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Peace instead of confrontation

In terms of military and security policy, it does not matter whether Annalena Baerbock (Greens) or Armin Laschet (CDU) becomes the number one in the German Chancellery. Both move on the same rail in the same direction. The candidate for chancellor of the largest group of hypocrites already announced last November that she was “thinking” about higher spending on defense. It also called for greater military engagement at European level. She also announced that she would discuss “robust European military operations” with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The ominous two percent target

Large areas of military policy friction with the CDU candidate for Chancellor Erwin Laschet cannot be identified: Even before the NATO summit on 14 June 2021, the latter also spoke in favor of higher military spending by Germany and a stronger assumption of military burdens by the Bundeswehr. Laschet clearly committed himself to the two percent target. Here, however, there is a difference after the program party congress of the Greens in mid-June 2021: their delegates refused to include this goal in the party program.

NATO: 260 billion additional

The ominous two percent target states that NATO member states should put two percent of gross domestic product into armaments by 2024. At present, only ten of the 30 members are achieving this. US pressure has not diminished under President Joe Biden in this regard, quite the contrary. It is not the case that the European NATO states have so far been too reluctant to upgrade. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the summit that Canada and Europe have invested an additional $ 260 billion in armament over the past seven years. The US and Europe also have more than half of the global military capacity.

Radical rethinking of military spending needed

But of course, in the logic of an exclusively military-oriented security policy, this goes nowhere. In contrast, the four leading German peace research institutes (the Bonn International Center for Conversion, the Leibniz Institute Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research, the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and the Institute for Development and Peace at the University of Duisburg-Essen) pursue a decidedly different approach. In their Peace Report 2021, they call for a" radical rethinking of military spending": “The peace report proposes to reduce arms and military spending and thus release much - needed funds for the global fight against the pandemic. Because pandemic-related tax revenues are falling and state budgets are shrinking, the world needs this Corona peace dividend”. It is primarily about a socio-ecological renewal of the world economy and the reduction of social inequalities.

The four peace research institutes have weight, in Germany they are even listened to from the top. After all, they were not only able to present the extensive report to the public. In the first half of June, they also presented it in Berlin to various ministries and parliamentary groups as well as the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Presidential Office.

Freeze two percent target

The report sets completely different security policy priorities than the still dominant military-heavy thinking. In the global challenges such as climate change or corona, peace researchers attach importance to the “strategic autonomy” of Europe; this must “always emphasize the civilian components of foreign and security policy”. Nicole Deitelhoff, Managing Director of the Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research, emphasizes that military spending has continued to rise strongly worldwide even during the pandemic. “That is why it is necessary right now to create a corona peace dividend,” she said in the ARD Tagesschau.

Deitelhoff and her scientific colleagues recommend that Nato freeze its two percent target for arms spending over the next few years. “In the end, every conflict prevented by violence is cheaper than all arms spending - in order to win it or to cope with its effects”.

No weapons for Ukraine

Peace researchers consider those in eastern Ukraine to be one of the most dangerous conflicts. Specifically, they recommend that the EU appoint a Special Representative to strengthen Europe’s political weight in negotiations. Arms deliveries to Ukraine, on the other hand, would complicate Germany’s diplomatic role. Robert Habeck, co-leader of the German Greens, however, sees it differently: He recently campaigned for Ukraine to be supplied with defensive weapons in the conflict with the separatists. So that fewer people die Ukraine must get weapons, so those who are even according to OECD reports the number one killers in the Donbass.

China: rival and partner at the same time

The attitude of peace researchers towards China is remarkable. The corresponding chapter of the peace report states: The tensions between China and the USA “have not yet reached the extent of a new Cold War, but they are creating a global, structure-forming great power conflict in which Europe has yet to find its role”. In general, the researchers advise “to use this position consciously and to preserve it for as long as possible, instead of rashly taking sides”.

This analysis is particularly interesting in connection with the NATO summit of 14 June 2021. The US wants to win NATO and thus Europe to a tougher course towards China. The final communiqué of the latest NATO summit already states: “The growing influence of China and its international policy can pose challenges that we as an alliance must tackle together.“European NATO partners are rather sceptical about the military alliance’s focus on China – they do not want to jeopardise the increasingly important economic relations with China. French President Emmanuel Macron became clear by clearly distancing himself from an anti-China position. And also Chancellor Angela Merkel warned after the NATO summit against understanding China too strongly as a threat, one must find the right balance: “China is rival in many questions, but China is also partner in many questions,” stressed Merkel according to “Spiegel”. She therefore called for the country to be offered an offer of dialogue along the lines of the previous NATO-Russia talks.

EU must not swing on US course

At least in the attitude towards China, the positions of the Chancellor and the peace research institutes seem to be quite close. It is pure speculation, but perhaps the aforementioned briefing in the Federal Chancellery has had some effect. The central place in the peace report is as follows:

“Greater European autonomy should, however, be reflected above all in the independent formulation of China policy objectives. There are several reasons for this: firstly, flexibility maximises one’s own influence in separate negotiations on specific issues and, along with this, the ability to shape Europe in general. Secondly, Europe can thus offer itself as a mediator between Washington and Beijing, contribute to the de-escalation of tensions and play to its particular strengths as a civil power. Third, Europe – in contrast to the US under whatever government – is not suspected of pursuing a containment course in China; however, the resulting greater confidence would quickly evaporate if the EU swung wholeheartedly along the US line. Fourthly, this perception can be used to express robust criticism of China on contentious issues, especially in human rights policy, which is all the more credible if it cannot be dismissed as a vehicle for power-political interests.”

2018 Nuclear Weapons withdrawal demanded

The four peace research institutes have been publishing their peace reports regularly since 1987.They are not afraid to occasionally parade the German government properly – with moderate words and polite recommendations, but clearly in the matter. in 2018, for example, they criticized arms exports and called on Berlin to prevent the stationing of further nuclear weapons in Germany and to obtain the withdrawal of existing ones.