Again War in Europe? Not in our Name! An urgent call by senior German politicians, intellectuals and Church representatives to the German Government, the Federal Parliament and Media—to rebuild the dialogue with Russia

by

Elisabeth Hellenbroich

For the first time since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a sign of hope has emerged on the horizon of public debate in Germany. On December 5th the “Die ZEIT Online” published a call which was signed by more than 60 prominent people from German politics, business, media and well-known intellectuals. The call whose signers are from different parties was published under the title “War again in Europe? Not in our name.” The call was addressed to the German government, the federal German parliament and the media. It is well timed and its intention is to appeal to those who carry responsibility in Germany to wake up and face reality: The threat that the present Ukraine conflict could threaten peace in Europe and lead to war with Russia.

The call was initiated by Prof. Dr. h.c. Horst Teltschik, former consultant on foreign and security affairs of German Chancellor Dr. Helmut Kohl. Horst Teltschik for several years also had been chairman of the influential Munich Security Conference. Co-initiators were aside him former defense state secretary Walther Stützle (SPD) and former vice-president of the German federal parliament, Dr. Antje Vollmer (Green Party).

The signers of the call warn about the dangerous consequences of the present German policy in respect to the Russia- Ukraine conflict. Despite some justified criticism, the conflict should not lead to a situation where the German –Russian relations which have been built over the last 25 years, are put in danger, Dr. Teltschik underlined in a statement which was printed in the introduction of the call.

The signers of the call express great concern about the threat of a potential war, which North- America, the EU and Russia are plunging into, unless they “stop the detrimental spiral of threats and counter- threats. All Europeans—including Russia – have a common responsibility for peace and security.” Losing sight of this aim would be a fatal mistake.

The Ukraine conflict demonstrates, as the call states, that the greed for power and hegemony has not been overcome. In 1990 – at the end of the cold war – there was hope on all sides.
“Americans, Europeans and Russians have lost sight of the guiding principle that war must be a factor that must be excluded in their relations.” Examples for this is Russia’s reaction to what it perceives as “dangerous expansion” by the West towards the East, while simultaneously there is lack of a deeper cooperation with Moscow. This was signaled as well by Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, which the call declares as break of international law.

At the moment where the continent faces a great danger, the statement emphasizes that Germany has a special responsibility for preserving peace. The division of Europe would not have been overcome, if the Russian people had not shown their readiness to reconcile and if there had not been the foresight by former President Michael Gorbachev and if the western allies had not supported it and the German government acted wisely at that time.

“The way for a peaceful German reunification was paved thanks to the tremendous gesture characterized by reason which the victorious powers made. Their decision was one of historical dimension. The idea was that by overcoming the division in Europe, a sustainable European Peace and Security order from Vancouver to Vladivostok should emerge, as it was agreed upon in November 1990 by all 35 heads of state and government leaders of the CSCE member states and as it was written in the ‘Paris Charter for a new Europe’. On the basis of the principles which were commonly agreed upon the idea emerged to build a “Common European House” in which all participating nations were to have the same security. This post- war policy aim has not been fulfilled up to these days. The citizens in Europe must worry again.”

The signers make a strong call to the German federal government to “take its responsibility for peace in Europe. We need a new détente policy for Europe. This only functions on the basis of equal security for all, with equal partners who have respect for each other.”

The call further states: “We shall not push Russia out of Europe. This would be ahistorical, unreasonable and put peace in danger”. A historical reference is made in order to demonstrate that historically Russia belongs to the European continent: “Since the Vienna Congress in 1814 Russia belongs to the great powers which shaped Europe. All those who tried to change this in a bloody way, failed.” The call makes reference to the megalomaniac Adolf Hitler under whom Germany became engaged in a murderous was against Russia in 1941, in order to subjugate Russia.

The signers call on the federal German parliamentarians, those elected politicians, to face the seriousness of the situation and fulfill their role as supervisors, so that also the German government fulfills its obligation for peace. “The ones, who build up enemy images or launch one sided accusations, only intensify the tensions in a period where all signals should point in the direction of détente. Inclusion instead of exclusion – this must be the leitmotif of German politicians.”

The signers also strongly urge the media to fulfill their journalistic duties by not giving prejudiced reports, as could be seen in the recent period. They point out that leading columnists and commentators demonize entire peoples without taking sufficiently into account the history of these people and without respect for their history. “Every journalist who is well informed concerning foreign policy matters, will understand the fear of the Russians; especially in light of the fact that in 2008 NATO member invited Georgia and Ukraine to become members of the alliance.”

As the signers emphasize that the issue is not Putin. “State leaders come and go. What is at stake is Europe”. They underline that what is needed is media who base their reports on solid research and hence can contribute a lot to take the fear of war away from the people.

The call ends with a quote taken from a speech which former German President Richard von Weizsäcker gave on the 3rd of October 1990, the day of celebration of the German reunification. At that time he expressed the hope that now that the cold war was overcome, freedom and democracy could be realized in all states. “For the first time a common life- and peace order could evolve. For the peoples of Europe a new chapter of history begins. Its aim is the pan- European Union. This is a big aim. We can reach it but we also can fail. We have clear alternatives in front of us, either we unify Europe or we fall back into the painful historical path of nationalistic contradictions”, Weizsäcker stated then. After 25 years his call is more up-to-date than ever.

The excellent call which hopefully will be echoed by other nations has triggered by now a fierce debate in Germany. It has provoked some polemical counterstatements and calls. Chancellor Merkel criticized what some of her predecessors had said. Among the signers of the call were former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, former Minister President of the federal state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck, former German Ambassador to Moscow Jörg von Studnitz ; former German President Dr. Roman Herzog, former ministers of justice Prof. Dr. Herta Däubler-Gmelin as well as Dr. Hans- Jochen Vogel (SPD); from business Dr. Eckehard Cordes, chairman of the eastern commission of the confederation of German industry; Professor Dr. Klaus Mangold, Chairman Mangold Consulting GmbH; Stefan Dürr (board of directors of CEO Ekosem -Agrar GmbH); representatives from both churches such as catholic Father Anselm Grün, former protestant Bishop Prof. Dr.h.c. Margot Käßmann, as well as writers, known actors, media representatives and former German astronaut Dr. Sigmund Jähn.

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