On March 31rst former German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher, known as one of the important architects of East-West relations and key mediator who paved the way for German reunification, died at the age of 89. As member of the liberal party FDP he ranks among the most important foreign ministers (from the liberal party FDP) Germany has had in the post war period (from 1974 until 1992) serving as Interior Minister under SPD (social democratic party) Chancellor Willy Brandt (1969-74) then as Foreign Minister under SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt 1974-82, and as Foreign Minister under Helmut Kohl (1982-1992). When the Ukraine crisis broke out end of 2014 he was one of the few elder statesmen who didn’t spare critical remarks against those who in Germany were arguing in favor of a “hard line” against Russia. He warned about the danger of causing a new Cold war and pointed to the significance of the signing of the CSCE (Conference about Security and Cooperation in Europe) “Helsinki Final Act”, that was signed in 1975 in Helsinki (Finland) by 35 Heads of States. In an interview with the newspaper “Die Welt” (31.12.16) he expressed confidence that under a German presidency 2016 of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe, which in 1995 had become successor organization to the CSCE) new steps will be made for establishing a pan-European peace order, that is based on dialogue and cooperation with Russia.
“From my point of view”
Hans-Dietrich Genscher :“Meine Sicht der Dinge. Im Gespräch mit Hans-Dieter Heumann.“ ( Propyläen, 2015)
The book Hans-Dietrich Genscher :“Meine Sicht der Dinge. Im Gespräch mit Hans-Dieter Heumann.“ (“from my point of view”) – got published in 2015. It is based on a series of interviews that were conducted by former diplomat and former director of the Federal Academy for Security Policy Prof. Hans- Dieter Heumann. In it Genscher gives a review about his life as Foreign Minister and the lessons which he drew from that historical period for today. The book gives an interesting insight into the historical period after the end of WWII 1945 and illustrates the processes which paved the way for historic ground -breaking decisions: among them the “Helsinki Final Act” signed at the end of the CSCE Conference 1975; the German reunification after the collapse of the Berlin wall 1989 and the signing of the “Charter of Paris” document 1990 by 35 CSCE member states, which overcame the division of Europe and initiated a new phase of peace in postwar Europe.
Throughout the book Genscher keeps reflecting about the principles of a functioning German foreign policy which from his own point of view must be based on the concept that “cooperation” instead of “confrontation”, confidence building measures” instead of “mistrust” and the “willingness to cooperate on equal level” rather than “humiliate” will in the long run guarantee peace and security in Europe and the World. In the last months and weeks Genscher kept reiterating that Russia should not get isolated but that Germany and Europe should “cooperate” with Russia as a “great power”.
The vision he developed about the future was that of a new and cooperative “World Neighborhood Order” which includes among the players that will shape the future of the 21st Century: China, Russia, India, South-Africa and Brazil (BRICS). The author of this article had the chance to listen to his speech given during a dinner, organized by the German Atlantic Society (November 2007) in Bad Godesberg in which Genscher developed his vision of a “New World Neighborhood Order” and admonished to take into account the upcoming new “political centers of power” in the world.
Paving the way toward German Reunification
According to Genscher it was the CSCE process which paved the way toward German unification and the Two plus Four Treaty (or Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany) on 12th September 1990, which defined the specific foreign and security policy aspects for a reunified Germany. “It was this spirit of understanding and responsibility which led on the 21rst of November 1990 to the signing of the Charter of Paris by the CSCE member states. With it the East- West confrontation of the Cold war came to an end.”
The various celebrations that took place 2015 (70th anniversary in commemoration of the second World War, remembrance of the 6th of August 1945 dropping of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima; 25th anniversary of the 1989 revolution of the DDR) as Genscher emphasized, should be used as an “encouragement” to deescalate the present new East-West confrontation that was caused by the Ukraine crisis. In the spirit of the “Charter of Paris” Conference on Human Rights everything should be done to “seriously work for an all-European peace order.”
