Reviving the idea of sovereignty

A multipolar world needs rules for peaceful coexistence

by Karl Müller

The fact that the era of the “world’s only superpower” is over cannot be denied. It can no longer be overlooked that the world has become “multipolar”, so that there is no longer any one hegemonic power grasping at the whole world. China, Russia, the world of the Latin American states, Asia and even Africa no longer follow the instructions from Washington. Even in Europe, an increasing number of voices are calling for more autonomy.
This becomes evident in a recently published and very readable book written by Wilfried Scharnagl, the longtime chief editor of the Bavarian Christian Social Union’s newspaper “Bayernkurier” and close confidant of former party chairman Franz Josef Strauss. As early as in 2012, Scharnagl met with a lot of attention through his book “Bayern kann es auch alleine. Plädoyer für den eigenen Staat” (Bavaria can manage by itself: A Plea for our own State.) His new book is titled “Am Abgrund. Streitschrift für einen anderen Umgang mit Russland.” (On the brink: A Pamphlet for a different Approach to Russia). This book stands out not only by a thought-provoking and insightful examination of Russian policy which tries to understand, but also by a strong criticism of the US policy in particular and the blind obedience of the EU and German policy to Washington directives.
However, the transition to a multipolar world has not yet made our world more secure and more peaceful. This is shown – closest to us Europeans – by the situation in the Ukraine and now also in Macedonia. For both countries the outcome of the development is currently open. There is, however, no question about these conflicts being so violent and intense that they are causing irreparable human casualties. The dead in the Ukraine and Macedonia cannot be brought back to life. Only charlatans and gamblers consider them as collateral damage of a historical change in the world.
We may come to different evaluations of the fact that the Macedonian government has now agreed to early elections, that it has put on hold the agreement to a pipeline route for the Russian-Turkish gas pipeline “Turkish Stream” and made its construction dependent on an agreement between the EU and Russia. What is certain is that developments are under way and that also for Macedonia no one can predict with certainty what will happen tomorrow.
There are “human rights” activists who describe the situation in Macedonia in the darkest colours. An example for this is a contribution of Xhabir Deralla in the Eastern Europe Magazine Ostpol of 20 May. Such votes support an EU which claims the overall supervision of Macedonia – although Macedonia is not even a EU member yet. It is significant that EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, the negotiator with the government and opposition in Macedonia, is now, after the caving in of the Macedonian government, speaking of a continuing “Euro-Atlantic perspective” (“Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 3 June) for that country. This suggests the formula (We = EU + USA), according to which the people in Brussels are still thinking.
Then there is the truly massive direct US influence on the events in Macedonia and on the entire European Balkans. One only needs to read to the very insightful analysis of “Mazedonien im Visier” (Macedonia in your sights) (https://buergerstimme.com/Design2/2015/06/mazedonien-im-visier/) published on 4 June. We will here report only one characteristic quote, “The US embassy has occupied a huge square on the hill that dominates the city. Besides the visible objects of impressive size, the embassy covers eight floors underground, which were built by the Americans. Residents of Skopje criticize that the modest two-storey building of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, located between a residential building and a hotel in a side street, reminds them of a canoe compared to the US aircraft carrier that hosts the embassy.”
On the other hand, in “Sputnik News”, the Russian news agency, we could read on 3 June, “Turkish Stream: Europeans vie for pipeline connection”. If it is true what is reported here, the Russian government can take its time and await developments. There are several alternatives to a pipeline through Macedonia. Many European countries still covet Russian gas.
It remains to be seen how the ongoing conflict in the current multipolar world will develop. Waiting for the stronger to win or for the problems to solve themselves cannot be the perspective. On the contrary, we urgently need to consider how to find, formulate and codify rules acceptable to all sides which will enable and guarantee a peaceful coexistence in the world.
Already during the Second World War and especially in the weeks after the end of the war in Europe, many of those responsible in the world were striving for the second time – after the League of Nations had failed – to create a basis for the world to become and remain peaceful even under the conditions of multipolarity and in future to avoid the terror of a worldwide war. The leaders of the world at that time did not start from the premise of an omnipotent, dictatorial world government but wanted sovereign nations to be in agreement about the foundations of the coming world order – with all due respect to different political systems and societies. This principle is expressed – with all due tribute to the ruling wishes of the victors of war – in the United Nations Charter of 26 June 1945.
What had the world learned from two world wars? They had developed a longing for the people’s right to self-determination, for of freedom of citizens and the sovereignty of states, which had all been treated with contempt during the wars. They were determined that this should never happen again. An indispensable characteristic of a peaceful and just world order was to be the recognition of the people’s right to self-determination and of state sovereignty and integrity. This was to be the essence of modern international law.
But even 45 years later, after the end of the East-West conflict, these principles were not fully embued with life, as it would have been possible and to which goal promising approaches existed, for example in the Charter of Paris. Instead, the West regarded itself as the winner of the Cold War, spoke of an “end of history”, referring to its permanent and absolute rule which ignored all justice. As a result, international law was violated again and again by the Western Alliance (US + NATO + EU).
But also with the transition to a multipolar world in the 21st century there were no safe and generally accepted guarantors of international law, of the right to self-determination and sovereignty.
Ukraine and Macedonia also show that corrupt governments are particularly prone “coloured revolutions”. The strategists in the background can build on the citizens’ legitimate criticism and channel it along their lines. This is no reason to point a finger at others. On the contrary: Which current government can claim to have no “skeletons in the closet”? All the more, the sovereign citizen is needed who takes care for his environment and his community, before a “new order” is forced upon him, which serves someone else’s interests. If the peoples’ right to self-determination is an indispensable part of national sovereignty, then we need, above all things, the free citizen who sees himself as the generator and bearer of the sovereignty of his community, his state, his nation, and who acts accordingly.
But the governments of the countries that constitute the international community may no longer watch great powerful countries struggle for even more power and influence and thereby cause damage which is already immense. All the governments of the world need to call for and commit themselves to a return to international law and a blueprint for lasting peace, for freedom and sovereignty for the new multipolar world.     •

“Moreover, it is – the keyword is world order – a matter of a new spirit of and a new supporting framework for the relations between East and West. The controversy over military alliances could have been terminated at the historic turning point a quarter of a century ago. This opportunity was missed. We must now, albeit with unnecessary delay, finally create a new peace order in a new world. The abyss of a threat of war may never open up again, as it does in the controversy over the Ukraine. Europe and America on the one and Russia on the other side have to find a foundation for the lasting reconciliation of interests and a trusting relationship.”

Wilfried Scharnagl