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Nonsense and Panic – Berlin Bulletin No. 198

Vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach was sacked because he told the truth about anti-Russian warmongering


Why do foolhardy spoilers insist on causing embarrassment? Why must out-of-step fools upset well-steered apple-carts? Why did German vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach open his big mouth on Saturday in far-off Mumbai and spill so many beans?

Many or most U.S. media overlooked  it – that is, buried it. Or emasculated it. In Germany they couldn’t fully ignore it – though unpleasant as a messy cat cadaver near the red carpet at a major film event. This was no star-studded premiere, however, but a dangerous, frightening political and military program, and the disturbing element was not a raggedy, dead alley-cat but the elegantly-uniformed boss of the German Navy. Yet here, too, a demise was involved – that of the vice-admiral’s career!

What sin earned him such a fate? When asked about the month-long  NATO-Washington campaign against Putin and Russia, based only on vague, dubious assumptions and prophesies by anonymous experts yet rushing headlong toward military catastrophe, this top-level expert had the temerity to puncture the foundation of the whole campaign with one word: “Nonsense!”

Is Schönbach a concealed, left-over leftist? By no means! Indeed, his views on other matters – like China – are far from pacifist. But in just a few words he recalled the glass-shattering voice of little Oskar Matzerath in Günter Grass’ “The Tin Drum.” When asked “What do you think Russia really wants?” this navy boss responded: “Is Russia really interested in adding a tiny little strip of Ukraine to its territory? No, that is nonsense! I think Putin is using pressure because he is able to. He knows that he can split the European Union. What he really wants is respect. He wants respect on a basis of equality. My God, give him respect! That costs so little, really nothing at all. If you ask me – but nobody asks me: It is easy to pay him the respect which he desires and really deserves. Russia is an ancient country, Russia is an important country. Even we, India, Germany, need Russia, we need Russia against China.” While his reasoning may be questionable, his taboo-breaking disclosure, based on inside knowledge, was rendered even more troublesome by his next contribution to the discussion: “Crimea is gone…and will never come back, that is a fact.”

Schönbach, who had been commanding an armed frigate waving the German flag in Indo-Pacific waters, was speaking to a group of Indian military men in Mumbai. Thus, his advocacy of lining up with Russia against China was not surprising – nor was it realistic. But the revelation by a top insider in the NATO military machine was like a gut punch to all the hysteria about those deep dark secret plans of Putin.

The result was: The new Minister of Defense, Christine Lambrecht, a Social Democrat, suspended him immediately from all duties and titles. Her earlier predecessor, Ursula von der Leyen, now European Union boss, announced that the EU has allocated over 17 billion euros in grants and loans to Ukraine since 2014 and now plans 1.2 billion more. Its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, in worrisome disregard of Schönbach’s disclosure, turned up the heat:

“The core message is this: Europe is in danger. I wish it were different, but the last two years have seen a serious worsening of our strategic environment. … I am convinced that today we are living through the most dangerous moment of the post-Cold War period. We face the risk of a major military conflict on our continent.“

Based on such assumptions, Denmark sent fighter jets to Lithuania and a frigate to the Baltic in the Russian north, France plans on sending troops to Romania and Spain a frigate to Russia’s Black Sea region in the South, Poland demanded more NATO troops and armaments in Russia’s west, and in Washington the House voted for an increase in arms shipments to Ukraine, while 41 of the 50 Democrats in the Senate, including Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Chris Murphy and Jeff Merkley, had already agreed on similar plans to send $500 million more in military aid to Ukraine in 2022, making it the third-largest recipient of such funding, behind only Israel and Egypt. More funds would also strengthen Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. (Could that be labeled “influencing elections in other countries”? Or was that something done only by Putin?)

Nor was the GOP shy. It submitted a similar bill and Michael McCaul (TX), top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, asserted that “We need joint exercises in Poland, the Baltic States, Romania, Bulgaria, to show Putin that we’re serious…Right now, he doesn’t see we’re serious.”

But with annual NATO troops, tanks and fighter planes maneuvering in a tight ring on Russian borders and up to 800 US military or naval bases in a wide ring surrounding its heartland it is highly likely that Mr. Putin does indeed see that they’re serious. It is just hard facts that motivate Russian policy in Ukraine and Belarus, not any useless, clearly suicidal attacks against Ukraine now treated as facts in the West but called “Nonsense” by the ex-admiral.

Former Bundeswehr leader steps in

Then more unexpected voices could be heard. One belonged to retired General Harald Kujat, commanding Inspector General of Germany’s Bundeswehr from 2000 to 2002 and then, until 2005, the chairman of NATO´s top level Military Committee. You can’t get any higher than that. In a TV interview (which quickly disappeared) Kojat said:

“If I were still in office I would have stood up for Admiral Schönbach, and tried in every way to prevent his dismissal… A criticism of the way Schönbach voiced his views is understandable in the current heated situation …But it must be in our interest to achieve a sensible result, to de-escalate and arrive at a relaxation of tension with Russia, of course with consideration of Ukrainian security interests as well. … However, we cannot tolerate a situation in which we are always talking about war instead of talking about how a war can be prevented.”

Then hard-liner Markus Söder, Bavaria’s right-wing minister president, came up the same surprising sentiment: “Nobody can want a war in Europe. The territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine must be respected. But constant new threats and tougher and tougher sanctions against Russia can not be the only solution.”

Most surprisingly perhaps, Annalena Baerbock, the new foreign minister from the Green party and notoriously belligerent and bellicose in regard to Russia and China, turned to the official German policy of sending no military weapons to conflict areas – a porous policy with huge weapons shipments to Israel, Egypt and other officially peaceful but very conflict-ridden regions. But now, very correctly, Ukraine was offered only a medical unit. When the pressure was stepped up, she increased the offer, permitting the sale of defense bunkers – and then 5000 military helmets – but none of the death-dealing weapons Ukrainian leaders were heatedly demanding. This offer, they made clear, amounted to an insult. But Baerbock stuck to it and even toned down her usual aggressive vocabulary, presumably reflecting some views of the new government with clauses, new for her, like: “Dialogue has absolute priority” and ”Whoever is talking is not shooting!”

Baerbock added another surprise by dropping her fervent opposition to the newly-completed but still unused Baltic gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Economic factors were undeniable; Germany is shutting down its atomic plants and aims (though far too slowly) to cut down and then shut down coal-driven power plants. But with far too little wind , sunshine or water power to fill current energy needs (while top-level profits are always protected), prices for household heating and cooking and for industry are soaring alarmingly, with possible political repercussions. This is leading the new German government to reject US pressure to shut the pipeline and buy more expensive gas elsewhere – like from American frackers.

Does this mean that the long tug-of-war between the strong Russophobes, or “Atlanticists”, and those producers still dependent on sales of cars, machinery, chemicals and foodstuffs to Russia is not moving the way many people feared or expected with the new government? For better or worse, that seemingly eternal umbilical cord might be further fraying.

