In this interview, German Member of Parliament Sevim Dağdelen, of the Left Party, Die Linke, condemned the NATO “proxy war” in Ukraine, saying EU members are acting as US “vassal states”.
Ben Norton, Feb 23
Geopolitical Economy Report, German Parliamentary member Sevim Dagdelen, NATO “proxy” war
Geopolitical Economy Report editor Ben Norton interviewed German Member of Parliament Sevim Dağdelen, of Die Linke, the Left Party.
She condemned the conflict in Ukraine as a NATO “proxy war” against Russia, warning that the leaders of the European Union are acting as Washington’s “vassals”.
“A massive shift is taking place in favor of the United States, which is attacking Europe as a center of industry, with its multi-billion-dollar program of industrial subsidies”, Dağdelen explained.
“So we need Germany actually to be emancipated at last and Europe finally to assert itself, ending the nonsensical economic war, and launching a European diplomatic initiative to end the war in Ukraine”, the German lawmaker urged.
Referencing a report by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that the United States and NATO member Norway destroyed the Nord Stream pipelines, Dağdelen lamented, “The German government’s refusal to get to the bottom of the terrorist attacks on the German-Russian Nord Stream pipelines is the highlight so far of Germany’s vassalage to the United States”.
INTRODUCTION: Hi, everyone. I’m Ben Norton, and this is Geopolitical Economy Report. I had the pleasure of doing an interview with one of the few politicians in Europe who is publicly speaking out against the war in Ukraine and calling for peace talks to end the conflict, instead of fueling it further with arms shipments.
Her name is Sevim Dağdelen. She has been a member of the German parliament, the Bundestag, since 2005, and she is a leader of the Die Linke party, the Left Party. She is part of the Bundestag’s committee on foreign affairs, a deputy member of the defense committee, and spokeswoman for international policy and disarmament.
In our discussion, she criticized the policy of the current German government and the European Union. She said that they’re acting as “vassals” of the United States. And she called for Europe to have an independent foreign policy. She called for peace talks to end this war, instead of fueling it with more arms shipments.
She also criticized the United States for, according to a report by journalist Seymour Hersh, destroying the Nord Stream pipelines. She referred to this as an act of “terrorism” against German civilian infrastructure. And she said that Germany is committing economic “suicide” on behalf of the United States.
Sevim represents one of the few politicians in Europe who is calling for Europe to reconsider its foreign policy, to be independent, and calling for peace instead of more war. So this is my interview with Sevim Dağdelen.
BEN NORTON: Thank you, Sevim. It’s a real pleasure.
At the Council of Europe in January, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock declared, “We are fighting a war against Russia”. She called for Europe to unite, and she said, “We can fight this war only together”.
Now, this may be a surprise to the German people. There was never a vote in Germany to declare war on Russia.
What do the people in Germany think about this fact that the German government has said it is at war with Russia? Do the German people want war with Russia?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, first of all, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s statement has once again confirmed what over the past year has become increasingly obvious. The war in Ukraine is a proxy war between NATO and the West and Russia.
This is clear from the massive military, intelligence, and financial support for Ukraine from the West, through which the NATO states are making themselves de facto conflict parties, as well as the unprecedented economic war against Russia.
Even the NATO general secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, has repeatedly and publicly stated that NATO’s fate depends on Ukraine’s victory.
So a few days ago, at the Munich Security Conference, Stoltenberg moreover said that the war had started not in February last year, but in 2014, and that the NATO allies had been providing military support to Ukraine with training and equipment since then, since 2014.
These are, of course, very serious confessions by the NATO secretary general. And they sound, with the admission of the breach of international law by former federal German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the former French President Francois Hollande, about only having concluded the Minsk agreement to gain time to arm Ukraine.
So, without thereby legitimizing Russia’s attack, of course, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we must nevertheless note that NATO and especially the United States, share some of the blame for this war.
Furthermore, with its war aim of militarily defeating Russia, and its blocking of negotiations, the West is also making itself partly responsible for extending the war.
