War I - the German Empire did not surrender at all in November 1918, and did not need to. The Reich believed in the good will of President Woodrow Wilson and relied on the implementation of the 14 points. Germany was not occupied, on the contrary. Germany still occupied parts of France and Belgium. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Russia was still in force. The German Reich was not defeated. There was no unconditional surrender as in May 1945. The German people were war-weary in 1918, wanted peace, believed with a certain naiveté in Wilson's 14-point plan.
The armistice of November 11, 1918, was based expressis verbis or legally on the 14 points that were to form the foundation of the peace treaty. But as soon as Kaiser Wilhelm II had abdicated and the Reich had collapsed, France and England forgot all their obligations. The Treaty of Versailles no longer had anything to do with the 14 points. In fact, it was a grotesque breach of promise. One might almost say an example of "vae victis" – but the point is that Germany was not defeated. Similar to Gorbachev in 1991, Germany was bamboozled in Versailles in 1919. 

What are the consequences of a breach of trust?
Any breach of trust means poisoning the interstate atmosphere, which prevents cooperation and can lead to further misunderstandings. And so it was in 1919. France and England acted brazenly toward Germany. It was precisely because of the monstrous injustice of the Treaty of Versailles that a demagogue like Adolf Hitler was able to come to power in Germany. Indeed, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau was a chauvinist, not a statesman. More than British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Clemenceau bears a heavy responsibility for World War II. The betrayal of Versailles led all of Europe to ruin. The ongoing breach of trust by NATO since 1991 may catch up with us sooner or later and lead to Armageddon.

What can the USA demand from Russia?
For example, that Putin commits not to attack Ukraine. Putin can easily give such an assurance. However, should Selensky attack the Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, as Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia in his time, Putin cannot be expected to stand idly by. For centuries, Ukraine was part of Russia. Putin has no interest in reincorporating Ukraine into Mother Russia, so he will not invade Ukraine without provocation. He is more or less resigned to the 2014 coup. But he will not allow Ukraine to massacre the Russian-born population in Donetsk, Lugansk, Sloviansk, etc. In the West, the massacres of Russians in Odessa on May 2, 2014 are forgotten – but not in Russia. 

What can Russia ask from the USA?
A bona fide attempt to ease the situation. An end to the constant anti-Russian propaganda. An end to NATO "maneuvers" in the Black Sea and near the Russian border. A willingness to resolve global issues multilaterally in accordance with the UN Charter.

What role can Switzerland play? After all, the meeting is taking place in Geneva.
Just as President Parmelin facilitated a successful meeting between Putin and Biden in June 2021, Ignazio Cassis should now offer his good offices as the new president of the Confederation, thus continuing the Swiss tradition of mediation. As a neutral state, Switzerland could seriously make use of its experience in the role of mediator and make a constructive contribution to more peace in the world. President Cassis is challenged. 

Professor de Zayas, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

¹ https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2017-12-12/nato-expansion-what-gorbachev-heard-western-leaders-early
² http://www.bild.de/politik/2009/bild-medienpreis/die-deutschen-waren-nicht-aufzuhalten-7864098.bild.html
³ Philip Zelikow und Condoleezza Rice: Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft (Cambridge, Mass. 1995), S. 182
⁴ House Committee on International Relations, U.S. Policy Toward NATO Enlargement: Hearing, 104th Cong., 2nd sess., June 20, 1996, S. 31. 

“The Assange case is about setting a precedent”

“Press freedom and freedom of information in Western democracies would be severely restricted”

Interview with Professor Dr. Nils Melzer*, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

Professor Dr Nils Melzer (picture zvg)
Professor Dr Nils Melzer (picture zvg)

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus: You are involved in the Julian Assange case. Why are you doing this?

Professor Dr. Nils Melzer: First of all, I should clarify that I am not Julian Assange’s lawyer, but I stand up for the rule of law and for the prohibition of torture. Of course, I defend victims of torture. However, in the case of Assange, I was initially even hesitant to get involved.


I think it has to do with the negative image that the press has spread about Julian Assange for years. Only after examining evidence and opinions written by doctors, experts and other UN bodies, I became aware of my own prejudices and took a closer look at the case. But as soon as you scratch the surface, a lot of dirt comes to light, a lot of abuse by authorities. The deeper I went into the matter, the worse it became. It became clear to me how much the case had been politicized, and so I finally decided to visit this man personally in prison to get an objective picture of him and his situation.

Did you visit him alone?

No, I was accompanied by two doctors specialized in examining torture victims. They are both very experienced and can distinguish very well between the consequences of torture and the stress symptoms caused by a normal detention regime. So in May 2019, the three of us visited Assange in Belmarsh prison. We had four hours at our disposal, and the doctors examined him independently from eachother. Afterwards, we all agreed: Assange showed the symptoms typical for victims of psychological torture.

How did that become apparent?

The detailed medical diagnoses are, of course, confidential. In essence, he showed extreme post-traumatic stress symptoms, but also measurable neurological and cognitive impairments, which are typical of the overall picture of detainees in solitary confinement. As the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, I am confronted with this pattern on a regular basis. The next question, of course, is where these symptoms come from, because they could theoretically have causes other than torture or ill-treatment. Assange was blocked in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years and was always exposed to the same environment, which with a high degree of probability must have caused the observed symptoms. My investigations revealed an overall picture of various, mutually reinforcing forms of abuse inflicted on Assange during this period, by all the authorities involved.

Which authorities were these?

One was the rape allegations by the Swedish authorities, which were never investigated in good faith, but were deliberately misused for the purpose of publicly demonizing Assange.

What do you mean by that?

The Swedish prosecution unlawfully disseminated these allegations through the mass media, suppressed exculpatory evidence, and gave Assange no opportunity to defend himself without simultaneously risking extradition to the U.S., where he would certainly be subjected to serious human rights violations. Behind the scenes, the Swedish authorities had done everything they could to avoid a trial in which he would have had to be acquitted for lack of evidence. Since he was in Ecuadorian asylum, they could conveniently blame it all on him. But the British authorities also systematically violated procedural law.

In which way?

Assange has been detained in a British high-security prison since April 2019, under very restrictive conditions which are comparable to solitary confinement and make it extremely difficult for him to have contact with his lawyers, his family and other inmates. This has further aggravated his health condition. This is neither necessary nor proportionate, since he is not a criminal, but is in pure extradition custody. When finding himself in the same legal situation, the Chilean ex-dictator Pinochet was placed under house arrest and accommodated in a London villa. The American extradition proceedings and the expulsion from the Ecuadorian embassy were also marked by serious procedural violations. It is rather obvious that this man’s rights have been systematically violated for ten years. These are not just the odd irregularities that can occur in any procedure. We are talking about countries like Sweden, Great Britain or the USA. These countries have highly developed legal systems in which such things do not happen by coincidence.

In this context, how should the decision not to extradite be judged?

It is not a gesture of humanity. The court has quite deliberately affirmed the logic of the US indictment for espionage regarding the publication of secret documents. Ultimately, the court refused to extradite him only based on a purported mental illness, which almost certainly would push him to commit suicide when facing American prison conditions. From a legal perspective, however, the British have confirmed everything that the USA wanted. The U.S. is primarily interested in setting a deterrent precedent for the future, according to which any journalist who publishes secret U.S. information can be prosecuted as a spy. And this ruling takes them a big step closer to that goal.