Even in the USA, Joe Biden seemed – on and off – to be keeping one ear open to those who want to “cool it,” or at least mix some talking with the arming. Of course the danger of using provocations abroad to win elections at home is always present, and there are plenty in politics and the media always willing or eager to risk this path. One prime example is the news agency Politico, now owned by the mighty far-right Axel Springer company, Germany’s Murdock equivalent, which recently ran hellfire and brimstone articles on Putin’s bloodthirsty plans – all based on unnamed “experts” but helpfully labeled at the top: “Presented by Lockheed Martin.” That’s the outfit whose F-35 fighter planes and other useful items helped them rake in over $62 billion in revenue in 2020. Marilyn Hewson, chairman, president and chief executive officer, was rewarded with $20.2 million in 2017. But let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions about war-hungry complicity! Or lobbying!

Reactions from the German Right

I think Americans are deeply troubled by Covid-19, Omicron, and all too often by steep prices, medical costs, rent increases, opioids – but rarely by possible conflicts in far-off places. People in Germany, also troubled by viruses and the incredible bungling and endless daily arguments about possible compulsory vaccination, the proper age for vaccination, school opening or closing with or without masks, about lockdowns and about the sometimes violent demonstrations – with some leftists as well as rightists (and loonies) opposing vaccination (or opposing the opposers). Also very disturbing – for Roman Catholics (and many new ex-Catholics) – was the giant new scandal in Munich affecting church dignitaries, including ex-Pope Benedict XVI (who was caught in a lie), and their decades-long cover-ups of multiple sexual abuses.

Headlines also featured the choice  of Friedrich Merz as new chairman of the Christian Democratic Union and head of its Bundestag caucus. Merz, for sixteen years an unlucky rival and loser to the more moderate Angela Merkel, will most likely move the party, now in opposition, well to the right; Merz, a multimillionaire, faithful “Atlanticist” and dedicated anti-leftist (his main book is titled “Dare Have More Capitalism),” was the German chairman of Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, before re-entering politics.

Even further to the right, Jörg Meuthen, till now the main spokesman for Alternative for Germany (AfD), who tried to maintain a more respectable camouflage for the party, has quit the job and the party, abandoning it to the most overt and vicious pro-fascists.

But while Germans may not be much more interested in Ukraine than Americans, their grandparents told them enough about that last big war to keep a majority from wanting to risk another one. The disaster in Afghanistan and the military mess in Mali have hardly increased anyone’s enthusiasm.

But how many will defy viruses and inertia for this year’s peace marches – in Germany at Eastertime? How many will defy Lockheed and Krupp death merchants or Axel Springer hate-mongers, all loaded with power measured in billions? Will they realize that the terrible threat to “poor democratic Ukraine” recalls “Remember the Maine” and phony Vietnamese attacks on US warships (in Vietnamese waters) and so many other “security threats”? They led to so much misery and bloodshed – and this time could lead to far, far worse)? Can peace movements make the citizenry aware of the danger facing it, worse even than job loss, ecology or viruses? Can enough people in many countries recognize that supposed facts are manufactured “Nonsense” – but insanely dangerous nonsense?


Postscript: I was just about to mail off this Berlin Bulletin when I received a report on a press conference of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with foreign journalists in which he stated that Russia is not attacking his country and news reports are “out of balance”.

“We see today no greater escalation than we did earlier. Yes, the number of (Russian) troops has increased, but I already spoke about that in early 2021 during Russian military exercises. ..The media conveys the impression that we are at war, that tanks are rolling, troops marching around, that there is a mobilization, that people are in flight. That is not true. We do not need such panic. … I have been speaking with leading politicians and explaining that we are forced to stabilize our economy because of all such signals that there will be war tomorrow. The signals even came from respected politicians who said openly, not even in diplomatic language, that ‘there will be war tomorrow’. That leads to panic. Panic on the stock markets, panic in the financial sector. 12.5 billion have been withdrawn from Ukraine since the panic began, which is very costly for the Ukrainians.”

Zelensky also called on Russia to reduce its military deployment and thus lessen tension. Some media used these words – and not what he said earlier. Others ignored all of it.

From the Bogside to Brexit – The Long Shadow of Bloody Sunday

50 years on from the British army massacre, Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants are still both pawns in the imperial game


When Belfast City Council convened on December 3rd, 2012, the results and subsequent ruling of this meeting would have an immediate effect. A crowd descended on the City Hall, smashing windows of the cars outside as well as the windows of the building itself. These rioters soon clashed with the police, attacking them with petrol bombs and bricks; the police responded with water canons and plastic bullets in turn. Much like the January 6th insurrection in Washington D.C., people inside captured moments of the madness on their phones, and one video soon went viral. With her face pressed against a broken window in the door, a Union Jack raised triumphantly in her right hand, a woman manically bellowed the words “NO SURRENDER!” through the small opening.

This immediate and violent reaction was in response to the City Council’s ruling to limit the amount of days the Union Flag (or Union Jack) would be flown over the City Hall. It was decided that it would fly for 18 days a year. This was in line with the minimum requirements for a government building. The response from the Loyalist community to what the Orange Order deemed a “Cultural War” on their British identity was swift, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The contentious nature of flags in Northern Ireland can be confusing at best, and deadly at worst. In Republican areas, it’s normal to see a Palestinian flag flown, or painted into a mural. In retaliation, you will often see a Israeli flag flown in Loyalist areas, and yet in some cases you will also see Nazi flags flown in the same area. This only scratches the surface of the complicated status of flags in this small country. However there is one flag that is flown in Loyalist areas  that few outside the UK and Ireland would recognise, and even there,  many would not be able to identify it either. The flag in question is that of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army, the regiment who on January 30th, 1972, perpetrated the Bogside Massacre, more infamously known as Bloody Sunday.

Why Flags Matter

When soldiers opened fire on a Civil Rights march in Derry, 26 civilians were shot in total – 13 were killed immediately, 1 died later of his injuries. Fifty years and 2 governmental inquiries later, the victims and their families still seek justice. In 2020, they were dealt a sickening blow when prosecutors determined that Lance Corporal David Cleary – the man who spent most of his career hidden from his crimes behind the moniker of “Soldier F” – would not be tried on 2 counts of murder and 4 counts of attempted murder. The Ballymurphy Massacre was another brutal mass murder carried out by the Parachute Regiment in Belfast in 1971, and it’s believed that Cleary was also involved in this.

When Cleary was initially charged in April 2019, the flag of the Parachute Regiment began to be erected at popular tourist spots around Northern Ireland, along with banners proclaiming that area “Stands with Soldier F”. Around this same time, as you drove out of Belfast on the A1 Motorway towards the M1 Motorway which crosses the border into the Republic and onward to Dublin,  a section of the road flew that flag on every second lamppost, while the ones in between flew a Union Jack. Loyalists disrespect the flags of the Republic of Ireland, Palestine, the Basque region, and almost any flag that has any relation to Irish republicanism by burning all of these emblems on their 12th July bonfires. Just so the flying of the Parachute Regiment flag is about provocation and intimidation more than it is about supporting a murderer.

It’s obvious that this fervent support by Loyalists of the soldiers who murdered innocent civilians is deplorable. But beyond this, it shines a light on the twisted image that many in the United Kingdom have developed of their colonial past and present. As we look back on the blood-soaked history of British imperialism, we see that the location and the time period may change, but the violence and brutality remains much the same.

