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Was the policy of detente a political mistake?
by editors of and R. Lapuente
Under attack is a policy for which today, as in past decades, the top priority is to contain the European war before the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is crossed...
In the age of nuclear weapons, war can no longer be a means of politics.
Was the policy of détente a political mistake?
by the Editors of
[This article published on 4/20/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, War die Entspannungspolitik ein politischer Fehler?.]

The "turn of the times" proclaimed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz goes beyond outrage at the Russian war of aggression. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks of Putin's war and states, "We have woken up in a different world."

Since then, the dispute over support for Ukraine with military equipment, the continued safeguarding of the state's existence and humanitarian aid for the affected civilian population (including the reception and care of refugees) has also been linked to a dispute over a supposed appeasement policy toward Russia and its allies from the former CIS alliance: Germany would have to put on the shoe of a misguided Russia policy. In retrospect, it is clear that Putin's imperial-criminal intentions were underestimated, his rearmament policy was ignored, and the construction of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline was a mistake. The same applies to dependence on Russian energy.

The criticism centers not so much on former Chancellor Angela Merkel and the policies of the grand coalition as on the current German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In his various political functions, Steinmeier has advocated appeasement with regard to Russia. It was Steinmeier who, as head of the Federal Chancellery and later as Federal Foreign Minister, first endorsed Nord Stream 1 and then Nord Stream 2, against all warnings from security and energy experts. This had weakened Ukraine and increased the danger of war.

In order to give Russia's earlier invasion of Ukraine with the occupation of Crimea and the war in the Donbass a legitimate appearance, Russia had spoken of an internal Ukrainian conflict. Steinmeier had adopted this legend and thus supported the propaganda lie of Russians* oppressed in Ukraine. The Minsk agreements, which Steinmeier then helped to promote, were a kick in the knees for the Ukrainians. De facto, they amounted to the abandonment of the territories. It should have been clear even to the last person at the time that Russia had no intention of abiding by any agreements.

With this political and media-supported campaign against the former policy of détente and peace, a crossing of the previous threshold from support for Ukraine to de facto war party is being accepted. Under attack is a policy for which today, as in past decades, the top priority is to contain the European war before the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is crossed.

Indeed, the Minsk Agreements are a diplomatic milestone on the road to European war. The Minsk Agreement II aimed to de-escalate and pacify the war that had been raging in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and to reach a political settlement of the conflict. It concretized the path of Minsk I implementation with the agreed set of measures. The delegations of the negotiating partners were represented by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Shortly after the signing of the agreement and the announced ceasefire, the agreement was broken. As the conflict progressed, it continued to smolder with varying intensity.

In February 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron in particular and also German Chancellor Scholz tried to revive the agreement. On the one hand, this involved the provision in the Ukrainian constitution for an aspired NATO membership, because on February 7, 2019, the parliament there had decided with a majority of 334 of the 450 deputies to write into the constitution a "strategic orientation of Ukraine to full accession to the EU and NATO."

Second, in January 2022, the transitional period of a language law passed three years ago had expired. It is intended to further push back Russian, which had already lost its status as an official language with independence in 1991. The Ukrainian constitution also stipulated a status for the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which call themselves people's republics and are controlled by Russia, as well as local elections. For the Ukrainian people, these points were unacceptable, especially until Ukraine regained control of the border between the occupied territories and Russia.

Negotiations on reviving the Minsk Agreement were deadlocked. On February 21, 2022, President Putin declared that there were no longer any prospects for the Minsk Agreement. On the same day, he announced and signed the recognition of the self-proclaimed and internationally unrecognized Lugansk People's Republic and Donetsk People's Republic as independent states and ordered a deployment of troops to separatist-controlled areas. This abandonment of diplomacy and transition to military intervention to resolve the deadlock marks a reversion to the war logic of the 20th century.

