1987 – Reflections for a common European home and global disarmament

by Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–2022)

I made my first trip abroad as General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee to France in October 1985. About a year earlier, in December 1984, I visited Britain at the head of a delegation of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Both those trips set me thinking about many things and, first of all, about the role and place of Europe in the world.
  Francois Mitterrand expressed what seemed to me an important idea at that time. “Why not assume the possibility,” he said, “of gradual advance to a broader European policy?” A year later, in Moscow, he said: “It is necessary that Europe should really become the main protagonist of its own history once again so that it can play in full measure its role of a factor for equilibrium and stability in international affairs.” My thoughts went along the same track. […]

“Some in the West are trying to ‘exclude’ the Soviet Union from Europe”

Some in the West are trying to “exclude” the Soviet Union from Europe. Now and then, as if inadvertently, they equate “Europe” with “Western Europe.”
  Such ploys, however, cannot change the geographic and historical realities. Russia’s trade, cultural and political links with other European nations and states have deep roots in history. We are Europeans. Old Russia was united with Europe by Christianity, and the millennium of its arrival in the land of our ancestors will be marked next year [1988]. The history of Russia is an organic part of the great European history. The Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Moldavians, Lithuanians, Letts, Estonians, Karels and other peoples of our country have all made a sizable contribution to the development of European civilization. So they rightly regard themselves as its lawful inheritors.
  Our common European history is involved and instructive, great and tragic. It deserves to be studied and learned from.
  Since long ago, wars have been major landmarks in Europe’s history. In the twentieth century, the continent has been the seat of two world wars – the most destructive and bloody ever known by mankind. Our people laid the greatest sacrifices at the altar of the liberation struggle against Hitler’s fascism. More than twenty million Soviet people died in that terrible war. […]

“Europe is our common home”

Europe is our common home. This metaphor came to my mind in one of my discussions. Although seemingly I voiced it in passing, in my mind I had been looking for such a formula for a long time. It did not come to me all of a sudden but after much thought and, notably, after meetings with many European leaders.
  […] The continent has known more than its share of wars and tears. It has had enough. Scanning the panorama of this long-suffering land and pondering on the common roots of such a multi-form but essentially common European civilization, I felt with growing acuteness the artificiality and temporariness of the bloc-to-bloc confrontation and the archaic nature of the “iron curtain.” […]
  Europe is indeed a common home where geography and history have closely interwoven the destinies of dozens of countries and nations. Of course, each of them has its own problems, and each wants to live its own life, to follow its own traditions. Therefore, developing the metaphor, one may say: the home is common, that is true, but each family has its own apartment, and there are different entrances, too. But it is only together, collectively, and by following the sensible norms of coexistence that the Europeans can save their home, protect it against a conflagration and other calamities, make it better and safer, and maintain it in proper order.
  Europe “from the Atlantic to the Urals” is a cultural-historical entity united by the common heritage of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, of the great philosophical and social teachings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These are powerful magnets which help policy-makers in their search for ways to mutual understanding and cooperation at the level of interstate relations. […]
  I frankly admit that we are glad that the idea of a “common European home” finds understanding among prominent political and public figures of not only Eastern, but also Western Europe, including those whose political views are far removed from ours. Thus, Foreign Minister Genscher of Federal Germany has declared a readiness to “accept the concept of a common European home and to work together with the Soviet Union so as to make it a really common home.” Federal President Richard von Weizsaecker, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti, and other leaders have spoken to me in the same vein. […]

“History compels us to treat each other properly”

History compels us to treat each other properly. Europe’s development is impossible without active cooperation by our two states. Solid relations between the FRG and the USSR would be of truly historic significance. While keeping their own identities, within their systems and their alliances, both states can play a major role in European and world development. The Soviet Union is interested in good security for the Federal Republic of Germany. If the FRG were unstable, there could be no hope of stability for Europe, and hence for the world. Conversely, stable relations between the FRG and the USSR would appreciably change the European situation for the better. […]
  In speaking with foreign leaders, I sometimes ask directly: “Do you believe that the Soviet Union intends to attack your country and Western Europe in general?” Almost all of them answer: “No, we do not.” But some of them immediately make a reservation, saying that the very fact of the USSR’s immense military might creates a potential threat.
  One can understand such reasoning. […] It is high time to put an end to the lies about the Soviet Union’s aggressiveness. Never, under any circumstances, will our country begin military operations against Western Europe unless we and our allies are attacked by NATO!
  In the West they talk about inequalities and imbalances. That’s right, there are imbalances and asymmetries in some kinds of armaments and armed forces on both sides in Europe, caused by historical, geographical and other factors. We stand for eliminating the inequity existing in some areas, but not through a build-up by those who lag behind but through a reduction by those who are ahead.
  In this field there are many specific issues awaiting solutions: reduction and eventual elimination of the tactical nuclear weapons, to be coupled with a drastic reduction of the armed forces and conventional weapons; withdrawal of offensive weapons from direct contact in order to rule out the possibility of a surprise attack; and a change in the entire pattern of armed forces with a view to imparting an exclusively defensive character to them. […]