You asked about the people and the population in Germany. In contradiction to the interests of the German population, the German government, as the statement of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has illustrated, is completely bowing down to the West’s strategy of betting on a military victory, which I believe is unrealistic and extremely dangerous.
It’s unrealistic because a nuclear-armed Russia will hardly be prepared to unconditionally give up in a conflict it is engaged in, from its point of view, to protect its very existence – because Russia always said it’s an existential question for them, the question of Ukraine and its membership in NATO.
And it’s dangerous because, every passing day and every additional weapon delivery, increases the risk of the conflict expanding into a third world war.
As you can remember, last year, in November, the missile incident in Poland gave us an insight into the danger, when Ukraine’s President Zelensky tried, despite knowing better from the intelligence from the NATO states, to declare NATO’s state of defense, and thereby potentially risk his way into a third world war.
So, not without reasons, surveys suggest that around three-in-four people in Germany are afraid of the war in Ukraine spreading and having a massive escalation potential.
The majority in parliament, the German parliament, the German Bundestag, completely ignores this. So the governing parties of the Social Democrats, the Liberals, and the Greens, together with the conservative party, the Christian Democratic Party, and the right-wingers, they vote for every new arm delivery to Ukraine.
And now the leading neo-Nazi organization, Third Way, Der Dritte Weg, for example, is also in favor of arms deliveries, and stands closely alongside the Azov Battalion and is in favor of the delivery of the battle tanks, Leopard 2, for example. So the German fascists even deliver goods themselves to the Ukrainian fascist allies.
But nevertheless, we have to say, a majority in Germany, want the West, the Western community, to launch negotiations on bringing the war to an end.
BEN NORTON: Why do you think Germany and the European Union leadership are so invested in this war?
In the case of Germany, Russia had been the largest supplier of both oil and gas to Germany. And we’ve seen major economic consequences in Europe. We’ve seen large rates of inflation, extremely high energy costs.
And this is fueling deindustrialization. We see German companies are leaving and going to the United States and other countries. This is causing unemployment and economic difficulties.
We see that even Britain’s economy is expected to shrink this year; it’s going to be in a recession.
So why is Europe so invested in this war?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, the European Union, and first and foremost the German government, as you said Ben, acts as an obedient vassal to the U.S. administration.
So this applies to the time following the end of the Cold War, when we failed to build a security order in Europe that would include Russia. Instead, Germany went along with the U.S.-led NATO policy of expansion and confrontation, allowed the United States to drive a wedge between Russia and Europe.
The German government’s inability to pursue its own interests is clearly also being demonstrated today by its participation in the West’s suicidal economic war against Russia.
I mean, the German government actions are, you know, from your perspective, it must be utterly absurd how the German government is acting at the moment. And for the most of the population in Germany and Europe as well.
So the sanctions are failing in their purpose of hampering Russia’s military operation. And this is something the German government has confirmed, in a very formal, official reply to my parliamentary question.
And at any rate, the Russian economy is taking the hit of the sanctions better than expected, and will, in the assessment of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, grow more this year than Germany’s.
So while we now depend on enormously expensive supplies of fracking gas from the United States, the high energy prices are pushing many sectors of German industry to the brink of collapse.
The workers are footing the bill, suffering their greatest loss in real earnings – it’s about 5%, 4.7% in 2022 – since the Second World War, since 1945.
And anyone who has accumulated savings has lost about 10% of their value, due to inflation in Germany.
So if we can take the sound defense of one’s own population as a measure of political intelligence, then we in Germany have the most stupid, the dumbest government, for it is consciously harming the interests of its own population and accepting the downfall of the German economy, as the price of – well, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated the objective, she said: ruining Russia. That is what she wants, as the price for that.
And within the Western alliance, too, a massive shift is taking place in favor of the United States, which is attacking Europe as a center of industry, with its multi-billion-dollar program of industrial subsidies, like the Inflation Reduction Act, by the U.S. administration.
So we need Germany actually to be emancipated at last and Europe finally to assert itself, ending the nonsensical economic war, and launching a European diplomatic initiative to end the war in Ukraine.