Bloody Sunday(s)

On the 21st November 1920, the viciousness of the Crown Forces was felt in Croke Park, Dublin, at a Gaelic Football game. The despised Black and Tans (a division of the Royal Irish Constabulary) opened fire on civilians and players at the game, killing 14 and injuring dozens more. This was the first “Bloody Sunday” the Irish people would experience that century.

A year previous in India, thousands gathered in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar to show support for their independence leaders who had been arrested by British forces. They were corralled by British soldiers who blocked any potential exit. An order to fire was given by Brigadier-General R. E. H. Dyer. In the vicious attack the soldiers fired until their ammunition was spent, leaving anywhere between 379 and 1000+ dead, and nearly 1500 injured. No official state apology has ever been given, but Theresa May made sure to offer empty platitudes when she called it a “shameful scar” during her 2019 visit.

The detailing of the heinous and murderous actions like these could go on and on, but these example are enough to emphasise the indifference the Crown Forces showed to colonial subjects they actively oppressed. This raises the question of what exactly the blind support invested by sects of the Loyalist communities achieves? As they too have been victims of the British Army, and in particular, the Parachute Regiment. On September 7th, just over 6 months after Bloody Sunday, two Protestant civilians were killed by the Paras, still under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford. This took place during a raid of an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) safe house in the Loyalist Shankill area. It was claimed they were returning fire at Loyalist gunmen who had first attacked the troops.

In the immediate aftermath, the UDA released a statement condemning the Regiment, emphasising “Never has Ulster witnessed such licensed sadists and such blatant liars as the 1st Paras. These gun-happy louts must be removed from the streets”. This quote brings to light the blatant cognitive dissonance many Loyalists wrestle with when it comes to the British Forces. Only months after Bloody Sunday, the Loyalist paramilitaries as well as Loyalist civilians were able to recognise the vicious and indiscriminate attitude the Crown Forces had towards them as citizens of Northern Ireland; but the murder of Catholics citizens was something to be celebrated by championing those same forces.

Whether it’s flying the flags of the Parachute Regiment; placing banners that say “Fuck your Ballymurphy inquiry” on the 12th July bonfires; or sending death threats to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood following his use of parliamentary privilege to disclose Cleary’s name in the House of Commons –  it becomes clear that many hardline Loyalists can’t accept the realities of what British colonial violence has done to Northern Ireland as a whole, rather than just the Catholic and Nationalist communities.

More British than the Brits

To fully delve into this warped sense of Britishness held by Loyalists in Northern Ireland would need an in-depth scholarly study. But there are specific examples which demonstrate just how insidious it is. There are also examples that conversely show how meaningless the North of Ireland is in the bigger picture of British imperialism.

In 2019, Protestant Pastor Barrie Halliday released a video on his Facebook page, proclaiming his support for the late Willie Frazer, before Frazer was due to be featured in a BBC special “Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History”. Evidence had come to light that showed Frazer, a campaigner for Protestant victims of the IRA, supplied weapons to Loyalist paramilitaries in the late 1980s that were linked to 70 murders. On his deathbed, Frazer had told a BBC journalists working on the show that “I don’t want to be remembered as a clown who did stunts going to court, I want to be remembered as a player who took the war to the IRA.”

Pastor Halliday rallied against the BBC in the video, as well as the media in general, and any Catholics who would welcome the revelation from the late campaigner. He stated “I’m not going to disassociate myself, and I am not worried about the rabble, I am not worried about the lesser breeds who line up today in their papers that are read by the lesser breeds that have learned to read in recent years.”

Unapologetic sectarianism has always been prevalent in Northern Irish politics and society, regardless of the affiliation. But this blatant bigotry and WASP supremacy was by a man who leads a religious congregation. The example stands to show that it is omnipresent in everyday life in the country.

Keeping this in mind, let’s now look reaction of the media in the wake of the 2017 UK General Election, after the Conservative Party had to call the Democratic Unionist Party into a “confidence and supply” agreement (on the promise of an extra Billion pounds in funding for Northern Ireland) in order to stay in power.

While the DUP’s leader called the Union the party’s “guiding star”, the general public in Great Britain had to be introduced to one of the two biggest parties in Northern Irish politics. Articles from the BBC were entitled “Who are the DUP?” The Daily Mail, a never-ending source of bigotry in UK media, met the announcement with a cartoon showing a ‘drunk Paddy’, captioned “[The Tories] took some persuading but eventually the DUP clinched the deal”. While the DUP may see the Union as their “guiding star”, the cartoon shows many in the British media who see the Irish as a “Drunk Paddy” stereotype – no matter what side of the Republican/Unionist divide they fall on.

50 Years On

As we near the 50th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies inflicted on the Irish people by Crown Forces in the 20th century, what has changed? It’s unlikely any justice will be found for those who were murdered that day. Beyond the dismissal of the case against Cleary, the length of time since the murders has let murderers live their lives, retire, and head into their twilight years, safe from being held responsible for their actions. When once there was a realisation on both sides of the political coin that the Paras were “gun-happy louts”, this has now shifted into Loyalists celebrating the murders committed by the regiment. Surveys show that less people in Northern Ireland feel “strongly British” than people in Scotland, England, or Wales. Yet when the Tories needed support to cling onto power, the DUP were quick to step in to support their “guiding light”.

As Brexit negotiations continued, and Boris Johnson’s Tory party won a landslide in the 2019 General Election, the DUP’s lack of influence and importance in broader UK politics became glaringly obvious. To force a Brexit deal through, Johnson was happy to agree that an agrifood and customs border would go in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and island of Ireland. This incited Unionists who saw this as division between them and the Union they had so passionately supported for centuries.

As Northern Ireland reached its 100th year as a state in 2021, Unionists were left to grapple with the cold reality that their influence in the London political sphere had almost entirely diminished. Coupled with the fact that the general population of Great Britain have little to no knowledge of their dedication to the United Kingdom; and the fact that support for a United Ireland is slowly but steadily growing – Unionism is being backed further into a corner. Just as their importance to the Conservative Party dwindled when they became surplus to requirements, the likelihood of true justice being delivered for those who have suffered and died at the hands of British Imperialism dwindled too.


“We need every voice to speak up against this silencing of the Palestinians!” – Interview with Shahd Abusalama

The teaching of Palestinian academic Shahd Abusalama was suspended following a Zionist smear campaign because of her pro-Palestinian activism. She speaks to TheLeftBerlin about growing up under Israeli bombs, international solidarity, and the real cancel culture


NOTE: After this interview, Shahd learned that she had won her case. In a supplementary Answer at the end of this interview, she talks about what happens next.


Hi Shahd. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you start by letting us know a little about yourself?

Thank you so much for talking to me. My name is Shahd Abusalama, and I’m a writer, artist and campaigner for Palestine. I’m also an academic and I’ve been working on my PhD, which I submitted on New Year’s Eve. I’m waiting right now for my viva [Ph.D. defence] and I was appointed as an associate lecturer at Sheffield Hallam. I’m also the victim of a Zionist witch hunt.

