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Securing Peace Instead of Rewarding Expansion

The following is an appeal by more than 100 German-speaking experts on Eastern Europe for a reality-based, and not illusions-guided, Russia policy. Numerous additional current and former parliamentarians, artists, activists, academics, and interested citizens voiced their support for this appeal as signatures were being collected. Some of the most influential German correspondents on Russia and Ukraine sympathize with the appeal but, for specifically professional reasons, did not add their signatures. The appeal appeared in Zeit Online, Der Standard, and Der Tagesspiegel. The German original appeal can be freely signed, on the site Change.org. See also the earlier international appeal “‘No more business as usual with Moscow!’—Public Statement of Researchers of Post-Soviet Politics.”

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On December 5, 2014, 60 prominent German personalities from politics, business, and the cultural sphere published a joint appeal titled “Another War in Europe? Not in Our Name!” Although this open letter deals with Germany’s policies toward Russia and Ukraine, only few of the signees are currently involved in East European studies, or in journalistic reporting about Ukraine. To the contrary, most of those who signed the appeal have only limited expertise in the post-Soviet space, little relevant research experience, and apparently no deep knowledge of Ukraine or recent events there. This is no coincidence.

The overwhelming majority of German researchers, activists, and reporters who, from a scholarly, civic, or journalistic perspective, are observing the current conflict in Ukraine are united in their assessment: There is an obvious aggressor in this war, and there is a clearly identifiable victim. Just as other formerly occupied countries’ inherent flaws did not diminish the criminal nature of their conquest, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its poorly concealed intervention in eastern Ukraine cannot be offset against the Ukrainian political system’s shortcomings.

If Moscow feels threatened by the EU and/or NATO, it should resolve this dispute with Brussels. Ukraine is neither a member of these organizations, nor is it engaged in accession negotiations with them. Nevertheless, Russia is pointing to a supposed threat from the West when justifying its “hybrid war” in eastern Ukraine, a battle that has already left thousands killed, maimed, traumatized, or driven from their homes.

In their appeal, the 60 signees advice that “the German government would not be taking a ‘special path,’ if it were to continue to call for sober-mindedness and dialogue with Russia during this standoff.” Prior experience, however, should give Berlin pause: In the summer of 2008, a similar “standoff” arose in the Caucasus following Russia’s de facto abrogation of an EU-brokered Russian-Georgian peace treaty. Although Moscow never fulfilled the agreement’s crucial provision, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Germany proposed a “Modernization Partnership” to Russia only a few weeks later. The EU and most of its member states subsequently followed Germany’s example. Yet Russian troops are stationed in Georgia to this day.

The Kremlin’s behavior in 2008 already constituted a repeat offense, just as Germany’s reaction to the Russian occupation of Georgian territory triggered déjà vu. In 2001, Vladimir Putin had given a much-celebrated speech to the Bundestag [the federal parliament’s lower house], at Germany’s invitation. That was in spite of the fact that it was already foreseeable that Russia would fail to carry out its legal obligation to withdraw her troops from the Moldovan region of Transnistria. In 2003, Brussels made an offer to the Kremlin to open negotiations on a new cooperation agreement with the EU. Yet Russian troops are stationed in Moldova to this day.

The 60 personalities write in their appeal: “Every journalist versed in foreign policy will understand Russia’s fear after, in 2008, NATO member states invited Georgia and Ukraine to become members in the alliance.” Journalists versed in foreign policy will recall that, at the time, around 3 percent of the population of the Russian Federation viewed NATO accession by Georgia or Ukraine as their country’s greatest threat. At its Bucharest Summit in April 2008, the alliance rejected, for the time being, both Ukraine and Georgia’s membership application—primarily at the request of Germany and taking into consideration Russia’s warnings. Moscow has since deprived both states of their territorial integrity. Two other former Soviet republics, Estonia and Latvia, are also frequently defamed by Kremlin-controlled media, and have treated their large Russian-speaking minorities more restrictively than Ukraine hers. The Baltic states, however, have been NATO members since 2004, and thus been able to maintain their territorial integrity as well as peaceful development.

Various half-truths about the so-called “Ukraine Crisis,” some of which represent thinly veiled slander of the Ukrainian people, are circulating in the German public. Whether it concerns language policy or minority rights, right-wing extremism or the recent political transition in Kyiv, misinformation and biased interpretations regarding Ukraine have become anchored in the minds of many ordinary people, as a consequence of superficial reporting and frequent appearances of Kremlin mouthpieces in television discussions on Ukraine.

