It is still true: most Germans still want to live in peace with their neighbours

An aggressive German foreign politics contradicts the will of the people

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

The “ceterum censeo” is important. Also in order to avoid gradually getting used to a position for which confrontation and war are appropriate means of foreign politics. At the beginning of August, a few weeks before the official German Nawalny campaign started, the German Press Agency (dpa) published the results of a recent survey regarding the withdrawal of US troops from Germany1. The central result: “While the majority of politicians in Germany are rejecting the planned withdrawal of US troops, the majority of the population is in favour of it.” 47 % of those questioned approve of the planned partial withdrawal, while only 32 % oppose it. 25% even think that all US troops should withdraw from Germany. The opinion is even clearer when it comes to US nuclear weapons in Germany. 66 % of those questioned would prefer the US nuclear bombs stored in Germany to be removed from the country.
   Trust in the USA as an “ally” has also been shattered for many. Only 35 % still consider the USA to be Germany’s most important ally outside Europe, while 49 % say that this is no longer the case. And for 23 % of those surveyed, a good relationship with Russia is now more important than with the USA.
   Finally: 58 % of those questioned believe that Germany is spending enough money on arms; only 25 % see things differently. Hence, the NATO target of 2 % military expenditure (measured against gross domestic product GDP), to which the German government has committed itself, is clearly rejected.

Politics is worried about the German will for peace

The Transatlantic Coordinator of the German Federal Government, Peter Beyer (CDU), called these figures “worrying”. These perceptions among the German population “should not lead us to turn to Russia or China or to give in to an uncertain neutrality”.
   The political activities in the weeks after the event fit the bill. The fact that the German government has taken the “lead” in the Nawalny campaign did not match with previous German policy, but with the concept of not only torpedoing German-Russian projects such as Nord Stream 2, but also of creating a mood against unpopular public opinion. If German-Russian relations suffered even more from this than they already do, it would be welcomed by these circles.

Foreign policy think tank regrets that the Bundeswehr is “structurally incapable of attack”

It is very regrettable that a well-known daily newspaper in Switzerland – a country that should be committed to neutrality – repeatedly offers itself as a platform for German and other confrontational voices. But at least the Swiss reader learns what is thought and planned by Germany’s “elites”. On 2 September 2020, Tom Enders, President of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), previously CEO of the arms manufacturer Airbus, had his say2. His verdict: Towards governments like the Russian much more German harshness would be appropriate. Behind all this we find an unquestioned enemy stereotype, associated with historical misrepresentations: “Where in history has it ever been possible to dissuade a determined autocrat from his course of expansion by appeasement, concessions and protection money? We Germans in particular should have learned our lesson in this respect”.
   For the President of the DGAP, German foreign policy lacks „moral clarity, determination and defensiveness“. The fact that “political conflicts could never be solved by force” is for him an “ideology” which he considers “wrong” and „ignorant of history“. However, he considers the German army to be “structurally incapable of attack” – and he deplores this without pointing out that the war of aggression at the Nuremberg Trials was classified as the most serious war crime and is still incompatible with international law. Instead, he says: “The Bundeswehr, in accordance with Germany’s weight in the European Union, must once again become an internationally respected and effective armed force.”

Who is the DGAP?

The DGAP is not just anyone. You can read on Wikipedia: “The German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP) is a network and think tank for foreign policy. Founded in 1955 in cooperation with the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House, the society operates research institutions for questions of international politics as well as foreign and security policy. Today, the DGAP has over 2500 members, including leading figures from banking and finance, business, politics, media and academia. The association tries to actively influence the formation of foreign policy opinion at all levels. Its work is aimed at decision-makers in the German politics, business and administration, in non-governmental organisations, in the military and at the general public”.

Who is ignorant of history?

What conclusions are currently being drawn from history was demonstrated by the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Poland in mid-August 2020. The date had been chosen with care. Pompeo not only signed an agreement on the transfer of US troops from Germany to Poland. He was also the guest of honour at Poland’s centenary celebrations for the victory over the Red Army off Warsaw, the so-called “Miracle on the Vistula”3. At these celebrations, Poles are praised as brave defenders of their country against an aggressive Russia, almost as “saviours of the West” against the “Bolshevik hordes”. What is not mentioned here, however, is that before the Battle of Warsaw – after the end of the First World War and virtually immediately after the refounding of the Polish state – Polish troops, full of dreams of great power, had waged a war of aggression against a Russia weakened by war, revolution and civil war, and had advanced as far as Kiev. Only there the Red Army succeeded in stopping the Polish advance and pushing back the Poles – admittedly, while still dreaming of world revolution.
   After the end of the Second World War, the international community attempted to prevent such confrontations and wars by all means in the future. The majority of Germans still stand in this tradition today. Thank God.
   However, this is not a foregone conclusion. The propaganda is on, and the fact that it has so far failed to work for the majority is in no small part due to the numerous voices that continuously analyse and question stereotypical images of the enemy, calling for a search for ways to resolve conflicts peacefully.  •