What then is the significance of adding that they would not extradite him because of his medical condition?

They probably hope that Assange’s lawyers will not appeal, so that the precedent set by this ruling will not be questioned as such. An American appeal, on the other hand, will of course only challenge that part of the ruling which refuses extradition on medical grounds. If the U.S. now issues guarantees that it would adjust detention conditions and provide Assange with a specialist doctor, then the appeals court could overturn the decision and still have him extradited, without reviewing the rest of the precedent ruling. That is the risk now.

What, if anything, can be done about it?

Assange’s lawyers would now have to cross-appeal themselves the other points of the first-instance ruling, so that these issues would also have to be discussed by the appeals court.

CouldAssange’s situation change with President Biden?

It could be that President Biden does not necessarily want an espionage trial, as this might cause a confrontation with the U.S. mainstream media, but could also be rejected by the US Supreme Court. He might be quite happy to leave things as they are with the first-instance British ruling. So he could withdraw the appeal, either now or at a later stage. Irrespective of this, he could still uphold the US indictment. Assange would then have to be released, but would not be able to leave the UK, because the U.S. could immediately demand extradition again from any other country. Assange would then have to spend his entire life under this sword of Damocles.

With this strategy, he would actually be crippled.

Yes, the U.S. could use this approach to prevent him from ever returning to his traditional profession as a journalist or to Wikileaks. Because if he did that, the U.S. could immediately request his extradition again. I do not believe that these four countries have invested millions in his persecution for ten years just to simply release him now for humanitarian reasons. Let us not forget that this is not a legal process, but a purely political one.

The accusations of “treason” and “rape” are, in your opinion, contrived?

Treason can be ruled out, because Assange never had a duty of confidentiality towards the USA and did not steal the published information, but published it just like other journalists. One has to be careful with the rape allegation. It may well be that he did not behave properly, I simply don't know. But if you look at these allegations from the perspective of a lawyer, you can immediately see that they cannot possibly be proven beyond reasonable doubt, unless Assange would make a confession or had a relevant criminal record. Neither was the case.

So the allegations that were made can hardly be proven?

In both cases, criminal liability depends on factors for which there are simply no forensic means of investigation. Whether a condom was destroyed intentionally or accidentally, by whom and at what time, and whether a woman was asleep or not at the moment of intercourse, simply cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt in retrospect. The fact that Assange was branded a “fugitive rapist” for nine years, even though the investigating authorities knew very well that they ultimately would not be able to prove the allegations, demonstrates that they had something quite different in mind.

How did these allegations come about?

Each of the women had voluntary sexual intercourse with Assange and did not actually want to report a crime, but wanted to get him to take an HIV test. The authorities then convinced the women that something very bad had been perpetrated against them, which absolutely had to be prosecuted. The authorities knew, of course, that they would not be able to prove these allegations, but they wanted to make the story public in order to destroy Assange’s reputation. In doing so, they deliberately exposed also the women to media attention, and when the allegations could not be proven, the women were soon accused of lying - a quite perfidious strategy.

How were the allegations made public?

Within hours, the authorities leaked Assange’s name and so much information about the women to the press that they could not remain anonymous either. However, according to Swedish law, the names of those involved in a criminal investigation cannot be made public until there is a formal indictment.

How has Assange dealt with this?

He extended his stay in Sweden by a month, always cooperated fully with the police, and even obtained the prosecutor’s authorisation to leave the country two weeks before his departure. The authorities, on the other hand, waited until he left Sweden and then immediately accused him of trying to evade justice. Thereafter, they artificially kept the accusations alive while at the same time preventing the case from going to trial. Given that the Swedish investigating authorities knew that Assange would have to be acquitted for lack of evidence, they constantly procrastinated their investigation and never brought charges against him. In the media, however, the image of the suspected rapist evading trial was deliberately maintained for ten years.

How did Assange get into the Ecuadorian embassy?

Sweden submitted an extradition request to the British, which he evaded by fleeing to the embassy. He assumed that Sweden would informally pass him on to the United States. After all, Sweden had a relevant history and had already done that with other people before.

Would this have been that easy?

There is a passage in the extradition treaty with the U.S. that allows someone to be temporarily “borrowed” by the U.S. without an extradition proceeding and for an unspecified duration, an instrument called “temporary surrender”. Assange had always offered that he would come to Sweden if the authorities gave him a guarantee that they would not extradite him onward to the USA. But he has been denied that. That is the only reason he requested asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. Ecuador did not protected him from prosecution for the sexual offences, but only from onward extradition to the US. So Assange never evaded the Swedish process.

One has the impression that Julian Assange is to be worn out because he revealed unpleasant things.

If journalists get reliable evidence of crimes and corruption by authorities, they will in all likelihood publish it. That is the function of the press. No one was endangered due to Assange’s publications, except perhaps the impunity of the criminals. Also, contrary to widespread allegations, he has made great efforts at censoring names. The accusation that he published everything without redactions is not true. Rather, a Guardian journalist in a book published the password that allowed access to all unredacted documents. As a result, Assange decided to publish the concerned unredacted documents also on WikiLeaks. That’s why he is being prosecuted today, so actually for redistributing material that was already in the public domain.

Has the Guardian journalist also been prosecuted?

No, never.

According to what you have said we have to ask the question, how is it possible that legal principles have been so obviously broken here and, as you stated at the beginning, that one does not shy away from forms of psychological torture. Has the crackdown on people who oppose the mainstream or expose government machinations intensified in recent years?

In the aftermath of 9/11, we can see that torture has unfortunately become more prevalent again with the CIA’s activities at Guantánamo, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and so on. That is one side. But the fact that Western dissidents or whistleblowers are now being persecuted so aggressively is primarily the responsibility of the Obama administration. Obama has had more whistleblowers prosecuted than all previous US presidents combined.

Is this a US phenomenon?

It is a growing trend, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries. In Australia, for example, there is the case of David McBride, who drew the public’s attention to atrocious war crimes committed by the Australian army in Afghanistan and is now on trial for this, facing a heavy prison sentence. Already Chelsea Manning had originally received 35 years in prison. This is completely disproportionate. In our legal system, such a long sentence does not exist, not even for the worst violent criminals. But the people mentioned here are threatened with draconian punishments simply for telling the truth.

There really seems to be a methodology to this?

Assange is not the only one to have met this fate, of course, nor is he the worst torture case I have seen in my job. I have a dozen reports like this on my desk every day - always horrific stories. Beyond that, however, the Assange case is emblematically important because a precedent is being established here.

What would be the consequences?

Press freedom and the freedom of information in the West would be decisively restricted, and people who expose the dirty secrets of the authorities would be criminalized. Once that happens, we should have no illusions about where the journey will take us. So we have to ask ourselves, how do we deal with the truth, how transparent are our governments today? How much insight do we actually still have? Today, we supposedly have freedom of information everywhere, but as soon as you make a delicate information request, all you get are blacked-out pages. But if we are no longer allowed to know what our authorities are doing with the power they have been given, if our citizens’ queries become a purported security risk, and if anyone who questions the impunity of the powerful ends up being prosecuted, then the rule of law and democracy are also acutely endangered. It is therefore very important to prevent structures from being created that could become dangerous in the future. 

