Turning point: Why we need to over­come our peace mentality

Russia’s war of aggres­sion against Ukraine is a turning point for Europe and the whole world. What are its policy impli­ca­tions? Are the sanc­tions imposed so far suf­fi­cient to contain the Kremlin? We dis­cussed this with promi­nent politi­cians and diplo­mats at a joint event orga­nized by the Center for Liberal Moder­nity (LibMod) and the Munich Secu­rity Conference.

In his intro­duc­tion, LibMod founder Ralf Fücks called for urgent action “in the face of a war that increas­ingly resem­bles a war of anni­hi­la­tion”. Europe is not passive, “but there is that lasting impres­sion of too little too late”. Fücks recalled Nord Stream 2 and the German dis­cus­sions about arms deliv­er­ies to Ukraine and Russia’s expul­sion from SWIFT. “Have we arrived men­tally and polit­i­cally in a new era? Are we doing every­thing to make Putin lose this war, or are we still hoping for an arrange­ment with the Kremlin?” he asked.

Ukraine as “Mr. Putin’s backyard”

Michael Roth, a Social Demo­c­rat MP and chair­man of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Com­mit­tee, con­ceded that the much-touted “turning point” in German foreign and defence policy has not yet reached every­body. “Yes, we are not doing enough for Ukraine,” he said. To many Germans, Eastern Europe was of sec­ondary impor­tance and they saw it as “Mr. Putin’s back­yard. “But that is chang­ing now,” he said.

Photo: JET /​ Kranert

Roth admit­ted that he only decided to support arms ship­ments to Ukraine after Putin’s “awful speech” on Monday before the war: “The vio­la­tion of inter­na­tional law implies a duty to assist, and Ukraine only has a chance of sur­vival from a posi­tion of strength,” he said.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zim­mer­mann, an MP for the Free Democ­rats who chairs the Bun­destag Defence Com­mit­tee, argued that the enor­mous amount of refugees was also part of the war: “This is an attempt to desta­bi­lize neigh­bor­ing coun­tries with human traf­fick­ing,” she said.

Defend­ing Germany also on the Dni­ester and Dnipro rivers

Roderich Kiesewet­ter, a Chris­t­ian Demo­c­rat MP who chairs the Bundestag’s Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, demanded an embargo against Russian energy exports and to step up mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine. “We can’t say that Germany’s secu­rity is being defended at the Hin­dukush, but not at the (rivers) Dni­ester and Dnipro,” he said. Former German Defense Min­is­ter Peter Struck had used the Hin­dukush ref­er­ence to defend the deploy­ment of German sol­diers to Afghanistan. Kiesewet­ter also demanded to offer Ukraine a pos­si­bil­ity to join the EU after the war.

Photo: JET /​ Kranert

Green Party MP Agnieszka Brugger stressed that Germany must speed up its energy tran­si­tion in order to help Ukraine. Brugger said that Pres­i­dent Zelenskiy’s video address to the Bun­destag on March 17 made a lasting impres­sion on her. In the video, the Ukrain­ian leader accused Berlin of always saying “economy, economy, economy. “In ret­ro­spect, that was our biggest mistake,” she said.

West stuck in a “peace mentality”

The English-lan­guage second part of the evening was mod­er­ated by Secu­rity Con­fer­ence Vice Chair­man Boris Ruge and began with a video address by Pavlo Klimkin live from Kyiv. The former Ukrain­ian foreign min­is­ter stressed the great dis­ap­point­ment in his country about the hes­i­tant inter­na­tional support. “The problem is, that the West remains in a state of peace, while war is really raging in Ukraine. “The West is doing some­thing, but it is still in a wait-and-see mode: “If this logic per­sists, the West has already lost,” Klimkin warned.

Dan Fried, a former senior US State Depart­ment offi­cial, agreed with Klimkin and called for a change in men­tal­ity. “War is here and we have to get ready for it,” he said. Fried rejected the notion that there are no mil­i­tary solu­tions as a stereo­type : “There is a bad mil­i­tary solu­tion – that is, that Putin wins. And there is a good mil­i­tary solu­tion, which is that Ukraine pre­vents Putin from winning, he said.

Photo: JET /​ Kranert

Svit­lana Zal­ishchuk, a foreign policy adviser to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, appealed to the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity not to under­es­ti­mate the war. “This is an inter­na­tional hybrid war that Russia has started in Ukraine, but it is also waging in other coun­tries,” she said, refer­ring to cyber­at­tacks, elec­tion inter­fer­ence and polit­i­cal killings such as the recent shoot­ing of a Geor­gian citizen in Berlin. She stressed that mil­i­tary fail­ures won’t make Moscow less dan­ger­ous. “The war is getting dirtier and more brutal, just look at Mar­i­upol,” she said. Zal­ishchuk warned against mis­tak­ing sanc­tions as pun­ish­ments. “Sanc­tions are a weapon to limit Putin’s ability to act,” she stressed.

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