It is our pleasure to publish this analysis by George and Doris Pumphrey.
Doris and George Pumphrey are long-standing activists in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the United States, France and Germany. Doris is a German citizen, George a USA-born French citizen. They are co-authors of the paperback Ghettos und Gefängnisse – Rassismus und Menschenrechte in den USA (1982). They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the political and media mainstream, and even in the peace movement, the case seems clear: Russia has been considered the “aggressor” at least since February 24, 2022. This ahistorical approach is misleading. The facts of the case are more complicated – also in terms of international law – as the analysis documented here shows.
“The conflict was triggered by NATO. It is now a conflict that will be resolved by Russia.”
(Scott Ritter, former U.S. Marine intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector)
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism fancied itself the eternal hegemon, with nothing to stop it from finally making its long-awaited move to take control of Russia’s vast mineral resources. Destabilization in the post-Soviet realm through “color revolutions” with the help of NGOs and the containment of Russia through NATO’s eastward expansion were to prevent Russia’s resurgence. Ukraine plays a special role in this plan.
The Pentagon-affiliated think tank “RAND Corporation” clearly formulated the U.S. strategy: “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia” – with a catalog of measures to weaken Russia. The most important measure was aimed at using Ukraine to “exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability,” by arming it and providing military advice to spark a conflict with Russia.
Ukraine is thus only a means to an end. The U.S.-led coup in Kiev in 2014, supported by the EU and the German government, and Ukraine’s transformation into a neo-Nazi bulwark against Russia served this purpose.
The population in the Donbass refused to submit to the national-chauvinist coup plotters, who suspended the constitution, declared war on everything Russian, and discriminated against Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Following referendums, the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Lugansk declared their autonomy as people’s republics. They defended themselves for eight years against the foreign-controlled Kiev regime’s aggression, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
The West did not want a peaceful solution
The Russian government was committed to a peaceful solution of the conflict within Ukraine’s national framework, as provided for in the Minsk II Agreement (Minsk Agreement). On February 17, 2015, the UN Security Council recognized the Minsk Agreement as binding under international law with its Resolution 2202 (2015), which, among other things, also provided for a special status for the Donbass. As guarantor powers, Germany, France, and Russia were supposed to ensure its implementation, which was systematically sabotaged by Kiev in the years that followed.
In February 2021, Russia submitted an initiative motion to the OSCE in support of timely implementation of Minsk II. It was rejected by Ukraine and the Western OSCE countries, including the guarantor powers France and Germany.
The central element of Minsk II was direct dialogue between Kiev and the representatives of the Donbas People’s Republics, an approach supported by the latter. In a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in November 2021, Germany and France declared that they no longer supported this central element. That was a de facto abrogation of the Minsk Agreement, which was binding under international law – in other words, a breach of international law. This made a solution of the conflict within the framework of Ukraine’s national structure impossible. At a press conference in September 2022, Foreign Minister Lavrov pointed out that even the UN Secretary General had not been “active enough to promote the Minsk agreements implementation.”
With the 2014 coup in Kiev, the U.S./NATO/EU and the German government had triggered the conflict. Implementation of the Minsk agreement would have been the path to its peaceful settlement. However, as Ukrainian President Poroshenko, who signed Minsk II, recently admitted, this had never been his objective. He only wanted to buy time with Minsk II “to establish the best armed military in Eastern Europe, trained according to NATO standards.” Apparently, this was also what then-Chancellor Angela Merkel had wanted, as she now candidly explains in two interviews.
The Russian government had hoped in vain for political comprehension from its “partners” and, within the framework of the Minsk process, had insisted on returning Donetsk and Lugansk to Ukraine with a special status. It was a mistake, as President Putin now believes. “Russia should have recognized the Donbass republics earlier.” It might have prevented a lot of suffering. But, of course, it would not have spared Russia from outcries from the West – and accusations, including from the peace movement – that this was “in violation of international law.”
The traditional peace movement in Germany had already paralyzed itself in 2014, when the question of whether Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation was covered by international law often played a greater role than the realization that it had thwarted U.S. plans to transform Sevastopol into a NATO base against Russia – which would have created an extremely dangerous situation for peace. Moreover, the anti-Putin tsunami that had reached its first peak at the time and the fear of being branded a “Putin-Versteher” (Putin’s “fellow traveler,” editor’s note) had an intimidating effect on many.
In March 2021, Ukrainian President Zelensky had signed a decree to militarily retake the Donbass and Crimea – a direct threat also to the territory of the Russian Federation. His government was ordered to develop an appropriate “plan of action.”
With concrete proposals for treaties on security guarantees with the United States and NATO, the Russian government had tried to defuse the situation as late as December 2021 and to create the basis for peaceful coexistence.
