Germany on the Nose Ring

The White House calls the shots

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2023 by Uwe Bahr

German tanks for Ukraine.

As a German and believing to be halfway familiar with the history of my country, I can’t trust my own eyes when I read something like the following. Discovered today on CNN:

In supposedly free countries like the USA or Germany, do media still exist that are not addicted to unconditional warmongering – media that do not have in mind to almost uncritically pass on the views of their respective governments to a bleary-eyed population?

Are there any historically literate scribblers or even politicians, called “Western officials”, who still use facts from history to assess today’s situation, even if they only refer to a quotation? How is Ukraine supposed to achieve lasting peace if old mistakes are repeated during the war, possibly also after the war, and the country – which is actually to be feared – continues to be used by the West as a protective shield against Russia?

Didn’t German tanks kill Ukrainians 80 years ago as well? Such an argument to justify German arms deliveries to Ukraine today is not only cynical, but in its naively simplified form it also bears no causal relation to history as it actually happened. Because in reality, by far more ordinary Ukrainians have suffered from a criminal collaboration of German Nazis and Ukrainian nationalists than from German tanks.

Bandera monument in Lviv, western Ukraine, a city which once was called Lemberg.

Of course, from the point of view of those who think they have to use weapons to resolve a conflict that cannot be judged in black and white, it is inevitable to resort to such naive platitudes.

The author of the nonsense at CNN obviously has no knowledge of the fact that when Hitler’s Wehrmacht invaded Ukraine, large parts of the Ukrainian population received the German soldiers as liberators from Stalinism – a mistake for which they were later to pay bitterly. I had former soldiers of the German Wehrmacht in my own relatives who reported about it. It is part of a narrative about a cruel war that brought us (by that I mean: we Germans) too late to the realization: “Whoever picks up a gun again, let his hand fall off.” Unfortunately, the quote does not stem from me, but from Franz-Josef Strauss, an arch-conservative Bavarian politician who himself fought as an officer on the Eastern Front during World War II.

The historical knowledge about the collaboration of Ukrainian extremists with Hitler is linked to an astonishing development, according to which there were and are political forces in Ukraine, which not only strived for a plausible independence of their country, but also wanted to ethnically cleanse it. Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian ideologist and national movement leader of the 20th century, with his Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) played into the hands of the Holocaust with active assistance. Under their “cooperation” the German occupiers killed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews. Tens of thousands of Poles who escaped with their lives were expelled from their ancestral homeland.

All this suited the OUN because its goal was to transform Ukraine into an ethnically homogeneous country. It was clear to the organization that this could only be achieved by means of mass killings. The West, with all its peace-preaching politicians, no longer wants to know anything about all this.

What does that have to do with today?

Some. For to this day, Bandera is revered as a national hero in western-oriented parts of the Ukrainian population. Not only are there several monuments to Bandera in Ukraine, erected after the breakaway from the Soviet Union, but a main street in Kiev was renamed after him in 2016 – much to the dismay of the Russians living in eastern Ukraine, and also, by the way, of Israel.

It is not only the memory of Bandera that is glorified today in large parts of the non-Russian speaking population. The notorious Azov regiment, which today plays a large part in Ukraine’s military resistance to Russia, is infested with Nazi ideology; until recently it was seen with symbols closely associated with the German Waffen SS.

So, when Vladimir Putin blathers about wanting to purge Ukraine of “fascist elements,” the West does not have history on its side at all. The problem is that peace cannot be achieved with such attitudes on either side.

And by the way, even German tanks cannot solve problems that have their multi-layered origins in social spheres. Politicians and media should stop poisoning people’s minds with irresponsible war polemics.

One more remark: A country like the U.S., which for sole interest demonstrably carries out one military aggression and intervention after another or has them carried out by third parties, cannot hold the leadership of a pretended defense alliance like NATO. Europe should take care of itself instead of submitting to American market interests. The idea is realistic if the will to implement it were there – but it is not.

Defense, protection from Russia? France, unlike Germany, is a nuclear power, and together the two countries have a higher military budget than the largest country in the world – Russia.

But none of this seems to play a role in the deliberations of those responsible in my home country. Germany is in a politically neglected state and lets itself be led by the Biden administration on the nose ring through world history. It does not seem to occur to any of those playing with fire today how much the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with Russia endangers Europe in particular. The Americans always wage their wars far enough away from their own country and withdraw as soon as things get dicey, or they run away altogether with their glorious military – see Afghanistan – and are then no longer directly affected for the time being.

Ukraine, however, is barely a two-hour flight from Germany.

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