The military policy adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel (2006 to 2013) was against arms deliveries to Ukraine from the beginning.
Red. Online INFOsperber
Voices like that of Erich Vad are almost no longer heard. Only if you take notice of such voices in addition to the many voices in big media, can you form your own opinion. That is why Infosperber documents here an interview that “Emma”’s editor Annika Ross conducted with Erich Vad on January 12.
Mr. Vad, what do you say to the delivery of the 40 Marder to Ukraine just announced by Chancellor Scholz?
This is a military escalation, also in the perception of the Russians – even if the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, which is over 40 years old, is not a miracle weapon. We are going down a slippery slope. This could develop a momentum of its own that we can no longer control. Of course it was and is right to support Ukraine, and of course Putin’s invasion is not in conformity with international law – but now the consequences must finally be considered!
And what could be the consequences?
Does one want to achieve readiness to negotiate with the deliveries of the tanks? Does one want to reconquer the Donbass or the Crimea? Or does one want to defeat Russia completely? There is no realistic end-state definition. And without an overall political and strategic concept, arms deliveries are pure militarism.
What does that mean?
We have a military-operational stalemate, but we cannot solve it militarily. By the way, this is also the opinion of the American Chief of Staff Mark Milley. He has said that a military victory for Ukraine is not to be expected and that negotiations are the only possible way. Anything else means a senseless waste of human lives.
General Milley’s statement caused a lot of anger in Washington and was also strongly criticized publicly.
He spoke an uncomfortable truth. A truth, by the way, that was almost not published in the German media. The interview with Milley by CNN did not appear in any bigger media, yet he is the Chief of Staff of our Western leading power. What is being conducted in Ukraine is a war of attrition. And one that now has close to 200,000 soldiers killed and wounded on both sides, 50,000 civilian deaths, and millions of refugees.
Milley has thus drawn a parallel with the First World War that could not be more apt. In World War I, the so-called “Blood Mill of Verdun” alone, designed as a battle of attrition, resulted in the deaths of nearly a million young French and Germans. They fell for nothing at that time. Thus, the refusal of the warring parties to negotiate led to millions of additional deaths. This strategy did not work militarily then – and will not do so now.
You, too, have been attacked for calling for negotiations.
Yes, as has the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, General Eberhard Zorn, who, like me, has warned against overestimating the Ukrainians’ regionally limited offensives during the summer months. Military experts – who know what goes on among the intelligence services, what it looks like on the ground and what war really means – are largely excluded from the discourse. They don’t fit in with the media’s opinion-making. To a large extent, we are witnessing a media conformity that I have never seen before in the Federal Republic of Germany. This is pure opinion mongering. And not on behalf of the state, as is known from totalitarian regimes, but out of pure self-empowerment.
They are being attacked by the media on a broad front, from BILD to FAZ and Spiegel, and with them the 500,000 people who signed the Open Letter to the Chancellor initiated by Alice Schwarzer.
That’s right. Fortunately, Alice Schwarzer has her own independent media to be able to open this discourse at all. It probably wouldn’t have worked in the leading media. The majority of the population has been against further arms deliveries for a long time, and according to the latest survey, too. But none of this is being reported. There is no longer any fair, open discourse on the war in Ukraine, and I find that very disturbing. It shows me how right Helmut Schmidt was. He said in a conversation with Chancellor Merkel: Germany is and remains a nation at risk.
What is your assessment of the foreign minister’s policy?
Military operations must always be linked to attempts to bring about political solutions. The one-dimensionality of the current foreign policy is hard to bear. It is very much focused on weapons. But the main task of foreign policy is and remains diplomacy, reconciliation of interests, understanding and conflict resolution. That’s what I miss here. I’m glad that we finally have a female foreign minister in Germany, but it’s not enough just to engage in war rhetoric and walk around Kiev or the Donbass in a helmet and flak jacket. That is not enough.
Yet Baerbock is a member of the Greens, the former peace party.
I don’t understand the mutation of the Greens from a pacifist party to a war party. I myself don’t know any Green who would even have done military service. Anton Hofreiter is for me the best example of this double standard. Antje Vollmer, on the other hand, whom I would count among the “original” Greens, calls a spade a spade. And the fact that a single party has so much political influence that it can maneuver us into a war is quite alarming.
If Chancellor Scholz had taken you over from his predecessor and you were still the chancellor’s military advisor, what would you have advised him to do in February 2022?