When, in January/February 2022, Kiev had significantly expanded its war of aggression by concentrating its military, with its neo-Nazi battalions, on the borders of Donetsk and Lugansk, when artillery attacks against the local population became increasingly intensified, when the U.S./NATO still had not given a constructive response to Russian proposals, the Russian government, according to a press release on February 17, made a final attempt to prevent the imminent massive incursion by Kiev’s troops and to achieve a peaceful solution.
Moscow warned, “If the American side is not ready to reach agreement on solid, legally binding guarantees to ensure our security from the U.S. and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including with military-technical measures.”
George Beebe, former director of the CIA’s Russia Division, reflects:
“The choice that we faced in Ukraine — and I’m using the past tense there intentionally — was whether Russia exercised a veto over NATO involvement in Ukraine on the negotiating table or on the battlefield. And we elected to make sure that the veto was exercised on the battlefield, hoping that either Putin would stay his hand or that the military operation would fail.”
The US/NATO/EU had no interest in a peaceful solution. The strategy was to weaken and ultimately decimate Russia.
The internationally binding Minsk II agreement, abrogated by the West, the provocative announcements about Ukraine’s NATO membership and nuclear armament, and the country’s increasing military buildup exacerbated tensions with Russia. On Feb. 8, 2022, NATO’s Atlantic Council think tank had recommended in a strategy paper: “Washington’s objective should be to get the Russians out of eastern Ukraine.”
On February 21, Russia recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as independent states and signed treaties of friendship and mutual assistance. Finally, on February 24, Russia intervened in the war, which had been on-going already for eight years, to protect its allies from the threat of ethnic cleansing and to counter the growing existential threat to the Russian Federation posed by the United States and NATO.
As Gabriele Gysi aptly put it:
“The Ukrainian civil war has forced responsibility on to Russia for the Russian population of Ukraine – and thus forced Russia into this war. The ‘Russian aggression’ came after long attempts at a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian problems.”
The German peace movement and “war of aggression against international law”
Many older German leftists in parties and the traditional peace movement, for whom friendship with the Soviet Union and later with Russia was important, particularly out of historical awareness, were shocked, disappointed, their trust in Russia was shaken. After all, it had been so easy to defend the policy of a Russia that always reacted patiently, whose efforts to win the understanding of its Western “partners” seemed endless, while being only lied to and deceived.
How can particularly those in the peace movement, who profess German historical responsibility, remain silent in the face of the Russophobic neo-Nazism that now permeates all spheres of Ukraine. How credible is an anti-fascism that does not take a clear position against Germany’s massive political and material support for a regime that worships Nazi and SS collaborators as national heroes, first and foremost the mass murderer Stepan Bandera – and against the fascistoid anti-Russian hysteria that dominates and poisons the entire public discourse here in Germany.
Without taking time to analyze more comprehensively the new situation that has arisen with Russia’s military intervention, the peace movement indignantly – and with only a few exceptions – immediately joined in NATO’s canon of Russia’s “war of aggression in violation of international law.” The Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag declared: “We condemn Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. There is no justification for war. The complicity of the West, especially the U.S. and NATO, in no way justifies this military aggression.”
Albrecht Müller, the former head of planning in the German Chancellery, who is particularly committed to Willy Brandt’s détente policy, asked in July on the NachDenkSeiten:
“When will the kowtowing to the generalized outrage over ‘Putin’s crimes of aggression’ finally end!”
He suggested putting a stop to it, because incantations such as “invasion in violation of international law,” “inhuman war of aggression,” and so on, not only relativize and even devalue – otherwise good analyses – but also contribute to the reinforcement of “bias and aggression against Russia.”
Many from Germany’s peace and leftist organizations feel they must kowtow to these incantations to maintain their “credibility.”
In so doing, they refer almost exclusively to the prohibition of violence in international relations as set forth in the UN Charter Article 2, paragraph 4. There is the exception to this rule in Article 51: “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense.” However, reference to Article 51 is dismissed by many in the peace movement as irrelevant in this context. They claim that the Donbass republics have no right to secede from Ukraine, and thus the mutual assistance treaty with Russia is invalid under international law. It is forgotten that Ukraine had claimed the right of secession for itself at the dissolution of the Soviet Union, without regard to the territories affected by it.
Russia had been hastily judged based on Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, and this seemed to settle any further discussion.
In its statement “Ukraine’s sovereignty violated by NATO-inspired coup,” the German Freethinkers’ Association wrote:
“The arguments used to prove Russia’s breach of international law are based in the abstract on the premise that Russia, out of the blue, had chopped off a piece of a sovereign state. What really happened in Ukraine, however, was that a violent coup overthrew the legally formed and internationally recognized government in Kiev. (…) It became immediately apparent that the coup government did not have control over large parts of the country. Nonetheless, it was recognized on an expedited basis by the U.S., NATO and EU countries as the legitimate representation of Ukraine. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were violated by NATO governments.”
