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The war must be ended as soon as possible

by Tilo Graser and Gabriele Krone-Schmalz
From the Western side, unfortunately, it must be noted that Russia, as a collapsed superpower, was not really taken seriously from the beginning. Symptomatic is the statement, repeated to this day, that "we", the West, won the Cold War. A Cold War is only really over when both sides can feel like winners, otherwise it is not over.
Peace for Ukraine:
An Appeal for Peace from the Middle of Society

Building peace: Ceasefire, negotiations, and shared security. The

calls for a peace initiative for Europe, for Ukraine.
[This article posted on 4/1/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine has already lasted more than a year. Every day of war means more suffering and destruction for the people affected, more wounded and dead. With each passing day, the danger of an expansion of the hostilities. The shadow of nuclear war lies over Europe. But the world must not slide into another great war. The world needs peace. The most important thing is to do everything possible for a quick cease-fire, to stop the Russian war of aggression and to find the way to negotiations.

The war has turned into a bloody war of positions in which there are only losers. A large part of our citizens do not want to see an endless spiral of violence. Instead of the dominance of the military, we need the language of diplomacy and peace. The policy of peace and détente, to which we owe German unity and overcoming the division of Europe are not outdated. We have advocated their goals in the past and continue to do so today. In the words of Willy Brandt: "It is a matter of going against the tide when it once again digs a false bed."

With the concept of common security, the United Nations has shown the way to a peaceful world. It has its roots in the German Peace and détente policies. It was in this spirit that the Final Act of Helsinki and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe were formed. We are building on this.

Peace can only be created on the basis of international law and only with Russia. Our world is dependent on reciprocity, which is the only way to overcome the great challenges of our time. It is crucial to stop the escalation of the war. We encourage the German Chancellor, together with France to convince Brazil, China, India and Indonesia in particular to mediate in order to achieve a ceasefire quickly. This would be a necessary step to end the killing and to explore the possibilities for peace.

Only then can the path to a common security order in Europe be paved.

Initiators and responsible persons:

Prof. Dr. Peter Brandt, historian; Reiner Braun, International Peace Bureau; Reiner

Hoffmann, former chairman of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB); Michael Müller, Federal Chairman of the Friends of Nature, former parliamentary state secretary.



"The war must be ended as soon as possible"
by Tilo Gräser
[This interview posted on 4/7/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, „Der Krieg muss so schnell wie möglich beendet werden“.]

Journalist and publicist Gabriele Krone-Schmalz is one of those who understand Russia in the best sense of the word. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has also unsettled her. In the meantime, she is making public appearances again. Her criticism is directed at both the Russian leadership and Western policy. On April 2, she spoke at the "Handwerker Peace Congress" in Dessau-Roßlau. Tilo Gräser had the opportunity to ask the publicist on the sidelines of the event.

Professor Krone-Schmalz, more than a year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. What was your assessment of that? How do you see it today?

I was totally surprised and shocked and never expected it. I communicated that accordingly at the time. How do I see it today? I am - as a human being - still in despair. As a journalist and a citizen, I am very disappointed by the lack of imagination in politics and by the fact that the core political business, namely diplomacy, is being neglected in favor of military support. I am sympathetic to all sorts of fact-based arguments, but the most important thing, in my opinion, can only be to bring about a cease-fire as quickly as possible. No matter how this war came about, it must be ended as soon as possible. If you talk about human rights and about values-based foreign policy and all these things and you really mean it, then that can only be the logical consequence. Who made what mistakes and when - you can deal with that when the shooting stops.

Wouldn't it be necessary right now that the so-called Russia experts, those who know the country, the politics, the mentality, would be heard?

(smiles) I have already learned in school that it is important to understand things. And I have never understood, and I still don't understand, that a word like "Russia expert" should be something negative. But that's exactly how it's meant to be: as illegitimate and morally reprehensible cronyism. So, from that point of view, I don't think your idea has much of a chance. It would certainly make sense to include in considerations also people who have been given this exclusionary label.

Now, this Russian invasion has a history. You also referred to this in your speech in Dessau. Why is this omitted from the official presentation, both in the media and politically?

Because it obviously doesn't fit into the picture. This black-and-white painting is of course easier in political argumentation if you want to draw a line. That's where shades of gray get in the way. One of the big misunderstandings is that explaining the past history is equated with justifying the Russian invasion. Those are two completely different things. There is far too much riding on it to afford such inaccuracies. And I have the impression that that's exactly what - these woodcut good/evil models - is rejected by many people. The discrepancy between public and published opinion is obviously quite large, and if that's the case, it's damaging to the stability of a democratic system.

Now, part of the back story is a turning away of the West from Russia, some say Russia from the West. When did this path apart begin?

You raise a very important point there. One that also concerns me very much. When did it start? It is a gradual process. It didn't happen overnight. But how and when did it start? I am firmly convinced that it did not start during Putin's first term in office, at least not from the Russian side. In the second term, there may have been some beginnings. 2008 is certainly a decisive date, keyword Georgia war, where even today not a few claim that Russia attacked Georgia. It was definitely the other way around, and it is worth looking at the exact chronology, which I have described in detail in "Ice Age".

