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Peace Policy and Every military solution leads to disaster

by Peter Brandt and Erich Vad
"Our Common Security" (April 21, 1982) called the Palme Report revealed a new way of thinking that helped make German unity and the overcoming of the European divide possible in 1989. Willy Brandt's North-South report "Ensuring Survival" (1980) described the need for a socially just world economic order and the equal inclusion of the global South.
Peace Policy :
Ukraine war: "We need peace talks, not rearmament"

A few thoughts on the Olof Palme Report: how to bring about global peace? What must Europe do, what must Russia do?

by Peter Brandt, Reiner Braun, Michael Müller,
[This article published on 4/23/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

I. 40 years ago, on April 21, 1982, the United Nations Independent Commission, Common Security, chaired by then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, presented its report, "Our Common Security," called the Palme Report for short. It was a milestone in security and peace policy that left its mark, especially in Europe. However, international policy subsequently fell far short of the possibilities of a common security.

The Palme Report was written during the Cold War and massive rearmament. After the successes of the German policy of détente, the danger grew that the deployment of new medium-range missiles would lead to a new ice age between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The report, on the other hand, revealed a new way of thinking that helped make German unity and the overcoming of the European divide possible in 1989.

The Rio Earth Summit, the UN's largest gathering to date, was the culmination, but also the end, of the era of awakening at that time.
Disarmament can contribute to international economic development

The 1980s were a decade of "social democratic programming" at the United Nations. The three major UN commissions were under the responsibility of leading European social democrats. They began in 1980 with Willy Brandt's North-South report "Ensuring Survival," which described the need for a socially just world economic order and the equal inclusion of the countries of the global South.

He was followed by Olof Palme with the report on disarmament and common security. Finally, in 1987, Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland presented the report "Our Common Future" on environment and development. Its guiding idea was the call for sustainable development, which was proclaimed the agenda in politics, economics and society at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

These three reports are closely interrelated; they must not be seen in isolation. The Palme Report also describes this: "The Independent Commission on International Development Issues ... dealt with global issues that would pose threats to world peace in the 1980s, focusing its work on economic matters.

The new Commission now formed will seek to complete that broad overview of world problems with concentration on security and disarmament measures that can contribute to peace ... The Commission is premised on the assumption that the prospects for genuine world peace depend largely on concrete action and early steps not only toward international economic and social justice, but also toward political and military security. The Commission believes that disarmament and arms control can make essential contributions to international economic development and national security."

Soon, the window for a policy of partnership closed

The same is true of the Brundtland Report, which focuses on ecological modernization and the lasting protection of the Earth system. What the three reports have in common is the call for partnership and cooperation in a world that is growing ever closer together and is essentially dependent on a "world domestic policy" (Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker). Security is therefore not only a question of disarmament and arms limitation, but also of the social and ecological shaping of the transformation of economy and society, which is primarily driven by global markets.

The Rio Earth Summit, the UN's largest gathering to date, was the culmination, but also the end, of the era of awakening at that time. Agenda 21 and the Framework Convention on Climate Change were adopted there. But after the end of the world divided into East and West, the window for a policy of partnership and détente closed. The guiding idea of common security lost importance and faded into the background. Once again, time had turned.

A mood of rearmament

The writer John Le Carré described the "Western winner's mentality" as follows: "We have won. Or maybe we didn't win at all. Perhaps the others have merely lost. Or perhaps our troubles will begin only after the shackles of the old ideological conflict have been cast off." Indeed, both global challenges and, after the brief period of Pax Americana, the struggle for spheres of influence between old and new great powers are intensifying. A new nationalism is spreading, rearmament is reaching new record highs, and there are inadequate answers, if any, to global challenges.

Instead of breathing new life into the idea of common security and expanding it to include social and environmental challenges, NATO's eastward enlargement was launched against all warnings that Russia's security interests were being disregarded. In view of Putin's terrible war of aggression on Ukraine, a mood for rearmament is spreading among politicians and the public, as if the delivery of heavy weapons to Kiev were the order of the day.