I was born and raised in Jabalia, the largest refugee camp in Palestine. I’m the daughter of a former political prisoner who spent 15 years of captive resistance in Israeli jails. He was first detained at age 15; at age 19 he was sentenced again, this time to seven lifetimes, and without charge or a fair trial. I’m also the granddaughter of refugees who were dispossessed of their villages, lands and homes in 1948.

I’ve lived through so many of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. I was born during the First Intifada, and I grew up in the aftermath of the Second Intifada. I remember very clearly what Israel calls “Summer Rains” – its 2006 campaign against Gaza.

Then there was what they called “Cast Lead” in 2008-2009, when I was 17. I was attending my mid-term exams for high school, when Israel bombarded Gaza with tons and tons of explosives at 11 a.m. on the first day of the attack, when most of the children were either at school or on their way to school. After that, there was the 11-day attack on Gaza, the “Pillars of Cloud”.

For a Palestinian living under the relentless terror perpetrated by the Israeli state, all we have is our voice. I’ve been utilising that voice in writing, in painting, in dabke dancing, ever since I was a teenager, if not a kid.

Speaking of your voice, you were recently banned from teaching at Hallam University in Sheffield. Do you know exactly why?

I met my students on Monday 17 January. At that introductory lecture, I had such a stimulating conversation with them. We were having great discussions around Edward Said and Orientalism, about Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi and the psychology of the colonised and the coloniser.

We also spoke about Spivak and the question of agency of the oppressed: about how we can disrupt colonial legacy and colonial narratives by taking back our agency and enforcing that counter-narrative. I screened a documentary for the students to get them more oriented with Edward Said and Orientalism, which inaugurated post-colonial culture.

To clarify­: the module that I’m teaching is called “Post-Colonial Media Culture”, and it intersects so profoundly with my PhD research, which is on historical representations of Palestinian refugees with a focus on Gaza. Gaza is important because of its majority refugee population and its systematic isolation since the building of the Israeli state.

I was looking at colonial, humanitarian and Palestinian filmic discourses that dealt with the Palestinian refugee issue in documentary film. So all of my work – my personal and my family history, our struggles as Palestinians – it’s all very entrenched in everything I do, whether it be academia or grassroots campaigning or cultural expressions, ie Cinema Palestino in Sheffield, the Hawiyya dance company in London, and the Apartheid Off Campus campaign.

Then there’s the Shut Elbit Down campaign. We recently managed to reach such a momentum that we shut down the Oldham branch of Elbit Systems, after five years of consistent community mobilisation protesting the normalisation of prisons by such a horrendous factory. They literally test their weapons on the Gaza strip – where the majority of the population is children. Then they go around the world and market it as “battle tested” to other oppressive regimes, and make billions and billions in profits from the destruction of our lives and our livelihoods.

I was going to meet my students for a second time on Friday for my scheduled seminars. And just a few hours before, I received this sudden email from my university saying that I cannot resume teaching and that I’m under investigation following a complaint. Everything was vague. Nothing was mentioned of the nature of the complaint or why I was suspended. They also notified me that they would tell the students that my classes were cancelled until further notice.

That was devastating for me because I do not feel appreciated or recognised for all the work I’ve been doing back home in Gaza, or all the work I’ve continued to do while engaging with community organisations, and building and running justice and anti-racist campaigns on and off-campus.

Instead of recognition, I’m being punished, silenced and censored. The university has made itself an accomplice in the Zionist attempts to silence Palestine, to silence Palestinian voices, and to distract from Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. This crimes are continuing as we speak – in Gaza, in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, in Beita and Al-Naqab, where we wake up every day to more horrors.

This vicious circle of oppression has to stop. We are rising up for human values, for the oppressed. We are elevating their voices and ours and doing what is within our rights. We are fighting to reverse this international failure to hold Israel to account and deliver justice to Palestinians.

Have you spoken to any of your students since this happened? Do you know how they have reacted?

I’ve received immense support on so many levels – from students, the UCU [the lecturers’ trade union], and on the local and international levels. The support, love and solidarity has been honestly overwhelming. This is the reason I’m carrying on, with my family struggles before my eyes.

If you put it in context, what I’m experiencing now is nothing in comparison to my dad’s struggle. He was taken away and locked in a cell in a dark narrow space for 15 years without trial. His only offence was being Palestinian.

What is happening exposes the truth that Palestinians do not necessarily break free of Israel’s oppression when they leave their refugee camps and their occupied territories. We are chased wherever we go, and we are silenced and attacked wherever we go.

But in my case, the popular support is just beyond description. And it definitely overshadows the Zionist smear campaign: it embarrasses Israel for coming after a war survivor and a refugee who broke from their violence, and shows how determined they still are to ruin our lives and silence Palestinian voices. It shows how pathetic and desperate Israel is.

They’re losing the battle over the narrative and they’re losing in terms of popular support. The Jewish News, the Jewish Chronicle, and the Campaign Against Antisemitism, all platforms that are infamous for their racist stance against the Palestinians and their Islamophobic comments, all have fewer supporters than the Palestinians.

But they can create smoke bombs and they can get under the skin of people in power here, like at my university that bowed to their pressure. But my case highlights how Palestinians are going to be the most vulnerable to the IHRA misleading and flawed definition which discriminates against the Palestinians in its very nature.

If calling Israel or Zionist a racist endeavour is antisemitic, then I am antisemite by IHRA definition. By effect, my own history, my lived experience is dismissed in the process, which only confirms that racism is an inherent character of Zionism. That’s why resistance to the IHRA is a must.

The Jewish Chronicle threatened to publish some of your social media posts. What were these posts, and what was in them that is so dangerous?

It’s quite shocking that they would see someone rising to prominence, a success story, rising out of immense oppression and pain, and would try to silence me by whatever means necessary.

They don’t know me. They don’t know my family struggle. They don’t know what I’ve been through and what I survived. However, they do know that I am a victim of their terror, and that I posed a threat to their image, to Israel’s image. It’s so clear that it’s not about my posts; it’s about the liberation and anti-colonial causes that I stand for and represent.

So I don’t want to go into the tweets that they’re digging up from 10 years ago, when I was writing from under fire in Gaza. I want people to resist this deflection campaign from Israeli terrorists. I want them to resist the attempts to make people stop talking about Israeli oppression against the Palestinians. This oppression is going on right now and has been going on with British and U.S. support since before Israel came into existence in 1948.

So, it’s nothing. Do you really want me to go through what they’re smoking against me?

Only if you think it’s helpful

In 2012, I was 21 years old and had survived several attacks. Since I was very young, I was following international media to keep myself informed about the discourse that was contributing to the violence that was falling on our heads.

I was interested in the foreign policy regimes of the US, the UK, and the EU, and how they fuel this violence against us by always emphasising Israel’s so-called right to self-defence. But there is no such right for an occupying power guaranteed in international law. In fact, the opposite is true. Our right as occupied people is guaranteed under international law ­­– our right to resist by any means necessary to achieve our liberation from settler-colonisation.

So protesting these crimes is completely within my rights – to resist for my people’s right to freedom, justice, equality and return – as an academic and as a person. I myself am living evidence of these crimes. I carry their traces and traumatic consequences.