Reduce armaments

We believe that armaments should be reduced to the level of reasonable sufficiency, that is, a level necessary for strictly defensive purposes. It is time the two military alliances amended their strategic concepts to gear them more to the aims of defence. Every apartment in the “European home” has the right to protect itself against burglars, but it must do so without destroying its neighbours’ property. […]
  We can see the first signs of a new outlook on international affairs sprouting in Western Europe. Certain changes are also taking place among ruling circles. Many socialist and social democratic parties of Western Europe are working out new attitudes to defence policy and security. They are led by seasoned politicians with a broad vision of the world’s problems.
  I have received the Consultative Council of the Socialist International led by Kalevi Sorsa, and have met Willy Brandt, Egon Bahr, Filipe Gonzalez and other social democratic leaders, and each time we noted that our views on the crucial issues of international security and disarmament were close or identical. […]
  Nevertheless, I think that Europe’s contribution to the cause of peace and security could be much bigger. Many West European leaders lack the political will and, perhaps, opportunities. […] It is regrettable that the governments of the NATO countries, including those who in words dissociate themselves from the dangerous extremes of American policy, eventually yield to pressure thereby assuming responsibility for the escalation in the arms race and in international tension.

“Sometimes one has the impression that the
independent policies of West European nations have been abducted”

There is an old Greek myth about the abduction of Europe. This fairy-tale subject has suddenly become very topical today. It goes without saying that Europe as a geographical notion will stay in place. Sometimes, however, one has the impression that the independent policies of West European nations have been abducted, that they are being carried off across the ocean; that national interests are farmed out under the pretext of protecting security.
  A serious threat is hovering over European culture too. The threat emanates from an onslaught of “mass culture” from across the Atlantic. […]
  Indeed, one can only wonder that a deep, profoundly intelligent and inherently humane European culture is retreating to the background before the primitive revelry of violence and pornography and the flood of cheap feelings and low thoughts.
  When we point to the importance of Europe’s independent stance, we are frequently accused of a desire to set Western Europe and the United States at loggerheads. We never had, and do not have now, any such intention whatsoever. We are far from ignoring or belittling the historic ties that exist between Western Europe and the United States. It is preposterous to interpret the Soviet Union’s European line as some expression of “anti-Americanism.” […] True, we would not like to see anyone kick in the doors of the European home and take the head of the table at somebody else’s apartment. But then, that is the concern of the owner of the apartment.

“US foreign policy is based on at least two delusions”

As far as United States foreign policy is concerned, it is based on at least two delusions. The first is the belief that the economic system of the Soviet Union is about to crumble and that the USSR will not succeed in restructuring. The second is calculated on Western superiority in equipment and technology and, eventually, in the military field. These illusions nourish a policy geared toward exhausting socialism through the arms race, so as to dictate terms later. Such is the scheme; it is naive. The USA still cherishes the hope of being the leading power of the entire world for all time: a vain hope, as many American scientists have already realised.
  We want freedom to prevail throughout the world in the dawning 21st century. We want peaceful competition to develop between different social systems, and mutually beneficial cooperation, not confrontation and arms races, to determine relations between states. We want the people of every country to enjoy prosperity, happiness and contentment.
  The way to achieve this is through a world free of nuclear weapons, a world free of violence. We have chosen this path, and we call on other countries and nations to do the same.  •

