Friendly relations with Russia, this is the core challenge for a peace policy in Europe. In this position, the participants of the conference “75 Years of the Potsdam Agreement – High Time for Rethinking on Relaxation and Peaceful Cooperation” agreed. But what does rethinking mean, especially in the current political situation, which is exacerbated by the discussion about Navalny? Unfortunately, this is not about a man’s health, but about instrumentalising the events around Navalny for exaggerate the policy of confrontation and sanctions with Russia.
Evidence-free claims are put into the world and realities are assumed to undermine a political reconciliation process.
Rethinking means, first and foremost, of remembering
The basic idea and the belief that a peace process in Europe without Russia is unthinkable for historical, geographical, strategic, economic, environmental and political reasons. The fact that, in the 75th year of Europe’s liberation from fascism, which was largely caused by the sacrificial struggle of the Red Army, it is clear how complicated the current situation is.
The reasons for the current confrontationsituation. The decisive reason is the so-called NATO eastward enlargement, more clearly formulated as a political and military route for the expansion of the NATO military alliance to the east. This happened – and the publication of new documents proves it almost daily – against the agreements, commitments and protocols of the talks between the Russian leaders under Gorbachev and Yeltsin and the Western countries. The broad outlines of the Paris Charter, which provided for a cooperative Europe of détente and disarmament, were ignored without concern. Especially through interviews of NATO Secretary General Wörner from the 1990s, we now know about the double standards and mendacity of Western politics. They signed the Paris Charter and already had plans for eastward enlargement in NATO and government drawers. Any criticism of Russia’s foreign policy in the context of “Crimea” or the Ukraine conflict is hypocritical if it is not the first to take a clear position against the so-called NATO eastward enlargement.
But rethinking also means reconsidering the policy of détente and cooperation, which in the 1970s and 1980s led to positive cooperative relations with Russia, which made peace in Europe safer and (albeit limited) in Europe. To put it bluntly, it is a return to Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr, to a policy of détente and common security. The core idea of this peace policy is interdependence, the interdependence of the countries of Europe. In the nuclear age, security can no longer be created alone, but only in partnership. Security for my country, as Willy Brandt said in his 1971 Nobel Prize speech, is unthinkable without the safety of the other. I always have to think about them. Security and thus peace exist only with, never against the other.
Against many prejudices that this is a policy of “good weather in the world”, it should be emphasized that it was developed in a time of nuclear armament, the Cold War and confrontation, a situation that is quite comparable to today’s. It has been developed and not rejected, despite the US war of aggression against Vietnam, which is fighting for its freedom, and the intervention of the Warsaw Pact in the CSSR. It was not an end to the international ideological and political class struggle, to put it in terms of the discussion at the time (see document of the 1969 CPs' deliberation).
The policy of common security is peace policy, taking into account also fundamentally different positions, to put it bluntly, because of this policy, man or Mrs Putin does not have to love.
What does a return to the policy of common security mean today:
Refrain from any further expansion of NATO to the Russian border, i.e. no NATO membership of Ukraine, Georgia.
Immediate termination of sanctions against Russia. So-called punishments are a completely unsuitable instrument for dialogue and confidence building.
Confidence building, among other things, through the end of the provocative NATO maneuvers on the Russian border and the Russian maneuvers, which could be seen as a threat in Poland and the Baltic states.
Development of economic relations with Russia. The Nordstream 2 Pipeline, against which ecological concerns are entirely appropriate, must be opened quickly and be the beginning of a significant expansion of economic relations. This not only creates jobs and secures profits, but also underpins a relaxation process. Clear support for an urgently needed modernization process of economy and infrastructure in Russia is also in the Western economic and political interest, especially when looking over the Atlantic with open eyes. Strengthening cooperation certainly also means further developing cooperation with the EU and the Euro-Asian Economic Union.
Ecological and climate partnerships to tackle the" survival challenges " together. Ecological upheavals in Russia, such as the thawing of the Permafrost regions, would have a dramatic impact on global climate development.
Social cooperation in all conceivable fields of churches, trade unions, sports clubs, Culture, Youth, Science, development of town partnerships
Comprehensive disarmament and conversion to “defensive defense systems” - on the tops of missiles, with tanks and drones dialogue is difficult. In the sense of building trust, the offensive weapons on both sides could first be removed from the borders and scrapped. Disarmament is the material underpinning of the peace process, but it also creates the conditions for providing the financial resources for a social-ecological Transformation in the East and West. The same applies here: if you have stronger shoulders, you have to start and equip more comprehensively. The 900 billion military expenditures of NATO are opposed by about 65 billion of Russia. Disarmament is first and foremost a NATO challenge and shows once again how absurd the talk of the Russian military threat is.
A policy of common security in Europe is also able and helpful to contribute to the resolution of conflicts and wars in other parts of the world, not in the neocolonial sense, but as a help for self-help for people. The conflicts in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, among others, cannot be developed from an armed conflict to a peace process without cooperation with Russia.
Since this “return to the policy of common security” will continue to be a process in the 21st century, a revival of the “Helsinki process” of the 1970s is certainly sensible. The strategic orientation is the first steps that are already possible, that can be taken together, that can be trusted and that create the opportunity for further cooperation. Attempts at" Conscious demonstration", delegitimization, impeachment, public fact-reduced campaigning are the opposite. The first positive steps could then result in a comprehensive Helsinki 2 agreement.
This process of developing trust, dialogue and cooperation also includes the discussion on human rights, but not in order to demonstrate the “other side”, but in order to make the human rights conventions of the United Nations a reality. Double standards and mendacity must stop, human rights are too important to use instrumentally. For this historically and currently particularly difficult debate, special instruments should certainly be created or existing ones strengthened in the form of dialogue forums.
A return to common security is inconceivable without civil society and the peace movement. The current confrontation policy is also based on dominant (Profit)interests. Especially the policy of NATO, the struggle of the Western countries for strong hegemonic positions in the struggle for the new world order are certainly decisive factors of confrontation policy. They are not overcome by “Good Will”, but by creating new social and political national and international constellations and power relations. For this, human action is indispensable. Let us remember the policy of détente in the 1970s. This was accompanied by actions on the streets, but there was no civil society international process such as the climate negotiations or the Ban Treaty. Helsinki 1975 was “only” an intergovernmental conference. The influence of the peace movement on the" Great " East-West process began comprehensively only in the 1980s with the confrontation over Pershing, Cruise Missiles and SS20.
Détente policy in the 21st century will be fundamentally different and will be achieved politically. It will not only be accompanied, indeed it will be fought decisively by civil society and the peace movement. These will be an active engine.
Structures for this are certainly present in approaches, many initiatives are committed to a dialogue with Russia (Petersburg Dialogue, city partnerships, East-West meetings, Federal Association of West-East societies, Druzhba peace trips, to name but a few). In the peace movement, strengthened initiatives for partnership with Russia are being developed. Many good expandable starting points must and can be expanded. It should certainly not be underestimated how complicated this cooperation is in detail.
This" popular diplomacy " from below must be massively expanded socially and internationally in order to develop a Counterpotential to militarism and to consolidate the positive public opinion that still determines Germany and Europe for a peace process with Russia.
No encounter between East and West is free, every initiation of new contacts and conversations helpful. Existing cooperation structures should be expanded and strengthened everywhere (also financially). Consideration should be given to how this civil society cooperation could also be illustrated in larger joint actions.
Peace develops from below and through and with people – on all sides. 75 years after the liberation, the creation of a European peace order remains a herculean task.