No, the order of the day is to stop the spiral of violence, enforce a cease-fire, and negotiate a European peace order with all key stakeholders in the interest of common security. The escalation dynamic must be broken, not least because Russia is the world's second most powerful nuclear power. Otherwise, our era threatens to stumble into a world war, as it did in 1914. What is more, the nuclear age has also changed the nature of war itself; a nuclear war would be the end of all things.
Norsk Teknisk Museum
Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland

II There were 17 members of the Common Security Commission. They included foreign policy advisor to the then Soviet leadership Georgy Arbatov, former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, former Polish Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz, former British Foreign Secretary David Owen, and the architect of Germany's peace and détente policy Egon Bahr. They were united by concern "about the trends in the development, proliferation and deployment of new weapons systems. ... If states do not succeed in reversing these trends, the world will be heading for a catastrophe. Measures to prevent it are therefore urgently needed. ... Unless everyone restricts themselves because they correctly assess the realities of the nuclear age, the pursuit of security must lead to an intensified arms race and strained political relations. And the end result is less security for all concerned."

The Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Affairs was established against the backdrop of more than three decades of struggle for arms control and disarmament. For the result of these efforts, with some exceptions, has been unhappily disappointing. The commission had three goals:

First: to chart a path to real understanding and actual disarmament action.

Second, to inform and assess ongoing disarmament and security issues. Also with the intention of focusing international attention on current opportunities for peacebuilding through arms limitation.

Third, to promote an informed public on disarmament and security issues.

One basis for the deliberations was the experience of Germany's peace and détente policies. In the commission, Egon Bahr therefore also played a pioneering role. He advocated ending the threat of mutual annihilation through a program to reduce nuclear threats, by substantially reducing all strategic weapons, and by reducing conventional weapons. A treaty banning nuclear weapons testing was also called for to curb the arms race, further an agreement on limiting military activities in outer space. Regional security was to be made possible through the creation of peace and nuclear-weapon-free zones. Cyrus Vance was responsible for the proposal to create a zone of 150 kilometers free of nuclear battlefield weapons along the alliance border on both sides.

The policy of détente was and is sensible

Egon Bahr had even more far-reaching proposals at the time, which were even shared by a majority, but still could not be implemented. The USA did not want a nuclear weapons-free Germany and the USSR did not want a conventional balance. Nevertheless, Bahr's proposal received considerable attention. Mikhail Gorbachev had Arbatov constantly brief him on the Palme Commission. Shortly after his election as General Secretary of the CPSU, at the suggestion of Andrei Gromyko on March 11, 1985, he invited Bahr to the Kremlin. Earlier, in the British House of Commons, he had said that the Cold War should not be normal for our world. After all, "Europe is our common home, not a theater of war."

It can rightly be doubted whether German unification would have been possible without Ostpolitik and security policy. When right-wing agitators today accuse détente and peace policy of naiveté and complicity in the Ukraine war, this is history-less polemic intended to relativize failures at the time. The fight against Ostpolitik completely fails to recognize that progress in Europe was only made possible by the policy of détente. Of course, mistakes were also made, but the core of the failure lies in the fact that after 1989 the idea of common security was increasingly marginalized.
Federal Archive
Willy Brandt
The world is different, but people's thinking has remained the same

III Today, in the information age, we believe we are in the picture everywhere. Laced with information, the earth has become smaller, but our responsibility for peace has become even greater. We can meet this responsibility only if we understand the context and know the history. For more than a decade now, it has been apparent that peace is unfinished and at risk. First, there is the new arms buildup, accompanied by the erosion of arms control and arms limitation, and virtually exploding with the war in Ukraine. The poverty and environmental bomb is also ticking.

Siegfried Lenz warned as early as the end of the last century that the world was on the brink of peace, "which also includes being full and warm: ... We live in peace and yet are at the mercy of a violence ... that makes our world ever more uninhabitable." Yes, the end of life has become imaginable in many ways.

All the more true is Albert Einstein's observation that the world has changed everything, but not the way people think. Thereby, the ability to destroy almost every point of the earth has been developed almost to perfection since then. This also applies to the destruction of the natural bases of life, which should have been stopped long ago. In the Einsteinian dimension, responsibility can only mean common security.

There could soon also be a war against Beijing

But obviously the policy of détente and peace was a "European way" that was tolerated in the world of the 1970s and 1980s, which was divided into East and West. Despite UN reports, however, the idea of common security did not become a global policy. And after 1990, Europeans did not use a pan-European policy with its possibilities for a peaceful world order. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the U.S. was primarily concerned with its supremacy.

According to their ideas, NATO should become a global army against the rising China. Hence the vehemence behind the goal of increasing military spending in all member states to two percent of gross domestic product. This would make Germany number four in the world. What's more, there is a growing danger that there will be a Cold War against both Moscow and Beijing in the future.

Concept of common security must be taken up

Once again, we are at a turning point, and not just because of the Ukraine war. Armament is accelerating worldwide, the climate crisis is coming to a head, and unresolved distribution conflicts are becoming an accelerant for poverty and inequality - nationally and internationally. The prevailing answer in international politics is isolation and militarization instead of common security, which our world urgently needs.

