Securing peace instead of rewarding expansion: An appeal, by over 100 German-speaking experts on Eastern Europe, for a reality-based and not illusions-guided Russia policy

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(opendemocracy.net – Andreas Umland – January 9, 2015)

Andreas Umland is a DAAD Associate Professor of European Studies at the Political Science Department of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

[“Some of the most influential German correspondents on Russia and Ukraine sympathise with the appeal, but, for specifically professional reasons, did not add their signatures.”]

On December 5, 2014, 60 prominent German personalities from politics, business, and the cultural sphere published a joint appeal titled “Another War in Europe? Not in Our Name!” [http://www.zeit.de/politik/2014-12/aufruf-russland-dialog] Although this open letter deals with Germany’s policies towards Russia and Ukraine, only a few of the signees are currently involved in East European studies, or in journalistic reporting about Ukraine. On the contrary, most of those who signed the appeal have only limited expertise in the post-Soviet space, little relevant research experience, and apparently no deep knowledge of Ukraine or recent events there. This is no coincidence.

The overwhelming majority of German researchers, activists, and reporters who, from a scholarly, civic or journalistic perspective, are observing the current conflict in Ukraine are united in their assessment: there is an obvious aggressor in this war, and there is a clearly identifiable victim. Just as other formerly occupied countries’ inherent flaws did not diminish the criminal nature of their conquest, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its poorly concealed intervention in eastern Ukraine cannot be justified by the shortcomings of the Ukrainian political system.

If Moscow feels threatened by the EU and/or NATO, it should resolve this dispute with Brussels. Ukraine is not a member of these organizations, nor is it engaged in accession negotiations with either. Nevertheless, Russia is pointing to a supposed threat from the west when justifying its “hybrid war” in eastern Ukraine, a battle that has already left thousands killed, maimed, traumatised or homeless.

Learning from past experience

In their appeal, the 60 signees advise that “the German government would not be taking a ‘special path,’ if it were to continue to call for sober-mindedness and dialogue with Russia during this standoff.” Prior experience should, however, make Berlin pause: in the summer of 2008, a similar “standoff” arose in the Caucasus following Russia’s de facto abrogation of an EU-brokered Russian-Georgian peace treaty. Although Moscow never fulfilled the agreement’s crucial provision, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Germany proposed a “Modernisation Partnership” with Russia only a few weeks later. The EU and most of its member states subsequently followed Germany’s example. Yet, Russian troops are stationed in Georgia to this day.

The Kremlin’s behaviour in 2008 already constituted a repeat offense, just as Germany’s reaction to the Russian occupation of Georgian territory triggered a déjà vu. In 2001, Vladimir Putin gave a much-celebrated speech to the Bundestag, at Germany’s invitation – despite the fact that it was already clear that Russia would fail to carry out its legal obligation to withdraw its troops from the Moldovan region of Transnistria. In 2003, Brussels offered to open negotiations with the Kremlin on a new cooperation agreement with the EU. Yet, Russian troops are stationed in Moldova to this day.

The 60 personalities write in their appeal: “Every journalist versed in foreign policy will understand Russia’s fear after, in 2008, NATO member states invited Georgia and Ukraine to become members in the alliance.” Journalists versed in foreign policy will recall that, at the time, around 3% of the population of the Russian Federation viewed NATO accession by Georgia or Ukraine as their country’s greatest threat. At its Bucharest Summit in April 2008, the alliance rejected, for the time being, both Ukraine and Georgia’s membership application – primarily at the request of Germany and taking into consideration Russia’s warnings. Moscow has since deprived both states of their territorial integrity. Two other former Soviet republics, Estonia and Latvia, are also frequently defamed by Kremlin-controlled media, and have treated their large Russian-speaking minorities more restrictively than Ukraine. The Baltic states, however, have been NATO members since 2004, and thus been able to maintain their territorial integrity and peaceful economic development.

Germany cannot turn a blind eye

Various half-truths about the so-called “Ukraine Crisis,” some of which represent thinly veiled slander of the Ukrainian people, are circulating in the German public. Whether it concerns language policy or minority rights, right-wing extremism or the recent political transition in Kyiv, misinformation and biased interpretations regarding Ukraine have become anchored in the minds of many ordinary people, as a consequence of superficial reporting and frequent appearances of Kremlin mouthpieces in television discussions on Ukraine.

