This woman’s way with words works wonders…
German Left Party MP Sevim Dağdelen denounces the proxy war in Ukraine, saying EU members have become “servile vassals” that are “pursuing the interests of US corporations and following foreign policy instructions from Washington”, in an attempt “to preserve its absolute global predominance in the twilight of a unipolar age”
Sevim Dağdelen has been a member of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, since 2005. She is the spokeswoman for the Die Linke (Left Party) parliamentary group on the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, a deputy member of the Defense Committee, and spokeswoman for international policy and disarmament.
This is the speech she delivered at the International Conference for the Balance of the World (Conferencia internacional “Por el Equilibrio del Mundo”) in La Habana, Cuba, on January 26, 2023.
Source: Geopolitical Economy
It is an honor for me to be given the privilege of addressing you here today as part of this superb program. This conference turns the spotlight on the key question of our time – namely, how can humanity, in all its diversity, achieve balanced coexistence?
In a context of war, militarization, and increasingly bitter bloc confrontation with the potential to escalate into a third world war, this question is of existential importance.
I speak to you today as a Member of Parliament from the left- wing opposition in a country that is a warring party in the Ukraine conflict.
Germany is not only taking part in the West’s unprecedented economic war against Russia, but Germany is also participating in the US-led proxy war against Russia on Ukrainian soil by supplying heavy arms, training Ukrainian troops, and providing intelligence support.
Because of massive pressure from the USA, just today [January 26] the German government decided to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine. This is an extremely dangerous escalation and paves the way for sending Germany directly into the line of fire.
Until just now, supplying heavy battle tanks was considered absolutely taboo and has been a red line for German Chancellor Scholz. In this context, it is extremely worrying how the war propaganda in Germany is picking up speed. In the German public and the mainstream media, this step is celebrated as an important milestone.
Immediately after the federal government’s decision to deliver heavy battle tanks, there are now calls for the delivery of fighter jets. In this logic of military escalation, the delivery of fighter jets is followed by the delivery of warships, ballistic missiles and, in the end, own troops.
In order to stop the war in Ukraine and prevent an escalation towards a third world war, we urgently need diplomatic initiatives.
The absence of military and economic force is also the prerequisite for a global balance, for a just world order, for social and environmental development.
The war in Ukraine has set humanity back several years, if not decades, on this path. Against this backdrop, I would like to deal in my talk with the following questions:
How can the origins of this war be explained? What are the global effects of the war, particularly on countries of the Global South that are not involved in the war but are severely affected by its consequences?
What ways could there be to resolve this conflict, and what prospects could there be for a world order based on peaceful coexistence and fairness?
My initial hypothesis comprises three parts.
Firstly, the proxy war in Ukraine is indicative of an attempt by the United States to preserve its absolute global predominance in the twilight of a unipolar age.
An elementary part of this strategy has been the US quest since the end of the Cold War to prevent the creation of a common security system in Europe that includes Russia.
The resultant war is therefore partly due to the inability of Europe and the EU, because of the political rule of a comprador bourgeoisie, to cast off their dependence on the United States and to pursue a sovereign policy attuned to the interests of their own population, a policy aimed at peace, stability, and prosperity.
Secondly, the war against Russia, which is being waged primarily on the economic front, is also an inwardly targeted social assault.
In Europe, the senseless economic war is tantamount to economic self-amputation, and is conducive to a shift in the balance of power within the Western alliance in favor of the United States.
The unprecedented militarization in the context of the mobilization against Russia is also being accompanied by a massive bottom-up redistribution of wealth within NATO countries. While low-earners despair of meeting the rocketing cost of energy and food because of the economic sanctions, the energy companies are reaping billions in windfall profits.
Thirdly, in the hegemonic conflict with Russia, the West is holding the countries of the Global South hostage, and so is increasingly isolating itself.
Rising food and energy prices, the spread of hunger and poverty and the stifling of economic development in the already vulnerable parts of this world are the devastating collateral damage.
Given the global impact of the war and the way in which the so-called “rules-based international order” propagated by the West has lost credibility, it is understandable that many states in Africa, Latin America, and Asia have refused to take sides on the war in Ukraine.
The brazen attempts made by the West to nevertheless enlist these countries’ support in the confrontation with Russia are a manifestation of neo-colonial arrogance. Rather, the failure to make Russia a pariah state shows the limits of the Western drive for hegemony in an increasingly multipolar world.
Yet before potential solutions to the conflict can be discussed, we cannot avoid casting a backward glance to its origins. I would like to make it clear that Russia’s attack on Ukraine constitutes an illegal war that can be justified neither by the Western violations of international law nor by NATO breaking its promises, made after the end of the Cold War, not to expand to the borders of Russia.
There is, however, a history behind the war in Ukraine; that must be stressed. The war in Ukraine is the direct consequence of NATO’s eastward expansion after the end of the Cold War.
Following the end of the bloc confrontation, instead of helping to build a Common European Home in the spirit of the 1990 Charter of Paris, the West systematically drove Russia into a corner.