The Palme Report 2, which was presented in Stockholm on Thursday, is a plea for common security and attempts to develop a global perspective for it. It incorporates the new threats such as the climate crisis and the challenges from social injustices. There is an alternative to deterrence through armament, but only if the concept of common security is taken up and implemented worldwide.

Peter Brandt, Prof. Dr. Historian and Spokesman of the Initiative "New Détente Policy Now!"

Reiner Braun, President of the International Peace Bureau

Michael Müller, Federal Chairman of the Friends of Nature, former Parliamentary State Secretary.

The three authors are members of the steering committee of the "Disarm instead of Rearm" initiative.

"Every military solution leads to disaster!"
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[This article published on 4/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Nr. 7/8 vom 24. April 2022 - Zeitgeschehen im Fokus.]

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Recently, there has been an increase in voices warning of a further escalation of the Ukraine conflict. Especially from circles of former high-ranking military officers who dare to speak openly, grave concerns are being voiced about an expansion of the conflict through arms deliveries or even the deployment of foreign troops. But politicians are deaf. One has the impression that for the USA and its allies the provoked war is a welcome opportunity to further expand their sphere of influence and to reshape the world according to US ideas, first with increased armament and expansion of the international US war force, called NATO, and in the second step to eliminate economic competitors and to impose the neoliberal principle and the American way of life. This affects countries that see themselves as allies and go along with everything that comes from the U.S., even their own economic demise.

Even traditionally neutral states such as Finland, Sweden and, above all, Switzerland are allowing themselves to be drawn into the vortex of unspeakable war rhetoric and propaganda stories about the threat to the "free world" posed by Russia today and China tomorrow, and intend a completely unfounded rapprochement with NATO. What is the point of all this?

Instead of advocating an immediate end to the war, it is being fueled. People who die in the process probably don't matter when the German chancellor makes himself the mouthpiece of the U.S. and proclaims with an iron face: "Russia must not win." His idea to deliver T-72 tanks from Slovenia to Ukraine, which could be operated by the Ukrainians, in exchange for sending German tanks to Slovenia, shows that only the logic of war still dominates thinking. A commitment to peace has receded into the far distance. "The fog of war" is what U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, once called it. After more than 100 years of (war) history, is humanity still no further ahead?

Reason and a realistic view of the current situation have given way to complete emotionalization. It is hard to shake off the impression that certain mainstream media are driving governments before them and telling them how to act in the Ukraine crisis. And they are going along with it. An absurd situation.

In this jungle of propaganda and counter-propaganda, the greatest restraint is called for. That's why it's crucial that voices other than war-mongers have their say and can state their positions. Only a factual debate, not one guided by emotion, will lead to a viable and lasting solution. With this current issue of our magazine, we want to continue to contribute to an objectification of the debate and thus to an end to the war as soon as possible.

The editors

"Any military solution leads to disaster!"

"There is a need for a political-diplomatic solution in Ukraine"

Interview with Dr. Erich Vad*

Current Affairs in Focus In a German newspaper you are quoted as saying that one must "think about the war between Ukraine and Russia from the end". What do you mean by that in concrete terms?

Dr. Erich Vad By this I mean that we have to think back from whatever political solution might come later and act in such a way that later diplomatic solutions are not made impossible. They must contain a face-saving way out for both sides. This is where I see a great danger in view of the emotionally charged debate about Russia and its President Putin.

In what way?

The understandably strong devaluation of himself and Russia as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the overvaluation of civilian "collateral damage" and abuses, such as the alleged massacre, which absolutely must be investigated by an independent commission and not strongly prejudged before all the facts are on the table, makes it more difficult to conduct subsequent political negotiations. In doing so, we run the risk of marching further down the path of escalation into nirvana or ultimately into nuclear war. "Thinking from the end" to me means being aware of what the consequences of unrestrained emotional ramping up of escalation might be.

You mentioned Putin. On the one hand, he is demonized as the aggressor, and on the other hand, he is portrayed as incapable because he supposedly cannot deal with Ukraine.

People underestimate Putin's role. There are analysts who say that Russia is a nuclear power, but whether Putin is ready to wage a nuclear war... I must say that this is reminiscent of childish behavior. When you're sort of testing how far you can go vis-à-vis your parents, it's completely inappropriate to the situation. It is highly dangerous. And there are, in fact, military people who are going along with this. They underestimate that Russia is a potent nuclear power.