I would have advised him to support Ukraine militarily, but in a measured and prudent way, to avoid slippery slope effects into a warring party. And I would have advised him to influence our most important political ally, the United States. For the key to a solution to the war lies in Washington and Moscow. I have liked the course the chancellor has taken in recent months. But the Greens, the FDP and the bourgeois opposition – flanked by largely unanimous media accompaniment – are exerting such pressure that the chancellor can hardly absorb it.
And what if the Leopard main battle tank is also delivered?
Then the question arises again as to what should happen with the tank deliveries in the first place. To take over Crimea or the Donbass, the Marder and Leopard are not enough. In eastern Ukraine, in the Bachmut area, the Russians are clearly on the march. They will probably have completely conquered the Donbass before long. Just consider the numerical superiority of the Russians over Ukraine alone. Russia can mobilize up to two million reservists. The West can send 100 Marder and 100 leopards, they will not change the overall military situation. And the all-important question is how to get through such a conflict with a belligerent nuclear power – by the way, the strongest nuclear power in the world! – without going into a third world war. And this is precisely what here in Germany, does not get into the heads of the politicians and the journalists!
The argument is that Putin does not want to negotiate and that he must be put in his place so that he does not continue to rage in Europe.
It is true that one must signal to the Russians: This far and no further! Such a war of aggression must not be allowed to continue. That is why it is right for NATO to increase its military presence in the east and for Germany to join in. But Putin’s refusal to negotiate is untrustworthy. Both the Russians and the Ukrainians were prepared to reach a peace agreement at the beginning of the war at the end of March, beginning of April 2022. Then nothing came of it. Finally, during the war, the grain agreement was negotiated by the Russians and the Ukrainians with the involvement of the United Nations.
Now the dying continues
You can continue to wear down the Russians, which in turn means hundreds of thousands of deaths, but on both sides. And it means further destruction of Ukraine. What will be left of this country? It will be razed to the ground. In the end, that is no longer an option for Ukraine either. The key to resolving the conflict does not lie in Kiev, it does not lie in Berlin, Brussels or Paris, it lies in Washington and Moscow. It is ridiculous to say that Ukraine must decide this.
With this interpretation, one is quickly considered a conspiracy theorist in Germany…
I myself am a convinced transatlanticist. I’ll tell you honestly, in case of doubt, I’d rather live under an American hegemony than under a Russian or Chinese one. This war was initially just a domestic Ukrainian dispute. It started back in 2014, between the Russian-speaking ethnic groups and the Ukrainians themselves. So it has been a civil war. Now, after Russia’s invasion, it has become an interstate war between Ukraine and Russia. It is also a struggle for the independence of Ukraine and its territorial integrity. That is all true.
But it is not the whole truth. It is also a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, and there are very concrete geopolitical interests at stake in the Black Sea region.
The Black Sea region is as important for the Russians and their Black Sea fleet as the Caribbean or the region around Panama is for the USA. As important as the South China Sea and Taiwan for China. As important as Turkey’s protection zone, which they established against the Kurds in violation of international law. Against this background and for strategic reasons, the Russians cannot get out of there either. Apart from the fact that in a referendum in Crimea, the population would certainly decide in favor of Russia.
So how should this continue?
If the Russians were forced by massive Western intervention to withdraw from the Black Sea region, then before they step off the world stage, they would certainly turn to nuclear weapons. I find naive the belief that a nuclear strike by Russia would never happen. According to the motto, “They’re just bluffing.”
But what could be the solution?
One should simply ask the people in the region, i.e. in the Donbass and Crimea, to whom they want to belong. The territorial integrity of Ukraine should be restored, with certain Western guarantees. And the Russians need such a security guarantee as well. So no NATO membership for Ukraine. Since the Bucharest summit in 2008, it’s been clear that that’s the red line for the Russians.
And what do you think Germany can do?
We have to measure our military support in such a way that we don’t slide into a Third World War. None of those who went to war in 1914 with great enthusiasm thought afterwards that it was the right thing to do. If the goal is an independent Ukraine, we must also ask ourselves in perspective what a European order involving Russia should look like. Russia will not simply disappear from the map. We must avoid driving the Russians into the arms of the Chinese and thus shifting the multipolar order to our disadvantage.
We also need Russia as the leading power of a multi-ethnic state in order to avoid flare-ups of fighting and wars. And frankly, I don’t see Ukraine becoming a member of the EU, let alone of NATO. We have high corruption and rule by oligarchs in Ukraine just as we have in Russia. What we in Turkey – rightly – denounce in terms of the rule of law, we also have that problem in Ukraine.
What do you think, Mr. Vad, what awaits us in 2023?
There needs to be a broader front for peace building in Washington. And this senseless actionism in German politics must finally come to an end. Otherwise, we’ll wake up one morning and be in the middle of World War III.