Consideration should also be given to Article 7 of UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX) on the “Definition of Aggression.”
“Nothing in this Definition, and in particular article 3, could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right (…) particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination: nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration.”
Accordingly, following the renunciation of the internationally binding Minsk II agreement by Kiev and its Western patrons, the Donbass regions, in their struggle against the foreign-dominated Russophobic regime in Kiev, had the right to self-determination and independence, and the right to seek and receive Russia’s support.
Some commentators consider Russian support a case of the so-called “responsibility to protect” or “R2P.” This is incorrect.
“R2P” is an imperialist doctrine invented by NATO in the aftermath of its aggression against Yugoslavia. Under the “R2P” doctrine, imperialists claim the “right” to invade another country and overthrow its government – purportedly to stop “crimes against humanity.” This doctrine was first applied in Libya, and the results are well known. “R2P,” then, is not based on a government’s request for foreign military assistance. “R2P” replaces the fundamental principle of the UN Charter – the sovereign equality of all nations – with the law of the jungle. Accompanying propaganda structures have been created over the years, including the International Criminal Court and various “international tribunals” as well as “human rights” NGOs – all at the behest of various Western governments to propagate false accusations to justify wars and regime change in countries that resist their dictates.
Developments since February 24 show that NATO was already deeply involved in Ukraine, and they confirm the rationale for Russian intervention. The confessions of the U.S. and NATO also show how concrete this threat was. After all, what else does it mean when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg proudly proclaims today that NATO has been preparing for war against Russia since 2014. And when Pentagon spokesman John Kirby boasts that the U.S. and its allies have been training and equipping the Ukrainian army for war for eight years.
U.S. hegemony versus a multipolar democratic world order
Those in the German peace movement who were so quick to condemn Russia should answer the question: Once the West had blocked all avenues to a peaceful solution, what concrete alternative did Russia have? Watching the Kiev army, with its neo-Nazi battalions, invade the Donbass, and slaughter ethnic Russians wholesale, hound and expel them? Should Russia have capitulated to the ever-worsening existential threat? Stand by and watch as Ukraine would finally be made into an official NATO base – with the deployment of nuclear weapons? Would this have made Europe safer? Is this really what the peace movement would have preferred?
In their delusion of defeating Russia, USA/NATO/EU and the completely irresponsible and historically-ignorant foreign policy of the German government, are escalating toward the extreme, thus encouraging the Kiev regime to commit provocations endangering world peace – as the incident with the Ukrainian missile that hit Poland shows.
U.S. military officials know that today, war against Russia cannot be limited to Europe, as they had once dreamed, back in the 1980s. They know Russian military strategy and have great respect for Russia’s new nuclear weapons. As absurd as it may sound, it is their deterrent effect that also protects us in Western Europe. Fearing the Russian reaction, Washington is also shying more than ever away from a conventional attack on Russia that could end in a nuclear world war. This can be seen in the U.S. and the Western European NATO governments’ reaction, which in the aftermath of the Ukrainian missile provocation defused the situation as quickly as possible.
Nevertheless, the danger of a nuclear war has not yet been averted, since the leading personnel of the “Western community of values” have now reached the lowest level, especially in terms of a sense of responsibility and a perception of reality – as can also be seen from their provocations against China. Conflicts can come to a head, new ones can be added through their “rules-based international order”, which Volker Perthes, former head of the government-affiliated “German Institute for International and Security Affairs” (SWP) bluntly describes:
“An alliance of willing states must devise international rules without arousing suspicion that the aim is Western dominance.”
When it comes to war and peace, the question that must be asked and answered: Who represents and pursues which interests in the international confrontation? The peace movement may neither cover up nor remain silent about causes and responsibilities, but must investigate and inform.
If the peace movement in Germany wants to become a politically significant factor, it must oppose government policies that serve U.S. hegemony at home and abroad and which are characterized by hostility, economic warfare, and the arms build-up against Russia.
Eurocentrism, which has become even more myopic through the EU, is also affecting the peace movement. Many do not seem to realize that Russia’s military intervention in the war in Ukraine – supported by NATO for the past eight years – is a catalyst to finally break the Western hegemony that inflicts so much misery and suffering throughout the world.
More and more countries, primarily in the Global South, are striving to free themselves from this hegemonic dictatorship. They oppose the double standards, paternalism and neo-colonialism of the NATO/EU West and seek cooperation with Russia and China, and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) alliances.
Russia’s intervention has accelerated the momentum of international development toward a post-Western, multipolar, democratic world order based on the “sovereign equality” of all nations. International law, which the West has long since abandoned, must first be brought to bear globally and for all.
The struggle is about “a U.S. hegemony versus a multipolar, democratic world order.” If the peace movement does not want to end up in isolation, it will have to decide sooner or later to resolutely position itself in this struggle. Which Side Are You On?