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Russia's war against Ukraine and What are the war aims?

by Peter Becker and Gen. Erich Vad
Erich Vad is an ex-brigade general. From 2006 to 2013, he was the military policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is one of the rare voices who spoke out publicly against arms deliveries to Ukraine early on, without political strategy or diplomatic efforts. Even now he speaks an uncomfortable truth.
This is a military escalation. We are going down a slippery slope.
On Russia's War Against Ukraine
by Peter Becker
[This excerpt posted on 1/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

6. the war was provoked! Evaluation of the processes

We consider the following processes:

The advantages of the U.S. since the beginning of the war: they implement long-term political goals, which they have long worked towards, without any fuss:
They achieve the profound divisiveness of Russia and Germany by removing Ukraine from the Eurasian bloc;
their wars and interventions in violation of international law are suddenly forgotten.
The U.S. tools are many and have been used since the end of the Cold War:
The financial support of the nearly bankrupt Ukraine;
the unprovoked NATO expansion to the East;
the charter of the U.S.-Ukrainian partnership;
the intervention in Ukrainian domestic politics with the support of the Western-oriented presidential candidate Yushchenko with the help of the "Revolutionary Ltd."
Overthrow of President Yanukovych, who was restored to power, through direct support of the processes on the Maidan, even the "Right Sector" is accepted;
Joint maneuvers, arming of the Ukrainian army;
Incitement against Russia through unsubstantiated allegations of Russia's support for separatists in the Donbass;
NATO deployment beginning with the Partnership for Peace in 1994.

In all actions, the U.S. knew they were directed against Russia's interests. Putin, after all, protested many times. Nevertheless, the actions continued.

A fine example is Putin's speech at the Munich Security Conference. Putin addressed

NATO expansion, saying it was a "provocative factor." So the U.S. had to continue it;
so-called light U.S. outpost bases of 5,000 troops each were being built in Bulgaria and Romania, which Putin classified as a violation of the CFE Treaty, while Russia "strictly adhered to the treaty." So NATO had to continue its deployments in other countries as well;
"We are also concerned about plans to build a missile defense system in Europe." So the U.S. just had to implement its plans, which it did.

The U.S. just had to take Putin at his word to provoke him further. Biden also knew exactly how to irritate Putin: He called him a "murderer," had Russian diplomats expelled, and even placed a U.S. banker in the Ukrainian government. He could not have demonstrated U.S. influence over the government in Kiev more clearly.

Obama, too, had already pejoratively called Russia a "regional power." And Biden succeeded: Putin responded with his offer of a treaty aimed at easing tensions. And Biden - wisely - did not accept it. Thus, war became inevitable, which was also correctly predicted by the U.S. intelligence services.

7 The sanctions probably miss their target

There are numerous indications of this:

The seizure of Russian dollar reserves will boomerang. This is because Russia is a member of OPEC. The latter has cut oil production and thus increased the demand for oil - and the price. The higher price more than compensates for the loss of dollar reserves.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have grown closer. This is the result of Western attacks on the Kashoggi murder, for which Saudi Crown Prince (and Saudi Arabia's secret ruler) Salman is arguably responsible.
Already, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is moving toward West Asia, with Iran joining it and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt gaining dialogue partner status and Turkey seeking full membership. The SCO summit in Samarkand laid out a roadmap for gradually increasing the share of national currencies in mutual payments, underscoring the seriousness of this intention.
The end of dollar domination could be the result: oil is conventionally paid for in dollars ("petrodollars"). As a result, all countries that have a need for oil must maintain high dollar reserves. In return, the U.S. had to commit itself to granting all countries free access to the dollar.

However, this pledge has proven false since the dollar has been weaponized and the U.S. has absurdly attempted to appropriate other countries' dollar reserves. Not surprisingly, Putin has pointed to the need to create an alternative reserve currency to the dollar, and this is resonating with world opinion.

