Internal and external peace, rule of law and democracy – only with respect for other people

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

The theory that political events are resulting from compelling laws of nature or history, that, for example, hostile external circumstances must necessarily lead to uprisings or even violent revolutions, or that wars are inevitable when previous positions of power in the world are called into question – a current example of this is the “Thucydides hypothesis” regarding the relationship between the USA and China – is to be contradicted. The human factor is not sufficiently accounted for: neither in the negative nor in the positive. Agitation and propaganda can cause unnecessary violence in socially and politically tense situations and even set peoples against each other. Respect for others, on the other hand, is promoting and supporting the search for peaceful solutions which take all sides into account, within a country as well as in dealing with other peoples and states.

The poison of agitation and propaganda

It is worth remembering today where agitation and propaganda can lead. The atrocities that our history books tell us about and that are still being committed today are the extreme. What is most striking today is how the lack of respect for others within a country, but also in dealing with other states and peoples and their governments, can disrupt not only personal but also political relationships and interfere with governance for the common good.

Lack of emotional orientation and Gemeinschaftsgefühl (sense of community)

Lack of respect for the other person is reflected in disregard for their dignity and their rights. The rights to physical integrity and life are the most important of these. But the other fundamental and human rights are also indispensable. The right of peoples to self-determination according to Article 1 of the International Covenants on Human Rights is one of them.
  What are the causes for lack of respect for other human beings? This cannot be answered in one sentence. Respect for others corresponds to the social nature of human beings. It is an imperative of living together. In history and at present, there are many people who have exemplified and continue to exemplify this. Respect for human dignity and human rights is a logical conclusion from this. Insufficient emotional orientation or a lack of Gemeinschaftsgefühl (sense of community) is an obstacle to this. This is the gateway for agitators, agitation and propaganda – they do not want dialogue that unites people, but rather aggravation.

How dialogue in international relations is dying

Dialogue is also dying in international relations. The agitation against Russia and especially against the country’s incumbent president, Vladimir Putin, that has been going on for years now and the consequences of this are an example of this. On 18 March 2021, the Swiss website Info-sperber1 reads: “The West provokes, Russia will respond. Biden’s ‘Putin is a killer’ is more than provocation. There are rules of the game in international politics, too: Countries, governments and organisations may be criticised, but not heads of state or government personally.” The text speaks of a “breach of taboo” and refers to an analysis by Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, dated 21 February 2021. The Carnegie Moscow Center is financed by US endowments, but the analysis is nevertheless worth reading. It says, for example: “The arrival of Joe Biden and the Democrats in the White House means more and targeted US pressure on Russia and on Putin personally, as well as a much stronger US commitment to intervene in Russian domestic politics and in Russia’s immediate neighbourhood.” [emphasis km] But also: “The range and intensity of possible [Russian] responses are wide. The Kremlin is considering various options. It will not act hastily, but it can act quickly and asymmetrically […]. Russia’s response already has a name: active containment of the United States.” The Infosperber author adds: “Anyone who followed Russian television on Wednesday evening [17 February] […] knows how Joe Biden’s taboo-breaking was received there: as an insult to the whole of Russia. In Russia, too, people know very well that no other country has been responsible for more war dead since the end of the Cold War than the USA […].”
  Is it any wonder that recent surveys by the Moscow opinion research institute Levada Centre have found that - unlike in the first 20 years after 1990 – the majority of Russians aged 18 to 24 no longer want a “Western orientation”, but rather an independent Eurasian path for their country?2

Respect is a different thing

In an interview with the German Nachdenkseiten of 17 March 20213, Gabriele Krone-Schmalz4 said in response to the question of how she assessed the West’s current relationship with Russia: “With great concern. I do not only miss political analyses that untangle the ravel of interests and morals, but above all a political strategy as to where this spiral of threats and sanctions should lead. A situation has arisen in which many still use the words ‘dialogue’ and ‘willingness to talk’, but the practice looks different.”
  At the end of the interview, she says: “Far be it from me to develop disaster scenarios, but I am firmly convinced that what is needed is a resolute policy of détente that acts without preconditions with a view to the future. Without confidence-building measures – which, used as hollow phrases, are of no use but must be filled with content – there is a danger that situations resulting from misunderstandings will get out of hand and can no longer be contained. Everyone should be aware of this, especially with future generations in mind.”

The corridors of opinion have become oppressively narrow

In the second part of the interview5, she also addresses the internal situation in her country, Germany: “The ideologisation and moral charging of our debates and the resulting polarisation, which inevitably leads to radicalisation: All this is dangerous for a democratic, pluralistic society, which can only withstand a certain degree of polarisation if it is to function. Climate change, mobility, gender equality or gender-appropriate language and, of course, the issue of Russia – everywhere the corridors of opinion have become oppressively narrow. In other words, dissenters are no longer a natural part of our fundamentally lively open society, but disturbing factors who are better not even allowed to have their say, or even enemies who must be ostracised consistently.”
  Historical experience shows that a more aggressive foreign policy often goes hand in hand with fewer human rights within a country. Lack of respect for the other human being has never been limited to the “foreigners”  •



1 ttps://www.infosperber.ch/politik/__trashed-271__trashed// of 18 March 2021
2 cf. Diesen, Glenn. “Hat der Westen Russland verloren? Jugend beim Abbau der europäischen Identität führend”. (Has the West lost Russia? Youth leading the dismantling of European identity). In: rt deutsch of 27 March 2021; https://de.rt.com/meinung/115017-hat-westen-russland-verloren-jugend//
3 https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=70799 of 17 March 2021
4 The latest book by Gabriele Krone-Schmalz is titled “Respekt geht anders. Betrachtungen über unser zerstrittenes Land” (Respect is a different thing. Reflections on our quarrelling country).
5 https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=70846 of 18 March 2021

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