 Professor Melzer, thank you very much for the interview.

 Interview Thomas Kaiser

“The US should join hands with the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese to tackle global problems together"

Interview with Prof. Dr. iur. et phil. Alfred de Zayas, US international law expert and former UN mandate holder

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus What must be the priorities of the new US President Joe Biden now that he has formally assumed the presidency from Donald Trump?

Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas He must do everything he can to unite the country, because the ongoing polarization is dangerous, can lead to further violence in an already violent society. All those who call America home want the common good for all. They must overcome the “enmity” between Democrats and Republicans and build bridges of dialogue, because it is not about A against B, but about A in cooperation with B in order to serve all.  Effective governance means compromise and does not function on the basis of unconditional surrender, or the “winner takes all” principle. Of course, this polarity is also a result of the two party system, of the so-called “representative democracy”, which alas, does not always represent.  It should evolve into a participatory democracy with enhanced responsibility borne by the electorate.

What can be done here?

We should gradually move toward a new system with multiple parties so that the will of the people is also better represented, so that democratic pluralism can unfold. Biden should also strengthen the US Constitution and the rule of law, and work against the “seizure of power” by techno-giants, who are engaged in a profound manipulation of public opinion, which corrupts and sabotages democracy. He must make the idea of the "Marketplace of Ideas" socially acceptable again. The visible but slow slide into an Orwellian dystopia must be stopped. Today rather than tomorrow.

What does the new US president need to do in the realm of foreign policy?

US foreign policy has given rise to much suffering in the world and even in the United States.  Alas, it is not only Trump who has trampled on international law, but also Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama: conducted terror bombings in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, pursued undemocratic “regime changes” in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, destabilized the economices of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela. Further, US presidents have killed thousands of people through non-conventional wars such as embargoes, financial blockades, and sanctions. I have explained this in detail in several articles and in my reports to the UN Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly: economic sanctions do kill people! One has to be aware of that, these sanctions are not harmless. They are also not only directed against the politicians of a country – which is already illegal – but, and that must be clear, they are directed against an entire people.

Who are the countries that suffer most from US sanctions?

There are sanctions against Cuba, against Venezuela, against Nicaragua, against Syria, against Iran, the list is very long. The poorest of the poor pay the most for these sanctions. Here the question clearly arises:  does this reach the threshold of a crime against humanity, because, in fact, the number of victims has increased enormously, especially also in relation to Covid-19. The impact of the sanctions must be investigated by an independent international commission or by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Indeed, the ICC statute, otherwise known as the Statute of Rome Envisages such investigations pursuant to its  Article 7.

Aren't there already investigations underway against the US?

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC's chief prosecutor, is already investigating US war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Grotesquely enough, President Trump imposed sanctions on Bensouda herself and on members of her team. Beyond that, the chief prosecutor can motu proprio (on her own initiative) begin an investigation into the consequences of the US sanctions against Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, especially with regard to Covid-19. On 13 February 2020, Bensouda received detailed documentation from Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza about the deaths caused by the sanctions in Venezuela, requesting an investigation under Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

To what extent can the sanctions be crimes?

It is obvious, especially with regard to Covid-19, that people die when a state does not get the vaccine in time or, as in the case of Cuba, does not receive enough ventilators – corporations have refused to sell these devices to Cuba because they were afraid of facing punitive actions from the United States. The imposition of such sanctions necessarily must have penal consequences.

Does the International Criminal Court carry enough weight to persuade the US to change its policy?

Unfortunately not. The US has a consistent track record of ignoring international judgments as well as General Assembly Resolutions.  Nevertheless, these judgments and resolutions do create international precedent and cumulatively have developed momentum, which the US European allies and the larger international community will not be able to entirely ignore.  I could well imagine some European sates taking into account these considerations when negotiating multilateral and bilateral trade agreements with the US.  In addition to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) could and should declare the US sanctions contrary to international law, through an advisory opinion that the General Assembly can request under Article 96 of the UN Charter.  Let us see whether in the next four years President Biden will be more respectful of international law norms, including ICC and ICJ decisions. We cherish the hope that Biden will focus on multilateralism and take into account the opinion of his allies.

What should the Europeans do?

It would be a possibility that European states, now that Trump has left office, stop behaving like lackeys toward the US and pursue their own policies. If the Europeans think they have higher morals, they should prove it. First of all, they could lift their own sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela and protect their corporations from US Treasury penalties. They should assist the ICC in their investigations to the best of their ability and also move forward with an investigation under Article 7 ICC. This does not only concern the sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, but also the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The issue here is to act consistently against impunity for the crimes committed by the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. In addition, there is a possibility, under the principle of “universal jurisdiction” to arrest and bring to court those individuals who are under the jurisdiction of European states (for example, when American military personnel who participated in war crimes in Iraq enter the territory of a European state and therefore come under its in personam jurisdiction).

All states can apply and implement that?

Universal jurisdiction is an international law principle which has gained in acceptance since the Nuremberg trials.  Pursuant to this principle persons guilty of torture, for example, can be arrested by any state, tried and punished for torture committed outside the territory of the arresting state, e.g. torture at the Guantanamo prison. Any state can do that, be it France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, etc. They could arrest these individuals and then initiate a criminal investigation under their own criminal codes. In addition to universal jurisdiction, there are treaty obligations, for example, under Articles 5-6 of the UN Convention Against Torture, that requires from States parties that any individual suspected of having committed torture, regardless of nationality, be arrested and brought to court, or extradited to where the offences took place according to the principles aut dedere, aut judicare.

You mentioned Guantanamo ...

Several UN special rapporteurs have repeatedly demanded transparency and accountability for crimes committed in Guantanamo.  More recently, they have addressed the specific demand to President Biden that he immediately closes Guantanamo.  But of course, closing Guantanamo is not enough.  The crimes committed there must be investigated, as I already demanded in one of my own press releases back in 2016. Days ago, marked the 19th anniversary of the opening of this modern-day Gulag at Guantanamo, where over 700 detainees have been tortured and incarcerated under inhumane conditions. By the way, it is worth pointing out that criminal responsibility for the torture operations at Guantanamo is borne not only by Trump, but also by George W. Bush, and Barak Obama – all of whom thus far have enjoyed impunity.

How many people are still illegally detained there?

There are still 40 people there (out of over 700 originally), but trials have only been held against 8 people. In other words, arbitrary arrests of hundreds of people have been carried out here. Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human and Fundamental Rights during the Fight against Terrorism, wrote a report for the UN Human Rights Council. It was about the widespread abuses committed during the “war on terror”, including targeted assassinations, kidnappings, “extraordinary renditions”, torture, psychological torture, etc.  One of the key findings of his report was not the mere documentation of the crimes, but the extent of the international conspiracy to commit these crimes.  As Emmerson documented, 54 states colluded  with the US in the “extraordinary rendition program”, carried out the kidnappings of suspects and then turned them over to the US authorities  without legal basis, without extradition procedures, human rights safeguards or any due process of law. People have been arrested clandestinely, without any press coverage, and then they disappeared into US secret prisons (even on the high seas) and Guantanamo.

Why is Guantanamo, which is in Cuba, still a US territory?