Mikhail Gorbachev 35 years ago – still relevant and forward-looking today

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

“I bow before a great statesman. Germany remains indebted to him in gratitude for his decisive contribution to German unity, in respect for his courage to open up towards democracy and to build bridges between East and West, and in memory of his great vision of a common and peaceful House of Europe.” Thus, on 30 August 2022, the words of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the occasion of the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and President of the country. Steinmeier thus accounted for the high esteem in which Gorbachev is still being held in the memory of many Germans.
  But it is very likely that the Federal President himself did not really mean what he said. For his further “words of condolence” were no longer an appreciation, but an instrumentalization of Gorbachev’s death for a slash against today’s Russia: “Anyone who experienced him in recent years could feel how much he suffered from the fact that this dream was receding further and further into the distance. Today the dream lies in ruins, destroyed by Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine.”
  In reality, Gorbachev’s vision of a “common European Home” – apart from a few episodes – was never taken up seriously and sustainably by the EU-European, by the German side. Contrary to what the words of the German President might lead one to believe, EU-Europe and Germany have contributed greatly over the past 30 years to the fact that Gorbachev’s “dream” has not only been in ruins since February 2022. The subordination of EU-Europe and Germany to the United States and its plans for a unipolar world with US domination had destroyed this “dream” much earlier.
  The text by Mikhail Gorbachev printed has been written 35 years ago. Today it seems like a document from a bygone era. Yet today, 35 years later, it is still topical and forward-looking. It reminds us of what would have been possible from the Russian side for 35 years – if Europe, if Germany, had sought and found an independent path in world politics.
  However, Gorbachev’s text is not only important as a reminder of more than 30 years of failed EU-European and German foreign policy. This text also formulates Europe’s central tasks for the time after the current war and the renewed division of the continent. After ruins, there must also be reconstruction. This applies above all to Europe’s and Germany’s relations with Russia. Gorbachev’s words on this could also be spoken today. And the question really arises: Why does EU Europe, why does Germany cling more fanatically than ever to its self-destructive policy against Russia, to a policy of ever more radicalising confrontation and war-propaganda? A policy that is currently slamming all doors to peace in Europe.
  The most recent example of this is the German Bundestag’s “starvation” resolution of 30 November 2022. Not only because the German Bundestag, with a majority of CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, approved this resolution and interfered with the tasks of the sciences in a questionable way: Parliament has interpreted the starvation deaths of a few million people throughout the Soviet Union in the years 1931-1933 – for which the Soviet policy of the time was largely responsible – as a targeted genocide of Ukrainians. But, above all, because this resolution is once again explicitly directed against today’s Russia, following the propaganda formula coming from the USA (Anne Applebaum, Timothy Snyder and others) to equate Stalin and today’s Russian President Putin.
  Where are the weighty voices from EU-Europe, from Germany, advocating an end of the war in Ukraine? And not with more and more escalation, not with more and more arms deliveries and direct participation in the war, not with a war “to the last Ukrainian”, but with the demand for serious peace negotiations that are supported by respect for the will and the suffering of the people affected in Ukraine and in Russia as well as the justified security interests of all states involved in the conflict!
  There are some very few exceptions. One of them is the former Inspector General of the German Armed Forces and NATO General Harald Kujat. In recent months, he has repeatedly debunked NATO propaganda about the course of the war in Ukraine and called for serious peace negotiations, as he did again in an interview with the TV station n-tv1 (see box).
  The still formally valid Charter of Paris of November 1990 which all CSCE states, i.e., also EU-Europe, the Soviet Union and the USA, signed, states: “The era of confrontation and division of Europe has ended. We declare that henceforth our, relations will be founded on respect and co-operation. [...] With the ending of the division of Europe, we will strive for a new quality in our security relations while fully respecting each other’s freedom of choice in that respect. Security is indivisible and the security of every participating State is inseparably linked to that of all the others.” This is more than just a “dream”; it is an obligation that will continue to apply in future. This duty includes the task of all of Europe – and that includes Russia – not to let the renewed division of Europe, which the USA has actively pursued at least since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s2, be the last word.

https://www.n-tv.de/mediathek/videos/politik/Alte-Sowjet-Systeme-im-Einsatz-Haelt-Russland-strategisches-Potenzial-zurueck-article23748244.html of 28 November 2022
2 cf. the letter of the former Vice-President of the Parlamentary Assambly of the OSZE, Willy Wimmer, to Chancler Gerhard Schröder of 2 May 2000; ; https://www.perseus.ch/PDF-Dateien/bracher-wimmer.pdf

What does the German peace commandment demand?

Excerpts from an interview between TV channel n-tv and Harald Kujat*

n-tv: Some experts raise the impression that Russia is in a weakened state. But now the defence minister of Estonia said that after nine months of war, the situation has not really changed at all for Russia and that their aerial fleet is nearly as large as before. What is your opinion about this?
Harald Kujat: I totally agree with that. Russia started this conflict with a huge potential, sure it has suffered some casualties, but what our so-called experts trying to tell us, saying that Russia has basically reached the end of the line – and Ukraine’s victory is already celebrated each day –, all of that is nonsense, of course. Russia has an enormous potential at its disposal, and only used a certain portion of said potential in this war. One has to take that into consideration always, and furthermore Russia has vast personal resources it can activate, as well as enormous material capacities. [...]

