Mečys Laurinkus. What is the message behind Kissinger’s words?

Davosas 2015
Davos AFP/Scanpix

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, one of the most influential politicians and geopoliticians in the US, Kissinger, said of the war in Ukraine: “Negotiations must begin within the next two months before there are tensions and unrest that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be the restoration of the status quo ante,” Mečys Laurinkus writes in lrytas.lt news portal.

Although somewhat ambiguous when juxtaposed with others on the same subject, it means that Ukraine should accept the loss of part of its territory for the time being if it wants to end the war.

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Mr Kissinger has been described by the Ukrainian President’s entourage as a Davos scaremonger and reminded that the only condition for negotiations with Russia is the complete withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Government is convinced that the war will be won, but when it is won depends on active Western assistance, primarily in the form of arms.

In Lithuania, the official Kyiv position prevails, so politicians and commentators reacted critically to Kissinger’s speech, politely classifying the legendary Western figure as old school.

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In Lithuania, it is believed that sooner or later, Russia, exhausted and cornered by sanctions, will raise its hands. Of course, if the West does not “turn around”, support in words is matched by support in deeds.

I am curious, however, what Mr Kissinger, who is a great expert on Asia and Russia, has in mind. It does not take any particular insight to understand the consequences of a humiliating defeat, not only for the perpetrators of the war but also for the Russian state because many Russians support Putin.

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All the Russian political propagandists see the catastrophic consequences of the defeat in Ukraine for the country – they say straight out that the country will become even more insignificant than a ‘petrol pump’. Talking about the Third World War has also become a daily routine, from schoolboy to professor. Even monkeypox sounds scarier.

For Mr Kissinger, who has seen all the wars of the 20th century except the First World War, the current outlook is not only worrying but also disturbing in a human sense.

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All the other consequences are not worth talking about. Mr Kissinger proposes not to wait for a new escalation but to stop it now by diplomatic means. He himself has been involved in such a process (ending the war in Vietnam) and has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

He also mentions a possible timeframe of two weeks before it is too late. On what basis?

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I believe that the political axis of accurate information from a large group of professional military experts that I know is that Russia will gain a foothold in the Donbas at any cost and that even in the ideal case of Western support for Ukraine, the recovery of the occupied territories will be much more difficult than the current defence of the cities.

 If the current process continues and is prolonged, Western support for Ukraine will increase, albeit with obstacles, and the war will no longer be a war for Ukraine’s freedom but a new war with Russia. In other words, Russia’s war with NATO. And on whose shoulders will it fall?

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Obviously (Kissinger does not say this), with the bulk of the funds and resources going to the US. And what if China gets involved?

Kissinger, a political realist, has many supporters, but they are rarely quoted or discussed in Lithuania. In the US, however, they strongly influence the decisions of heads of state, either by working in the civil service themselves or by creating so-called think tanks.

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For example, R.Haass, a US diplomat and advisor to former Secretary of State C. Powell, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, published a book, “The World Disorder. American foreign policy and the crisis of the old order”, five years ago. It says: “The focus of relations with China and Russia should be on their foreign, not their domestic policies. Excessive attention to their domestic policies is unlikely to change them, but it will undermine their relations… Moreover, the US should express a more traditional restraint in its foreign policy. The initiative and moves to admit Georgia and Ukraine to NATO must be stopped. Both of these states are not in line with NATO’s charter, and noise on this issue only alienates and provokes Russia, while at the same time burdening the US with military obligations it is not capable of meeting.”

These words are not only Mr Haass’s personal opinion but also the recommendation of an informal think-tank to the Trump administration.

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We have witnessed the events that have followed. The subtext of Mr Kissinger’s speech is similar: if we go beyond the question of whose Donbas belongs to whom, the boundaries of the either-or are the West and, above all, the US, capable of placing an aggressor aligned with China in the place of a perpetual petrol station?

Another question: why did Mr Kissinger choose the high rostrum of Davos rather than an international conference?

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Against the backdrop of the US’s non-verbal support for Ukraine, these thoughts seem to be nothing more than private opinions.

But is it? Or is it a message, as it is now fashionable to say, to Kyiv that a pause is forming in the corridors of Washington, an idea of a truce, not only on Ukrainian terms?

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A test to see how Ukraine and its most consistent and staunchest supporters, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, will react?

Soros’s speech at the same Davos Forum is closer to the author of these lines: “An invasion could be the beginning of a third world war, and our civilisation may not survive it. We must mobilise all our resources to end the war as soon as possible. The best and perhaps the only way to save our civilisation is to defeat Putin as soon as possible.”

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Essentially, the idea is the same as Kissinger’s – end the war before a new war starts. Only without the proposed division of lands.

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