German policy toward Eastern Europe should be based on past experience, factual knowledge, and careful analysis, and not on pathos, historical amnesia, and blanket judgments. No one is seeking military confrontation with Russia or wishes to break off dialogue with the Kremlin. However, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova cannot be sacrificed to “sober-mindedness” of Germany’s (and Austria’s) approach to Russia. Peace should be build without weapons—not by legitimizing their use in offensive military actions. It is in our own interest to counter the Kremlin’s attempt to export its illiberal vision for society into the EU. A key pillar of the international nuclear arms control regime, the Budapest Memorandum, should be upheld for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

The Ukrainian Soviet Republic lost more than 5 million of its people between 1941 and 1944. More than 2 million Ukrainians were abducted and sent to Germany to work as forced laborers. Around 4 million Ukrainian Red Army soldiers participated in the defeat of the Third Reich. We especially, as Germans, cannot once again turn a blind eye when the sovereignty of a post-Soviet republic and, in this case, even the survival of the Ukrainian state are at stake.

[Signed]

  1. Sabine Adler, Deutschlandradio public broadcasting, Warsaw
  2. Hannes Adomeit, formerly with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
  3. Vera Ammer, Memorial Germany, Berlin
  4. Martin Aust, Ludwigs Maximilians University of Munich
  5. Klaus Bachmann, Social Sciences and Humanities University of Warsaw
  6. Mariano Barbato, University of Passau
  7. Marieluise Beck, German Bundestag, Berlin
  8. Klaus Bednarz, formerly with ARD public television, Moscow
  9. Jan-Claas Behrends, Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam
  10. Timm Beichelt, European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder
  11. Tilman Berger, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  12. Dietrich Beyrau, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  13. Florian Bieber, Karl Franzens University of Graz
  14. Katrin Boeckh, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg
  15. Tim Bohse, German-Russian Exchange, Berlin
  16. Falk Bomsdorf, formerly with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Moscow
  17. Hans-Juergen Boemelburg, Justus Liebig University of Giessen
  18. Thomas Bremer, Westfaelische Wilhelms University of Muenster
  19. Ulf Brunnbauer, University of Regensburg
  20. Karsten Brueggemann, University of Tallinn
  21. Timm Buechner, Integrate Climate UG, Berlin
  22. Lars Buenger, Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights, Zurich
  23. Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Green Eastern Europe Platform, Goettingen
  24. Claudia Dathe, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  25. Andreas Decker, Memorial Deutschland, Munich
  26. Klaus-Helge Donath, daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung, Moscow
  27. Heike Doerrenbaecher, formerly with the German Society for East European Studies, Berlin
  28. Gesine Drews-Sylla, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  29. Wolfgang Eichwede, formerly with the University of Bremen
  30. Tobias Ernst, Russian & Ukrainian translator, Stuttgart
  31. Liana Fix, German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin
  32. Tobias Flessenkemper, Southeast Europe Association of Germany, Nice
  33. Joerg Forbrig, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Berlin
  34. Annette Freyberg-Inan, Technical University of Darmstadt
  35. Helmut Frick, formerly with the Federal Foreign Office, Berlin
  36. Juliane Fuerst, University of Bristol
  37. Mischa Gabowitsch, Einstein Forum, Potsdam
  38. Caroline von Gall, University of Cologne
  39. Klaus Gestwa, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  40. Christoph Giesel, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
  41. Luciano Gloor, “Eastern Partnership” Culture Program, Kyiv
  42. Witold Gnauck, German-Polish Science Foundation, Frankfurt/Oder
  43. Frank Golczewski, University of Hamburg
  44. Tobias Grill, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
  45. Hanno Gundert, n-Ost Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe, Berlin
  46. Michael Hagemeister, Ruhr University of Bochum
  47. Steffen Halling, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
  48. Lars Handrich, DIW econ Ltd., Berlin
  49. Rebecca Harms, European Parliament, Brussels/Strasbourg
  50. Anne Hartmann, Ruhr University of Bochum
  51. Guido Hausmann, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
  52. Nicolas Hayoz, University of Fribourg
  53. Andre Haertel, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
  54. Andreas Heinemann-Grueder, Georg Eckert Institute, Braunschweig
  55. Felix Heinert, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg
  56. Marlene P. Hiller, formerly with the history magazine Damals, Badenweiler
  57. Mieste Hotopp-Riecke, Institute for Caucasica, Tatarica and Turkestan Studies, Berlin
  58. Hubertus Jahn, University of Cambridge
  59. Sabine Jenni, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
  60. Juergen Jerger, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg
  61. Wilfried Jilge, University of Leipzig
  62. Andreas Kappeler, University of Vienna