Driven by the hubris of belief in the superiority of the capitalist market economy at the “end of history” proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama, the United States did all in its power to denigrate Russia as the loser of the Cold War.
Pushing NATO’s boundaries to Russia’s borders constitutes a breach of Russia’s security interests, which Russia calls an existential threat. In this respect, accession of Ukraine or Georgia to NATO were unmistakably presented as a red line.
As more or less servile vassals of the United States, the EU member states have been unable to find a diplomatic solution that would prevent a military escalation of the Ukraine conflict.
Part of that history is also the recent admission made by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President François Hollande, who acknowledged that there had never been any interest on the part of the West in fulfilling the legal requirements of the Minsk agreements, but that the sole objective was to gain time for Ukraine to arm itself.
Even after February 24, 2022, when the Russian attacks began, the West scuppered a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
As early as the end of March 2022, very promising negotiations took place between Russia and Ukraine under Turkish mediation in Istanbul.
The withdrawal of the West’s support for a ceasefire and a diplomatic agreement has resulted in more than 200,000 dead and wounded military personnel on both sides, 40,000 civilian deaths, and millions of refugees.
The sheer cynicism of this war is also exemplified by the fact that, in the dazzled eyes of Western public opinion, “solidarity with Ukraine” is measured in arms supplies instead of in diplomatic initiatives to end the war, while people are being sacrificed on the battlefield in Ukraine to the geopolitical goals of the United States.
The Western strategy of seeking to defeat Russia militarily by supplying Ukraine with more and more heavy armaments is foolish and irresponsible. Russia is a nuclear power and is not prepared to give up its existential interests.
The arms supplies are prolonging the war and creating a risk of escalation to a third world war. Those who seek war send weapons; those who seek peace send diplomats.
Against the backdrop of a potential futile static war of attrition, even General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has now expressed the opinion that the time for negotiation has come.
Regrettably, the views of Milley, who is one of the few voices of reason on this issue in the US establishment, have not gained acceptance.
NATO’s military proxy war in Ukraine is backed up by unprecedented economic sanctions. While the West is clearly failing to achieve its declared aim of bankrupting Russia or even reducing Russia’s ability to wage war, the economic war is having a boomerang effect, especially in Europe.
Employees in Germany have suffered a 4.7% drop in real incomes, the largest real wage slump in the history of the Federal Republic. One in four businesses is planning job cuts in the wake of spiralling energy prices, while entire industries are facing ruin or intend to relocate their production facilities to other countries.
What is more, the US is trying, through investment programs worth several hundred billion dollars, to squeeze extra profits out of the disastrous situation at the expense of the EU.
Besides the cannibalization of the West and its self-amputation that are resulting from the economic war, its governments are knowingly accepting the devastating effects of the sanctions on large areas of the Global South.
The Western sanctions against Russia have caused a huge global surge in food and energy prices. Because of the EU sanctions exports of Russian fertilizers fell by 15% last year.
According to UN data, last year’s global grain harvest had already declined by 2.4%, which was due to a fertilizer shortage. While accusing Russia of weaponizing hunger, the West is still undermining the promise made to Russia as part of the UN-brokered grain deal that sanction-based restrictions on food and fertilizers would be lifted in full awareness that this will lead to millions more people in the Global South dying of starvation.
These Western double standards are another reason why the West has failed in its bid to isolate Russia.
In the Western media, a clear North-South divide concerning the war on Ukraine is often overlooked. The fact is that fewer than 40 of the 193 UN member states have imposed sanctions on Russia, while fewer than 30 have pledged military assistance for Ukraine.
This can hardly be described as isolation of Russia by the so-called “international community”. On the contrary, large countries like China and India are currently intensifying their economic relations with Russia.
There is widespread mystification in the Global South regarding the assertion that the Russian attack on Ukraine marks a historical watershed and an unparalleled violation of international law.
NATO’s illegal wars, the heinous crimes against human rights, the bombardments of civil infrastructure, the drone killings, the extrajudicial executions, and the selective application of international law have not strengthened the credibility of the West and of its alleged commitment to a rules-based international order, but weakened it.
Representatives of states in the Global South rightly refer to the many other wars and conflicts that receive far less coverage.
Malian human-rights activist and former Minister of Culture and Tourism Aminata Traoré reminded delegates at a conference in Berlin last week that 90% of the world’s armed conflicts are taking place in the Middle East and Africa, much of the blame for which attaches to the EU states, with their neocolonialist policies.
And Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Ethiopian secretary-general of the WHO, the World Health Organization, has observed that “the world is not treating the human race the same way”.
In the light of the enduring crises in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria, he made the apt comment that “some are more equal than others”.
The fact that the countries of the Global South are not participating in the economic sanctions against Russia is not without reason. It testifies to the painful experience that many countries have undergone because of the dire consequences of Western sanctions policies.
