Michael von der Schulenburg – Only Peace Negotiations Can Save Ukraine

The Ukrainian war must not go into a third year

Michael von der Schulenburg, former UN Assistant Secretary-General, escaped East Germany in 1969, studied in Berlin, London and Paris and worked for over 34 years for the United Nations, and briefly the OSCE

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February 24, 2024, marks the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops and the outbreak of the largest, most brutal and most dangerous war on European soil since the Second World War. This war has so far claimed several hundred thousand of killed, severely wounded, and mentally crippled of mostly very young people on both sides. This enormous toll in blood has not brought us one step closer to a solution to the conflict – on the contrary, a peaceful solution is becoming more difficult every day. How long will the killing continue before we finally feel empathy with the suffering of the Ukrainian people and help end this barbary?

The Russian attack is illegal, and no one should question Ukraine’s right to self-defense. But this right must not degenerate into the destruction of the entire country and its people. And it is not only Russian weapons, but also weapons supplied by NATO countries that are deployed on Ukrainian territory. They are equally responsible for the successive destruction of the country and the suffering of Ukrainian people. This cannot and must not be the aim of our policy.

The military situation in Ukraine has become increasingly worrying and there is hardly any realistic chance that Ukraine could win the war. To make matters worse, the country is being fast depopulated and increasingly impoverished with mainly the old being left behind. It is estimated that over one-third of those remaining in Ukraine has reached retirement age. In addition, the country is being weakened by corruption, increasing inter-communal differences and internal political conflicts, while military and financial support from NATO countries has decreased drastically.

Wars claim most victims in their attrition and final phases. Hence, if the war continues, it could even lead to a worse bloodshed to befall Ukraine. We must not allow this to happen. Continuing the war would be irresponsible as it could cause the collapse of Ukraine, resulting in a country deprived of a whole generation of its youth and leaving behind a traumatized aging population with no hope for a future in their homeland worth living.

A continuation of the war would also lead to ever more adverse consequences for the people of the European Union and for Germany in particular. The decline of the European economy, resulting in a high debt burden for future generations, the increasing inability of governments to live up to their social responsibilities and to invest what is necessary for its people will exacerbate social injustices as well as domestic divisions and political tensions. We would increase the risks for our open, pluralistic society as well as for the democratic order. By continuing or even expanding and escalating the war, we are increasingly exposing the people of Europe to the risk of an uncontrollable, perhaps even nuclear war.

Ukraine needs peace – Europe needs peace, and this peace can only be achieved through a ceasefire followed by peace negotiations. Ending this war on European soil is our European responsibility. It must not go on for another year and lead to even more senseless sacrifices. I therefore remind the German government of its constitutional obligation to serve the peace of the world. I urge it to do everything in its power, together with our European allies and partners and with the Ukrainian government, to achieve an immediate ceasefire and the start of peace negotiations.

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