In the past two weeks, we have seen new proposals towards a future peace order for Ukraine, its neighbour Russia and for Europe.1 Indeed, we are faced with the task of formulating cornerstones of a peace order respecting the rights of people and peoples, the equality of states and the right of all people and peoples for a secure peace.
Such a peace order would be something new in the European history of the 20th and 21st centuries. Such a peace order has existed neither after the First nor the Second World War, nor after the end of the first Cold War. The victors have always dictated – sometimes openly, as after the First and Second World Wars, sometimes with duplicity, as after the first Cold War. These supposed orders of peace – because they were not just – have always carried the seeds of new serious conflicts or even wars.
The focus on 24 February 2022 is missing the point
When considering the question of a future European peace order, focussing only on 24 February 2022, the day of the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine, is missing the point. Wars have long-term, “structural” causes. The search for a future peace order must deal with these long-term causes, with the “structures” that endanger or prevent peace. Therefore, it is indispensable to know history and take it into account in the search for a lasting peace order. The war between Russia and Ukraine cannot be adequately assessed disregarding the past 32 years of world history.
The problem of the war profiteers...
The biggest problem in the realisation of a peace order are the forces that must be called war profiteers, even of a Cold War – with material interests and/or power-political goals. An anti-human worldview is usually added to this. These forces stand in the way of a just peace. They foment discord, provoking cold and hot wars and ensuring their prolongation. Not infrequently, they point their finger at others, washing their hands of the matter, according to the principle: “Stop thief!” At their service are media trying to manipulate people, emotionalising, abusing compassion and preventing independent thinking. The last vestige of reputability is sacrificed to unbearable propaganda. What we are currently experiencing in this regard in our countries is unprecedented.2
And it is obvious that the current campaign is touching more than the relationship of European states with Russia. This is clearly visible in countries like Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. By means of a “shock strategy”3 the last bit of independence is to be eradicated. “Old Europe” (as former US Secretary of Defence and neoconservative Donald Rumsfeld disparagingly termed the European states that did not want to take part in the Iraq war in 2003) is to be gone forever. This does not bode well.
… and the role of the media
Stefan Zweig wrote about the role of the media shortly before the beginning of the First World War: “They were to beat the drums of hatred and beat them they did, until the ears of the unprejudiced hummed and their hearts quaked. In Germany, in France, in Italy, in Russia, and in Belgium, they all obediently served the war propaganda and thus the mass delusion and mass hatred, instead of fighting against it.” And Alfred Adler wrote in 1919 about the run-up to the First World War: “Newspapers and magazines, politicians and parties seek the favour of the ruling powers.” It is no different today – but where will it lead?
War profiteers still exist today. The articles by Eberhard Hamer in Current Concerns No. 5 of 1 March 2022 and Michael Hudson in Current Concerns No. 6 of 15 March 2022 are about them. A peace order that does not fence in these forces will not last.
After the Second World War many people were wiser
After the end of the Second World War, many people agreed: the rampant capitalism of the pre-war years bore a major responsibility for the war. Therefore, even the Ahlen Programme of the CDU [Christian Democrats] of the British zone of February 1947 stated:
“The capitalist economic system has served neither the state’s nor the German people’s vital interests. After the terrible political, economic, and social collapse that resulted from criminal power politics, a new order is required, and it must be built from the ground up.
The content and goal of this new social and economic order can no longer be the capitalistic pursuit of power and profit; it must lie in the welfare of our people. A socialist economic order must provide the German people with an economic and social framework that accords with the rights and dignity of the individual, serves the intellectual and material development of our nation, and secures peace both at home and abroad.”
These fundamental considerations could not be realised at the time. But today, opening a new public debate including these points of view would open more prospects for Europe than the enemy image of Russia taken to extremes.