It is illegally occupied. At 117 square kilometres, it is as large as Manhattan Island and the port of New York. The 1903 “lease agreement”, which was a colonial treaty, was terminated by Cuba in 1959. The earlier “lease” did not come about as a result of free negotiations, but was imposed on the Cubans. International law is quite clear here, and I have argued this in an article in the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) Law Review, and also wrote the article “Guantanamo Naval Base” for the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Public International Law (2012). Not only should Guantanamo be closed as a torture centre, but the territory should be returned in full to Cuba. The treaty is and was invalid ab initio, it was an act of imperial aggression against the Cubans, who had just fought a war against Spain in order to gain their independence, only to find themselves occupied by the United States and blackmailed into accepting the so-called “Platt Amendment”, given the US the right to intervene in Cuba’s affairs at will.  Of course, Cuba is not in a position to enforce its sovereignty under international law like China, for example, which clearly signalled to the British in 1997 that they must leave Hong Kong. Either they leave peacefully, or China would have thrown them in the water.

Has the US ever given back any territory?

US President Jimmy Carter returned the Panama Canal to Panamanian sovereignty in 1977. There was also a colonial treaty that had been imposed on Panama, also in 1903.  But motu proprio, Carter, gave a sign of brotherhood and returned the canal to Panama.

In the same spirit of historical justice, in 2007, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a courageous apology to the Aborigines of Australia, first for all the crimes that Australia had committed against the Aborigines.  He then returned to them some of the territories stolen from them, including Uluru and Kakadu, territories that are now administered by the Aborigines themselves.[1] Joe Biden could do the same with Guantanamo, and he would earn great sympathy in the world and at the UN.

Isn't there also work to be done with regard to indigenous peoples in the US?

Yes, Biden should also follow up on Obama’s apology to the “First Nations” of America – the indigenous Sioux, Dakotas, Iroquois, Crees, Cherokees, Navajos, and so on. In December 2008, Obama actually signed an “Apology Resolution” acknowledging the many injustices against “Indians”. But there has been no redress at all, and the Indigenous of America continue to be discriminated against and exploited. I have sympathy for the “Black Lives Matter” movement – but even more urgent would be a movement “Indigenous Lives Matter” to ensure recognition of the crimes committed against the First Nations of the Americas.  In all justice, this should also be accompanied by  reparations.

Back to Guantanamo. Who were the victims taken to this illegal prison?

On the assumption that a person might have a connection to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, people were simply kidnapped, then turned over to the CIA and taken to Guantanamo. I interviewed an Al-Jazeera journalist who had been taken prisoner by the war lords in Afghanistan and simply sold for good money to the US, although he had nothing to do with the Taliban.  Alas, this happened hundreds if not thousands of times.  And again I repeat; 54 states participated in this mafia-like conspiracy called the “war against Terror”, a revolt against the concept of the rule of law, against international human rights law and against international humanitarian law. This is a scandal and a huge disgrace, but has been very much downplayed by the media, when not totally suppressed.

Were European states involved in this?

Most people do not know that torture took place in Poland or in Romania, or in Albania and Kosovo. They do know that torture took place in Egypt. Mubarak’s Egypt was one of the partners of the US in the crimes and has its torture experts. The USA did not want to get its hands dirty with these cruel methods and exported it or in new language: outsourced it. All this must be stopped by Joe Biden.

How do you see the relationship with Iran now that Trump has terminated the nuclear deal?

Of course, first and foremost, the US would have to return to the Iran deal. It is important that Iran not be coerced into resuming its nuclear program. No one wants nuclear proliferation. Therefore, Iran must be offered security guarantees so that the country does not feel threatened. The Iranians feel permanently threatened, and there is also an unprecedented aggression emanating from the United States. The state is literally being crushed. Obama recognized at the time that the sanctions policy of the USA had been totally unsuccessful. The sanctions were designed to bring about regime change, but the US did not succeed anywhere, not in Cuba, not in Venezuela, not in Nicaragua, not in Syria, not in Iran, not even in Bolivia, where after the coup dêtat against Evo Morales, the Bolivians went on to reelect Morales’ party – by a landslide. But sanctions have, above all, the effect that is euphemistically called “collateral damage”. Sanctions kill people, and especially the most vulnerable.

The list of crimes and abuses is long.  There is the absurd blacklisting of countries that supposedly sponsor terrorism.  In his last days in office Trump put Cuba on that list. This has adverse economic consequences for the Cuban people – as it does for the Syrians, who are also on the list.  The world should condemn this evidence-free condemnation of Cuba and other countries.  If anyone is looking for a country that sponsors terrorism, it is the United States itself, it is Saudi Arabia, it is Israel. 

You have now mentioned what “iniquities” the US needs to stop immediately, and that seems important to me. But what could the US do, not just reactively but proactively, to bring more peace and justice to the world?

First and foremost, the US must restore its international credibility. The US is no longer a credible partner. It is not acceptable that a treaty is signed today and then, after a change of government such as from Obama to Trump, these treaties are cancelled again by the dozen. Joe Biden would be well advised to reassert the Paris climate agreement as quickly as possible, as well as the disarmament treaties on the limitation of nuclear weapons with Russia, the treaty with Iran, etc., etc.

The treaties with Russia, after all, are from the old days ...

A treaty that is very important is, the “Open Skies” treaty. But the US, under Donald Trump, is the only state to have opted out. Now the Russians are threatening to opt out, because without the US, the treaty makes little sense. The arms race will not stop if there is no transparency. If I don't know how big the other’s arsenal is, everyone will produce even more weapons for fear of being outgunned otherwise. Limited resources of states are shamelessly wasted on nuclear weapons production. This must be changed. The “Open Skies” treaty is a very sensible treaty; the Start treaty as well as the INF are also very sensible treaties.

What would Joe Biden have to do now? Re-enter into all of these contracts?

Perhaps they need to be renegotiated to achieve an up-to-date agreement that responds to today’s needs, particularly a new treaty to limit nuclear and conventional weapons. Biden needs to prove to the world that he embraces multilateralism as his personal policy. The US should cooperate with the Europeans, the Russians or the Chinese on an equal footing, not just give orders. The US does not like to be a recipient of orders, the Russians do not like that, the Chinese do not want that either. They want to be respected. This mutual respect, which Trump has completely destroyed, must be restored

How would the relationship with the UN have to change?

Biden should try as soon as possible to get the US elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Trump left almost three years ago, and in the process he has upset many states. The USA should pay its overdue contributions to the United States, WHO, UNESCO, etc.  Alas, the USA enjoys little popularity at the UN. This is in fact strange, because in 1948 the US lead the way in human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

How could the US return to that standard?

As I have often said, if the US wants to be respected again, if it wants to be looked up to as a leader of the “free world”– it just has to resume the multilateral human rights work of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Where might Joe Biden have an appeasing effect on conflict?

Implementing the right of peoples to self-determination remains an eminent conflict preventing strategy. After World War II, hundreds of wars were started, not owing to aspiration of peoples to self-determination, but because this fundamental right  was unjustly denied. There were the self-determination wars in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, in Sri Lanka in the Western Sahara. And, of course, it is a shame when economic interests take precedence over the right of self-determination of peoples. Many peoples succeeded in achieving their independence, but others tried and were massacred with the complicity of the big economic players in this world of ours.  Because there was no interest in the situation of the Tamils, the central government of Sri Lanka was able to massacre them in total impunity. The same happened to the Igbos and the Ogonis in Biafra. They were victims of genocide by the Nigeria government. Here Nigeria had the support of Royal Dutch Shell. There was a lot of money at stake because of the oil in Biafra and the population was to be exterminated.