It is absurd to blame Steinmeier and Merkel in particular for this break with the logic of peace.[1] Even more dangerous is the consideration that massive interventions by the West itself will lead to the transition to a participating war party and ultimately to the acceptance of a nuclear war. The polemical rhetoric of a supposed appeasement policy towards Russia fails to recognize the fundamental fact that in the age of nuclear weapons war can no longer be a means of politics.

Not only in Germany, but also in other Western countries, politicians have for years been guided by the insight that there can only be peace with and not against Putin and Russia. The suggestion of the new cold warriors that, at the latest since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, there should have been a transition to a delimiting, confrontational policy of the West, is irresponsible because of the relapse into the logic of war.

Politicians who, notwithstanding the complex structures of the Normandy format, are today calling for a rapid rearmament of Ukraine with heavy weapons are ruling out the possibility that such an expansion of the Ukrainian war could upgrade NATO to a warring party and thus also entail the use of nuclear weapons. The current polemics against supposed appeasement politicians boil down to the fact that peace and détente policies have been outdated since 2014/15.

If one takes the danger of nuclear war seriously, the criticism would have to be aimed at the fact that the international entanglements that led to the Minsk agreements were not dealt with by the West with the necessary consistency. Under the pressure of the extensive mobilization of Russian forces, the attempt to mediate and reach an agreement obviously came too late.

Years after the end of the Cold War and the systemic confrontation, it is still necessary to adhere to the commitment to further develop an active peace and détente policy. The policy of détente was developed under the conditions of the bloc formation of the system confrontation. Because at that time every regional conflict carried the danger of crossing the threshold into nuclear war, the guiding principle for the 20th century was developed by Willy Brand: "War is no longer the Ultima Ratio, but the Ultima Irratio." The task is to contain war, to end it before it crosses the threshold into nuclear war. "Peace is not everything, but everything is nothing without peace," the latter had formulated in a speech on November 3, 1981.[2]

It is the all-important question of the current war to avoid an escalation in which the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is crossed. That an expansion of the Ukraine war to include NATO and its nuclear umbrella must be ruled out at all costs is an imposition on the Ukrainian people and their supporters*. Nevertheless, the essential element of this policy is still today: to conceptualize the respective security interests of the other side, to discuss them in detail in diplomatic talks, and then to find a way to enshrine the respective security interests, which are comprehensible to the other side, in political agreements or treaties."[3]

After the deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba, which brought the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of nuclear war, Kennedy's strategy of peace was developed. The security dilemma of the balance of terror was resolved by the policy of détente. This was behind the formula "change through rapprochement."

This active policy of détente was implemented in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This included arms control and disarmament treaties. The mandate from this development was to pursue active peace policy. In fact, this legacy has not been highly valued on the terrain of international politics for some time now - not only in Ukraine - as evidenced by the expiration of arms control and disarmament treaties.

It is not easy to reconnect to this developmental logic of a peace strategy after the war of aggression. Nevertheless, the Minsk II agreement remains a central starting point for ending the "Ukraine conflict" and containing its strategic causes. A ceasefire and a relaunch of the Minsk Agreement can provide the basis for leaving the further development of the political form of the Russian state to internal social developments. It will be, when the war in Ukraine is over, about a ceasefire, which will be the starting point of a gradual return to common European security.


[1] See also Sigmar Gabriel, Wir brauchen zumindest einen kalten Frieden, debate article in Der Spiegel, 17.4.2022.
[2] See also the contribution by Erhard Korn in Marcello Musto/Erhard Korn: Der Krieg und die sozialistische Linke. Eine wechselvolle Geschichte, Supplement zu Heft 5/2022 (forthcoming).
[3] See also Sigmar Gabriel op. cit.: "The reality, however, is that foreign policy and diplomacy cannot be replaced by tanks and missiles in the long run. And that in the search for nonviolent solutions to conflicts, one has to take the very uncomfortable and usually also very unpopular step of putting oneself in the shoes of the enemy. Not to put on his shoes, but to measure the space for conceivable understandings."