These were the things that I was talking about. I was 21 years old and English is my second language. It’s not my native tongue, and I probably wouldn’t now express myself in the same way as I did 10 years ago. But what I said is legitimate if you put things in context.

But of course, the Zionists have this deliberate tendency to take things out of context in order to stereotype us as anti-Semites. It’s just such a low and disgusting way of weaponizing antisemitism because it actually distracts from the real anti-Semites. The way they use it strips the crime of antisemitism of its seriousness.

This is why we say that that Zionism is one of the worst forms of antisemitism as this politicised weaponization affects many Jews around the world. Waking up to this, Jews worldwide, including Israelis, are disassociating themselves from it believing that there is no such “safe haven” in a supremacist settler-colonial state built on ethnic cleansing and apartheid.

Many of them came in my support but you see Zionism from its beginning created a hostile atmosphere where even Jews are not equal when it comes to the Zionist enterprise’s interests.

It’s clear that Israel’s lobby is constructing a new term called “anti-Zionist antisemitism”, which they identify as the worst form of anti-Semitism that is threatening Jews. It is a deliberate conflation of a crime and a just cause. Anti-Zionism is a duty that people must embrace if they are actually and truly anti-racist.

Do you think there’s a connection between attacks on you and previous attacks on people like Jeremy Corbyn and David Miller

Of course there is. It is part of the same witch hunt. Those are all respected people and have such massive support behind them. Labour Party membership doubled under Jeremy Corbyn, which shows the sort of person he is.

However, there is one distinction between us: I am a Palestinian who broke free from Israel’s oppression only to continue to be chased by Israeli oppression outside of Palestine. It shows how Palestinians are criminalised wherever they go.

I’m not white. I don’t have European citizenship. I’m stateless in this country and a refugee, and I’m vulnerable in so many ways, whether it comes to migration or on a professional level. That is a major distinction here. The cases are all interlinked, but the consequences are different.

David Miller, for example, is a middle-aged white British man who was silenced for standing in solidarity with the Palestinians. However, at least he had a chance to build a career for himself. I have barely started. I’m 30 years old, I’ve just submitted my PhD, just been appointed as an associate lecturer. I was suspended immediately after that and was targeted in this vicious manner.

The people attacking me think I am an easy target because I’m a Palestinian woman of colour and a refugee here. But the popular support that came in my defence shows that they were wrong.

This shows that they are losing many battles. I believe so strongly deep in my heart that we will see a free Palestine, and that Israeli apartheid will fall and join the fate of the South African apartheid. This is why they’re becoming frantic right now.

I’m sure you are aware of similar attacks on German academics, as your brother Majed lives in Berlin. How much contact do you have with people here who are being silenced for talking about Palestine?

I’m speaking to so many people and my support network is just so massive. There are many other people who have been victimised and silenced by Israel. There are many amazing anti-Zionist Jews. It’s a beautiful international, multicultural, multi-faith community that is supporting me and speaking out and fighting back. We have no option but to fight back.

I’ve been following a lot of what is going on in Germany. I was supporting a lot of campaigns in Berlin, like Palestine Speaks and BDS Berlin. I attended a few conferences there and came to support my brother when he was brought into court for daring to challenge a racist member of the Knesset [the Israeli parliament]. This Israeli politician is a warmonger and was using platforms at Humboldt University to whitewash Israeli crimes; art-wash and pink-wash them.

Instead of standing on the right side of history and on the side of the oppressed, we saw how the court system in Germany tolerates Zionist attacks. But in the end, my brother and his anti-Zionist Israeli activists emerged victorious. So I know how tense the atmosphere is. I feel that out of all the European states, the hostility is most horrible in the UK and Germany.

However, that doesn’t reflect on the people. These countries are not acting on the mandate of representing their people. After every attack against Gaza, we’ve seen popular mobilisations occupying the main streets of Europe. If it shows anything, it’s that the politicians in the EU are not listening to the demands of their people; they’re choosing to support Israel and maintain its apartheid regime over achieving justice for the Palestinians.

This is a very important point to make. I believe the narrative is changing. All these different smear campaigns are only showing the political effectiveness of global Palestine campaigns, which are hitting Israel’s reputation and its economy hard. They are targeting the chain of complicity that fuels the violence against the Palestinians.

We should take consolation in this and be hopeful that justice will be served in Palestine soon.

There is a lot of outrage in the British media about Cancel Culture. Usually this involves a rich, white celebrity who is given lots of media space to complain about someone who has criticized them. Are the press reporting your case in the same way?

Originally there was an attempt to cancel people like me who are vocal for Palestine. But often the response to Palestine activists getting cancelled is so overwhelming that it reverses the impact and exposes Israel further.

If we want to speak about cancel culture and how it works here in the UK, I want to address the hypocrisy of how so many Zionists go around and they say racist and Islamophobic things and write on massive platforms. Some of the people saying these things, like Trump, for example, are openly antisemitic. But of course, Zionists wouldn’t call out real anti-Semites like him because they’re in harmony with the imperial interests of Israel and the US.

We saw Biden, for example, saying that if there was no Israel, we’d invent have to invent one. All presidents of the US have mounted platforms of the Zionist lobby AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] before they made it to the presidency.

The things that I discuss in public and in my social media are related to what I’ve just described. They are valid concerns and grievances. It’s very important to call out those shared imperial interests that are enforcing and emboldening Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. But these Zionists and real anti-Semites and Islamophobes, these transphobes and homophobes – none of these people are challenged as much as somebody like me fighting for my people’s basic rights.

Within academia, for example, there are proud members of UK Lawyers for Israel, who have probably been monitoring me. It is likely that they are contributing behind the scenes who has been causing all this hatred waged against me and trying to impede my political effectiveness. These people go around to platforms saying things like, “Ethnic cleansing is a trope, Israel killing children in Gaza is a trope, Israel’s settler expansion is a trope, apartheid is a trope.” These are openly Islamophobic

And no one challenges this kind of hypocrisy of people actually fuelling violence and division on campus or internationally – they are the people who were most devoutly pushing IHRA [the contested definition of antisemitism issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance].

There have even been members of UK Lawyers for Israel on the committee that discussed the IHRA definition in my university. I was recommended to attend noting the absence of Palestinian voices but I was never contacted. Why would the board include someone who is a proud member of UK Lawyers for Israel and one of the leading campaigners for IHRA definition, when no Palestinian is represented despite being directly affected by the IHRA? As my case highlights, the Palestinians will be the most vulnerable to the IHRA definition of antisemitism as it directly conflict with our need to expose Israel’s systematic oppression against us.

How could this consultation body actually be independent, transparent or neutral? The Palestine Society was also recommended to be there, and we had sent a letter opposing the adoption of the IHRA and suggesting an alternative framework that went dismissed, which shows how systematic the silencing of the Palestinian perspective is.

I have one final question. People will read this interview and follow your case in the media and will be astounded. They’ll want to know how they can show solidarity. What can people do to offer you practical support?

I’m asking people right now to go on social media and express their outrage and concern for the silencing of Palestinian voices and use the hashtag #InSupportofShahd.