What then will have to be changed with the new government?

The right of self-determination of peoples should become a guiding principle of the USA. Biden should prove with actions – not only words -- that he wants something different. He would have to reverse the denunciation of the treaties I mentioned earlier. One initiative to do that would be to make a statement at the UN General Assembly: We want to cooperate multilaterally in the future with the UN and with the rest of the world. We want to find peaceful solutions together.

Will he succeed in doing so?

We don't know. The military-industrial-financial complex in the US will probably not let him. Biden should at least have the courage to attempt it, and that could create a new starting point for the United States. But we have to be aware that there are influential lobbies in the US, as President Eisenhower mentioned in his 1961 farewell speech[2] when he warned of the excessive influence of the military-industrial complex. These lobbies are all still around today and have zero interest in changing US policy. However, considering the long term, they too will realize that sooner or later they will have to go a different way. I hope that Biden will succeed in convincing them that a multilateral path in the community of nations makes more sense. They will still make good profits, but when you are already a billionaire, greed will make you covet even more billions. The super-rich in America need to rediscover a sense for proportions which definitely has been lost. Above all, Biden needs to make sure that budget priorities are changed. No one needs a trillion-dollar budget for the military; on the contrary. Tax dollars should be used primarily to create jobs, strengthen teaching, modernize hospitals, and accelerate research and development into preparedness. Had the United States had better budget priorities, we would have been better prepared to fight the corona virus pandemic. Biden must ensure that the people outrank corporate profits. He can also rely on the churches in the US to do that. Indeed, we need a religious and ethical epiphany.

The new US President Joe Biden could therefore set many positive signs for a more peaceful policy, which would certainly have a signal effect on other states.

What would be a noble act that Biden could still perform at the beginning of his presidency?

Biden should immediately end the persecution of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Assange has done much for the US and for the world. “Whistleblowers” are really necessary human rights defenders. As stipulated in article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we have a right to seek and impart information, we have a right to know, a right to know what is being withheld from us by our governments. We need to know what has been done by our governments in our name. Covering up crimes is unworthy of the United States. Assange is Australian, and the US should facilitate Assange’s return to his home country. Meanwhile Edward Snowden, who is a very patriotic American, should be able to return to the US – without trial, without punishment, without further persecution. Both are heroes of the 21st century! As I demanded in several of my UN press releases, we need to draft and adopt a Charter of Rights of Whistleblowers.

Professor de Zayas, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

[1] www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiLnsFyAVqE

[2] www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCEOgamC1p0

The source of all human rights is human dignity

Interview with Prof. Dr. iur. et phil. Alfred de Zayas, international law expert and former UN mandate holder

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus: When we talk about human rights, the question of definition arises? How would you define human rights?

Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas Universal human rights form a holistic system of interdependent entitlements and freedoms. “Universal”, however, does not mean homologous, assimilated, or insensitive to cultural particularities. The ubiquitous slogan “All rights are equal” is merely a platitude expressing a lack of a sense of proportion and discernment. There is also something to be learned from the Constitution of Unesco, because acknowledging our common human dignity means to “maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge … by assuring the conservation and protection of the world’s inheritance”. Further, we are bound to preserve “the independence, integrity and fruitful diversity of the cultures”.

Do you think there are more significant and less significant human rights?

Indeed, human dignity, which is the source of all human rights, necessarily determines priorities – a hierarchy based on common sense and mutual respect: First, the right to life, which necessarily means living in dignity, a commitment to promote and protect the sanctity of life, which includes bodily integrity, the right to food, water, housing, health care, freedom from war, or a human right to peace. Second, the right to freely develop one’s personality, that is, the right to be who we are, the right to our identity, the right to determine the priorities of our lives – this essential right of self-determination, free from any artificial constraints imposed by government or society – and as a corollary, the duty to respect the rights of others. In other words, culture and identity are human rights that define the essence of man. But this requires peace. Thus, the Unesco Constitution states, “that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. Surely the practical exercise of our human dignity entails not only material goods, but also the conditions that will make life worth living, first and foremost peace, but also access to information and the opportunity to cultivate our individuality, our identity.

An apt statement that is encouraging. Are human rights conclusively defined?

The codification of human rights has not been completed, as standards must continue to be established to better protect the practical expression and the realization of our human dignity. All human rights can be grouped under the two categories above, with the caveat that the letter of the law must not be politicized in order to undermine the spirit of the law – which is precisely the primacy of the dignitas humana.

What do you mean by the politicization of human rights?

By this I mean that many States, including the United States and its NATO allies, mostly give lip service to human rights and fundamental freedoms, but do not take concrete action to implement them in their own countries or to facilitate their implementation in poorer nations.  We have witnessed all to often how human rights have been used as weapons to destabilize geopolitical rivals, how they are instrumentalized to demonize political leaders or governments.  We see war-propaganda and sabre-rattling, we see growing xenophobia, Russophobia, Sinophobia, etc., all with ulteriour economic purposes.  The corruption of human rights principles to justify wars of aggression is not new.  Examples are galore:   In 1999, a war of aggression against the Republic of Serbia was waged in the name of human rights and in violation of international law, which was headed by the USA and in its wake NATO. The attack on UN member Iraq in 2003 was also waged under the pretext of protecting human rights. 43 States ostensibly committed to human rights, the infamous “coalition of the willing” participated in this revolt against international law and international order. In Libya, the same thing. To this day, ten years after the NATO attack, Libya is in ruins and tens of thousands of people have lost their lives. This is what I mean by the politicization of human rights.

Does that only manifest itself in wars?

No, we have seen increased activity regarding the imposition of sanctions, especially under the Trump administration. In Cuba, Venezuela, Iran or Syria, which are cooperating with Russia, these sanctions have had a devastating impact, especially on the civilian population, which suffers terribly from these illegal coercive measures. Russia has also been the target of US and EU sanctions, and all countries that continue to cooperate with Russia are to suffer the same fate. The sanctions, which are not issued by the UN, are illegal under international law and must therefore be rejected.

Switzerland has imposed sanctions on the government in Belarus and thus joined the EU. How do you view this from the perspective of neutrality law?

Switzerland should not have done that. By offering its vast experience in mediating international conflicts, Switzerland could have contributed to the solution of the political crisis in Belarus.  Switzerland lost an opportunity to take an independent, constructive position instead of joining the EU, which imposed the sanctions on the country for political reasons. Besides the ineffectiveness of the sanctions, it is unworthy of a neutral country like Switzerland to join international mobbing activities that are contrary to the international law principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States. Switzerland has gambled away the goodwill it still enjoys in many regions of the world.

What achievements are to be welcomed in the development of human rights?

The Human Rights Commission, founded in 1946, has ensured the standardization of human rights – starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDMR), followed by the adoption of 10 human rights conventions – for example against torture or against racial discrimination. Then committees of experts were set up to regularly make constructive proposals to the contracting states. The creation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1993 (General Assembly Resolution 48/141 of December 20, 1993) was a very positive development, because the High Commissioner can coordinate the human rights activities of the UN. Particularly important has been the creation of a petition system, whereby individuals can approach the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture, etc., with specific complaints. In particular, the Petitions Team of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which I headed for many years, has done a lot of work. The problem is that this petition department is far too understaffed. Both the Secretariat of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) are much better served in terms of staff.