The former Foreign minister expressed major concern about the increased use of bellicose language in the German media in respect to Russia. The real deficit he saw was that Germany as well as many other European nations did not learn the lessons of World War II and failed to use the big chance after 1989, in order to bring about “Unity” on our continent and establish a “pan- European peace order”. While in Genscher’s view the annexation of Crimea and the support of the Ukrainian separatists marked a “break of international law”, he at the same time was underlining that we should not only point our finger to Putin: “There are forces in the transatlantic alliance which don’t want to overcome the old lines of division in Europa, but only shift them further east. Out of these new antagonisms have evolved that we thought had been overcome after 1989. Eastern Europe should include Russia. Russia is part of a “pan- European peace order”, such as the OSCE and the Charter of Paris.” He warned that those who want to push Russia out of Europe and humiliate it by the use of the name “middle power”.
Learning the right lessons means from Genscher’s point of view that Europe can function as a laboratory for a “new multipolar World order”, which becomes a model for a “World neighborhood Order”. In such a New World Order nations should cooperate on the basis of “equal rights” and on the principle that the “dignity of man is inviolable”.
Alienation between the West and Russia
“Dominance thinking is opposed to Confidence building”, this is one of the foreign policy principles which Genscher emphasized. The original CSCE concept envisioned an area that spanned from Vancouver to Vladivostok (which included the USA and the Soviet Union).
Looked at from today’s standpoint in a globalized world such a huge area presents the opportunity to create a “stability zone” which can have stabilizing effects on other regions of the world. This will only function, according to Genscher, if we conceive the World as a “cooperative order” and not an order where “one behaves like a school master toward the other”. The idea of a regional partnership as it was designed four decades ago for the CSCE /OSCE area from Vancouver to Vladivostok could become exemplary for such a “cooperative world order”. An important factor which contributed in Genscher’s opinion to a renewed climate of mistrust between Russia and the West, were the US plans for the stationing of a new US Missile defense system in Europe.
In reference to the Ukraine crisis Genscher stated that it was a “big mistake by the American president to deride Russia as a “regional power”. In a new world order there is no room for one nation to become a school master who lectures the other nations, he emphasized. He particularly complained about the time when under Bush Junior as President some people in Washington believed that the “bipolar” world order of the Cold War was just replaced by a “unipolar” world order. This world has changed and no matter which new crisis may erupt, “a stabilization of the OSCE area will not function without Russia and especially it can’t be directed against Russia” which after all also belongs to the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
The role of China
In this new World order aside Russia and the EU, also China should play a key role. Genscher underlined that he always felt very close to China. As Minister of the Interior he had for the first time in 1973 the chance to visit China as Minister of the Interior. Diplomatic relations between Germany and China had been initiated in 1972. He was at that time, as he recalled, particularly impressed by Zhou Enlai, whom he qualified as “the most important statesman of communist China”. “I was deeply personally impressed by him, his self- consciousness and the dignity with which he presented his country” and that it was Deng Xiao Ping who understood how important it was to develop the country peacefully. “China can only be successful in a policy cooperation which is based on mutual equality and respect. It is today indispensable partner in such cooperation”, Genscher stated.
China is not only important from a demographic point of view, but as Genscher emphasized, Europe can learn a lot from Chinese culture, especially the idea that “policy needs patience”. Unlike many others he didn’t see Chinas primary interest in military conflicts but in economic policy and cooperation. A responsible Chinese foreign policy was not only demonstrated by China in the Asiatic area but also in respect to try to find a solution in the Five plus One Negotiations with Iran, as well in Chinas role in Africa which is neither a threat nor expansionist.
Europe and the multipolar world
According to Genscher “we must assume that the new world order in the long term will be a multipolar Order.” And among the new big players of the 21st century will be big states like Brazil, China, India, USA and Russia, but also smaller and middle sized states. If such a world order is envisioned, according to Genscher, then also the basis is created to overcome the refugee and migration problem. The development of Africa is not a question of saving people and securing borders, instead what is needed is a policy which keeps people where they live, a policy of “global solidarity”.
