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Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 951
March 19, 2014

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Ukraine – Diplomacy Is the Only Way

Gregor Gysi

The following is the text from a speech delivered on March 13, 2014 by Gregor Gysi, a prominent member of the German Left Party (Die Linke). As the chairman of the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, Gregor Gysi has the right to be the first to respond to Angela Merkel. In his address to the Bundestag, Gysi sharply criticizes Germany and other Western countries, as well as Russia, for their intervention in Ukraine. He points to a new power struggle between the United States and Russia and to violations of international law by all sides. In addition, he draws specific attention to the positions of power obtained in the new Ukrainian government by known fascists. The speech was given just days before Crimeans voted in a referendum to secede from Ukraine; a referendum Gysi considers to be illegitimate.

Mr. President! Ladies and Gentlemen! [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to solve the entire crisis in Ukraine militarily. He has not understood that humanity's problems are to be solved neither with soldiers nor with guns, quite the contrary. Even Russia's problems cannot be solved like this. His thinking and actions are wrong and are strongly condemned by us.

Gregor Gysi, chairman of the Left Party (Die Linke) representatives in the Bundestag.

It is however the same thinking that dominated and dominates in the West: In the cases of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The confrontation between systems has been replaced by the conflicts of interests between the USA and Russia. The Cold War is over but such conflicts of interest can lead to similar traits.

The USA wants to gain more influence and defend existing influence, and Russia wants to gain more influence and defend existing influence. For Russia I use the keywords: Georgia, Syria, Ukraine.

Even though we condemn Putin's action we must see how it has come to this entire escalation and confrontation. I'll tell you quite clearly: Everything that NATO and the EU could have done wrong, they did do wrong.

Common European Home?

I'll begin with [former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail] Gorbachev in the year 1990. He proposed a common European home, the disbanding of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and a concept of “Common Security” with Russia. NATO rejected this. It said: Disbanding the Warsaw Pact is okay, but NATO will remain. And out of the defensive alliance NATO, an alliance for intervention was created.

The second mistake: In the preparation for German unity the American foreign minister, our then former foreign minister [Hans Dietrich] Genscher and other foreign ministers declared to Gorbachev that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO. This promise has been broken. There was a forceful expansion of NATO in the direction of Russia.

The former U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates described the hasty absorption of the Eastern European states into NATO as a serious mistake, and the attempt by the West to invite Ukraine into NATO as a serious provocation. Not I, but the former U.S. defence secretary said this.

And third, is the decision to station missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russian government stated: This affects our security interests; we do not want this. This did not interest the West at all. It was nevertheless done.

Furthermore, in connection with the war in Yugoslavia, NATO seriously violated international law repeatedly. This is acknowledged now also by the then Chancellor [Gerhard] Schröder. Serbia had not attacked any other country, and there was no resolution from the UN Security Council. It was nevertheless bombed with the participation of Germany for the first time since 1945. And the residents of Kosovo were permitted to decide on secession from Serbia in a referendum.

At the time I strongly criticized the violation of international law and told you: You are opening a Pandora's Box with Kosovo; for if this is permitted in Kosovo, you will have to allow it in other regions. You insulted me. You did not take it seriously, and indeed because you believed that being victors in the Cold War the old standards no longer apply to you. I can tell you: The Basques are asking why they are not allowed a referendum on whether they want to belong to Spain or not. The Catalans are asking why they are not allowed a referendum on whether they want to belong to Spain or not. Naturally the residents of Crimea are also now asking that.

Through the violation of international law via customary law you can also create new international law; this you know. I remain of the opinion however that the secession of Crimea would be contrary to international law, just as the secession of Kosovo was.

But I knew Putin would refer to Kosovo, and he has indeed done so. Ms. Chancellor, you now say: The situation is however a completely different one. That may be. But you fail to recognize: Violation of international law is violation of international law. My dear Ms. [Claudia] Roth, just ask a judge, whether theft for a noble motive in comparison with theft for an ignoble motive is not theft. He will tell you: It remains theft. That is the problem.

At one time Mr. [Peter] Struck declared: Germany must protect its security in the Hindu Kush. Putin now declares: Russia must protect its security in the Crimea. Incidentally, Germany did not have a navy in the Hindu Kush and was also considerably further away. Nevertheless I say: Both propositions were, and are false.