Also, please write letters of support to my university managers, demanding that the university make a public apology and recognise that they are practicing racist tolerance of attacks made in very bad faith, targeting a stateless Palestinian woman of colour. And of course, demand that I resume teaching as usual and that any investigation that is motivated by the IHRA definition as a framework, must be dropped.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’d just like to thank you so much and to thank everyone through your platform and to just remember that this is not about me. My persecutors don’t really know me, and they have no sympathy whatsoever for Palestinian grievances and lived experiences of Israeli terror.

Just keep talking about Palestine and keep advancing the campaigns that hit Israel and its economy and reputation. Strike against the chain of complicity between your country and Israel that continues to embolden Israel’s impunity.

It’s time that justice is served for the Palestinians. It is long overdue. We now have the fourth generation of Palestinian refugees who are born in refugee camps. And while any Jew around the world can “return” to the so-called Promised Land, Palestinians who are the indigenous people of the land are not allowed to return. What is racist if this is not racist?

It has to be made clear that the organising principle of Zionism was advancing Jewish supremacy over indigenous Palestinian Arabs. We are all victims of this ethnic cleansing and horror that has affected my family in Palestine and Europe who continue to be criminalised wherever we go. It’s just not fair, and we have to do everything possible to stop this injustice.


Supplementary question: Since we first talked, you won a victory in your campaign for academic freedom. Could you explain what happened, and what comes next?

On Thursday, 27 January I met with the heads of human resources, and I was joined by union reps. HR asked for our meeting to be confidential, but I reminded them that my confidentiality was breached when they continued to contact the Zionist press without approaching me first.

In the meeting, it became clear that the complaints that were made against me were made by external powers from the likes of the Zionist outlets of Jewish News and Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Chronicle. These haven’t left me alone in the past and they won’t do so in the future. I have to fight for the investigation to be dropped after recognising its wrong foundation, and to put policies in place to ensure that no one is targeted in this malicious manner.

At the meeting, HR told me that I am reinstated with immediate effect. But let’s not underestimate the mental pressure that I have been under: being criminalized and suspended without warning, being treated as a non-person with no rights in my own university where I’ve been for four years.

We must disrupt this entrenched attitude that basically says that human rights, democracy, social responsibility and humanity are rights for everybody except for Palestine. We have to challenge this.

The mobilisation in support of me has been really inspiring and has been keeping me going, but the fight doesn’t end here. We must challenge the political tools that are being imposed on educational institutions, which violate the university’s autonomy, and make it complicit with the colonisers, while distracting from the oppression that they are inflicting on the colonised, on the Palestinians.

We need every voice to speak up against this silencing of the Palestinians. We know that justice is on our side and it will be served to the Palestinians. We have to reverse the effect of the IHRA definition of antisemitism that deliberately conflates anti-Zionism with the crime of antisemitism, as a means of silencing us from demanding accountability for Israeli crimes.

The fight goes on until freedom, justice and equality is delivered to the Palestinians.


Follow Shahd Abusalama on @ShahdAbusalama on Twitter and Facebook and @Shahdismailpaints on Instagram. Shahd writes the blog Palestine From My Eyes. Use the hashtag #InSupportofShahd to let people know about Shahd’s case. Students can support Shahd by signing this letter of support.

Here are some media articles about Shahd’s campaign for justice:

Thanks to Majed Abusalama for this collection of links

News from Berlin and Germany, 27th January 2022

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany



Left: suspend compulsory attendance for schools

Berlin’s Left Party (“die Linke”) has again called for following Brandenburg’s example and suspending compulsory attendance because of the current Omicron wave. This should allow pupils who themselves or their family members have pre-existing conditions to study from home, as parliamentary group leader Carsten Schatz announced on Saturday. “Maintaining full attendance teaching in schools should not be a dogma, just as correcting a position in this difficult situation does not mean a political defeat.” Schatz explained that the schools themselves, together with pupils and parents, should decide in an uncomplicated way on the application of flexible teaching models. Source: Süddeutsche

“Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.” demands majority in Berlin expert commission

The initiative won over 59 per cent of the votes in the referendum on 26 September. The initiators of the successful Berlin referendum “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.” have made it clear they will not be taken to the cleaners without a fight when it comes to appointing the “expert commission” that is to examine its implementation. The majority of seats are allocated to supporters of the socialisation of real estate companies with more than 3,000 flats. Transparency is also necessary. The meetings of the committee would have to be public. Source: heise



No room ban for Israel boycott

Cities are not allowed to prohibit the discussion of the boycott of Israel in municipal rooms. This was decided by the Federal Administrative Court with reference to the fundamental right of freedom of opinion. The ruling of the Federal Administrative Court is effective nationwide. It puts a temporary end to the dispute over the BDS movement, which calls, among other things, for a boycott of goods from Israel. BDS stands for “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”. In future, cities will only be allowed to refuse municipal premises for BDS events if there is a serious risk of criminal offences, such as incitement of the people and insults. Source: taz

Mass coming-out in the Catholic Church

In an unprecedented action, 122 employees of the Catholic Church in German-speaking countries have come out as queer and demanded an end to their discrimination. Among them are priests, parish and pastoral ministers, religion teachers, but also employees from the church administration. The new network aims to mobilize the public against such pressures from the Church and is calling on all LGBTI people working full-time or in a voluntary capacity for the Catholic Church to join it. Bishops and all those with responsibility in the Church, parishes, associations and religious congregations have been asked to publicly declare their support for the manifesto. Source:

Experts from Cameroon denied visas victims of “institutional racism”

Yrine Matchinda and her colleague Lucie Mbogni Nankeng of the University of Dschang have been touring Cameroon’s francophone areas in the last two years. This collaborative project was initiated by the German Lost Art Foundation and the ethnological Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich. Among the more than 200 objects from its collection there are the so-called and famous “Blaue-Reiter-Pfosten” (Blue Rider Post). However, the researchers, who wanted to present a workshop in Munich, about their findings, will have to attend that online once they have not got visas for entry in the country. Considered that Matchinda for instance was already in Germany, the researchers mention “institutional racism.” Source: dw

Shooting at Heidelberg University

Police said that a man entered at the Heidelberg University Lecture Hall with a double-barrelled shotgun and another firearm as a class was running and opened fire. Four people were wounded. A 23-year-old woman died several hours later in the hospital. The suspect was identified an 18-year-old biology student, who turned the weapon on himself after the shooting. Police also mentioned they found a backpack belonging to the shooter containing a large amount of ammunition. At first, police stayed clear of the stricken suspect and his bag, suspecting it might contain explosives. No motive was released by police. Source: dw

Demonstrator dies at Corona protest

A demonstrator died during a Corona protest in Wandlitz in Brandenburg on Monday evening. A police spokeswoman mentioned “The 53-year-old Barnimer wanted to break through this police chain. He was stopped and gave his personal details to the officers without resistance. He was then able to continue on his way.” According to the police, there was no fisticuffs or shoving. However, when going back to his car, he collapsed. Police officers are said to have administered first aid immediately. Meanwhile, a video of the far-right splinter party Free Saxons showed a man being pushed by a policeman on the fringes of a Corona protest. Source: Berliner Zeitung

Imperialist Danse Macabre over the Peoples of Ukraine

The USA-led NATO is encircling Russia’s perimeters, as Russia masses troops at Ukraine’s border. Germany, the European Union, and Ukranian oligarchs have all put their oars in. What is behind events and what can we expect?