 What does the existence of the canon of human rights mean for the coexistence of peoples?

The standardization of human rights is the prerequisite for protecting and promoting these rights. One must also affirm these codified rights through teaching in schools and universities. People should know their rights and freedoms so that they can better exercise these rights. They also need to be informed about the mechanisms so that they can take advantage of them. In addition to the expert committees, there are also the special rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council and the working groups, such as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of people. These expert committees also help to increase the canon of human rights and apply it in concrete cases. This results in a constantly evolving, living jurisprudence.

How would you describe the positive development of human rights?

The creation of a procedure that empowers an individual to hold a state accountable represents a quantum leap. It is a major reinforcement of human rights. During the time of the League of Nations, there were petitions from minorities that were ignored by governments. Today, we have advanced a little in this regard. The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are binding. In 2003, for example, Turkey had to pay the Cypriot Titina Loizidou compensation of more than one million Euros, or the country would have been threatened with expulsion from the Council of Europe.

 Are all the court’s rulings binding?

The rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are binding. On the other hand, the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee, of which I was secretary, or the Committee against Torture, are not binding strictu sensu, but thank God many judgments are actually implemented. Many states, following decisions of the UN Committees of Experts, have changed their legislation accordingly, paid compensation to victims, and released unjustly imprisoned persons.

Isn’t the problem today that the European Court of Justice and the UN committees of experts rule on matters that are beyond their competence?

That is unfortunately true, and so they lose authority and credibility. All judges and experts should understand that they have to stick to the wording of the treaties, and that they should apply human rights in a holistic way and not weaken some rights by interpreting other rights. Unfortunately, there is politics going on here – and some essential rights like the right to family, religion, tradition, identity are being undermined by certain ECtHR rulings.  When I was a student at Harvard and thought that I could someday be a judge – not just an advocate – I learned about the wisdom of “juricial restraint”. Alas, many judges simply gallop away with the Zeitgeist.

 How could we prevent human rights from being misused for power-political purposes, as you explained at the beginning?

Above all, we need intellectual honesty and professionalism. We know however that the ECtHR, the IAGMR, the UN Human Rights Committee, etc. are run by human beings, and human beings are what they are. Not every “independent expert” is actually independent. Not every judge has a sense for proportions.  Human rights are invariably corrupted when they are politicized or applied selectively.

People usually only talk about human rights, but are there also obligations?

Yes, Article 29 of the UDHR it states:

"Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible."

“In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

“These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

 But this also imposes duties on people.

Yes. Thus it is made clear that people also have duties to their fellow human beings. People may exercise their legitimate rights and freedoms only in such a way that the freedom and right of others are not violated. Thus the maxim: “Sic utere tuo, ut alienum non laedas”.

You have advocated the human right to peace in order to prevent wars and to be able to condemn them as a violation of human rights. Has the right to peace been included in the canon?

All the components of the right to peace have been codified, such as the right to life, the right to development, the right to food – for example, Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized” War, however, destroys most human rights. And the powerful states have so far prevented a “human right to peace” from finally being codified and a mechanism to protect and promote this right from being created.

What mechanisms are in place to commit states to human rights?

States have arguably committed themselves, but there is a lack of “good faith” – bona fides – as Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties says: Pacta sunt servanda. Many states apply international law and human rights at will. There are human rights courts and even the International Court of Justice – which also often enough decides on human rights issues – but there is still no guarantee of implementation. However, we must not give up. No doubt, we have made enormous progress since 1945, and we must show perseverance and optimism. Human rights should be a compulsory subject in schools and universities – especially in the training of lawyers and judges. But we know that most universities do not teach ethics – but rather and predominantly only how to make money. That has to change.

What are your immediate hopes for 2021?

Of course, we all want an end to the Coronavirus pandemic and a general economic recovery. But I am very much against the so-called “Great Reset” being proposed by the World Economic Forum. Instead, I think that we should orient ourselves according to the World Social Forum’s Porto Alegre Manifesto. We need a great push-back against the cosmic scam of the “Great Reset”.

Professor de Zayas, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser



Push-back against the “Great Reset”

by Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas

The coronavirus upheaval justifies raising and addressing fundamental questions.  Do we want to go back to “business as usual”, do we want to pick up on a dysfunctional economic model?  This is a historic opportunity to demand and implement cross-cutting changes in the system, demand that our governments cease wasting our limited resources in wars, missiles, drones, military bases, false flag and other criminal interventions, and instead devote more research and development into preparedness strategies – preparedness to anticipate threats, prevent them where possible or combat the consequences of pandemics, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis or asteroid impacts.

This is the time to draw on the experience of top economists like Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty, and reorient the economy toward a coherent human-security paradigm that leaves no one behind. We can and must demand transparency and accountability from the authorities, whose responsibility it is to convert the economy into a sustainable people-centred institution that creates jobs in the health, education and services sectors.

We must push-back against the embrace of Big Brother, globalism, militarism, totalitarianism, intrusive government surveillance, conformist culture and homologation, thought police and denunciation, fake news from government and the so-called “quality press”, fake law, fake history, censorship and self-censorship.

We must push-back against efforts to turn us into mere numbers, robots, or “consumers”.  Inaction against the social virus of conformism and indifference means surrendering the fundamental freedoms and human rights acquis that prior generations won for themselves and for us.  This is no time to cop out, deceiving ourselves that things eventually will fall into place. This is the moment to rise up to the challenge, demand reasonable budgetary priorities, laws and regulations that place people above profits, demand ethics in foreign policy, an end to the insane arms race and criminal wars.

All humans have a right to live in peace – not just ourselves, but also all the peoples that our governments assault, exploit and humiliate.  We demand that public institutions promote and protect our privacy and family life.  Both are under attack in flagrant violation of articles 17 and 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Article 10 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We must assert our individual and collective right to our culture, identity and traditions.

We demand from our democratically elected officials that they do what they were elected to do, that they represent us and not only the lobbies or the corporations.  The alternative to action is reckless self-delusion.  The Romans already knew that mundus vult decipi – the world wants to be deceived.  Let us not be deceived by the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset”, the latest scam to keep the rich rich and the poor poor.  Even Julius Caesar warned about our blindness and our tendency to believe what we want to believe: Quae volumus, ea credimus libenter (De bello civili, 2, 27, 2).

More than ever in 2021, we must demonstrate the courage of our convictions and learn to articulate our own ideas – notwithstanding the asphyxiating “political correctness” that undermines democratic governance.  We need more whistleblowers who reveal the crimes and covers-up of government officials and mercenaries, including in the private sector.  We need to vindicate our right to know, as stipulated in article 19(2) of the ICCPR. We need pluralistic news services - and this necessarily entails alternative media.  Sapere aude!

“In a democracy the citizen must demand genuine policy choices and a right to shape that policy. Voting for corporate figureheads is not democracy”

Reflections on the US elections

Interview with Prof. Dr. iur. et phil. Alfred de Zayas, international law expert and former UN mandate holder

Zeitgeschehen im Fokus Professor de Zayas, you are an American citizen. What do you think about the course of the election and Joseph Biden's victory?

