Gabi Zimmer on why a sustainable peace depends on responsibly carrying out a society-wide conversation and promoting broad alliances with common initiatives and action on the part of anti-militarist and anti-fascist peace movements, climate activists, and trade unions.
It hangs like a Sword of Damocles over us: The question of how the war in Ukraine can be ended without further military escalation. There are no certainties here. What is possible depends on many factors. Naturally, also on Russia’s and Ukraine’s readiness to cease waiting for the hoped for military wins and, instead, to understand that there will be no victor in this war – only losers.
It also requires the NATO allies, the EU, and the Ukraine’s East European neighbour states to understand that their hope of shutting Russia out of the group of major powers is in the long run a dangerous illusion.
The post-1989 opportunities to build a common European home, a new security architecture with the states of the former Soviet Union, foundered in the first place on the West’s arrogance. Western Europe’s liberal democracy at no point learned to see the people of East, and in part Central, Europe, with their diverse history, their cultures and modes of life, as an enrichment.
It was also the EU’s mistake to continually put Ukraine under pressure to turn exclusively to the EU. Anyone who doubts this needs only to glance at the documents regarding the EU’s neighbour policy. It is precisely Ukraine that could have become the example for fair relations of trade and cooperation both with Russia and with the EU – to the benefit of the Ukrainian population.
It is probably impossible, in the wake of a ceasefire and protracted peace negotiations, to get back to the starting point that existed before the Minsk negotiations and to block out what has happened since then. Hatred, mistrust, anger, shame, incomprehension, and outrage lay like a dense cloud over all attempts to even come close to peace negotiations. Those who, like myself, hope for peace negotiations have to take into account that the path to a sustainable peace will be extremely complicated, contradictory, and protracted. This process needs to be accompanied by those who want to travel this path with Ukraine and Russia in the interest of world peace and of a just and sustainable peaceful world order.
At the moment I see above all two different groups of protagonists who could get the ball rolling.
They are, on the one hand, the BRICS states China, Brazil, India, and South Africa and, on the other, the non-aligned countries. It was already striking how massively the appearance of China’s chief diplomat at the Munich Security Conference, as well as China’s 12-point peace plan formulated after talks with Ukraine and Russia, was trashed by representatives of NATO and by Western media. I therefore think it is important to single out some points of ‘China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’. It names foundational norms in the relation between states, which need to be respected if peace, beyond a ceasefire, is to enable the coexistence of the two nations. What is involved is no less than respect for international law, which though imperfect is at the moment the only extant foundation on whose basis a new relationship can be reconstructed. The Chinese solutions aim at peace talks, dialogue and negotiations, at the solution of the humanitarian crisis, in which the UN is to play a central coordinating role. China puts the protection of civilians and the exchange of prisoners of war at the centre, criticises military attacks on nuclear reactors, and is ready to support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It asks that no nuclear weapons be deployed and no nuclear war be waged, and rejects the research in, development, and deployment of chemical and biological weapons. Yes, the Chinese government also asks for an end to sanctions. I consider this right. The EU has now passed the twelfth plan on sanctions against Russia. With the previous 11 plans have we come even one step closer to the end of the war?
Thus, instead of demonising the Chinese positions, it is precisely the EU states, and the German government, together with the BRICS states, which should discuss, especially with China, how they can support a peace process and measures to secure the peace according to Chapter 16 of the UN Charter. At the same time, this would be a great contribution to future global peace orders. It is with this and not with ever greater sanctions and weapons deliveries that the EU too would finally deserve the Nobel Peace Prize which it was awarded in 2012.
On the other hand I pin my hopes on those people who in the neighbouring states and in all of Europe are resisting the war and its further escalation, who, like myself, cannot bear the pictures of killed and wounded people and for whom the immediate priority is to stop the daily killing of people, whether Ukrainians or Russians. In Germany 770,000 people signed the appeal for peace initiated by the Die LINKE politician Sahra Wagenknecht and the feminist Alice Schwarzer. In essence this call aims at ending the war and at preventing it from being further escalated by either side. It calls on the federal government and the federal chancellor to actively exert influence to enable peace negotiations. This initiative was criticised with the assertion that in so doing it was asking for the subjugation of Ukraine by Russia – an assertion that is just as false as the claim that what this mobilisation represents is the emergence of a new ‘Querfront’ [a populist alliance of the far right and left].
The nature of the current debate, the alleged lack of alternative to military escalation, the craving of the powerful in Germany to once again be able to play a global political and military role, is suffocating any possibility of a thoughtful and responsibly conducted social debate. There is all the more need of broad alliances going far beyond the current aging peace movement. It is the task of the hour for Die LINKE in Germany and the left in Europe to close ranks with common initiatives and action among anti-militarist and antifascist people struggling for peace, the protection of the climate, and trade unionists.
If the left moves only within its own circles it will not manage to put aside its internal disputes but will make itself superfluous as a social force.