For decades Ukraine has been a cauldron. After the 1991 USSR break-up, all players there share blame, nurturing prior distrust where the Eastern more ‘Russian’ side, faced a Western more ‘Polish’ side. Putin’s dictatorship supported its own ruthless supporters inside Ukraine. And the USA and its creature NATO with all European Union (EU) states encircle Russia using West Ukraine as a foil.

Underlying the macabre dance is Ukraine’s strategic value (Map below). It’s the second largest country in size (after Russia) in Europe, ranking eighth in population. Coal-rich, with a heavy industrial base from Soviet times, it has a valued technology literate, educated working class – once the major arms exporter to the USSR.

The march of privatisation profiteering in Russia was matched in Ukraine

Putin led the gangster “Siloviki” (‘strong men’ or so-called KGB Inc) after 1991. They did not sell Russia to the West, as Jeffrey Sachs preached, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky and pro-Western oligarchs wished. They wanted Russian capital for themselves. The Navalny case showed:

“Russia is a capitalist dictatorship, dominated by the clique of oligarchs who surround Putin. Putin’s rule (is) by personal decree, where stooges control all arms of the state including the judiciary, (and) democracy has been stifled.”

In Ukraine, many in the corrupt formerly Soviet state called for independence forming the party ‘Rukh’ in 1989. But in Gorbachev’s referendum on the potential breakup of the USSR in 1991, only Western Ukraine favoured independence. Across Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk’s proposal of sovereignty within a loose ‘Union’, won out at 80%.

Events moved fast after Yeltsin’s coup. Stanlislav Hurenko, of the erstwhile pro-USSR Communist Party (CP), responded: “We must vote for independence (otherwise) we’ll find ourselves up to our ears in shit”. The new popular referendum voted 90.3% for independence.

Competing capitalist factions

Independence in 1991 Ukraine meant freedom for ‘red entrepreneurs’ to make profits. Leading ‘communists’ copied Russian capitalists in privatising (stealing) state resources. ‘Komsomol banks’ included Privatbank, which laundered $150 million via Latvia. In rushing the pig-trough, two great rival blocks of Ukranian oligarchs formed: One in the East steppe region of Ukraine, while one became entrenched in West Ukraine.

The first group in Donetsk, a mining town in the Donbas, linked to Russian ‘Silvoki’, and Putin. Ukraine’s first elected president was Kravchuk, followed by Leonid Kuchma, both former CP leaders. Both ‘privatised’ state resources, but Kuchma allied with Russian gangster Boris Biurshtein, to form ‘Ukraina Company’ to divert state funds. Their ally, Viktor Yanukovych led ‘Party of Regions’, and with Kuchma ruthlessly bribed off or physically eliminated opposition members.

The second group equally ruthless, favoured Western imperialism. Viktor Yushchenko a private banker, controlled the National Bank, and formed ‘Our Ukraine’. Yulia Tymoshenko – or the ‘Gas Princess’ made huge fortunes by corruption. She and Pavlo Lazerenko set up United Energy Systems Ukraine which made shady deals with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

After payoffs to Kuchma, Lazerenko became Prime Minister (PM). But corruption charges led to Lazerenko fleeing to the USA. Yulia Tymoshenko led ‘Hromada’, the ‘dissident’ oligarchs party, but then discovered Western Ukraine nationalism. She learnt Ukranian to form the ‘Fatherland’ party, later becoming PM.

Putin mainly backed the first section of the Ukranian oligarchy and its political representatives. But oligarchs frequently changed allegiance chasing profits.

The ‘Orange Revolution’ Maidan 1.0 to Maidan 2.0

Kuchma and his PM Viktor Yanukovych, entered an orgy of bribery, repression, and murder (of Hryhorri Gongadze, a journalist). In 2002 elections for Rada (Parliament), Yanukovych won by blatant fraud. But the presidential election in 2004 spurred even worse outrages.

Yuschehnko’s ‘Our Ukraine’ allied with Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc, sweeping Western Ukraine. Yankuovich was heavily funded by Gazprom and Kremlin deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov. An attempted murder of Yuschenko using dioxin poison, left him with serious facial scarring. Tapes were revealed showing Kuchma and Yanukovich’s had orchestrated murder, bribery and vote fixing.

But Yanukovich was declared the winner, triggering huge demonstrations in Kiev in 2004. Colin Powell and the West publicly condemned the elections. After a long stand-off, the Supreme Court forced a new vote which Yuschenko won.

Tymoshenko became PM, and began new corrupt ‘re-privatisations’ (she re-nationalised oligarchic industries, to re-sell to other oligarchs). Yuschenko also paid off ‘his’ oligarchs, protecting them despite the RosUkrEnergo scandal. A battle erupted between rival oligarchs with Tymoshenko and Yuschenko as proxies. Russian Gazprom stepped in with price-gouging gas. Yuschenko entered agreements with Gazprom, only to enrich RosUkrEnergo. 3 In a bewildering series of repeated elections, in 2006 Tymoshenko became PM.

We cannot detail all events up to 2022, but 2006 and 2013 the Ukranian state was splintered during ‘Maidan 2.0’. Tymoshenko (and a later successor Petro Poroshenko) adopted racist and restrictive policies against Ukranian Russian speakers. In an interregnum the pro-Russian Donetsk gangster Yanukovych became PM. However his government baulked at ever more egregious demands of the IMF and the EU. 5

Tymoshenko, brought down Yanukovych’s government, in tandem with the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (whose recorded indiscretions (“Fuck the EU”) spoke volumes). Open fascists were mobilised against the Russian Ukranians. Rooftop snipers organised by Tymoshenko shot at crowds with 51 deaths. The cursory investigation ignoring evidence of Orange snipers, as Estonia’s Foreign Minster informed EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton. However it served as provocation to blame Yanukovych.

As Yanukovych’s government collapsed, the population in eastern Ukraine moved to demand its own rights. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) in the Donbass were proclaimed in May 2014. Both were supported by Russia.

Russia organised a referendum in the Crimea, claiming that an overwhelming majority of 97% voted for annexation to Russia. This was duly carried out on February 22, 2014 by Russian troops. 5 By 2015, a civil war between the East and the Western sections of Crimea had been raging, which in muted form continues till now.

This eventually forced the “Minsk Agreement” in February 2015. This was signed by the Ukraine, the Donestsk and Luhansk leaders, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and was to be mediated by France and Germany. This mediation (called the Normandy formula or the Steinmaier formula) has been repetitively stalled either by Ukraine or by Russia. Meanwhile, President Poroshenko further escalated anti-Ukranian-Russian tensions.

Since then, support for the Russian state even in the Eastern Donetsk region has fallen. 6 This despite the Presidency of Volodymyr Zelenesky – who won 75% of the vote against Poroshenko. Likely Zelensky’s support of the oligarch Kolomoisky reduced all peoples’ trust across Ukraine.