German policy towards Eastern Europe should be based on past experience, factual knowledge, and careful analysis, and not on pathos, historical amnesia and blanket judgments. No one is seeking military confrontation with Russia or wishes to break off dialog with the Kremlin. However, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova cannot be sacrificed to “sober-mindedness”. Peace should be build without weapons – not by legitimising their use in offensive military actions. It is in our own interest to counter the Kremlin’s attempt to export its illiberal vision for society into the EU. A key pillar of the international nuclear arms control regime, the Budapest Memorandum, should be upheld for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

The Ukrainian Soviet Republic lost more than five million of its people between 1941 and 1944. Over two million Ukrainians were abducted and sent to Germany to work as forced labourers. Around four million Ukrainian Red Army soldiers participated in the defeat of the Third Reich. We especially, as Germans, cannot once again turn a blind eye when the sovereignty of a post-Soviet republic and, in this case, even the survival of the Ukrainian state is at stake.

1. Sabine Adler, Deutschlandradio public broadcasting, Warsaw
2. Hannes Adomeit, formerly with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
3. Vera Ammer, Memorial Germany, Berlin
4. Martin Aust, Ludwigs Maximilians University of Munich
5. Klaus Bachmann, Social Sciences and Humanities University of Warsaw
6. Mariano Barbato, University of Passau
7. Marieluise Beck, German Bundestag, Berlin
8. Klaus Bednarz, formerly with ARD public television, Moscow
9. Jan-Claas Behrends, Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam
10. Timm Beichelt, European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder
11. Tilman Berger, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
12. Dietrich Beyrau, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
13. Florian Bieber, Karl Franzens University of Graz
14. Katrin Boeckh, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg
15. Tim Bohse, German-Russian Exchange, Berlin
16. Falk Bomsdorf, formerly with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Moscow
17. Hans-Juergen Boemelburg, Justus Liebig University of Giessen
18. Thomas Bremer, Westfaelische Wilhelms University of Muenster
19. Ulf Brunnbauer, University of Regensburg
20. Karsten Brueggemann, University of Tallinn
21. Timm Buechner, Integrate Climate UG, Berlin
22. Lars Buenger, Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights, Zurich
23. Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Green Eastern Europe Platform, Goettingen
24. Claudia Dathe, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
25. Andreas Decker, Memorial Deutschland, Munich
26. Klaus-Helge Donath, daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung, Moscow
27. Heike Doerrenbaecher, formerly with the German Society for East European Studies, Berlin
28. Gesine Drews-Sylla, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
29. Wolfgang Eichwede, formerly with the University of Bremen
30. Tobias Ernst, Russian & Ukrainian translator, Stuttgart
31. Liana Fix, German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin
32. Tobias Flessenkemper, Southeast Europe Association of Germany, Nice
33. Joerg Forbrig, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Berlin
34. Annette Freyberg-Inan, Technical University of Darmstadt
35. Helmut Frick, formerly with the Federal Foreign Office, Berlin
36. Juliane Fuerst, University of Bristol
37. Mischa Gabowitsch, Einstein Forum, Potsdam
38. Caroline von Gall, University of Cologne
39. Klaus Gestwa, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
40. Christoph Giesel, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
41. Luciano Gloor, “Eastern Partnership” Culture Program, Kyiv
42. Witold Gnauck, German-Polish Science Foundation, Frankfurt/Oder
43. Frank Golczewski, University of Hamburg
44. Tobias Grill, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
45. Hanno Gundert, n-Ost Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe, Berlin
46. Michael Hagemeister, Ruhr University of Bochum
47. Steffen Halling, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
48. Lars Handrich, DIW econ Ltd., Berlin
49. Rebecca Harms, European Parliament, Brussels/Strasbourg
50. Anne Hartmann, Ruhr University of Bochum
51. Guido Hausmann, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
52. Nicolas Hayoz, University of Fribourg
53. Andre Haertel, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
54. Andreas Heinemann-Grueder, Georg Eckert Institute, Braunschweig
55. Felix Heinert, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg
56. Marlene P. Hiller, formerly with the history magazine Damals, Badenweiler
57. Mieste Hotopp-Riecke, Institute for Caucasica, Tatarica and Turkestan Studies, Berlin
58. Hubertus Jahn, University of Cambridge
59. Sabine Jenni, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
60. Juergen Jerger, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg
61. Wilfried Jilge, University of Leipzig
62. Andreas Kappeler, University of Vienna
63. Walter Kaufmann, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Berlin
64. Peter Koller, Green Eastern Europe Plattform, Berlin
65. Miriam Kosmehl, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Kyiv
66. Irma Kreiten, formerly with the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
67. Katharina Kucher, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