Of particular importance was in the postwar period Germany’s reunification. It was the result of a historical process that finally led to the overcoming of the division of Europe. This was the aim of the CSCE. Genscher recalled that by looking back to history after WWII, there had been revolutions 1953 in DDR, 1956 in Hungary, 1968 in Czechoslovakia and again and again in Poland. He noted that in the sixties the Soviet Union had the plan to bring all of Europe under its influence. “At that time it presented the initiative for a pan-European security conference, as was written in the Budapest declaration of the Warsaw Pact from July 1966. The aim of the Soviet policy at that time was to fix the immutability of the borders in Europe which would have also meant the immutability of the German-German border.” The other aim was to move the US out of Europe. Genscher at that time, as he recalled, being against the idea to keep the USA out of Europe, nonetheless decided to react to this Soviet proposal by insisting that it needed to be “modified” in some aspects.
When the new coalition government between FDP (liberals) and CDU/CSU began to enter the government in 1969, the Soviet leadership decided to invite delegations from both parties; this included among others also Helmut Schmidt from the SPD. Genscher recalled in the book that he had at that time a discussion with Alexei Kosygin, Chairman of the Soviet Minister Council, who at that time had asked Genscher why he wanted the US to be part of such a security conference, since the US was not a European country. Genscher asked him in return whether the SU wanted the US to be part of the four power responsibility for Germany (after WW II) and added that such a Security Conference convened by Moscow could not be held without discussing the German question.
He recalled that neither in Washington nor many people in Germany had any interest in such a conference to take place. While there was a lot of resistance coming from CDU/CSU (which according to Genscher Chancellor Kohl had regretted in 1982), even the Vatican being a representative of International Law had decided to participate at this conference. The West insisted during the conference that the final document should be called “Final Act” and not “international law treaty”. And it was agreed to have every two years follow up conferences in order to examine what progress had been made. The “Helsinki Final Act” with the so called “basket” was according to Genscher one of the “biggest and most successful human rights initiative in history. For the first time the fight for human rights became subject of discussion and agreement between two different political systems”. This was reflected in the concept of the three CSCE baskets; the first including “principles”, the second basket “cooperation” and the third “humanitarian questions”. The accomplishment of the 1975 CSCE “Helsinki Final Act” was for Genscher a proof that patience and steadfastness are essential elements to develop a long term policy view. From a historical standpoint there was only a short period between the signing of the CSCE document 1975 until the collapse of the Berlin wall 1989.
Aside Willy Brandt and his Ostverträge (different treaties which were concluded between 1970 and 1973 with Moscow, Poland et cetera) the CSCE process, also President Gorbachev had contributed to Germany’s reunification: Without Gorbachev who met a lot of mistrust form Washington and London, the peaceful 1989 revolution in East Germany would not have been possible. The historical merit of Gorbachev was that he put into question the soviet system and the orthodox political system and that he had said that in order to have a “common European house “ it is indispensable to overcome divisions.
Genscher always took Russian concern about NATO’s eastward expansion seriously and saw in it was one of the reasons for the alienation between Russia and the West during the last years. He recalled that during the negotiations about German reunification, i.e. during the Two (East and West Germany) plus Four (US, Russia, GB, France) negotiations in the year 1990 there was only talk about a German- German Participation in NATO. At that time the Warsaw Pact still existed. Four powers and two states negotiated then. „There was never a verbal nor written agreement about who was to become member of NATO, all agreements were directed toward a reunified Germany. There was no mention of any other country and “there was aside the Two plus Four treaty no additional treaty, no secret additional agreement. Had there been discussion about other countries this would have implied the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact which at that time still existed and was dissolved in summer 1991.”
Genschers political last will as the book emphasized at the end is that a new beginning in East -West relations is needed within the OSCE area- from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Russia is needed in this new order in order to solve the future challenges on a global scale. Next to it the European Union must be further constructed, which includes a more vigorous realization of the Paris Charter principles. The envisioned agenda for a “New World Neighborhood Order” also includes the agenda for Peace i.e. worldwide disarmament and arms control that brings about nuclear disarmament.