As some observers have noted “Ukraine missed the window of opportunity when it would have been much easier to implement the Minsk agreements: when it would have been a question of reintegrating a region that was admittedly hostile, but one that was nevertheless close and understood.” In essence now Russia “sees the DNR and LNR as a useful buffer zone on its western border.”

Putin and USA-NATO understand each other – where does Germany sit?

Naturally the USA denies making commitments to Gorbachev or the USSR. 7 However these are charades, as the LA Times clarified:

“Transcripts of meetings in Moscow on Feb. 9, 1990, Secretary State James Baker suggested (to Mikhail Gorbachev) that in exchange for cooperation on Germany, U.S. could make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.”..

the quid pro quo was clear: Gorbachev acceded to Germany’s (reunification) and the U.S. would limit NATO’s expansion… by October, U.S. policymakers were contemplating… when to “signal to the new democracies of Eastern Europe NATO’s readiness to contemplate their membership.”

In 2007 at the Munich Security Conference, Putin laid out the problem:

“NATO is not a universal organisation, as opposed to the UN. It is first and foremost a military and political alliance, military and political! Well, ensuring one’s own security is the right of any sovereign state. We are not arguing against this… But why is it necessary to put military infrastructure on our borders during this expansion?”

Meanwhile since German reunification, NATO has added 14 new members. One should ask whether the USA would tolerate Russian troops on the Canadian border?

By 2009 the German military considered division of Ukraine, enabling West Ukraine to join the EU. The Steinmeier plan (or ‘Normandy’ talks) puts an ‘Ostpolotik’ veneer on. 8 Actually this replays Paul Rohrbach, who saw Russia and Ukraine as an ‘orange’ with segments to peel off. His views culminated in Ukranian-Nazi collaboration with Stepan Bandera. Editors of “” service argue this is followed today:

“In 1952, Rohrbach.. wrote.. one must “unleash the centrifugal forces within the Soviet Union.” The “strongest “… is “the national self-consciousness of the Ukrainian people, with its will to obtain national sovereignty.” … Since then Berlin has been systematically working to bring Ukraine into its hegemonic sphere of influence on an exclusive and permanent basis.”

Steinmaier’s Normandy plans for such a division. Other German intellectuals authorities Like Prof. Johannes Varwick, see “Finlandization” of Ukraine as a solution.

What brought the cauldron to boiling point?

In February 2021, Yelsensky ratcheted up tensions, moved further to the Western Ukranian side:

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s actions are in sharp contrast with the peacemaker image that he cultivated… he closed down three pro-Russian TV channels, accusing their owner of financing Donbas separatists. This was followed on February 19 by a barrage of sanctions against a number of Ukrainian and Russian individuals and companies on the same charges. The most notorious name on the sanctions list was Viktor Medvedchuk.. (who) heads the Opposition Platform ‘For Life’, the country’s leading pro-Russian party… Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine for the past two decades.”

Increasingly opinion polls see voters becoming disillusioned with Zelensky. Putin frustrated at the inertia of the Normandy talks previously invited US Secretary State John Kerry to participate. But Germany and France vehemently rejected this. Current troop massing is aimed at forcing division of the Ukranian state. Russia and the USA and Germany see this as inevitable, but persuading Ukraine requires brinkmanship.

Where to now?

Well before December 2021, the Ukranian situation was untenable. It was about par economically with the Soviet Union before 1990. Since then GDP per capita halved by 1996, and is now 20 percent lower than in 1990.

The Ukranian national vacillations, opposed to Russian desire for a ‘safety zone’ division – blocked progress in Normandy talks. The former US former U.S. National Security Council official Fiona Hill acknowledged to ‘Der Speigel, that German ‘responsibility’ for today’s situation is visible:

Der Spiegel: The US government is open to supporting a Ukrainian insurgency with arms in the event of a Russian invasion. The federal German government refuses arms deliveries. Doesn’t that undermine a powerful anti-Putin coalition?

Hill: What we need is a coordinated response. Because it is Russia’s goal to play everyone off against each other. If the German government does not want to supply weapons for historical reasons, it could help launch a much more powerful diplomatic initiative. Germany shares responsibility for the situation we are in now. It was Angela Merkel who opposed an action plan for the accession of Georgia and Ukraine at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest. At the same time, however, it did not prevent a compromise that held out the prospect of both countries joining at some point, albeit without a concrete timetable. I believe our problems can be traced back directly to 2008, when everyone involved was trying to find a face-saving compromise.” 9

The USA has suffered withdrawal from Afghanistan, following evident failure in Iraq, and is seriously internally divided. Hill recognises that Russia tries to take advantage of this:

Hill: I think Putin sees that the USA – also due to the withdrawal from Afghanistan – gives a weak picture. Britain is at odds with France and most of the EU. Poland is at odds with Brussels… Of course, Putin knows that there are many in Germany who sympathize with the Russian perspective…. The Iraq war in 2003 was a real turning point for Russia. I think the US invasion was a serious strategic mistake.”


Predictions are often tricky. However it does seem unlikely – for now – that either Russia or NATO-USA want a war immediately. As for the EU – France has long called for an ‘independent’ European military force. Germany has been more cautious trying to ride several horses. But with the increasingly tense race between USA and Chinese imperialism, as tensions rise Germany will have to choose. That choice will pull on the EU.

Marxists see that a new world re-division is in the works. The world’s powers grappled with capitalist crisis after the great crash of 2008. Invariably rivalries become clearer.

US imperialism will face off at some time in the coming decades against a coalition of the two imperialisms of China and Russia. Probably now is not that time. Yet, it is ever clearer also – that the working class – has no independent party of strength in either those countries or in Europe.


“A longer particle on this issue will appear shortly at Marxism-Leninism Currents Today


1 Andrew Wilson, ‘Ukraine’s Orange revolution’; New Haven 2005; p.8-24; p.31-37.

2 Wilson Ibid p.39; p. 118; 135; 2.

3 Wilson 2009; p. 329.

4 Edward S. Herman and David Peterson ‘The Ukranian crisis & the propaganda system”; in Ed: Stephen Lendman ‘Flashpoint In Ukraine”; Atlanta GA; 2014; p.178-180

5 Guy Chazan & Courtney Weaver, ‘Russia’s return’; Financial Times March 22, 2014.

6 Bikus, Z. Gallup Poll (2019, March 26); cited Joseph Jack Place, “Zelensky”; in Carsten Sander Christensen, ‘Analyzing Political Tensions Between Ukraine, Russia, and the EU’; 2020, Billund Denmark.; p. 270

7 Peter Baker, ‘In Ukraine Conflict, Putin Relies on a Promise That Ultimately Wasn’t’; 9 January 2022; New York Times.

8 Patricia Daehnhardt & Vladimír Handl (2018) Germany’s Eastern Challenge and the Russia–Ukraine Crisis: A New Ostpolitik in the Making?, German Politics, 27:4, 445-459,

9 Kriegsgefahr in Osteuropa – “Wir sollten uns nicht beluegen und glauben Putin bluffe nur”; Interivew Rene Pfister with Fiona Hill, Der Spiegel 21.01.2022