Do you really [think], that there is someone who actually wants to negotiate with Russia or someone who actually believes in the fact that the Russians would really stick to what they might have subscribed in those negotiations?
We do have an example for Russia being open for negotiations, even to make concessions to Ukraine. These concessions even went so far that Russia was prepared to withdraw its presence in Ukraine to the level of 23 February [2022]. We now know that this tangible agreement, which was, incidentally, based on a proposal by the Ukrainian government, which Russia then reworked into a draft treaty, did not come about because the West, in the person of the then British Prime Minister Johnson, intervened here. May I add something to this: Especially the situation we are in now cries for getting back to the negotiation table for both sides. Therefore, the United States would have to put pressure on Ukraine first to actually declare this willingness, and American general chief of staff General Miley called out a few days ago to use this current military situation, in which Ukraine cannot achieve further progress, ergo cannot win the war, to end this war altogether. […]
  [We] have to eventually get clear about where the limits of our [German] participation in this conflict are. Our constitution holds the commandment of peace in its preamble. Any partaking in a war of support of a war party must aim at a peaceful solution in the end. That is what our Basic Law dictates. This is why I demand of the German government to make our citizens aware of where our limits are in regards to what it supports and what it does not support [...]. How far shall we go? For example, when I hear them saying, we will support Ukraine as long as it is necessary. What does that actually mean? Somehow it sounds like we are handing over the decision about how long and to what amount we support Ukraine, to the Ukraine. A part of our state authority is being transferred to the Ukraine. This cannot be the goal of German politics, particularly not in conformity with the peace commandment of our Basic Law.

Source: slightly linguistically edited transcript of the show broadcasted on 28 November 2022, https://www.n-tv.de/mediathek/videos/politik/Alte-Sowjet-Systeme-im-Einsatz-Haelt-Russland-strategisches-Potenzial-zurueck-article23748244.html

(Translation Current Concerns)

Harald Kujat is a retired German Air Force General. He was chief inspector of the Bundeswehr from 2000 to 2002 and chairman of the NATO military committee from 2002 to 2005.

Germany’s historical amnesia

by Rafael Poch, Barcelona*

Not one single German politician attended Gorbachev’s funeral in Moscow on 3 September. Gorbachev, the architect of the opening of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, had not even merited such a gesture. Attending the burial would have been a reminder that not so long ago, both countries negotiated on matters with great importance to the continent. They were also a sign of those parts of Russian society, which were collectively punished by the EU with sanctions, visa restrictions, cultural censorship and bans on visits for the actions of their government. This is final proof of Germany has renounced diplomacy. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel, the experienced administrator of events and hyped by the media as great stateswoman politician of Europe, used her “knee problem” as an excuse to not have to attend. The others did not even offer an apology. Truly an example of poverty and a national embarrassment. Without Gorbachev, we would possible still be in the Bonn Republic, that Germany we very much loved, that we were happy there were even two of them, which one liked to mention. It is obvious that Germany and France could together lead the situation in Europe away from the dictates of the United States but the will to do so is lacking. Macron limits himself to helpless bluster. Such a highly respected “European” as Wolfgang Schäuble, the “Doctor Strangelove” of punishing Greece, suggests such far-fetched ideas as including Poland in the crumbling German-French command. The persistent efforts of Ursula von der Leyen and the foolish, bellicose and arrogant Foreign Minister, Anna-Lena Baerbock, to deliver weapons and even more weapons to the Ukrainian regime in order to continue the war and therefore the suffering of the civilian population in the Ukraine, in Russia and even in Europe itself for all of eternity, require an appointment with a psychoanalyst. […] Is there not, in the Russophobia in the German media and the political class after the reunification, not an echo of revenge of the conquered grandfathers in Stalingrad? How else is one able to explain the Germany’s enthusiasm to damage its own interests and to subordinate to the plans of the United States – to deal a blow to China, its most important trade partner, by pushing war in the Ukraine?  •

Source:  https://ctxt.es/es/20220901/Firmas/40818/Rafael-Poch-Gorbachov-Rusia-Ucrania-Estados-Unidos-Jarkov.htm  of 18 September 2022

(Translation Current Concerns)

* Rafael Poch de Feliu was the foreign correspondent for the Spanish newspaper “La Vanguardia” from 1988 to 2002 in Moscow, from 2002 to 2008 in Peking and lastly in Berlin and Paris. He is the author of several books about political development in Russia, China and Germany.

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