Pandora’s Box (II)

EU responds to Russia’s attack on Ukraine with tough sanctions. Moscow reacts to NATO’s continued eastward expansion with war.

BERLIN/BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Own report) – The EU is responding to Russia’s entering the war in Ukraine yesterday with a new package of sanctions. The EU’s package of sanctions, described as “comprehensive and painful,” is also aimed at blocking Russian banks and enterprises’ access to the EU capital market and drying up Russia’s high-tech sector. Simultaneously, NATO is, for the first time, activating its defense plans for Eastern Europe. This war is the second war of aggression by a major power against another nation in Europe since the end of the confrontation between the political systems. There are similarities to NATO’s war against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999, the first war of aggression in violation of international law on the European continent, since World War II. The war against Ukraine is Russia’s third retaliatory strike against targeted pro-western provocations and against NATO’s persistent eastward expansion. This war was preceded by a comprehensive arms buildup and ongoing NATO maneuvers close to Russia’s borders and by the conflict over Ukraine’s potential NATO membership.

The Precedence

Contrary to the occasional allegation in German media, yesterday, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is not the first in Europe since 1945. The first war of aggression on the continent was NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, launched under the excuse of seeking to put an end to Serbian violence toward Kosovo’s Albanian-speaking minority. German Chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder, has admitted that the war had been waged in violation of international law. State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry at the time, Wolfgang Ischinger, admits – a bit more cautiously – that, in terms of international law, the war had been “problematic, indeed, very!”[1] The German Air Force had been in the forefront of participation, taking out the Serbian air defenses to pave the way for other NATO air strikes. German ECR-Tornados penetrated Serbian air space, where they fired more than 230 HARM missiles at Serbian targets. The number of people killed is still unknown. NATO opened Pandora’s Box with its war on Yugoslavia. With Russia’s war in Ukraine, a second war of aggression in Europe violating international law, has been added.

Two Retaliatory strikes

Yet Russia’s war is a violent reaction to the persistent eastward expansion of the western powers – and not the first time. When Georgia, supported by the West, began shelling South Ossetia, in violation of ceasefire agreements, in August 2008, thereby also hitting Russian troops monitoring the ceasefire, Russia’s military marched briefly into Georgia, to put a stop to all further shelling: That was Russia’s first retaliatory strike. Following the first two rounds of NATO’s eastward expansion, western powers installed a government in Kiev through a coup in early 2014, which included several fascist Svoboda Party ministers.[2] The government clearly aimed at joining NATO – which was highly controversial in that country. Following a successful referendum on secession, Moscow accepted Crimea into the Russian Federation. That was Moscow’s second retaliatory strike. NATO reacted by further escalating tensions, stationing combat troops in Eastern and Southeastern Europe – in violation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act – and by expanding combat maneuvers in the vicinity of Russia’s borders and by the transatlantic redeployment of major US contingents toward Russia.[3]

“Prerequisite for Russia’s Security”

Russia has been regularly protesting against these measures and, since the fall, has repeatedly demanded that the NATO presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe be dismantled. On February 16, the western military pact responded by carrying out its official decision to station even more troops in the region. (( reported.[4]) Moscow had also insisted that NATO halt its eastward expansion, and, above all, not to accept Ukraine in the alliance. Ukraine’s NATO membership would be particularly difficult for Moscow, because Russia would lose its “strategic depth,” a term recently explained by the US Carnegie Endowment think tank. In Russia’s case, it means “the buffer zone between Russia’s heartland and its powerful European adversaries.” Historically, this had always been a “decisive prerequisite for the security of the Russian state” – in the war against Napoleonic France, and in both World Wars against Germany.[5]

The Third Retaliatory strike

Right to the end, NATO has refused to renounce the possibility of Ukraine joining the alliance, using the right to freely choose one’s alliance, while ignoring the principle of “indivisible security,” which is also a principle in international agreements, such as the European Security Charter, which obligates all states to refrain from strengthening their security at the expense of the security of other states. ( reported.[6]) In addition, several NATO member states have reacted to the demand not to admit the Ukraine into the alliance, by initiating a more comprehensive arms buildup of the Ukrainian armed forces.[7] Russia’s reaction to the ostentatious comprehensive disdain for its security interests through the reinforcement of NATO’s presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and through Ukraine’s ties to the western military alliance – most recently, Ukraine’s foreign minister had participated at NATO’s foreign minister meeting – by delivering its third retaliatory strike in a form similar to NATO’s war on Yugoslavia.

Danger of Runaway Escalation

Yesterday, NATO activated, for the first time, its defense plan for Eastern Europe and NATO countries are continuing to reinforce their military presence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The EU and the West, as a whole, are expanding their sanctions. The EU’s package of sanctions, described as “comprehensive and painful,” is also aimed at blocking Russian banks and enterprises’ access to the EU capital market and drying up Russia’s high-tech sector. With this continued escalation of the situation, the danger of a runaway war escalation is also growing.


[1] Wolfgang Ischinger, 24 March 2019 on Twitter.

[2] See also Kiewer Zwischenbilanz.

[3] See also Nützliche Kriegsszenarien and Exercising War Against Russia

[4] See also  Neue Hürden.

[5] Eugene Rumer Andrew S. Weiss: Ukraine: Putin’s Unfinished Business. 12.11.2021.

[6] See also “Equal Right to Security”.

[7] See also Weaponry for Ukraine.