Idealism and realism in the view of peace
There are many efforts to formulate foundations for a just peace. The Ecumenical Christian Churches, for example, have been working on such a concept for many years and in 2009 presented a comprehensive draft on the question of just peace.4 Such concepts are very valuable and contain important suggestions and guiding principles for all people striving for peace. But they also formulate very high demands, so that it is to be feared that – at least in the foreseeable future – they have little chance of being implemented in practice. However, steps in the right direction are possible.
The goal of just peace also requires a combination of idealism and realism, as Hans Köchler formulated it in his contribution to Current Concerns No. 2 of 7 February 2022 (“Power and World Order”). Idealistic and realistic at the same time can be a recourse to the fundamental documents of the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). These documents are still valid legal bases signed by all parties. Prior to 24 February 2022, all parties involved have repeatedly referred to them. This also means that there are agreements in these documents that can still be a basis for negotiations now – if all sides are sincere.
But it is also possible that Russia, after the experiences of the past 32 years, will freeze its relations with the West and the rest of Europe for the foreseeable future. Then those who want to lower a new Iron Curtain right through the middle of Europe, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea5, can triumph – the Europe to the west of the new Iron Curtain will suffer the most. •
1 cf. the articles by Hans Köchler and Greg Mello in this edition as well as the text by Otto Schily
2 cf. the articles by Patrick Lawrence and Eliane Perret in this edition
3 cf. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2008
4 Statement on the Way of Just Peace, https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/statement-on-the-way-of-just-peace
5 The neo-conservative Western protagonists of a new Iron Curtain had been quite outspoken in April 2000. Willy Wimmer, then Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and participant in a US conference one year after the start of the NATO war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, wrote an alarming letter to the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the time and summarised the essentials again in an article for Current Concerns no. 4 of 2 March 2020: “The American conference in Bratislava in the Slovak Republic in April 2000 made the American goal for Europe clear: Iron Curtain between the Baltic and the Black Sea, Russia can stay where it wants and break up or be broken up into smaller states.”
km. In a commentary for the German daily newspaper “Die Welt” of 10 March 2022, Otto Schily, founding member of the German Green Party, later SPD politician and Federal Minister of the Interior, condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russian army units, but at the same time wrote that the war had “unfortunately a history of serious political failures”. Diplomacy had been “a total failure”. German foreign policy had also “failed all round. What has been done on the German side to defuse the Ukraine conflict? It was left to smoulder and was blind to the danger that it could develop into an explosive situation. Instead of looking for a viable solution, the Ukrainian leadership was driven into the illusion that Ukraine could one day become a member of NATO.”
Now, however, “ideas for a Ukraine model that is acceptable to all sides and offers a positive perspective for the peaceful development of this region of the world” were the most important help for Ukraine. The fundamental question here was: “How can Ukraine position itself in a form that corresponds to its own basic demand for a liberal-democratic social order in a sovereign state, but at the same time establishes a peaceful neighbourly relationship with Russia and other neighbouring states?” Otto Schily suggests that Ukraine should orientate itself on the Swiss constitution with “a view to ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity”: “Switzerland has understood in exemplary form how to develop a free society over centuries, with original democratic, predominantly decentralised decision-making procedures as well as mutual respect for different cultural and ethnic imprints, including the acceptance of multilingualism, which is taken for granted there.” He adds: “Due to its situation, Switzerland has committed itself to military neutrality, without thereby abandoning its value-based political principles.” The outlook: “For the European Union and Russia alike, a neutral Ukraine with a Swiss-style cantonal, multilingual state structure would be a good neighbourhood in the future with promising prospects for political and economic cooperation.” And: “The Donbass could be granted comprehensive cantonal autonomy."
A future EU membership for Ukraine was ...rather unlikely”. But even without EU membership, “the EU, Ukraine and Russia [...] could agree on a free trade area in a broader strategy”.
At the end of his commentary, Otto Schily writes that it “certainly requires courage, a willingness to compromise and a renunciation of ultimate demands” to engage in the “peace-making idea of a ‘Swiss constitution’”, but for the “closely related and deeply peace-loving peoples of Ukraine and Russia”, “the Swiss model could open the way to a promising future”.
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