Bucha bodies put tough test for west | Ukraine
Sometimes a war crime is so egregious and so fully reported that it can only awaken the conscience of the West. The My Lai massacre in 1968, Srebrenica in 1995, the British repression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the disappearances of Argentina under the junta in the 1980s or even the dispatches on the bodies piled up on the squares of Bulgarian towns by the American war journalist Januarius MacGahan in 1876 are all times when the defense of ignorance must be abandoned.
Even then, the truth is more complicated, and the West has not always acted. Bill Clinton regretted not responding to the 1994 Tutsi killings, saying he did not “fully appreciate the depth and speed with which [Rwandans] were engulfed in this unimaginable terror. Srebrenica was probably only the culmination of an ethnic cleansing that had lasted for three years. My Lai, revealed two years after the event, only added momentum to a pre-existing American anti-war movement. The extent of Britain’s suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion was not truly documented until decades later by a Harvard historian, Caroline Elkins, in her book Britain’s Gulag.
So it’s not a foregone conclusion that photos of murdered Ukrainian civilians with their hands tied will make towns like Bucha a call to action when NATO and G7 ministers meet this week in Belgium. Measures such as Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council may have some symbolic value, but the big test is new European economic sanctions that could not only hit Russia but also the EU.
Russia is clearly nervous, relying on its Syrian playbook to claim that the bodies strewn on the streets were part of an inside job organized by Ukraine’s defense forces to be consumed by gullible Western journalists. Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said: “Today’s Ukrainian neo-Nazis fully respect Goebbels’ old Nazi school of provocation and try to shift the blame to Russia.”
On the grounds that attack is the best form of defence, Moscow tried to convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday, but met resistance from Britain, the council’s current chairman. Russia’s diplomatic activity is less intended to sow doubt among Westerners than to maintain control over neutrals, such as China, India, Israel or Turkey. It is also an act of political self-preservation. Studies of decades of Serbian denials of Srebrenica suggest that no self-doubt can be tolerated.
For Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on the other hand, it must be a turning point, the moment to create a convulsion in Europe, and finally to put so much pressure on Germany that it ceases to be the relay of Europe in terms of sanctions. . From Ukraine’s perspective, if Germany changes course, other countries that are also reluctant to adopt tougher sanctions, such as Austria and Italy, would fall into line. Italy suggested it.
For Zelenskiy, a European embargo on Russian energy, even if it was initially just oil, cannot come soon enough. The latest estimates suggest that Russia will earn up to $320 billion from oil and gas exports through the end of 2022, a third more than a year earlier. The Russian ruble rose on Monday, reversing earlier losses, and the benchmark Moex stock index rose to levels last seen before Russia sent thousands of troops to Ukraine. These are not signs of an economy close to collapse.
In an opening salvo, Zelenskiy invited the two architects of the now-defunct 2014-15 Minsk peace process – Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy – to come to Bucha to see how the road to appeasement turns into this terrible cul-de-sac.
Its ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, also stepped up his weeks-long assault on Russia’s friends in Germany. He said in an interview: “You see these atrocities and you are still not prepared to do anything to make Putin lose his appetite for these atrocities. How can you sleep if you find strong words after these pictures, but do nothing? What else would have to happen for the harshest sanctions to be put on the table? Chemical attacks, or what are you waiting for?
Many say his unwavering criticism of Germany – his last campaign was to claim there was a network of Russophile contacts around German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier – is ultimately counterproductive. But Melnyk can’t resist naming those he considers to be the culprits. At the Tagesspiegel, for example, he appointed people connected to Steinmeier such as Jens Plötner, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy adviser, and State Secretary in the Foreign Office, Andreas Michaelis (the former Ambassador of Germany in the UK).
He claimed that many important ambassadors also shared Steinmeier’s closeness to Russia. Looking at the front pages of the German press documenting Putin’s war crimes and numerous German opinion polls, the ambassador clearly senses that the political class is behind the public in what Germany and its economy are willing to do. sacrifice. Steinmeier himself published a mea culpa, stating: “We clung to bridges which Russia no longer believed in and which our partners had warned us against. My assessment was that Vladimir Putin would not accept the complete economic, political and moral ruin of his country for his imperial folly. Like others, I was wrong.
But the roadblock is no longer that there is anyone in Germany who is prepared to defend the country’s conscious decision for 20 years to make itself dependent on cheap Russian energy. It may have been orthodoxy a year ago during the Nord Stream 2 debates, but now it has become heresy. Liberal Democratic Party Vice-President Johannes Vogel wants the Bundestag to conduct an investigation to analyze how and why such “misguided” and “naive” Russian policy could have been pursued by previous governments. The President of the Greens in the Bundestag, Britta Hasselmann, also blames “the failure of energy policy” under Merkel and Gerhard Schröder. Even Patrick Pouyanné, the CEO of TotalEnergies admits that Germany’s reliance on cheap Russian gas has “yes, kind of created this monster”.
But the blame game over Putin’s past misinterpretations is less important than what Germany is willing to do now. Berlin has so far persistently resisted the exclusion of Russian banks from the international payment system as well as a temporary ban on imports of Russian oil and gas. Pouyanné says it will take four to five years to end Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Scholz, who is due to travel to the UK later this week, insists Germany will back new sanctions in response to war crimes, but other ministers insist this cannot include a total energy ban.
A full embargo will end up hurting Germany more than Russia, Scholz claims, and he called in a team of economic modelers for irresponsibly claiming that a full embargo would only lead to lower 3% of German GDP.
By taking this position, Scholz enjoys the support of German industry and finance.
Deutsche Bank chief executive Christian Sewing was the latest to warn of the consequences of cutting Russian energy supplies. Already struggling with runaway inflation, Sewing said Germany would face “a further deterioration of the situation” if imports or deliveries of Russian oil and natural gas were stopped. “A clear recession in Germany would probably be inevitable.” The CEO of the chemical group BASF, Martin Brudermüller, pointed out that Russia supplies 55% of the German natural gas consumed, and 35% of its oil. “Do we want to destroy our entire economy with our eyes wide open?
This view is reluctantly echoed by Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck, who warns that an immediate ban on imports would lead to “supply bottlenecks next winter, economic crises, high inflation and hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs”. The best it could offer was independence from Russian coal in the fall and virtual independence from oil by the end of the year. He couldn’t set any date for the gas.
The danger is that the debate in Germany becomes very polarized and entrenched. Ben Moll, an LSE professor and informal leader of the group that produced the modelling, is now proposing a compromise: an oil embargo and a gas tax, with measures to cushion the blow for the poorest.
Virtually anything, he says, is better than Germany’s lack of response.