‘Putin might be winning the military battle but he has lost the moral one’

"Do not blame Russia, this is Putin’s war," International Catalan Institute for Peace director warns

Ukrainian soldiers at Lviv train station on March 4, 2022 (by Joan Mateu Parra)
Ukrainian soldiers at Lviv train station on March 4, 2022 (by Joan Mateu Parra) / Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

March 6, 2022 06:00 AM

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is being monitored closely and constantly in Catalonia by officials and civilians alike. The International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP) has been following every development carefully as "this war should never have happened," director Kristian Herbolzheimer told Catalan News.

"Don’t blame Russians for Putin’s invasion. This is Putin’s war, not the Russians’ war," he said. In fact, he warned that society should be "very careful not to blame Russians, on the contrary, we need to be supportive of whatever democratic movement there is in Russia or of people resisting authoritarian regimes in Russia."

Listen to our podcast on the impact of the Ukraine war in Catalonia with voices from those protesting on a daily basis to defend their country.

The institute is an independent organization created in 2007 by the Catalan Parliament. Their goal is to promote peace in Catalonia and worldwide. The ICIP also focuses on making the territory a key agent of international worldwide peace.

"We are trying to provide criteria for public opinion as well as policymakers," Herbolzheimer explained to Catalan News. The problem ICIP is facing right now is that "there is nobody who really has a fully clear understanding of what should be done," he added.

The dimension of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is "beyond what was thinkable for anybody," the ICIP director said.

"Where we are right now, there are no good options, all options are bad," he told this media outlet.

Moral vs military battle

The conflict between both Eastern European countries has two layers, as Herbolzheimer explained.

There is "the military dimension, where there is a huge asymmetry between the Russian army and the Ukrainian army. Purely from a military perspective, there is no chance that Ukraine can win this war, it can only be won by Russia," he said.

The reason behind his thinking is the outnumbered Ukraine army compared to Russian troops. Most military experts, according to international news agency Reuters, estimate there are around 100,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border.

But at the same time, "this is a moral battle of who is right and who is wrong, and while Putin might be winning the military battle, he has lost it and will keep losing the moral battle," ICIP director Kristian Herbolzheimer said.

The only way for Ukraine to win the moral battle is for "acts of civil resistance inside Ukraine, in Russia, and in many other places" to happen he explained.

There are already some examples of "people in Ukraine engaging on non-violence civil resistance, blocking convoys engaging soldiers on face-to-face conversations and challenging them," Herbolzheimer told Catalan News.

Two options: deterrence or common security

ICIP is an organization focusing on promoting peace internationally, so they are "extremely worried and concerned" regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For them, there are only two possible outcomes, one is bringing back the Cold War era, a time of deterrence, while the other option is a common security agreement.

"We want to alert of the aftermath of the conflict, where there will be a huge debate in Europe between two forms of development," ICIP director said.

The first one "predominated during the Cold War" where there was a "context of the threat of an adversary" so countries would prepare themselves for war. The other option is "a notion of common security," Herbolzheimer explained.

Common security is a concept that appeared during the Cold War period when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw pact countries were pointing nuclear missiles at each other.

In 1955, the Warsaw pact members were the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and the German Democratic Republic.

While NATO, founded in 1949, had the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, as its first joining countries.

At the time, "it was clear that the nuclear race could only end in a catastrophe," ICIP director explained to Catalan News. "So, they agreed to stop it and agree on a new common security concept," he added.

The agreement, where "if I cannot feel safe, my potential adversary does not feel safe" implied nuclear and conventional disarmament. "That was a very smart approach that if it had continued, there would not be any nuclear weapons right now," Herbolzheimer told Catalan News.

Nobody would be "afraid of anyone pushing the nuclear button," he added.

Armament growth

From a pacifist perspective, the war between Ukraine and Russia is "extremely worrying, because it gives arguments to those who think NATO needs to be a very strong organization."
For the ICIP organization, the war that Putin has started is giving more reasons for other members to join NATO, such as Finland and Sweden, as well as an increase in the military budget and spending.

The war between both Eastern European countries "is a complete disaster, first hand because of the humanitarian consequences in Ukraine, but beyond that, the instability and specifically the arms race it will trigger in Europe but most likely in the rest of the world as well," Kristian Herbolzheimer warned.