This is supported by the fact that the White House, rather than reconsidering, is considering new forms of punishment for Saudi Arabia and Russia. While it is difficult to "punish" Russia, since the U.S. has exhausted all options, Biden probably thinks the U.S. has Saudi Arabia by the throat: as an arms supplier and custodian of massive Saudi reserves and investments.

8. the secret war of the USA against the EU

The EU is suffering from Russia's war against Ukraine:

Capping Russian gas supplies to EU states is driving up energy costs and fueling inflation.
Member states are forced to increase their spending on the military instead of using it for social purposes.
The entire economy is affected as a result.
The EU subscribes to a logic of war instead of a logic of peace.
In the global struggle for hegemony, the position of the EU is weakened, that of the USA strengthened.

9 A fitting quote on this

"Coal-fired power plants, considered a "scandal" just twelve months ago, are being reopened in Europe with the blessing of environment ministers. European politicians court autocrats and dictators around the world in the hope of being allowed to buy a bit of gas or oil, which is then transported to Europe using polluting oil tankers and bulk carriers. Shale gas and shale oil, just of the devil, are big in fashion. And all this to boycott Vladimir Putin, who as president of Russia has always been willing to provide us with more environmentally friendly gas and oil for little money?" (Guy Mettan: Europe betrays its values, in: Zeit-Fragen No. 22 v. 18.10.2022).
What are the war aims?
Interview with Erich Vad:
[This interview posted on 1/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Erich Vad: Was sind die Kriegsziele?.]

Erich Vad ist Ex-Brigade-General. Von 2006 bis 2013 war er der militärpolitische Berater von Bundeskanzlerin Ang...
Erich Vad is an ex-brigade general. From 2006 to 2013, he was the military policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is one of the rare voices who spoke out publicly against arms deliveries to Ukraine early on, without political strategy or diplomatic efforts. Even now he speaks an uncomfortable truth.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brigadier General Erich Vad in Kunduz in 2010.

Mr. Vad, what do you say about 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 more than 40-year-old Marder is not a wonder 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 for negotiations with the deliveries of the tanks? Do they 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 stalemate that we cannot resolve militarily. That, by the way, is also the opinion of U.S. 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 the senseless wear and tear of human lives.

General Milley's statement caused much anger in Washington and was also heavily 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 anywhere bigger, while he is the Chief of Staff of our Western leading power. What is being conducted in Ukraine is a war of attrition. And one with now close to 200,000 soldiers killed and wounded on both sides, with 50,000 civilian dead, and with millions of refugees. Milley has thus drawn a parallel with World War I 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. So 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, so 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 attacked by the media on a broad front, from BILD to FAZ and Spiegel, and thus also 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 polls. 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.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Kharkiv. - Xander Heinl/IMAGO

What do you think of the foreign minister's policy?
Military operations must always be coupled with an attempt 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 wearing 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 has even 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, that's quite alarming.

If Chancellor Scholz had taken you over from his predecessor and you were still the chancellor's military adviser, 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 manner, in order to avoid slippery slope effects into a war party. And I would have advised him to influence our most important political ally, the United States. Because 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 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 martens 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 exactly this does not go into the heads of the politicians and the journalists here in Germany!

The argument is, Putin does not want to negotiate and that one must put him in his place, so that he does not rage further 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 set a precedent. That's why it's 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. After all, it was also during the war that the grain agreement was finally negotiated by the Russians and 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, when in 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.

