Ischinger: Ukraine’s worst-case scenario is a protracted conflict | Russo-Ukrainian War
Russia has been waging war in Ukraine for nearly a year, and Kiev thinks Moscow is planning a new offensive.
On Friday, air raid sirens blared across the country amid an onslaught of fresh attacks as fighting intensified in the eastern Donbas region.
This week, Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, toured European capitals, urging Western allies to quickly send more weapons in preparation for upcoming battles.
His hopes were raised recently when several countries agreed to supply Ukraine with tanks.
At this pivotal moment in the war, Al Jazeera spoke to Wolfgang Ischinger, president of the Munich Security Conference from 2008 to 2022, former German ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom, and president of current Organization Council, on the war in Ukraine, tank delivery and the unification of the West against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Al Jazeera: If someone told you on February 24, 2022 that after a year of war, Russia would not achieve its goal and Ukraine could win, would you believe them?
Wolfgang Ischinger: Pretty unlikely. In the first days of the war, almost all experts assumed that Russia would be able to successfully pursue its goals.
Al-Jazeera: The war took a huge toll on the Ukrainian people and the country was devastated. Fears of escalation are high in Europe as the anniversary draws near. Has anything been learned in the past year, about geopolitical developments?
others: One development in this war that can only be seen as positive is the restoration of the unity and cohesion of the West and Europe. Just a few years ago, [then-United States President] Donald Trump sows doubts about NATO, and [French President Emmanuel] Macron referred to it as “brain dead”. Today, Sweden and Finland are waiting for their memberships to come into effect.
Al Jazeera: Do you currently see a scenario where the West and Berlin can send fighter jets to Ukraine?
Ischinger: In my view, in this situation, nothing, absolutely nothing should be ruled out regarding deliveries to Ukraine in order to keep the Russian side in the dark as much as possible.
Al Jazeera: Ukraine says Russia is planning a new major offensive, which could begin in the next few days. How do you see Ukraine’s opportunities and what role can the promised new tanks play?
others: The promised supply of tanks is unlikely to play a role in the war in eastern Ukraine as early as late spring. But regardless leopard debateUkraine has been promised several important additional military assets in recent months.
Examples include artillery, anti-aircraft and armored ships, such as the Marder [German infantry fighting vehicle].
Al Jazeera: Germany has finally agreed to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after facing considerable pressure from Kiev’s other Western allies. Its decision came at the same time as Washington’s move to supply Abrams. Is Europe’s desired strategic autonomy still out of reach?
others: Yes, unfortunately.
Al Jazeera: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hesitated for a long time for fear of Russian retaliation, but this annoyed the Baltic states and some officials in Washington. Has Berlin’s reputation on the international stage been irreparably damaged?
others: There is little irreversibility in foreign policy. If there have been disruptions, then they can and will be remedied again. In principle, the network of transatlantic and German-American relations is currently very good.
Al-Jazeera: In the face of Russian aggression, will Europe and Germany reconsider, even abandon the “Wandel durch Handel” policy? [change through trade] with belligerent nations?
others: One should not think that “Wandel durch Handel” is seen as a motto that can reliably bring about political and social change. At the same time, that is not to say that strengthened trade relations cannot produce stable political effects.
One should not rely solely on this method. Instead, one should also uphold the Harmel Doctrine: contain as much as possible and cooperate, trade and dialogue as much as possible.
Al-Jazeera: Do you believe that ending the war in the near future is realistic, and what do you expect for Ukraine and the Western alliance in 2023?
others: I wish Ukraine and all of us a speedy end to this war. However, in foreign policy, one must always take into account the “worst case scenario”. [scenario]. The worst-case scenario for this moment in the Ukraine war is a bloody conflict that has dragged on for years. Hopefully, we will avoid such an outcome.