In Washington they think much further than in Berlin and Brussels — Friday

Apart from the cautiously tactical chancellor’s office, there seems to be only one direction in local politics and in the media regarding the Ukraine war: deliver heavy weapons as quickly as possible and even more sanctions against Russia. In the USA, on the other hand, the view of this war seems to be changing.

The start was made by an editorial by the “Editorial Board” of the New York Times from May 19th. The authors cite Avril Haines, chief of all 18 US intelligence agencies, who warned that “the conflict between Russia and Ukraine could become increasingly unpredictable and potentially escalating” to the point of the use of nuclear weapons. Against this background, they ask questions that would be almost unthinkable in the German mainstream: Is it in America’s interest to risk a war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace requires “hard decisions” from Ukraine? Is the US trying to empower Ukraine to defend itself – or is it trying to permanently weaken Russia and overthrow Vladimir Putin? Is the White House risking security and peace in Europe? They consider the assumption that the Ukrainian army can militarily win back areas lost to Russia to be absurd. Henry Kissinger made a similar statement at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

There are apparently two centers of power in rivalry in Washington. One, embodied in particular by the White House and State Department, continues to seek confrontation and hopes to inflict the same devastating defeat on Russia in Ukraine as the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan. The other, paradoxically strongly represented in the Pentagon, relies more on de-escalation. Or, to put it better, a realistic inventory. And that is: Militarily, Ukraine will not stand up to Russia in the long run. Politically, Moscow cannot afford not to win the war. And “win” means for the Putin government to take control of all of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastal regions, including the annexation of the Luhansk and Donbass regions.

Attempts to negotiate peace come to nothing

Anyone who tries to prevent this, for example by supplying more heavy weapons, prolongs the war, the destruction and the deaths – but this will not change anything in the end, moralism or not. The Russian army leadership has learned from its mistakes and is pursuing a militarily successful strategy of encirclement in the east, which in the worst case could result in the demise of the Ukrainian armed forces.

While Washington is already arguing loudly about the right amount of support for Kyiv, Berlin and Brussels are sticking to their previous line. Lots of phraseology (“Ukraine is also fighting for our freedom”), a policy with almost no analytical or strategic depth and an almost libidinal obsession with constantly new sanctions causing much more damage to the German and EU economy than to the Russian economy.

What is missing are proposals for shaping Europe for the post-war period. All attempts at peace negotiations have so far come to nothing. In both Brussels and Berlin, people seem to feel very comfortable as a junior partner waiting for impulses from the USA – what an oath of disclosure.

Michael Lüders recently published the book Hubris in the Hindu Kush. How the West failed in Afghanistan