What are those?
The Black Sea region is as important to the Russians and their Black Sea fleet as the Caribbean or the Panama region is to the United States. 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 it 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. Along the lines of, '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, who they want to belong to. One would have to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine, 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 dose our military support in such a way that we don't slide into a Third World War. None of those who went to war with great enthusiasm in 1914 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. After all, 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 to avoid flare-ups of fighting and war. And frankly, I don't see Ukraine becoming a member of the EU, much less 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 find ourselves in the middle of World War III.
Statements on Russia's War in Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, during a special broadcast of the political talk show Maybrit Illner, Vad said about the prospects of resistance to the invasion, "Militarily, the matter is over. And my assessment is that it will only be a matter of a few days and no more." However, he said, this is only true if Putin "does not make the move into western Ukraine." Then, he said, "massive resistance can be expected." In that case, there could be a protracted "guerrilla war in the style of Afghanistan."[11]"Putin will win this war because the Russian armed forces are modern, well-equipped, because they have multiple superiority as well, because they have a strategic starting base against which it is simply impossible to defend," Vad held at the outset of the war.[12]

On March 7, 2022, Vad commented on the ZDF morning show that, in perspective, there was no prospect for Ukrainian troops to permanently prevail against Russian troops. From a military point of view, he said, it makes more sense to "draw Ukrainian resistance to western Ukraine," where supplies are easier to come by. Fighting for cities like Kiev would be purely symbolic. The Russian strategy in the Ukraine war, he said, is to encircle major urban centers and let out many fugitives. "The Russians are going into these cities selectively to neutralize buildings important to the government, military infrastructure." This, he said, is the Russians' strategy, which they are also taking their time with. Asked if the Russian convoy, which is more than 60 kilometers long, was stuck outside Kiev, Vad's answer was, "It's not stuck. You can actually see from the fact that the Russians feel very safe. [...] And I think that out of these columns there are the forces that they ultimately need for this fight for Kiev. In Kiev sits the government, also the military leadership of the country, the intelligence headquarters, the important communication points, and that's why I think in the next few days militarily it will be very much focused on Kiev."[13] A few days later, the convoy disbanded, and Russia withdrew its forces completely from around Kiev, moving them to eastern Ukraine.[14]

In April 2022, Vad assumed that the destruction of the Mariupol maternity hospital "was not Putin's intention," and compared the deaths of civilians in the Ukrainian war to wars such as those in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, where there is always so-called collateral damage.[15][16]

After his miscalculation on the start of the attack, he conceded, "The Ukrainians have proven that they have effectively defended their capital Kiev and, moreover, are waging a successful defensive struggle against a superior adversary. The Russians, in turn, have made some land gains in the east and on the Black Sea coast."[17] He therefore considered a "face-saving" solution by both sides in the Ukraine war possible. He opposed the delivery of heavy weapons. These, he said, were potentially a "path to World War III." Moreover, systems such as the Leopard main battle tank or the Marder infantry fighting vehicle could only be used profitably after years of training,[18] an assessment that was strongly contradicted by General Klaus Wittmann.[19]

Vad considered it impossible for heavy battle tanks to be brought into eastern Ukraine at all; the Russians would militarily prevent it: "It has no military relevance if we deliver heavy weapons now. This is a phantom debate."[20]

In late May, he denied the Ukrainian army's ability to recapture larger territories (compare Ukrainian counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine).[21] He said Russia would conquer the entire coast of Ukraine, including Odessa, and create a land link to Transnistria.[22]

In mid-July 2022, he contradicted contrary assessments of the situation,[23] saying that the Russian attackers had "clear logistical advantages" and "escalation dominance," and could "push in as many soldiers, battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, aircraft as they wanted" from southern Russia. In practice, the Russians controlled both the Ukrainian coast by means of a naval blockade and the "entire space" in the air. Negotiations would now have to be held quickly, otherwise the Russians would no longer have any reason to negotiate because of their foreseeable victory. At best, Ukraine would have a chance in a stalling guerrilla war.[24] As late as September 9, he said in an interview with n-tv that despite selective successes by Ukraine, the Russians had a firm grip on the overall situation in the war. Even the delivery of more complex weapons would do little to change that.[25]

On November 7, he told n-tv that the battle for Kherson would continue for a long time, with both sides in a stalemate.[26] Two days later, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu announced the abandonment of Kherson.[27]