Almost a bit optimistic
It seems impossible to find any positives in the disastrous world situation - let's try anyway.
By Roberto J. De Lapuente
[This article published on 4/20/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The author has acknowledged that his works have often had a rather depressing effect on readers. And he is not alone in this magazine or in journalism in general. That's why he has now decided to finally write something nice. But first he wants to name all the bad things that you have to fight your way through, like through a jungle, before you reach the clearing where some sunlight shines through. Digitalization, climate change, transhumanism, gendering ... You would like to be a cheerful person and also be totally uplifting and constructive to your fellow human beings, but it is also important to stick to the truth. In the end, a smile actually plays around the mouth of the reader, because the author was able to wring something cheerful out of the horror. After all, it is not only the "success" that counts - even the attempt was honorable.

It's time again for a positive, a confident text. I am really anxious that it succeeds here and now and at this place. Really!

I know that I often spoil the mood of my readers. They share it with me from time to time. So also the other day, when I wrote about the future perspectives, as they are to be looked up with Houellebecq and Häring. I was informed that I had spoiled the morning reading with my modest lines and watered down the coffee, indeed generally spoiled the parsley and maltraited the state of mind. I'm honestly sorry for that, I don't want you to feel bad when you read something from me. But then again, I can't help it that the world is the way it is.

Nevertheless, it certainly does no harm if I now formulate something positive. I'll think of something: "Transhumanism as a chance" or something like that maybe? Or just some thoughts on how we as humanity can still get the hang of it all? There must be some approaches?

It is good that the Rubikon has motto week these days and wants to set a positive and undaunted sign with "The Resurrection of Humans". A little more confidence can't hurt. I will think of something. Yes, I must think of something!

Consumption, growth, egomania

The situation isn't just muddled - it seems to be stuck. Digitalization, which hasn't even really started in Germany yet, will make us even more of a number. The other day I wrote something here about transhumanism. You can already guess that this will degrade us to automatons, to organic algorithms that are transparent and from which everything human is successively programmed away.

There is no end in sight to the dispute over climate change. You can stand by it however you want: A mode of production like the one we have established in recent decades cannot be conducive to the continued existence of this planet. We are destroying the ecosystem, species are dying out, orphaned niches in the cycle of coming and going are tearing down the biological balance.

Meanwhile, we must grow, keep growing. Only growth allows us to remain capable of acting. Our prosperity is a growth market.

Without growth, we generate unemployment, emptying of meaning and decline. It makes no difference what we use to generate growth. We have managed to distill growth from bullshit.

A cat video on YouTube can generate more value than a chair produced, a living room furniture, even a house bricked from top to bottom. Anyone who thinks this is normal should think about their values - and whether such an economic system built on pump and fraud can be sustainable.

All this leads us to the most superficial, most ignorant breed of people that this earth has ever populated. To the high culture of egomania of our time. To people who no longer have any sense for detailed information, connections or non-commercializable ideals. They have settled into this bubble of commerce, tittytainment and trivia.

Do I really need to go on, dear reader? You see, I do not gender, because that is also such a wealth-denying nonsense. Besides, there must be time to address both genders separately. Politeness demands that: Another thing that is lacking everywhere today.

Back to 1850

I'm sure you know what I mean when I talk about the state, or rather the deplorable state, of the world in the space of four paragraphs, don't you? This melange of technology, surveillance, consumption, hysteria, the urge to grow, the need for recognition, the obsession with attention, permanent accessibility, permanent mobility and permanent irrigation, of shouting and a loneliness that is happening in the midst of collectivization and synchronization: It pushes us all to the limit of what we as people - and as humanity - can endure. What is revealed there day by day as our everyday life has condensed into an insane feeling that can only be met with purposeful optimism or with a final skepticism of civilization.

You see, it has taken me several paragraphs to paint a brief picture of the world as it imposes itself on me. This certainly means two things: first, I don't have much more to say about optimism in the sequel - but I'm still trying, it's about to get more confident, I vow. And, secondly, I also took this time to describe it because I still doubt myself: Is it me? Do I overestimate the world as it shows itself to me, as it feels to me? Am I too sensitive?