  63. Walter Kaufmann, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Berlin
  64. Peter Koller, Green Eastern Europe Plattform, Berlin
  65. Miriam Kosmehl, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Kyiv
  66. Irma Kreiten, formerly with the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  67. Katharina Kucher, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  68. Sergey Lagodinsky, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Berlin
  69. Nico Lange, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin
  70. Manuel Leppert, Ettersberg Foundation, Weimar
  71. Markus Loening, Liberal International, Berlin
  72. Heinz-Dietrich Loewe, formerly with the Ruprecht Karls University of Heidelberg
  73. Otto Luchterhandt, formerly with the University of Hamburg
  74. Marian Luschnat, University of Hamburg
  75. Markus Lux, Robert Bosch Foundation, Stuttgart
  76. Martin Malek, National Defence Academy, Vienna
  77. Markus Mathyl, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg
  78. Markus Meckel, Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship, Berlin
  79. Stefan Melle, German-Russian Exchange, Berlin
  80. Jakob Mischke, Westphalian Wilhelms University of Muenster
  81. Michael Moser, University of Vienna
  82. Uwe Neumaerker, Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin
  83. Dietmar Neutatz, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg
  84. Andrej Novak, Green Eastern Europe Plattform, Nuremberg
  85. Ferdinand Pavel, DIW econ Ltd., Berlin
  86. Christian Pletzing, Academia Baltica, Sankelmark
  87. Nikolaj Plotnikov, Ruhr University of Bochum
  88. Susanne Pocai, Humboldt University of Berlin
  89. Gerd Poppe, formerly with the German Bundestag, Berlin
  90. Jakob Preuss, documentary film maker, Berlin
  91. Detlev Preusse, formerly with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Sankt Augustin
  92. Edgar von Radetzky, Memorial Germany, Berlin
  93. Boris Reitschuster, weekly Focus, Moscow
  94. Felix Riefer, Lev Kopelev Forum, Cologne
  95. David Rinnert, Green Eastern Europe Plattform, Glasgow
  96. Stefan Rohdewald, Justus Liebig University of Giessen
  97. Maren Rohe, Young European Federalists, Bonn
  98. Heike Roll, University of Duisburg-Essen
  99. Erich Roeper, Westphalian Wilhelms University of Muenster
  100. Claudia Sabic, Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main
  101. Manuel Sarrazin, German Bundestag, Berlin
  102. Karol Sauerland, Pomeranian University in Słupsk
  103. Schamma Schahadat, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  104. Stefanie Schiffer, “Kiev Dialogue,” Berlin
  105. Judith Schifferle, Philosophicum Basel
  106. Felix Schimansky-Geyer, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
  107. Frank Schimmelfennig, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
  108. Karl Schloegel, formerly with the European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder
  109. Carmen Schmidt, University of Cologne
  110. Henrike Schmidt, Free University of Berlin
  111. Winfried Schneider-Deters, formerly with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Kyiv
  112. Anna Schor-Tschudnowskaja, Sigmund Freud University of Vienna
  113. Gunda Schumann, Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), Berlin
  114. Christoph Schulz, MitOst Association for Cultural Exchange, Berlin
  115. Werner Schulz, formerly with the European Parliament, Brussels/Strasbourg
  116. Diana Siebert, Initiative for a Democratic Ukraine, Cologne
  117. Jens Siegert, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Moscow
  118. Gerhard Simon, formerly with the University of Cologne
  119. Susanne Spahn, freelance journalist, Berlin
  120. Stephan Stach, University of Leipzig
  121. Martin Stein, Free University of Berlin
  122. Kai Struve, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg 
  123. Susan Stewart, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
  124. Wolfgang Templin, formerly with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Warsaw
  125. Hartmute Trepper, formerly with the Research Centre for East European Studies at Bremen
  126. Stefan Troebst, University of Leipzig
  127. Andreas Umland, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kyiv (editor of the appeal)
  128. Ricarda Vulpius, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
  129. Bodo Weber, Democratization Policy Council, Berlin
  130. Elisabeth Weber, Lev Kopelev Forum, Cologne
  131. Tobias Weihmann, German-Belarussian Society, Berlin
  132. Reinhard Weisshuhn, Robert Havemann Society, Berlin
  133. Anna Veronika Wendland, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg
  134. Martin Schulze Wessel, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
  135. Jan-Henrik Wiebe, daily newspaper Thueringische Landeszeitung, Jena
  136. Hans-Georg Wieck, formerly with the Federal Foreign Office, Bonn
  137. Irina Wutsdorff, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
  138. Bernd Wieser, Karl Franzens University of Graz
  139. Susann Worschech, European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder
  140. Johann Zajaczkowski, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
  141. Kerstin Zimmer, Philipps University of Marburg
  142. Josephine von Zitzewitz, University of Cambridge

Andreas Umland is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, in Kyiv.

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