68. Sergey Lagodinsky, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Berlin
69. Nico Lange, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin
70. Manuel Leppert, Ettersberg Foundation, Weimar
71. Markus Loening, Liberal International, Berlin
72. Heinz-Dietrich Loewe, formerly with the Ruprecht Karls University of Heidelberg
73. Otto Luchterhandt, formerly with the University of Hamburg
74. Marian Luschnat, University of Hamburg
75. Markus Lux, Robert Bosch Foundation, Stuttgart
76. Martin Malek, National Defence Academy, Vienna
77. Markus Mathyl, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg
78. Markus Meckel, Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship, Berlin
79. Stefan Melle, German-Russian Exchange, Berlin
80. Jakob Mischke, Westphalian Wilhelms University of Muenster
81. Michael Moser, University of Vienna
82. Uwe Neumaerker, Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin
83. Dietmar Neutatz, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg
84. Andrej Novak, Green Eastern Europe Plattform, Nuremberg
85. Ferdinand Pavel, DIW econ Ltd., Berlin
86. Christian Pletzing, Academia Baltica, Sankelmark
87. Nikolaj Plotnikov, Ruhr University of Bochum
88. Susanne Pocai, Humboldt University of Berlin
89. Gerd Poppe, formerly with the German Bundestag, Berlin
90. Jakob Preuss, documentary film maker, Berlin
91. Detlev Preusse, formerly with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Sankt Augustin
92. Edgar von Radetzky, Memorial Germany, Berlin
93. Boris Reitschuster, weekly Focus, Moscow
94. Felix Riefer, Lev Kopelev Forum, Cologne
95. David Rinnert, Green Eastern Europe Plattform, Glasgow
96. Stefan Rohdewald, Justus Liebig University of Giessen
97. Maren Rohe, Young European Federalists, Bonn
98. Heike Roll, University of Duisburg-Essen
99. Erich Roeper, Westphalian Wilhelms University of Muenster
100. Claudia Sabic, Goethe University of Frankfurt/Main
101. Manuel Sarrazin, German Bundestag, Berlin
102. Karol Sauerland, Pomeranian University in Słupsk
103. Schamma Schahadat, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
104. Stefanie Schiffer, “Kiev Dialogue,” Berlin
105. Judith Schifferle, Philosophicum Basel
106. Felix Schimansky-Geyer, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
107. Frank Schimmelfennig, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
108. Karl Schloegel, formerly with the European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder
109. Carmen Schmidt, University of Cologne
110. Henrike Schmidt, Free University of Berlin
111. Winfried Schneider-Deters, formerly with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Kyiv
112. Anna Schor-Tschudnowskaja, Sigmund Freud University of Vienna
113. Gunda Schumann, Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), Berlin
114. Christoph Schulz, MitOst Association for Cultural Exchange, Berlin
115. Werner Schulz, formerly with the European Parliament, Brussels/Strasbourg
116. Diana Siebert, Initiative for a Democratic Ukraine, Cologne
117. Jens Siegert, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Moscow
118. Gerhard Simon, formerly with the University of Cologne
119. Susanne Spahn, freelance journalist, Berlin
120. Stephan Stach, University of Leipzig
121. Martin Stein, Free University of Berlin
122. Kai Struve, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg
123. Susan Stewart, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
124. Wolfgang Templin, formerly with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Warsaw
125. Hartmute Trepper, formerly with the Research Centre for East European Studies at Bremen
126. Stefan Troebst, University of Leipzig
127. Andreas Umland, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kyiv (editor of the appeal)
128. Ricarda Vulpius, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
129. Bodo Weber, Democratization Policy Council, Berlin
130. Elisabeth Weber, Lev Kopelev Forum, Cologne
131. Tobias Weihmann, German-Belarussian Society, Berlin
132. Reinhard Weisshuhn, Robert Havemann Society, Berlin
133. Anna Veronika Wendland, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg
134. Martin Schulze Wessel, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
135. Jan-Henrik Wiebe, daily newspaper Thueringische Landeszeitung, Jena
136. Hans-Georg Wieck, formerly with the Federal Foreign Office, Bonn
137. Irina Wutsdorff, Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen
138. Bernd Wieser, Karl Franzens University of Graz
139. Susann Worschech, European University Viadrina of Frankfurt/Oder
140. Johann Zajaczkowski, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
141. Kerstin Zimmer, Philipps University of Marburg
142. Josephine von Zitzewitz, University of Cambridge

Post-scriptum:

Numerous additional current and former parliamentarians, artists, activists, academics and interested citizens voiced their support for this appeal as signatures were being collected. Some of the most influential German correspondents on Russia and Ukraine sympathise with the appeal, but, for specifically professional reasons, did not add their signatures.
The appeal appeared in Zeit Online, Der Standard, Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung and Der Tagesspiegel. The German original appeal can be freely signed on the site Change.org. See also the earlier international appeal “No more business as usual with Moscow!” – Public Statement of Researchers of Post-Soviet Politics.

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