Let me repeat quite clearly that sanctions are an act of war. Or, to paraphrase the saying coined by Carl von Clausewitz, sanctions are the continuation of war by economic means.
Since they are designed to bring poverty, destitution, and death to the civilian population, economic sanctions are always an inherently violent course of action.
This is illustrated by the 500,000 children in Iraq who had to die as a result of the sanctions in the 1990s. In response to their deaths, Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, said “the price is worth it“.
For decades, the West, besides resorting to military invasions, has used sanctions and economic blockades to bring about regime change and to subjugate countries that had been using their democratic sovereignty for their own autonomous development, free from neocolonial exploitation.
The inhuman embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States in breach of international law has lasted more than 60 years, costing this country several billion dollars every year.
May I also mention the 40,000 people in Venezuela who, according to a study conducted by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), lost their lives as a result of US sanctions in the years from 2017 to 2019.
The self-assured responses to the failed isolation strategy of the West are also a reflection of tectonic shifts in the global power structure.
The relative decline of the West and its leading power, the United States, has been accompanied by the meteoric economic development of ascendent powers, especially of China.
Given the neocolonial domination of much of the Global South, such developments are a thorn in the flesh for the West. It was not without reason that US President Joe Biden described China as the arch-enemy of the United States.
And at the NATO summit in Madrid in June 2022, China was flagged up for the first time as a challenging source of “systemic competition”, not because China – which, unlike the United States, has not fought a war for decades – poses a military threat but rather because China’s economy has grown within a very short space of time into the second largest in the world and one of the main drivers of innovation and technological progress.
What is at stake in the systemic rivalry proclaimed by the West between “democracies” and “autocracies” is quite simply the defense of its own hegemonic primacy.
The accompanying Western policy of expansion and confrontation, as illustrated by the militarization of the Indo-Pacific region, has huge escalation potential.
On January 24, the hands of the doomsday clock, a metaphor that represents how close humanity is to self- destruction, were edged closer than ever toward midnight by the risk of nuclear war and advancing climate change.
The urgent need for action is self-evident. But how can a way out of the present existentially threatening situation be found?
In view of the horrific impact of the war in Ukraine on the people there and in very many other parts of the world and given the real danger of nuclear war, ending that conflict must take priority.
The wise and forward-pointing calls made by many countries of the Global South for a ceasefire and for a diplomatic solution that will bring an early end to the war are in tune with the fervent wish of most of the population in Western countries for peace, security and stability.
This common interest must be harnessed to bring forth a peaceful solution and for the time thereafter.
Like almost all wars, this one can only be ended through negotiation. It will not be possible to arrive at a peaceful solution by sidestepping the issue at the heart of the conflict, namely NATO enlargement and Ukrainian neutrality.
Unrealistic demands, such as full restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, will make any compromise impossible from the outset.
Unlikely though it may now seem, peace and security are possible in the long term, but only with a European security structure to supersede the NATO policy of confrontation and arms accumulation.
Achievement of this goal depends on Europe freeing itself from US domination and pursuing its own independent, sovereign foreign and security policy. This should be based on a fundamental quest for peaceful coexistence through diplomacy and conciliation of interests.
It also involves preventing any exacerbation of the bloc confrontation between the West and China and refusing to be drawn into the US economic war with China, also to avoid the consequences of a ruinous decoupling.
We must be clearly aware, however, that we in Europe – as was the case in Latin America before the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions – are now confronted with comprador bourgeoisies that seem only to be pursuing the interests of US corporations and following foreign policy instructions from Washington.
The recent decision of supplying heavy battle tanks shows that Europe and Germany in particular are submitting to the US strategy to conclusively destroy European-Russian relations and to be sent into Russia’s line of fire.
The democratic emancipation of Europe from the US is thus a question of “to be or not to be”; it has become an issue of existential importance.
To the countries of the South, the current trend towards a multipolar world order offers a great opportunity.
The economic and geopolitical weight of international groupings such as the BRICS bloc of countries, which are home to 40% of the global population, or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but also of anti-hegemonic regional organizations such as CELAC and the African Union, could potentially enable these bodies to renegotiate international economic relationships and restore democratic sovereignty.
Recent political developments in Latin America, where for the first time in history the six largest economies of the region have left-wing or center-left governments, can also decisively advance self-determined regional integration politically and economically.
When we discuss a New International Economic Order here, the experiences of the regional alternative alliance ALBA-TCP (La Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América -Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos), which was launched more than 18 years ago by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, are of crucial importance for a complementary solidary economy. So are alternative financial institutions like the Banco del Sur and the Banco del ALBA.
In a world marred by war, neo-colonial exploitation, growing inequality and environmental destruction, the common task of progressive forces in the West, as in the South, is to reflect on new fairer multilateral alternatives for global equilibrium in place of neoliberal globalization and to make them a reality.
In this spirit, let me express my gratitude for this great conference. I look forward to the continuing discussions with you.
Another world is possible – we are not abandoning hope. Thank you very much.