Support Richard Branson’s Ukraine Dialogue Initiative
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 25 Aug 2014
We are drifting towards a new Cold War. The reason isn’t anything substantial because there is no reason we should not be able to live in peace in Europe – if we want and if we educated ourselves in handling the problems called conflicts.
No, the reason is the woefully incompetent way in which politicians and media focus on violence and ignore underlying conflicts and civilian means – yes yes, of course there are exceptions but…
Escalation doesn’t create peace
Here is just one example – NATO S-G Anders Fogh Rasmussen and NATO’s supreme commander in Europe General Breedlove (funny name given his anything but loving views coming rather from a Strangelove …) in the Wall Street Journal.
They tell you about all the escalation they have already done and plan to do – without a word about the underlying conflict, the longer historical post-1989 perspective, the politics and psychology of it all – only the violent means and threats, threats, threats.
They tell you this without a thought about the possible consequences of their words and actions.
In a nutshell: Conflict illiteracy coupled with playing tough, lacking empathy and insight as well as a decent sense of one’s own role in the problem called a conflict.
Well, you may add lack of principle: The West has strong (moralising) views and take action in some conflicts – in others we keep silent and do nothing when international law is violated and fellow human beings suffer. We do cynical interests with sugar-coated public relations motives about human rights, democracy, freedom etc.
I am touched, therefore, by Richard Branson’s initiative and its motivation which I share: It is unbearable for those of us who remember what the Cold War meant that ended in 1989 to think of it coming back with striking similarities.
Business gains from peace and vice versa
Undoubtedly business has a role to play in conflict resolution. When in the right mode, business can contribute to peace and has much much more to gain from peace than from war.
As I have argued elsewhere, it is one of the huge myths of our time that military industry is good for the economy as a whole. It is a cancer on it. It is only good for the companies that produce and export weapons, the merchant’s of death.
For the merchants of life – about 95% of the world economy – military production and warfare is a burden.
The West is going down economically. A major reason is that – like the old Soviet Union – it is militarising itself to death and simultaneously losing legitimacy and sympathy worldwide thanks to one failed war after the other.
Branson’s challenge: It’s a bigger conflict
The problem Branson and his business mediators will have to deal with is very well described in a new Foreign Policy article by John Mearsheimer, How The West Caused The Ukraine Crisis.
This conflict has many more parties than Russia and Ukraine: There are conflicts inside Russia about this, there are strong divisions inside Ukraine and its separatist factions in Eastern Ukraine, there is the EU – also to some extent split on it – there is NATO and Washington, the latter divided in sensible elites and neo-cons reckless intriguing policies.
And NATO/EU politicians will hardly welcome him if Branson and his colleagues build on a comprehensive conflict diagnosis that include Western interference in Ukraine and push to get it into NATO and the EU.
Non-government mediation greatly needed all over
Mediating in this conflict is not an easy piece of cake. But I can see how much more fruitful, human – perhaps even humourous – a meeting between Branson and Putin would be compared with anything Western politicians have done and said up till now.
Indeed, the world could use many more non-government mediators – people with wisdom, high on intellect and low on violence – in international conflicts such as the one in Ukraine – say, Hans von Sponeck, Shirin Ebadi, Erkki Tuomioja, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Michael Gorbachev, Kishore Mandhyan, Mary Robinson, Hans Küng, Johan Galtung, Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Neelakanta Radhakrishnan – to mention a few.
The Branson initiative looks close to impossible. But his and his colleagues great advantage is that they have no weapons and can issue no threats. And he certainly knows how to deal with human beings.
Since there exists no new or innovative ideas in NATO/EU circles about how to handle conflict or making peace anything else may turn out to be better.
So let’s support Sir Richard in this. TFF will certainly do what it can.
TFF Director Prof. Jan Oberg is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
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