This would be the start to emancipate themselves from the U.S. administration, and not being a vassel state of the United States anymore.
BEN NORTON: And what happened with the European left? You, Sevim, are from Die Linke, the Left Party, in Germany. You’re a leader of the left in Germany. And you and some of your colleagues have been very outspoken against the war.
But across the European left, we do see very few voices willing to challenge this war. Maybe in France, there is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.
Why are so many kind of center-left parties in Europe, like the SPD, which is currently in power in Berlin, why are they supporting war?
Historically, the left has supported peace.
Do you think this is a moment similar to 1914, at the breakout of World War One, where the left was divided and there were parts of the left that supported the war?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, to some degree, yes, Ben. One cannot avoid getting the impression, at least what was the approval of war credits in the First World War is today the approval of the delivery of arms, battle tanks, and everything else as weapon deliveries.
So also, as far as the justification of ever greater participation in the war is concerned, 100 years only seem like a day, sometimes.
What was then the alleged “defense of war against the barbarism of the Russian czar” is today the “victory over the oligarch capitalist system of the Russian President Vladimir Putin”.
And this is a little bit funny because the oligarch system is not a genius Russian system. I mean, we do have oligarchs in Ukraine. We do have an oligarchic capitalist system in the United States also.
But it is frightening to see how well this war propaganda is working.
In 1914, even parts of the left wing of social democracy had campaigned for the World War, since it was supposedly against a “despot”, like the Russian czar.
And in 2023, even parts of the left and the Left Party are calling for the delivery of German battle tanks, and openly risking German participation in the war, attracted by the argument that Ukraine is about a war against an “autocracy”, an “authoritarian regime” like in Russia.
But it seems that parts of the left have forgotten to take into account the geopolitical realities.
I mean, even the the Joint Chief of Staff chairman, General Mark Milley in the United States, the highest ranking officer of the U.S. military, has repeatedly pointed out, most recently at the NATO meeting in Ramstein in January, that military victory is extremely unlikely for either side, in Ukraine.
So he warns of a war of attrition, claiming many casualties that will end up giving way to a diplomatic agreement anyway.
And since Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, more than 200,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians have died. Millions of people had to flee.
Populations in both the West and the Global South are suffering, massively, from the effects of the war and Western economic sanctions, with high, skyrocketing prices, food prices, energy prices.
And so the West’s strategy of sending more and heavier arms and weaponry to Ukraine will not end the war, but rather bears the risk of further escalation, even nuclear escalation with Russia.
So the historical task of the left and the peace movement in Europe, as well as in the United States, is to counter this war propaganda.
So we need to make it clear: the only way to end this war, and to prevent a possible escalation up to a third world war, will be through negotiations. And there have to be negotiations, without preconditions, for a ceasefire now.
BEN NORTON: At the Munich Security Conference this February, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock insisted that, in this proxy war in Ukraine, “Neutrality is not an option”.
And then US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed her comments, and he said that you “can’t be neutral”, and “there is no neutral position”.
Clearly those comments were directed at the Global South. The vast majority of the global population is in the Global South, in countries that have been neutral. 87% of the global population lives in countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.
So what is your response to Baerbock’s insistence that neutrality is not possible?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, the reality shows that she’s wrong. Since the beginning of the war, the West has been trying to enlist these countries’ support to isolate and weaken Russia, in order to preserve its absolute global predominance, led by the United States.
But this strategy has failed completely, as the numbers you mentioned demonstrate. On the contrary, large countries like China and India are currently intensifying their economic relations with Russia. And the West is further isolating itself and losing its credibility even more.
So the failure to make Russia a pariah state shows the limits of the Western drive for hegemony in an increasingly multipolar world.
So it makes perfect sense that the countries of the Global South do not want to be dragged onto the side of the West in the proxy war in Ukraine.
And this is my personal experience as well. I mean, in the last year, I’ve been in many countries in the Global South, especially in Africa, but also in Asia.
And most counterparts, they told me, “We are trying to survive. We do not want to be on one side. We we want to survive here, in this situation. We are also affected by the sanctions of the West”.