In short, are my hormones acting up or is it really the spirit of the world acting up? So there is insecurity at work, because who doesn't know them, the people with pink bifocals who tell you that you're wrong, exaggerating, that you need a vacation or a fuck to finally get your mind off things.

Thanks for asking: I allow myself both. Sometimes even at the same time. When I escape from the madhouse of everyday reality for a week, I actually come to a more positive assessment of things. On a riverbank somewhere, of all places, I sometimes think approvingly of Blaise Pascal, who once said that all the unhappiness of people stems from the fact that they can't stay quietly in their room. Since thoughts of Pascal don't come to me in a room, but somewhere in a relaxed vacation mood, I don't take his bon mot quite literally. I translate it as follows: Cut back, do less, want less, buy less, talk less - that is basically the solution to all problems.

The moment man entered civilization, leaving his natural state, he deformed his environment. At first hesitantly and without noticeably endangering his livelihood.

But quite early he caused karstification - you could have asked the ancient Greeks, they experienced such a process live and in color. Nevertheless, human impact on the environment was less in the past. If we had frozen everything around 1850, if we had not continued to grow, we would still have a chance of a more livable world today. Yes, one can actually say, exactly such a regression would be the real exit from this contemporary madness.

If that's the chance, we don't have a chance.

Deeper, slower, closer: these are the actual attributes that could make us viable again. Not only from an ecological point of view - but also mentally. Travel less, commute less, spend more time in the hamlet where you live. Life will certainly be less colorful, you'll hardly get out. You don't look for a spouse from the gigantic offer on the Internet, only to find someone who lives and works 480 kilometers away. Instead of a long-distance relationship, you take the partner you met nearby. I admit that this is certainly a rather dreary idea for many.

In his early novel "Expansion of the Combat Zone," Michel Houellebecq already criticized this oversupply of potential (sexual) partners. I apologize for bringing up the Frenchman again. His works are notoriously dark. But it always resonates that there is hope - just not in contemporary liberalism. Because liberalism does not allow us to believe in anything. The neighbor is only an object, a means to an end. With Christianity, not only paternalism and superstition were abolished, but also a framework of order that was never replaced. You don't have to like the French author's assessment, but you can't dismiss it out of hand.

Unlike me, Houellebecq is not so naïve as to propose a return to the restrained world order of the 19th century. But basically I'm on the same page with the guys and gals from "Fridays For Future" - though I'm not sure they know that's what they're thinking. But it is the consequence of their demands.

Some critics say that the young ecologists want to go back to the Stone Age. That's nonsense; they don't have to. The year 1850 would suffice. Whether, of course, the young people would be so enthusiastic about the highly restricted world of that time may be blithely doubted. Quite a few people have their SUVs driven up on Fridays and are always online with their mobile devices during the trip, just so they don't miss anything. Renunciation is something they impose on others and not on themselves.

Yet doing without, cutting back, decelerating is probably the last chance for humanity. And not only in matters of ecology, but also in matters of psychology.

But I admit, I don't like to do without either. I feel the same way as the young Friday night revelers. How I'd love to be back in Ireland, Sicily, Stockholm or Galicia. Only to be stuck here: Horrible!

And now imagine that you would have to marry your hunchback neighbor, because there is no mobility and thus no choice of partners across the republic or even across the continent anymore. You don't want that, do you? And that is exactly why our only chance is not a realistic chance at all. People can't slow down and limit themselves. It goes against their nature. From my point of view, we're actually screwed - but I still tried to be a little more confident today. You can give me credit for that. I have always made an effort.

Roberto J. De Lapuente, born in 1978, is a trained industrial mechanic and ran the blog ad sinistram for eight years. Since 2017, he has been co-editor of the blog neulandrebellen. In 2012, he became a columnist for Neues Deutschland, and since 2018 he has written regularly for Makroskop. De Lapuente has a daughter and lives with his partner in Frankfurt am Main. In March 2018, his book "Right Wins Because Left Fails" was published.

Useful scapegoats

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