But what is happening at the moment is that all the Western states are going to war....

It is a big mistake to rely on military solutions. I am a military man. If it is military solutions that lead to the end, to disaster, then this approach is wrong, so you have to "think war from the end".

What is your assessment of the further course?

It could be that the war lasts a long time and the West wants to force Russia to give up, similar to what happened to NATO in Afghanistan. It had to withdraw because the costs were too high and success was a long way off. But that won't happen in Russia's case. The country could hold out for years if it wants to - so could the Ukrainians if Western support measures continue. We will see, the solution will be to negotiate with each other at the end. One has to look for ways that end in a solution and not in an escalation that leads us to a 3rd world war in the end. The expansion of the war in Ukraine, even if it were not fought with nuclear weapons, would be terrible. For me, that is not a rational option. That's what I mean when I say, "You have to think war from the end."

After your remarks - mind you, the remarks of a former senior military officer - one must conclude once again that there is often more rationality and foresight on the part of the military than among many politicians, who usually react only emotionally to momentary events. Why is this so?

People with a military background naturally know down to the last detail what war means. The national resistance in Ukraine, the "heroic rebellion" against a power like Russia, can be seen in a positive light. This is something that hardly anyone in Germany is familiar with. But of course you have to see clearly what consequences this resistance in an urban environment will have for civilians.

What are the consequences?

A house-to-house fight like the one in Mariupol, for example, is something bloody that you can hardly imagine. As a military, behind this positive national will to fight, you see the consequence of where this is going. That's why I say the longer the war lasts, the bloodier it becomes, the more civilian casualties there will be, especially if the defenders operate out of a civilian environment and ultimately accept civilian casualties as a result. The attacker then has a problem, of course. In order to save forces and blood - because clearing a house with soldiers alone requires 5 to 10 times the superiority - it is easier to shell the building and accept "collateral damage". This has always been the approach of Western states and their allies. Russia has given the fighters in Mariupol free withdrawal if they lay down their arms. But they have refused that and are accepting further casualties in the continuing fight. It is urgent to get out of this spiral of escalation.

It is important that in all the war hysteria there are critical voices who, on the one hand, know where this is leading and, on the other hand, are not afraid to say so publicly....

Here I have to add something. Ukraine keeps calling for a no-fly zone. "No-fly zone" is a euphemistic term. It sounds like "no parking." Everybody thinks this is a good idea. But if you think about it from the military side to the end, it means war in plain language. Someone has to monitor compliance with this no-fly zone and be ready to shoot down Russian planes in an emergency. That immediately puts you at war. This also applies to the "peace mission" initiated by Poland. According to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, this is a peace enforcement mission and thus, in effect, an entry into war. Operating with MIG fighter jets from NATO territory is also a de facto entry into war. Thus, the potential for escalation becomes greater and greater.

What do you say to the ever-repeated demand for the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine?

That is also a de facto entry into war. Giving heavy weapons quickly - that's not thinking through to the end. Delivering tanks within one or two weeks is not feasible at all. That would require training on the equipment. You can't just send Leopard tanks to Kiev like a VW and say, "Get in and go." To do that, you have to provide training personnel and technical personnel. You need logistics, a maintenance department, a whole apparatus. Without these specialists, you can't do anything with the "Leopard," and that means you're effectively involved in the war. These whole contexts are completely ignored, and people argue to "do everything to help Ukraine."

These suggestions mostly come from politics. One gets the impression that there is a complete lack of awareness of the situation.

There are actually politicians at work who have no idea about the military, let alone have ever done military service. They have no idea what war means. These are people who have never had anything to do with military force, who are completely out of their depth in the current situation, who support massive arms deliveries and have not the slightest idea of what the consequences might be. They have always professed pacifism and have only known peace conditions. Now, suddenly, they are confronted with military force and war, right on their doorstep. This leads - coupled with war rhetoric - to behaviorally conspicuous overreactions that are irresponsible and involve political romanticism, which are genuinely dangerous in consequence.

What is striking is that in the current reporting, previous wars are completely blanked out and Russian action is presented as something new and unique. How do you see that?

The actions of the Russians, as problematic as it is to wage war against a neighboring country - I also said this in another interview - must be seen in relation to past wars of more recent date, such as the wars against Serbia, against Afghanistan, against Iraq, against Libya, against Syria. In those wars, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of civilians have died, there have been massacres, attacks, et cetera. As hard as the street and house fighting is in Mariupol, but when I think of Baghdad or Fallujah, it is nothing different. Compared to these wars, the actions of the Russians, as terrible as they may be in parts, do not stand out, on the contrary: the "collateral damage" in Ukraine is far less than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But this is not an issue, it is not talked about as if it never existed.