Prof. Dr. Alfred de Zayas First of all, I would like to say that I have been a member of the Republican Party since 1968. At that time I was a student at Harvard University, and my political persuasion aimed at a social, ethical market economy. Times have changed, and of course I am no longer a “Republican”, although I have not formally abandoned my membership in the Republican Party. I no longer feel any necessity to “root” for any political party. In my opinion, the 2020 campaign was undemocratic, undignified, and spiteful. It was accompanied by a very high level of disinformation, fake news and skewed media coverage. It resembled a football match – and I mean American football (rugby) and not European football (soccer).

What is your position on the Republican and Democratic Party today?

I am beyond both – beyond right wing or left wing. Sometimes I agree with the Republicans, sometimes with the Democrats – and often I am enough against the policies of both. I am happy Donald Trump lost. I am not at all excited about Biden’s victory. The next four years will be Obama redux, a disaster in the making. You can't teach an old dog new tricks – and here I include the whole Democratic Party Old Guard.

Did you participate in the 2020 election?

Yes, I voted – but not for Trump, whom I by no means consider a true Republican – nor for Biden, whom I consider incompetent. I consider Kamala Harris to be extremely dangerous. I took the opportunity to vote for a “write-in candidate” – as provided for on the ballot itself.

Who did you vote for then?

Actually for a female Democrat – member of the House of Representatives for Hawaii – Tulsi Gabbard, who is genuine and speaks her mind. That is why the mainstream media marginalized her.

With this you have expressed something...

...yes, I wanted to express my dissatisfaction with the two-party system and with both candidates. I took a similar approach in 2016, when I voted for neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton. I am tired of the fact that our “democracy” only allows for a choice between plague and cholera.

What do you expect from a Biden/Harris presidency in terms of foreign policy?

A continuation of many of Trump’s policies. In fact, Trump and Biden converge on the essential points – both advocate militarism, unilateralism, big banks, economic sanctions against rivals, arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and blind support for Israel. Biden will hardly bring the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv. And the unjust treatment of the Palestinians will continue.

What will the relationship with Russia and China be like?

I expect as much agitation and war propaganda against China and Russia as during the Trump administration. We will be served with 4 years of vulgar xenophobia, Putin-bashing, Xi-bashing. I also expect even more corrupt of borderline corrupt actions that will enrich the president and his cronies. Joe Biden and his son were already involved in an affair in Ukraine and have (corrupt) relationships there. Further provocations, aggressions and “false flag” productions (for example, first staging the fake use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army and then using this to justify an illegal bombardment) against the governments of Syria, Lebanon and Iran are also to be expected. Let us hope that there will be no major military interventions like in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, and hopefully no flagrant “regime change” aggressions or coup d'états in Latin America like in 2019 against Bolivia, and the ridiculous 2019 “Guaidó riots” in Venezuela. Nevertheless, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will no doubt continue financing opposition parties in countries where the US wants regime change and will continue subverting and destabilizing other countries. Maybe the danger of a third world war has become a little smaller, but we will see.

What do you expect in terms of domestic policy?

I fear even more corporate corruption, white-collar crime and leftist populism, especially in socio-political developments. I expect a deterioration of the situation regarding freedom of opinion – also in the universities, a systematic domestic indoctrination on socio-political issues and total intolerance towards traditional values, Christian ethics, the family and the Catholic Church. The power of the mainstream media will grow, and Orwellian National Security Agency's citizen monitoring will be intensified. We remember Edward Snowden and his warnings of 2013. His book, Permanent Record, published in 2019, reminds us of our slippery slope into the arms of Big Brother.[1]

Where do Trump and Biden differ?

Trump is an elephant in a porcelain shop. He pursues a personality cult – narcissistic, impulsive, megalomaniac. Biden is more moderate and boring. Trump thought he could afford to break several international treaties, to advocate blatant militarism. Biden – like Obama in his days – does imperialist politics with a smile. But under Biden, the exploitation of the world by the US will certainly continue. Only not as blatant and brazen. The “default position” among Trump and Biden is imperialism. Biden will continue meddling in the internal affairs of other states, will continue bullying trade “partners”, try to impose US products on Europe, sabotage Russia’s Nordstream 2, will continue building pipelines through indigenous territory, fracking, etc.

What else can we expect from Biden except a continuation of imperialist policies?

In Biden's case, political correctness in the USA will reach truly Orwellian levels and lead to a weakening of the traditional values and ethical foundations of Christian culture. Censorship practices with Google, Twitter and Amazon will be intensified. Self-censorship will become the “New Normal”. Biden also wants to continue the war against whistleblowers in general – not only against Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

If you take stock, can you see anything positive in Trump's policy?

His fight against the mainstream media, which he has lost, was an important signal against the omnipotence of the media. They get away with everything, even cutting off a president’s microphone in a discussion. Today people know more about the manipulation by the press. Many in America today know that CNN, the “New York Times” and “Washington Post” are spreading fake news and suppressing crucial information – only few people dared to say this before Trump took on the media. This is certainly something that can be seen as a positive development. He has also placed three excellent judges on the Supreme Court and helped expose the corruption in the “woke” word, including at “Planned Parenthood”.

Where do you see Trump's biggest foreign policy mistakes?

He has continued and even intensified the inhumane and illegal practice of imposing crippling economic sanctions on countries where he wanted “regime change”. Here we should mention the severely affected states such as Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and Iran. But also against Russia and all companies that cooperate with these mentioned states. It is a terrible weapon that Trump operated with. Sanctions kill people! And judging by the hundreds of thousands of victims in the world, this clearly amount of crimes against humanity for purposes of article 7 of the Statute of Rome of the International Criminal Court.

How do you judge his Middle East policy?

It is much influenced by the disregard for all international legal foundations and UN resolutions concerning the Middle East. The absurd “Deal of the century” between Israel and the Palestinians – which must therefore be rejected – as well as the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights are part of Trump’s arbitrariness, just like the new treaties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel – whereby the rights of the Palestinians are completely disregarded. The so-called “Abraham Accords” or “normalization agreements” are anything but benevolent.

With Trump and his predecessors of every hue we have seen that democratic principles are hardly respected. How could this respect be achieved?

The citizens must demand the right to have greater control over policies, such as budgetary priorities, the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, the sanctions policy, etc. The Swiss state model is much better – the people have the right of initiative, and they practice it, as well as the right of referendum on federal and cantonal laws and projects. This can be introduced without changing the US Constitution. Unfortunately there is no direct democratic tradition in the USA. A referendum culture would first have to be developed, at the municipal and state levels, before it could be introduced nationwide.

Shouldn't we also change something about the electoral system?

We should finally abolish the so-called “Electoral College”. The election should be direct. It was hardly democratic when, for example, Al Gore had many more votes than George W. Bush, and yet Bush became president. The same happened in 2016, when Hillary Clinton had more votes than Trump.

One has the impression that many wars were fought in the last decades of the US presidency. – Is this true?

