Saturday 10 December 2022

Annalena Baerbock, there are no special people (The Sunday Guardian)


In the view of Biden or Scholz, unlike Somalis, Tigrayans or Afghans, the Ukrainians are European, they are special.

Annalena Baerbock, the Foreign Minister of Germany, is unusual amongst her Atlanticist peers for several reasons, not merely her relative youth and outgoing personality. The worldwide Green movement is known for its hostility to armed conflict, and especially to its aversion in getting involved in one. The leader of the Green Party in Germany is an exception. Not only is she not averse to her country getting involved in the conflict that has been playing out in Ukraine since February 24, she is among the most insistent voices that are calling for a more robust role for Germany in the proxy war that NATO is waging in Ukraine with the Russian Federation. In the 20th century, conflicts between Russia and Germany were not encouraging for Berlin. In 1917, after the Tsarist regime crumbled as a consequence of the war that Tsar Nicholas launched on Imperial Germany in 1914, he had to abdicate, and the successor government led by Alexander Kerensky doomed his government to extinction by opting to continue the Tsar’s war. Russian soldiers had had enough of fighting foreign armies especially as they were malnourished, poorly equipped and disastrously led. The soldiers had turned against Tsar Nicholas for that reason, and they turned against Kerensky once he sought to carry on with the war. There was a politician, who at that time was in exile in Sweden, who had a better political instinct than Kerensky. Bolshevik supremo Vladimir Lenin had from the start of the war in 1914 called it an act of madness, and had demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities by Russia. Consequently, it was the German General Staff who organised the return of Lenin to his native Russia, so as to weaken the Kerensky government. In the process, the anti-communist German military installed the first avowedly Marxist government in the largest country on earth. The brain behind the return of Lenin, Field Marshal Ludendorff, therefore got a bit more than he had expected from the return of the Bolshevik supremo to Russia. Ignoring taunts that he was a German agent, Lenin endeared himself not just to soldiers but to Russian people at large who were worn down by the war on Austria and Germany that the (by now deposed and soon to be executed) Tsar had initiated in 1917 at the request of (among others) his cousin, the King of England. Afterwards, King George repaid this favour by refusing during 1917-18 to make any attempt at rescuing “Cousin Nikki” and his wife and children from Bolshevik captivity, leaving them to perish at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Once Germany had an eager proponent of a new war, Adolf Hitler, as its leader from 1933 onwards, military experts warned the dictator to avoid a second front by initiating hostilities with Soviet Russia in the war he launched in 1939. Hitler spurned this advice and attacked Russia in 1941 before subduing Britain. That decision, in addition to his genocide of some of the most talented segments of the German population, the Jewish people, ensured the defeat of Germany by 1945.
Whether it was Gerhard Schroeder, Angela Merkel or other Chancellors dealing with post-Soviet Russia, they each sought to retain a cooperative rather than a combative relationship with Moscow. Such a policy served German interests well. That policy has changed under Olaf Scholz, who in 2022 has become as much of a cheerleader for the NATO crusade against the Russian Federation as Boris Johnson was while Prime Minister of the UK. In the past, German leaders believed that the Germans were a special type of human being, far superior to any other. The way in which “inferior” Russian soldiers reduced the “superior” German formations to mincemeat during the 1941-45 war between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany showed such assumptions (of superiority) to be a bit removed from reality. These days, Scholz and his colleagues, including Baerbock, think a bit differently from those in power in days past. For Scholz or Baerbock, it is not just the Germans who are a special people but Europeans as a whole. Which is why, in their minds and those of multiple officials and politicians from Germany, those devoid of European ethnicity need to abide by what the European Union demands of them. After all, as Josep Borrell eloquently pointed out, the EU is the “garden” and the developing world the “jungle”. To him, Von der Leyen and others in the EU of the “Euro First and Only “ way of thinking, not to forget Europeanists in the US such as Victoria 
Nuland, it is an affront to common sense that India dared to go its own way on Ukraine. Small wonder that both sides of the Atlantic have ensured this year that for a citizen of India, getting a visa to travel to either side of the North Atlantic has been made an impossible exercise. Such a policy of collective punishment of the population of India has numerous backers in Europe and North America. A few days ago, Foreign Minister Kuleba of Ukraine has been candid about his view that India needed to “share the pain” of the Ukrainians despite these being caused not by decisions taken in Delhi but in Kiev, Washington and Brussels. Annalena Baerbock has a similar view. Indians must share the pain that members of the EU are facing by their own self-goals, as for example the irresponsible decision of Chancellor Scholz to shut off the Nord Stream pipeline. The stated reason? That President Putin would not accept payment for Nord Stream gas in euros, a currency that sanctions have ensured Russia is no longer able to access and utilise. The sanctions have bitten the poorer parts of the world hard, as in much of South Asia, with the exclusion of India. There are families in poor countries that have even less to eat that their previous near-starvation diet since NATO sanctions began to bite, or who live in even more unbearable accommodation than previously. It is unlikely that Foreign Minister Baerbock of Germany will demand of her countrypersons to share in such distress. Only the “jungle” and not the “garden” should make such a sacrifice.
In their minds, Europe and those of European extraction are special in a way that others can never be. That such people are not like those living in Southern Asia, that geographic stretch of land stretching from West Asia to Southeast Asia. In the view of Biden or Scholz among other like-minded leaders, what is taking place in Ukraine is an epochal event, a point of inflexion as significant as the discovery and use of the wheel. After all, unlike Somalis, Tigrayans or Afghans, the Ukrainians are European, they are special. It must come as a surprise to such minds that in India, as in the overwhelming majority of countries, the events taking place in Ukraine are not a tenth as important as issues back home, except that NATO sanctions and a senseless war have caused the most pain precisely to the poor of the world. So what if western insurance companies are killing trust in them by participating in NATO sanctions on Russia? So what if there is no fertiliser and no grain to feed the hungry? So what if disruptions in logistics chains have sent prices shooting up? Policymakers across both sides of the North Atlantic need to understand that there are no special people in the world, that there are just people in the world, each of them special in her or his own way.

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