1  The results can be read for example at from 4 August 2020
2  Enders, Tom. «Die EU braucht eine mutige deutsche Aussenpolitik» (The EU needs a courageous German foreign policy); in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung from 2 September 2020
3  cf. for example from 15 August 2020

„War peril?“

km. This question has once again been raised by a serious German voice: Albrecht Müller. He experienced the Second World War as a child, became involved in the German peace movement as early as the 1950s, was head of planning in the Chancellery during the Willy Brandt era, and some time ago – due to the unsatisfactory reporting in the mass media, the spreading market radicalism also in Germany and above all due to the growing danger of war – published his own internet platform: the “Nachdenkseiten” ("reflection pages"). There he answered the question as follows on 15 September 2020: “This question is not asked for fun, not even to make people afraid. The danger is greater than the majority thinks. In support of this, I would like to point to three of several worrying developments: First, the speed and aggressiveness with which the spiral of the construction of an enemy image is being turned. Secondly, the associated and resulting danger of a change of mood in Russia and the likely promotion of aggressive, nationalistic forces based on the military and military strength. Thirdly, I would like to point to the internal development of the countries bordering the Baltic, Poland and other Eastern European countries. It is more likely than not that kindling will take place there. “1 



Hermann Göring must not be right...

“Of course the people don’t want war. […] But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. […] That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Hermann Göring, Interview with Gustave Gilbert in the prison cell on 18 April 1946,
Nuremberg Diary 1962 (original edition: Nuremberg Diary 1947), p. 270

How will the future of the official German-Russian relationship look like?

km. On the website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs the following press release is available in English. It was made available in a German translation by the Russian Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany on 16 September:
   “On 15 September, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
   The foreign ministers focused on the state of and prospects for Russian-German relations, and the development of bilateral and international cooperation against the backdrop of the Alexey Navalny case.
   The Russian minister reaffirmed Russia’s willingness to cooperate on this issue. He said again that Moscow is waiting for a response from the competent German bodies to the requests sent by the Russian Prosecutor’s Office on 27 August and 14 September of this year in accordance with the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 20 April 1959 and the additional protocols to it of 17 March 1978 and 8 November 2001. This legal agreement implies the transfer of the bio materials, test results, clinical analyses and medical documents required for a meticulous, comprehensive investigation into the reasons for Navalny’s illness and hospitalisation, which our Western colleagues are actively urging us to conduct in public. President of Russia Vladimir Putin explained the Russian position to President of France Emmanuel Macron during their telephone conversation on 14 September of this year. If our partners continue evading answers to our requests, it will be qualified as a lack of desire to establish the truth following an objective and comprehensive investigation into the incident.
   Sergey Lavrov urged his colleague to stop any further politicising of the Navalny case. He said we cannot accept references to ‘the independence’ of judicial bodies and the need to coordinate actions with Navalny himself or his family and friends that are being used as obstacles to block access for Russian investigators and doctors to the materials held by Germany on his disease and treatment. This runs counter to the afore-mentioned convention.
   As for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to which Germany is referring Russia on this case, the use of this organisation by Germany to clear the case should not be an obstacle to developing bilateral cooperation, both in the OPCW and via the established and generally accepted channels of legal assistance as is required by the sides’ commitments under the afore-mentioned 1959 convention and the related protocols.
   The foreign ministers agreed to continue their dialogue on this and other bilateral and international issues.“

(Source:  of 15 September 2020; of 16.9.2020)

On the website of the German Foreign Office this telephone conversation is not mentioned.
   Nor was the telephone conversation an issue in the NATO-oriented German-language media. However, there are numerous more general comments on German-Russian relations. However, it cannot be completely denied that this is intended to bring about a certain development. As the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 17 September wrote: “Russian observers see the end of the special relationship between the two countries, which was based on the Eastern policy of the 1970s and was established by the Soviet approval of German unification. The Nawalny case is a turning point [...].” Then: “The details of the case no longer matter. The way in which Chancellor Angela Merkel had decided to deal with the case ended Germany’s role as an interpreter of Russian sensibilities in Europe. Berlin is now behaving like all other Western countries – in constant opposition to Moscow’s foreign policy. Accordingly, Russia will treat Germany as a dependent, America-dependent state and put it in inverted commas as a partner. [...] There can no longer be any talk of a common basis of trust.”

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