Speaker: War In Ukraine Is 'Worldwide Fight For Freedom' – Jamestown Post Journal

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Jun 30, 2022
CHAUTAUQUA — As the war in Ukraine continues, one distinguished scholar is fearful.
Constanze Stelzenmuller offered her views Tuesday on what the war means to the United States and the rest of the world as part of Chautauqua Institution’s Lecture Series Week One theme: “What Should be America’s Role in the World?”
“Casualty numbers for this war are really hard to come by and they’re disputed,” the speaker said. “But according to American and UK intelligence numbers, there are about 16,000 Russian military dead (and) 11,000 Ukrainian military dead. That’s a lot. And estimates of civilian dead in Ukraine are even harder to come by.”
She said what is happening is a grinding war of attrition in which the Russians are destroying what gets in their way or killing military and civilians indiscriminately in violation of all the laws of war.
“And experts are telling us that this could last two years or longer,” Stelzenmuller said.
A former journalist, covering wars in Somalia, the Balkans, and Afghanistan, Stelzenmuller said it is hard for her to read the daily reports of the war in Ukraine.
“I covered war crimes tribunals,” she said. “And although I have not been on the ground in this war, I know in my bones and in my skin, I know what this feels like, what this looks like, and what it smells like. And it’s really hard to bear for me. You’ll find this a lot with journalists to have this kind of experience.”
Stelzenmuller said one can’t insulate oneself from the emotion of the experiences. It becomes part of one’s memory, and there may be some trigger points that also may be experienced.
“And I find it almost unbearable to follow the daily reports of Ukrainian suffering,” she said. “I find it almost unbearable that despite all that we’re doing, this is going on and grinding on and Russia seems to be unstoppable.”
Stelzenmuller said for the first time in her professional life of nearly 30 years, she is fearful. And the fear is new to her.
“I am feeling real fear not just for the 44 million Ukrainians who are at risk (and) whose lives and livelihoods are at risk here,” Stelzenmuller said. “But I’m feeling fear for us — for our way of life, for peace in Europe for peace in the world.”
Stelzenmuller said she thinks it is very likely that there will be more war crimes as Russian troops progress. She noted that there is a risk that the war will spill over beyond the borders of Ukraine to the small country of Moldova, which is in between Ukraine and Romania.
The speaker said Vladimir Putin has been dangling the threat of using nuclear weapons on the battlefield for months.
“And let’s just say here, that it already is a civilizational breach,” she said. “This is the first time a major power since 1945 or let’s say 1946 has threatened the use of nuclear power in Europe.”
Even as the war is framed as a war of attrition, there are potential tipping points. Stelzenmuller said, for example, if the Russians managed to make it all the way across the southern Black Sea coast of Ukraine to Odessa, the biggest and most important port city of Ukraine through which before the war, 50% of its exports of grain, sunflower oil, were things which fed the world.
“If Russia manages to capture Odessa, then Ukraine would become a landlocked country and would no longer be economically viable,” she said. “It would have no way anymore of exporting its goods in any way that could genuinely sustain its economy.”
According to assembly.chq.org, Stelzenmuller last spoke at Chautauqua in 2015, and is an expert on German, European, and trans-Atlantic foreign and security policy and strategy and the inaugural holder of the Fritz Stern Chair on Germany and trans-Atlantic Relations in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings Institution.
At Brookings, Stelzenmuller has been a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe and the inaugural Robert Bosch Senior Fellow. She has also served as the Kissinger Chair on Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress and as a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She has also been a GMF campus fellow at Grinnell College in Iowa, a Woodrow Wilson Center public policy scholar in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Remarque Forum.
Stelzenmuller’s writings, in both German and English, have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Internationale Politik, the Financial Times, the International New York Times and Suddeutsche Zeitung, among other publications. She is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation and a fellow of the Royal Swedish Society for War Sciences, and holds a doctorate in law from the University of Bonn, a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Bonn, the website noted.
The war, she said, is not about the fate of 44 million Ukrainians, not about prosperity and global economic stability or about global health and the pandemic.
“This is truly a worldwide fight for freedom, democracy, peace and self-determination as free nations. And God knows that we are flawed — we in the West. Certainly my country (Germany) is but I do still think that we are each other’s and the world if we get it right, best hope,” she noted.
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