So they they clearly see the invasion was started by Russians. But the reaction of the West to this invasion, through the energy sanctions, they are affecting the Global South, not the invasion by the Russians. This was not affecting them.
But the sanctions, the energy sanctions through the Western countries like the United States and the European Union, they are affecting them, and they are causing these skyrocketing prices in energy and food.
So this is the reason why they say, “We want to survive. We have our own battles. And we do not want to be in the middle of this war of the West versus Russia”.
And, understandably, they point to the West’s double standards policy as well, and the innumerable illegal wars of aggression waged by the U.S. and its allies, which did not lead to similar responses.
So, they always say, “We don’t forget the invasion of Iraq. We don’t forget the invasion of Libya. We don’t forget the invasion of Afghanistan, and all the crimes done by the Western countries, with no response at all, and no responsibilities taken by these countries”.
So the West is totally ignoring the Global South’s interest in a swift end to the war by diplomatic negotiations.
And on the contrary, with its economic war against Russia, the West is holding the countries of the Global South hostage, since they are suffering because of the rising food and energy prices, the spread of hunger and poverty.
This is another reason why the Global South actually wants to end this war through negotiations as soon as possible, because they are suffering over this, and having more poverty and more hunger in the countries of the Global South.
Also, in view of the fatal effects of a prolonged war on the Global South, it must be ended immediately through diplomacy, they say.
For example, the initiative of the new president, the re-elected president in Brazil, President Lula, or the recently announced initiative of China, they are supporting these initiatives.
And I think it’s a very good initiative, which has to be supported by the West itself.
But I think they can only be successful if the West also supports a diplomatic solution, rather than pursuing its war goal of winning against Russia.
And in this respect, I can absolutely understand the stance and the position of the majority of the Global South.
BEN NORTON: The Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh, one of the most renowned investigative journalists in the world, reported that the United States destroyed the Nord Stream pipelines, with the help of NATO member Norway.
And we should keep in mind that the Nord Stream pipelines were not simply a Russian project; there was significant investment by German companies, also French companies, and other European companies.
You yourself, Sevim, raised this issue in the German parliament, the Bundestag.
Why is there no outrage in Berlin and Brussels over this attack?
What does this say about the fact that the United States is willing to attack the critical infrastructure of a country that it considers its “ally”?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, as you said, Ben, it’s very shocking how little attention the German public paid to the revelations of the deserving U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
And one has to imagine this for a moment. This is a terrorist attack on German and European energy security, presumably committed by NATO allies, the United States of America and Norway. And this should have resulted in a huge outcry.
In my opinion, the German government’s refusal to get to the bottom of the terrorist attacks on the German-Russian Nord Stream pipelines is the highlight so far of Germany’s vassalage to the United States. It’s nothing else.
So until today, the German government has been stonewalling and refusing to keep even parliament and parliamentarians informed on the investigations.
Instead of leaving no stone unturned in the investigation of a terrorist attack apparently carried out by the United States and Norway, its allies within NATO, the federal government stays very silent about the accusation, and carries on with business as usual.
So the same applies to the German media. Instead of taking the revelations of such a well known investigative journalist, a journalist legend, as an opportunity to do their own research and to put pressure on the German government to finally clarify the terrorist attacks, they are either ignoring or trying to defame and delegitimize the journalist Seymour Hersh.
So most of them are not even interested in finding out who is behind the terrorist attack and who is not.
So the fact that the United States involvement is ruled out from the outset is absurd, if only since President Biden announced in February 2022, in a common press conference with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, that Nord Stream will be terminated in the event of a Russian invasion, even against Germany’s as well.
So we are currently experiencing a collective cognitive dissonance in the German public.
This also applies to the whole issue of peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.
For example, as Israel’s former Prime Minister Bennett has confirmed, Boris Johnson and the United States prevented the peace talks last spring in 2022.
So in the mistaken belief that they could win a military victory over Russia, they swept a de facto, finished negotiation result off the table.
But German media is almost not covering this. They are ignoring this as well.