Or in 2007, when Putin gave a remarkable speech to the Munich Security Conference. In my view, this was a kind of cry for help or a warning shot, along the lines of: Now let's finally put into practice what we actually propagated after the end of the East-West confrontation. Perhaps this was a kind of caesura. One could systematically analyze Putin's major speeches to determine at what point the tide turned on the Russian side. From the Western side, unfortunately, it must be noted that Russia, as a collapsed superpower, was not really taken seriously from the beginning. Symptomatic is the statement, repeated to this day, that "we", the West, won the Cold War. A Cold War is only really over when both sides can feel like winners, otherwise it is not over.

Again, very briefly, about the events of a year ago. From your point of view, in the muddled situation, after all possible Russian proposals for a diplomatic solution to the conflict had been rejected beforehand, were there any alternatives to what happened then?

If there had been the political will on the Western side, there would certainly have been possibilities. Because you can spin it any way you want, a war is not in Russian interest at all for various reasons. But obviously, on the transatlantic side, those who have always had on their agenda to bring Russia to its knees have prevailed. They obviously did not want to miss this opportunity.

Now voices for understanding, for negotiations, voices for peace are being defamed as absurdly "war-mongers". How do you experience this yourself and what would you say to those who defame?

I just notice that the mood among the population is obviously different than, for example, in the so-called social media. Not only at my events - you could say that only those who sympathize with my analyses go there - but also when I'm out and about on the streets. I get a lot of encouragement, a lot of support, people wish me strength for my work. And they thank me for my courage. And then I always ask myself, where have we ended up when it takes courage to initiate debates? The crucial thing is and remains that one can argue in our society without fear; engaged, but with the necessary respect. And, of course, on the basis of facts. Leaving out facts is just as bad as spreading lies. That should not be forgotten.

A question about your books. There have been reports that the publisher no longer wants to publish the books that you had published until before the invasion. You had books with you in Dessau. Can you explain briefly what will happen to your books?

It's a bit complicated. My latest book from 2020, "Respect Goes Differently. Reflections on our divided country" is still available in bookstores as usual. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Beck-Verlag and I have agreed not to deliver the two Russia books to bookstores for the time being, because the titles and also the subtitles of both books, "Understanding Russia - The Struggle for Ukraine and the Arrogance of the West" and "Ice Age - How Russia is Demonized and Why That's So Dangerous," could seem hurtful or cynical in the situation. But the interest is still there, as the prices of used copies on the Internet show. Anyway, I have found a solution to get both books again directly from me or my email address.

In unchanged version?

In unchanged version. In "Understanding Russia" there is only a current preface, according to the motto: The book is more than seven years old - published in 2015 - but that does not change the chronology of events described in it. And to omit this prehistory from the current discussion would be counterproductive in my opinion. The situation is similar with "Eiszeit. It is - if you like - a kind of reference work for the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union until 2017. I think that if you want to "understand" things, you can use it quite well.

How do you see the events in Ukraine developing? Do you see any ways out? There is a fear that there will be further escalation.

I am always very reluctant to judge any things that are going to happen in the future. We journalists have enough to do analyzing what is happening in the present. We are well occupied with that. What worries me is that the pressure that Volodymyr Selenskyj is under, from hardliners who reject any talks, that this pressure is apparently very, very great. That seems to me to be not without danger. That is one story. On the other hand, there is much to suggest that these hardliners will lose their influence as soon as Washington decides otherwise. Because, of course, it is not only in Kiev that decisions are made on how to proceed with Ukraine. More and more voices are being heard in the U.S. warning against further escalation in this war and looking for ways to end this involvement so that they can concentrate on the challenge of China.

If I were Ukraine, I would not count on U.S. support to last until Ukraine "wins," whatever that may look like.

One last word on the media: In your speech in Dessau, you criticized the media and journalists for acting unprofessionally, for reporting unprofessionally. What advice do you have for your colleagues?

No, that's not what I said. I said: To sympathize with suffering people, to want to help - that is deeply human and, by the way, it would be a disaster if it were otherwise. But to let that overwhelm you in politics and the media is unprofessional. Nothing good comes from trying to replace political analysis with morality. The point is to exchange arguments, not to claim interpretive sovereignty with the claim of a natural law because one is on the "right" side. It must be in the interest of journalists to find out why media as a whole are losing credibility. This loss of credibility, which also applies to politics, is a danger to democracy, because if neither politics nor the media are believed, then the door is opened to developments that none of us can want.

Is the media too close to politics, too close to the government?

I always have a hard time with "the" media, "the" journalists or even "the" politicians.

One wrong turn is certainly to suddenly start expecting "decent" journalists to show attitude. I'm also in favor of showing attitude, i.e. not letting yourself be bent over and showing backbone. That, yes. But when showing poise amounts to taking a side as a journalist in reporting on a dispute of opinion and then considering that to be of higher moral quality, then that no longer has anything to do with journalism.

Thank you very much.
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