Yet the following also remains: When the many violators of international law accuse international law violator Russia, of violating international law, this is not particularly effective or credible. This is the fact with which we are dealing.

[U.S. President Barack] Obama spoke just like you Ms. Chancellor, about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Yet both these principles were violated in Serbia, in Iraq and in Libya. The West believes it can violate international law because the Cold War is over. We have grossly underestimated Chinese and Russian interests. You no longer took Russia under Yeltsin, who was frequently drunk, seriously. Yet the situation has changed. Much too late you now again invoke the principles of international law that emerged in the Cold War. I am very much in favour that they once again apply – but for everyone! It is not possible otherwise.

Tug-of-War Over Ukraine

Then there was the tug-of-war between the EU and Russia over the Ukraine. Both think and act alike. Barroso, the head of the EU Commission said: Either a customs union with Russia or treaties with us! He did not say: “Both,” but “Either – Or!” Putin said: Either treaties with the EU or with us! Both thought and acted similarly. This was a disastrous mistake by both sides.

Not one EU foreign minister attempted to speak with the Russian government and to even take note of the legitimate security interests of Russia.

Yet Russia fears that after closer ties with the EU, NATO will come to Ukraine. It feels increasingly encircled. But what took place was only the tug-of-war over Ukraine.

The EU and NATO foreign ministers took absolutely no account of the history of Russia and Ukraine. They never understood the significance of Crimea for Russia. Ukrainian society is deeply divided.

Even that was not taken into account. This division was already visible in the Second World War and is visible now. Eastern Ukraine leans toward Russia. Western Ukraine leans toward Western Europe. There is at the moment no political personality in the Ukraine, who could represent both sections of society. This is a sad truth.

Then there is the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE. You have badly neglected them in recent times, Ms. Chancellor and Mr. Foreign Minister. The funding for these organizations was repeatedly slashed because you thought they are not important. Yet these are the only European organizations in which Russia as well as Ukraine are members. We must therefore strengthen these organizations again, also financially, and we must not babble on about an exclusion of Russia; this is completely off the mark.

We also witnessed a sharp escalation on Maidan. We witnessed snipers and many dead. There are many rumours. In such a situation many lies abound. Therefore we propose implementing an international investigation committee. We, but above all Ukrainians, have a right to learn what happened there and who is responsible for what. I am glad that you, Ms. Chancellor, support this.

There were many democratic forces on Maidan, but also fascists. The West was involved directly and indirectly.

Foreign minister Steinmeier, the French and Polish foreign ministers concluded an agreement with [former President of Ukraine, Viktor] Yanukovych and the opposition. Now you say, Mr. Foreign Minister, that Yanukovych invalidated the agreement with his flight. This is false. The people on Maidan rejected the agreement with a huge majority, and you, Mr. Foreign Minister, also, did not campaign on Maidan for this agreement.

Only after the rejection did Yanukovych leave Kiev.

Then the parliament convened and voted him out of office with 72.88 per cent. Yet the constitution stipulates 75 per cent. Now Mr. Röttgen and others say: Well, in a revolution one cannot adhere strictly to the constitution. A few small percentages more or less... you can indeed do anything. Yet, Putin invoked it and said: “There was no constitutional majority for the removal,” and relied on correspondence that Yanukovych sent him.

Moreover, during the vote in parliament gunmen mingled about. That is not particularly democratic. In the referendum this coming Sunday in Crimea armed soldiers will also mingle about. That is also not particularly democratic.

It is interesting, that you, Ms. Chancellor, say, that such a referendum is prohibited by the Ukrainian constitution. When does it apply and when not? It does not apply for the removal of the president, but for the referendum on Crimea it suddenly applies. You need to decide: Do you accept the Ukrainian constitution completely or only certain sections when it is convenient for you? That is the kind I know, and do not like.

Then a new government was formed and immediately recognized by Obama, also by the EU, and the German government. Ms. Merkel! The deputy prime minister, the minister of defence, the minister of agriculture, the minister of environment, the attorney general, these are fascists. The head of the national security council was the founding member of the fascist Svoboda party. Fascists hold important posts and dominate, for example, the security sector. Fascists have never voluntarily given up power, once they seized even a portion of it.

The German government should at least draw a line here, particularly due to our history.