And I remember how my friend, the journalist Julian Assange, who is facing up to 175 years in prison in the U.S. only for publishing the truth about U.S. war crimes, once said, “If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth”. And I do believe he is right in this.
That’s why I’m very much fighting for the truth.
BEN NORTON: Well, to end on a slightly more optimistic note, we do see a growing peace movement in Germany and Europe, led by you and some of your colleagues.
A fellow member of the Die Linke, Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, created a petition that has around 600,000 signatures demanding that the German government stop sending weapons to Ukraine and instead push for peace negotiations to end this war.
How do you think the people of Europe can bring about an end to this conflict? And how do you see a peaceful resolution coming about?
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Well, we have to say it’s about three 600,000 signatures within about a week. So it’s a very huge support for the Manifesto for Peace, which was initiated by my colleague, Sahra Wagenknecht, and initially signed by 69 intellectuals and respected public figures.
This support is proof of the growing support for ending the war through negotiations. So in Germany, there is a vast difference between public and published opinion.
Large sections of the mainstream media have given themselves over to entirely uncritical and US compliant war propaganda, and in politics and in the media, the tone is set by hawks, who in their mania demand ever more weapons and more heavy weapon deliveries, and horrifically defame anyone who calls for diplomacy and negotiation.
And the huge support for this petition, as well as for the protest against the [Munich] Security Conference last weekend, where I spoke at the rally, at a big rally against the Munich Security Conference, are hopeful signs, and emblematic of the fact that large swaths of the public no longer want to be part of what the war-obsessed ruling elite are doing.
And despite its hesitation and a certain rhetorical restraint in the case of the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the German government is de facto submitting to the U.S. its declared war goal of counting on a military victory for Ukraine against Russia.
So the new German defense minister, for example, Boris Pistorius, has now, in Munich at the Munich Security Conference, even stated quite openly at the conference that he also shares the line of the United States for the goal of counting on a military victory for Ukraine against Russia.
And I really share the assessment of U.S. General Chief of Staff Mark Milley and, for example, the very conservative RAND Corporation, that this strategy is very unrealistic and dangerous, as it would imply, to protect it, a costly war of attrition, and would carry the real danger of an expansion of the war to the point of nuclear escalation.
So I think the Chinese announcement at the Munich Security Conference that it wants to advocate a peace initiative is very important.
Those who like the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock make a complete withdrawal of Russian troops a condition obviously have no interest in ending the war, because this is not a serious condition, because it’s very unrealistic.
A quick ceasefire must have top priority now. And this requires negotiations without precondition.
Therefore, on the one year anniversary of the dreadful war, a broad coalition in Germany is mobilizing really big protests in Berlin on the 25th of February. But all over Germany on the 24th and 25th, there will be protests going on, and we will be calling for the German government to finally take the public’s desire for diplomacy rather than escalation seriously.
And I think not only in Germany. So as far as I know, in London, in many countries in Europe, in the capital cities, and even in the United States, in March, there will be on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, there will be a big demonstration as well.
I think we do need a coordination and networking of freedom- and peace-loving people worldwide.
My impression – not only my impression, it’s my observation as well, and experience – the warmongers in trans-Atlantic relations, in trans-Atlantic think tanks like the Atlantic Council, the Atlantic Bridge, and some others, they are very much and very, very strongly bonded and are in networks, and we do need an alternative to them.
We do left trans-Atlanticism, with the peace-loving people in the United States, together with the peace-loving people in Europe, to show an alternative to the relation between the U.S. administration and the German government, which is a relation which is not founded on respect and cooperation, which has a disbalance, where you have hegemony like the United States, and vessel states, like the German government.
So we do need an alternative to this, and we have to work on this alternative together, as peace- and freedom-loving people.
BEN NORTON: Sevim Dağdelen is a member of the German parliament, the Bundestag. She has been since 2005. She is a member of the parliamentary group of the Left Party, Die Linke, a deputy member of the defense committee, and a spokeswoman for international policy and disarmament.
Sevim, thank you so much for joining us today.
SEVIM DAĞDELEN: Thanks for having me, Ben. It was a pleasure.
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