On November 10, Vad assessed the announced withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson not as a defeat for Putin, but as a "regrouping" to take up better defensive positions. He spoke in favor of humanitarian aid and against arms deliveries. Withdrawal would provide an opportunity for negotiations.[28] That same month, Vad expressed that retaking Crimea and the Donbass was "not possible" without NATO's entry; the region was far too important to Russia. Before Russia gave up these territories, Vad said, and "disappeared as a world power," "they would use nuclear weapons." Vad continued to see only two options: a long war of attrition or negotiations.[29]

Vad's repeated miscalculations were addressed on various occasions. For example, the online magazine for media criticism Übermedien pointed out in detail Vad's "spectacular false predictions."[30] Sascha Lehnartz commented mockingly at on Vad's previous assessment that there would be weeks of fighting in Kherson, recommending that as a rule the opposite of what Vad assumed was likely: "If Vad were a howitzer, he would miss the Zugspitze with this accuracy from 200 meters away."[31]

In the magazine Emma in January 2023, Vad described arms deliveries without a political-strategic concept as "pure militarism" and demanded that "this senseless actionism in German politics" finally come to an end. In addition, he said, he was experiencing a "Gleichschaltung of the media" in Germany.[32]

From 1994 to 2001, Vad was an assessor on the board of the Clausewitz Society.[33] As of 2015, he was a lecturer at the Geschwister-Scholl Institute for Political Science at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and he taught International Relations at the University of Salzburg.

In 2018/2019, Vad was a partner at the Swiss consulting firm Hirzel.Neef.Schmid.Konsulenten in Zurich.[34]

Erich Vad is married and has three children.

1990: Medal of Honor General von Clausewitz

Essays and lectures

Vad has published essays in various journals such as Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift, Strategie und Sicherheit, and Europäische Sicherheit, as well as in daily newspapers such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and other publications such as Wissenschaft & Sicherheit, and also in the journal Sezession of the Institut für Staatspolitik, which is considered a think tank of the New Right.[35] Vad is a former advisor to the CDU-CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

As an advisor to the CDU-CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag at the time, Vad lectured in 2003 at the extreme right-wing Berlin fraternity Gothia on "Perspectives on German Foreign and Security Policy."[36]

In 2003, he lectured on "Peacekeeping and Geopolitics in Carl Schmitt's Thought" at the Institute for State Policy. Previously, in an article for the right-wing conservative weekly Junge Freiheit, he took the position that in the exhibition Verbrechen der Wehrmacht (Crimes of the Wehrmacht), "it is not sufficiently apparent that much of what happened at the time - especially in partisan warfare and reprisals as well as hostage shootings - was covered by the law of war at the time." Further, he stated, "How many thousands of German staff physicians did not conduct experiments with prisoners of war, but devoted themselves sacrificially to the wounded, including those of the Red Army? And: how many hundreds of German regiments fought bravely and fairly? Certainly: Fulfillment of duty and fair fight are not the topics of the exhibition. But still: Is it allowed to stage an exhibition, especially with regard to still living members of the war generation, in such a puristic, sparing and ruthless way, i.e. just typically German?"[37]

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary, on November 5, 2013, Vad gave a lecture to 300 participants of the Jewish Agency's European Congress in Warsaw about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the spring of 1943 and the idea of man outgrowing himself and accepting his fate in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. "This is definitely something that happened here 70 years ago in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising," Vad said.[38]

On January 26, 2015, Vad gave a lecture to the Industrieclub Düsseldorf and in October 2015 was a lecturer at the U.S. Johns Hopkins University[39] as well as the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.[40] On November 15, 2017, at the invitation of Swiss Council of States member Damian Müller (FDP), Erich Vad participated in a panel discussion together with Swiss Defense Minister Guy Parmelin and the vice president of the Swiss Security Policy Commission in Lucerne.[41] Vad was also a member of the Swiss National Defense Commission.

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