When Haider's Freedom Party entered the Austrian government, there were diplomatic contact freezes and similar measures. But with the fascists in Ukraine we do nothing? Svoboda has close contacts with the NPD and other Nazi parties in Europe. The head of this party, Oleh Tyahnybok, said the following word-for-word: I am now quoting; you must listen to what he said:

“Grab your weapons, fight the Russian pigs, the Germans, the Jew swines and other vermin.”

I will repeat. This man said:

“Grab your weapons, fight the Russian pigs, the Germans, the Jew swines and other vermin.”

There are now attacks on Jews and the Left. And to all this you say nothing? You talk to these Svoboda people? I think this is a scandal. I must tell you this very clearly.

Now you want – and have announced – to impose sanctions, if there is no other way, as you say. But they will not impress Putin. Indeed this will only worsen the situation. Kissinger, the former American foreign minister, was correct. He said sanctions are not the expression of a strategy but the expression of the lack of a strategy. This holds also for the escalating military flights over Poland and the Baltic republics. What is the point of this?

The bank accounts of Yanukovych and his followers are frozen, because they are said to be stolen state funds. My question: You did not know this before? Second question: Why only their accounts? What about the billions of the oligarchs who support the other forces? Why do you not do anything about that? Why is everything done so one-sidedly?

Diplomacy is the only way.

First. The West must recognize the legitimate security interests of Russia in Crimea, which by the way U.S. foreign secretary Kerry also recognized. A status must be found for Crimea with which Ukraine and Russia, and we can live.

Russia must be guaranteed that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.

Second. The prospect for Ukraine lies in a bridging function between the EU and Russia.

Third. A process of understanding and reconciliation must be implemented in Ukraine between East and West, perhaps by means of a federal or confederal status, perhaps also by means of a dual presidency.

I blame the EU and NATO for the fact that up to today no relationship with Russia has been sought or found. This must fundamentally change.

There will be no security in Europe without, or in opposition to Russia, rather only with Russia. If the crisis is resolved one day, one advantage could be that all sides finally respect international law again.

Thank-you. •


#5 Marc Bonhomme 2014-03-24 22:24 EDT
Pour Alex

Comme il arrive très souvent, le peuple sème et d'autres récoltent. En Ukraine, pour le moment, c'est la droite et l'extrême-droite nationalistes. L'annexion russe de la Crimée et la menace d'invasion militaire n'arrangent rien sauf à conforter l'emprise nationaliste.

#4 rose yanovskaya 2014-03-24 08:43 EDT
speech on russia/ukraine crisis
I am from Kiev, lived there for 41 years. Currently live in USA for 24 years. This is the only one deeply detailed, smart, knowledgeable and constructive political offer that I personally sure will work between Russia and Ukraine. Mr. Gysi really understands and knows the situation. I am impressed and absolutely agree.

#3 Alex 2014-03-20 16:40 EDT
a comment from Ukraine
Marc, est-ce que tu penses, mais serieusement, qu'on aime Yanurovych ici?! Le point ici c'est que le coup d'etat a ete fait par les fascistes, et CE N'EST PAS une exageration. Leurs pepes ont participe aux forces SS, ce n'est pas la voie democratique ou revolutionaire...

The guy is simply amazing. From inside Ukraine I see the things exactly as he does, I applaude him. A really, really good analysis and adequate vision of the situation - alas! Wish he were wrong.

#2 Marc Bonhomme 2014-03-19 10:10 EDT
La démocratie comprend les droits à l'insurrection et à l'auto-détermination
Il y a deux points qui gâchent la sauce par ailleurs excellente de ce texte:

1. L'occupation de Maidan avait malgré tout un caractère révolutionnaire qui justifie le limogeage de Yanukovych.

2. De par leur histoires respectives, les populations de la Crimée et du Kosovo sont des peuples qui ont le droit à l'autodétermination donc de tenir un référendum sur leur avenir. Le référendum tenu en Crimée est anti-démocratique uniquemement parce qu'il s'est tenu sous une occupation militaire.

Le dirigeant de Die Linke est prisonnier des institutions et du "droit international". Il ne reconnaît pas le droit à l'insurrection contre l'exploitation et l'oppression.

#1 G. M. Tamás 2014-03-19 03:51 EDT
a comment from Hungary
The first sane statement from a major European statesman. Excellent. Also useless.

Comments are now closed.

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