The big difference is this: Putin is not Miloševic, and Russia is not Serbia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Russia is a nuclear power, and that is the thinking mistake that many make. Let's take Iraq. The U.S. invaded there, eventually they left. The damage they did is enormous, and we still feel its effects today. It's the same in Afghanistan: they leave behind a field of rubble, but they leave unmolested. But it doesn't work that way with Russia. There is no all-important "annihilation battle" in eastern Ukraine, which then leads to a "military solution" and thus to the solution of the political problem. There needs to be a political-diplomatic solution in Ukraine.

Who was talking about the battlefield solution? Wasn't it the EU's foreign representative Josep Borrell?

Even Graf-Lambsdorff, who otherwise argues in a very differentiated manner, said that there is only a military solution and therefore we must help Ukraine with weapons. No, there is no military solution! There is only a political solution. Any military solution leads to disaster! This must be made very clear to the ladies and gentlemen. Russia will not go home like the USA and NATO in Kabul. The latter are flying home, the chapter is closed. There is no more talk about it.

Yes, and how the people have fared in the 20 years, no one talks about that either. How many innocent civilians have died, how many children's lives have been destroyed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc., nobody talks about that....

Yes, that is so. Every person who dies innocently in such a conflict is one person too many. If you quantify that, then Russia in its military operations is not different from the US, the British or other states with intervention forces that have fought in the countries mentioned.

Why is there a complete absence of working toward a diplomatic solution? We hear "arms deliveries," "military solution," "fight against evil," etc., but we hardly hear anything about working toward peace.

I wonder about that, too. Maybe it's because Europeans don't see any political involvement at all, because the political decisions about war and peace are made in Washington, in Moscow or in Beijing, and certainly not in Berlin. There were the two Minsk agreements after the annexation of Crimea, involving France and Germany and also Switzerland. The questions that were settled diplomatically then are basically the same today: How do we secure the territorial integrity of Ukraine while including and taking into account the Russian minorities in the Donbas? Do we need partial autonomy there within the borders of Ukraine?

That would be a sensible solution...

Yes, but Selenskji has so far refused to do that. But from the point of view of the end, we must return to the framework that was set in these agreements, because there is no other way. Ukraine, too, will have to think about neutrality and non-alignment - Austrian model, Swiss model - otherwise it will not work. In the end, the political solution will be there. That is where we have to get to.

But when will that happen?

Right now the situation would be favorable to get out of here. The Russians, who have largely pulled out of Kiev-that to me is an indication that they have probably given up on regime change and are focusing on the Donbas, Crimea, and Mariupol to maintain a connection. I think those are good conditions for negotiations because each side can go into the talks from a position of strength. Ukraine has successfully defended itself and fought a successful defensive battle, at least so far. Russia could celebrate partial military successes at its May 9 parade. But I don't see the political will. It doesn't seem to be there in the United States. Washington would have to move and engage in serious negotiations with Russia.

That's basically what the Russians are asking for. They want to negotiate with the U.S. because, according to their perception, the U.S. is determining Selensky's course. In this context, the question arises whether Selensky would not have long ago entered into a compromise with Russia, but the U.S. does not allow it because it can weaken Russia with war.

Yes, one must ask the question: Cui bono? Basically, from the outside looking in, the U.S. benefits greatly. The Western alliance has not been as strong and united as it is now for a long time. The 30 NATO states stand together, ultimately behind the United States. In almost all states, the two percent target has been reached, even in Germany (defense spending accounts for 2% of GDP), which was unimaginable a few weeks ago. In this respect, this is also an advantage for the U.S. when you see the economic consequences, but the big losers are the Europeans, especially Germany.

So what would have to be done from Germany's side?

One would definitely have to launch a diplomatic initiative. You can criticize former Chancellor Angela Merkel on many points, but after what happened in 2014, she was instrumental in pulling the strings and launching the diplomatic initiative to work out the Minsk agreements. In this way, she was able to make a political difference. We must have a solution for the situation after the end of the Ukrainian war. We must protect Russian minorities, pacify the situation in the Donbas and monitor the process, settle the issue of Crimea. All of this can only be resolved diplomatically. I hope that Germany will become a constructive co-creator here.

Dr. Vad, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview Thomas Kaiser

* Erich Vad, retired brigadier general, was military policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2006-2013 and is now owner of the consulting firm Erich Vad Consulting.
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