Yes, both parties are militaristic and interventionist. For example, two Democratic presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, are responsible for the Vietnam War. The aggressions against Grenada and Nicaragua are on Republican Ronald Reagan’s conscience. The Republican George H.W. Bush pushed the “regime change” in Panama, killing 6,000 civilians and staged the 1991 war against Iraq with at least a hundred thousand deaths among the overwhelmed Iraqis. The Democrat Bill Clinton carried out the aggressions in the Balkans, especially the NATO attacks against Yugoslavia, and the mainstream media helped with disinformation and fake news. The Republican George W. Bush is responsible for the genocidal aggression against Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The Democrat Barak Obama has his hands full of blood because of Libya and Syria, the “regime changes” in Ukraine and a constant drone war against “terrorists”, which countless civilian have fallen victims to.

Were there no American presidents in recent decades who wanted peace?

Although the system always strives for hegemony, some presidents have also tried to promote peace. On the Republican side, President Dwight Eisenhower stopped the aggression of England and France against Egypt in 1956. Eisenhower also recognized the danger to democracy in the “military-industrial complex”. In fact, in his farewell address to the nation in January 1961, he formulated the dire warning and thus coined the term we all use today.[2]

With the Democrats there was none?

On the democratic side, Jimmy Carter tried to enable a just peace between the Israelis and the Arabs. He also wrote two books about this: “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land” and “Palestine Peace, not Apartheid”. The fact that he was not 100% on the Israeli side probably cost him re-election in 1980. I have had the opportunity to discuss many international law crises with Carter personally at the Carter Center in Atlanta. I consider him ethically the best US president in the last 100 years.

Jimmy Carter and Alfred de Zayas. «I consider him ethically the best US president in the last 100 years.» (picture zvg)


What kind of policy would a president of the USA have to pursue?

He should adhere to Christian ethics and fundamental Christian values, the US Constitution, the UN Charter and international treaties. In terms of foreign policy, this means reviving multilateralism and working with the UN to protect future generations from constant wars, as stated in the preamble of the UN Charter. He should respect the sanctity of life, not instigate wars, but resolve conflicts peacefully through negotiation and compromise. The inviolability of treaties must also be upheld. And when treaties become obsolete, they should be replaced by international negotiation.

Which treaties do you have in mind?

This is particularly important in the case of the treaties on the limitation of nuclear weapons. In fact, this applies to all military programs, including conventional weapons. In 2013 the US signed the UN “Arms Trade Treaty”, but never ratified it. In 2019 President Trump rescinded the US signature. What we need is a treaty to limit the production of weapons, not just their sale. We need to revive START, the Open Skies Treaty and other agreements that Trump threw in the bin. We need total nuclear disarmament and general disarmament so that life-enhancing policies can be pursued, especially in the health sector. In the USA we were totally unprepared for the Covid 19 crisis, partly because the budget priorities in the USA were wrong and research funds were spent on the development of terrible weapons, the so-called lethal autonomous weapon systems or “killing robots” etc. In contrast, research on pandemic prevention, hospital modernization, etc., lagged behind.

What kind of policy would Europe have to adopt towards the USA?

Europe itself should not pursue imperialist or neo-colonial policies in the world. Europe should adhere more to the UN Charter and international law. It should stop applying international law selectively and arbitrarily, stop provoking Russia, stop financing “color revolutions” and stop trying to integrate Ukraine or Georgia into NATO. Europe should lift its own sanctions against Russia, Belarus and Syria. If Europe does so, it will have more credibility in advocating retortion against the USA. Europe should take retaliatory measures if the US presumes to apply US laws extra-territorially, if German or Swiss companies are threatened or punished by the US when doing business with Russia or when building Nordstream 2.

What role can international organizations play here?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) should issue one or more Advisory Opinions on the illegality of US and EU sanctions policies under international law, and on the responsibility of the US and EU to make reparation to the victims. A resolution would first have to be adopted in the UN General Assembly (according to Article 96 of the UN Charter). The questions of international law must finally be clearly defined, and one must act accordingly.

What possibilities do you see with regard to sanctions policy that is contrary to international law?

The International Criminal Court should initiate an investigation in accordance with Art. 7 of the Rome Statute to ascertain that the economic sanctions against Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Syria and Venezuela constitute crimes against humanity because they have already caused hundreds of thousands of deaths – through a lack of food and medicine and through the weakening of the health systems of these states, especially today with regard to Covid-19.

This is a loss of all human foundations...

Yes, these economic sanctions can be compared to the murderous siege of cities during the Thirty Years War or the Nazi siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944. President Biden should properly finance and participate in good faith in the multilateral activities of the UN specialized agencies including the World Health Organization, Unesco, etc. And the United States should return to the Human Rights Council – because we need the voice of the United States, too. Trump wanted to “make America great again” – I say: To make America respected and maybe even loved again, one would have to revitalize the initiatives and examples of Eleanor Roosevelt and adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are enough decent human rights activists and experts in America – including Professors Noam Chomsky, Jeffrey Sachs, Dan Kovalik, John Quigley, Francis Boyle, among others – but they are not likely to be consulted and certainly not appointed by Biden. I expect “business as usual” – or continued exploitation of the world by Biden and his neo-conservative or neo-liberal team.

You nevertheless see possibilities to improve the coexistence of the peoples?

Yes, that is why the UN and the special organizations were established. Humanity has created countless instruments that could guarantee peaceful coexistence among peoples. We only have to implement them and bring them to bear, and then we could move into a more peaceful future. Europe and the USA have a responsibility to promote and adequately finance these bodies.

What can Trump do until the end of his term?

To make a dignified exit, Trump could immediately stop the persecution of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers. An amnesty for all whistleblowers would be the Christian thing to do. I cannot help but think of Richard Strauss’ opera “Der Rosenkavalier” (The Knight of the Rose with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal), where in the third act the scandalous Baron von Lerchenau loses everything and must exit empty-handed. There the Marschallin tells him: “try to keep your dignity and leave quietly ... only thus can you remain a person of rank  -- so to speak.”

 As an independent UN expert for the promotion of a democratic and just international order, you have worked hard for a more peaceful coexistence of peoples. Your speeches before the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council were received with applause, which is highly exceptional. What personal feedback was there from States, and how did the USA, your country of origin, behave?

When I was Special Rapporteur (2012-2018), I was in constant contact with many ambassadors in Geneva, especially ambassadors from Latin America, Africa and Asia. There was a mutual, even friendly exchange of ideas and initiatives, and I always insisted on my independence. I constantly tried to inform my ambassador from the United States, and regularly provided the US Mission in Geneva with reports and suggestions. I also tried to maintain good contacts with the European ambassadors as well as with the ambassadors of Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, etc., among others at social events and panel discussions. It was clear to me, of course, that the European Union did not quite appreciate my independence. They would have liked me to sing their song.

What were the reactions when your mandate ended?

After I had ended my mandate, I was encouraged by many ambassadors to make myself available for other UN assignments. I did this twice, my candidacy was put on the first short list, I was interviewed by 5 ambassadors for 50 minutes each time. The interviews went well – but I was not appointed. This is understandable, because I am not a “blank slate” anymore and my reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have not only garnered applause. Of course I remain closely attached to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, where I entertain many friendships, and I am ready to serve the cause again. But, as I said, the independence of the experts is hardly in demand in many states.

Professor de Zayas, thank you for the interview

Interview Thomas Kaiser


[1] Edward Snowden: Permanent Record. My story, S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2019, ISBN 978-3-10-397482-9

[2] www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg-jvHynP9Y

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