War - inconsistencies, irrational and emotions

Post photo: German flag | © Pixabay

Russia's war against Ukraine, which has been raging for more than 3 months, is still leading to all sorts of debates and discussions in German politics, in public and in the media. In this paper I want to deal with a special topic: the emotionally charged debate about the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine and the role that some media played in it. At first I was reluctant to write about media power and media responsibility in times of war, when journalists were also killed. But the extraordinary guest contribution of the philosopher Jürgen Habermas encouraged me to take up this topic, despite the war and its dangers.  

Among other things, I quoted from a press comment: “There is no democracy without a free press. And there is no dictatorship with a free press.” This statement always means responsibility and obligation at the same time for journalism.

Putin's war - inconsistencies, irrational and emotions

If one followed the discussions in talk shows, newspaper columns and magazines in the last few weeks, one could get the impression that “everyone” had known for a long time what Putin was up to, that “everyone” had warned and already knew before February 24.2.2022th, XNUMX , which would befall Ukraine and also Europe, but that the politicians in Europe, especially in Germany, did not want to see the warning sign on the wall and did not want to listen to the warnings, because they hoped backwards that the Russian ruler was threatening but ultimately ahead would shy away from a hot war. But the causes of this war, the background and connections and above all the question of how and when the war could have been averted cannot be dealt with in a short talk show. The renowned philosopher has this to say Jürgen Habermas in a guest post in the Süddeutsche Zeitung pointed out, which will be discussed later.

It happened on Thursday, February 24.2.2022th, XNUMX! With the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, the Russian President turned the European security architecture, which was primarily based on the fact that borders cannot and must not be changed by force or the threat of force, on its head. Vladimir Putin keeps talking about Russia being threatened militarily by Ukraine and NATO. The reality is fundamentally different: neither Ukraine nor NATO invaded Russia. In reality, the Russian rulers do not feel threatened by the Western military but by the Western value system, which is based on freedom, democracy, the rule of law and a pluralistic and active civil society. Ukraine has started to move towards this value system. Putin & Co fear that the Ukrainian example could have a contagious effect on Russian society and oust the small group of rulers in the Kremlin from the levers of power and the meatpots of the economy. 

The New York Times recently published a report describing the horrible absurdity of Putin's war and the danger of a global hunger crisis. About 14 million tons are stored in the grain silos of Ukraine, one of the largest grain producers in the world, but shipment is not possible because Russia is blocking the Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. David Beasley, The Executive Director of the UN World Food Program put it succinctly: “Ukraine’s grain elevators are full while 44 million people are starving.” (nytimes.com, May 6.5.2022, XNUMX: "Turning Tables on Russia With West's Arms, Ukraine Goes on Offense").

On February 27.2.2022, XNUMX, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the German Bundestag by one turning point spoken:

 "We're experiencing one turning point. And that means: the world after is no longer the same as the world before. At its core is the question of whether power can break the law, whether we will allow Putin to turn the clock back to the days of the great powers of the 19th century, or whether we will muster the strength to set limits on warmongers like Putin...”

Olaf Scholz, February 27, 2022

Germany is now ready to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine as well – a move away from the principle that has been in place for decades that no weapons should be sent to areas of tension. The Ukraine is far more than an area of ​​tension, a terrible war is raging in the Ukraine and Germany will drastically increase its military spending for this reason in the foreseeable future.

But the turning point goes far beyond Germany. Another sign of this is that traditionally neutral countries such as Sweden and Finland are about to join NATO after intensive discussions, and that neutral Switzerland is moving more towards the EU again. On May 12.5.2022, XNUMX, the Finnish President published Sauli Niinistö and the head of government Sanne Marin issued a joint statement, including a reminder that the country would give up the country's non-aligned status and join NATO in the face of the Russian attack on Ukraine. On May 18.5.2022, XNUMX, both countries submitted the official application for admission to NATO. NATO member Turkey is opposed and does not want to agree to the admission of the two countries for domestic reasons. the Heilbronn voice met on May 19.5.2022, XNUMX with a caricature of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exactly the point: Baksheesh!" 

The reactions from Moscow can be aptly described with the term "outrageous". The Russian Foreign Ministry complained about a “radical change in foreign policy course” in Helsinki. If the neighbor joins NATO, Russian-Finnish relations will be severely damaged. "Russia will be forced to respond appropriately - in military-technical and other terms - to take into account the threats to its national security," the ministry said in a statement (sueddeutsche.de, May 12.5.2022, XNUMX: “Finland wants to join NATO”). The testimonies from Moscow are a classic example of the distortion of cause and effect. Neither Finland nor Sweden seriously considered NATO membership before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. How long will the Russian public follow such and similar propaganda formulations?

"That's what Putin gets out of it," the caption read Kai Strittmatter his comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “The Russian leadership wanted to keep the West at bay with all its might. But because of the attack on Ukraine, Finland will probably join NATO. This doubles Russia's land border as a defensive alliance. "This is a spectacular example of the miscalculation of Russia's leadership, which, with its war of aggression, achieves the exact opposite of what it set itself as a goal," he said Kai Strittmatter Celebration (sueddeutsche.de, May 12.5.2022, XNUMX: "Putin gets that from it").

war in Europe

The most pious cannot live in peace
If the bad neighbor doesn't like it.

Friedrich Schiller: "William Tell"

The wishes and hopes in Europe did not come true. In the weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, a number of western politicians had tried, on the phone and by traveling to Moscow, to stop the course of events that had long been decided in the Kremlin, as it later turned out. With their visits, French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz primarily wanted to make it clear to the Russian ruler Putin what the consequences of a war would be for Russia, but also for Europe.

On February 24.2.2022th, 77 - almost XNUMX years after the end of the Second World War, the nuclear power Russia attacked the neighboring country Ukraine in violation of international law. The justification was far-fetched: Ukraine should be demilitarized and denazified. From a Russian point of view, anyone who does not follow this line of reasoning is “Nazis”. 

The basis for action of NATO and the EU can be summarized in three points:

  • Solidarity and every possible support to Ukraine in defending the country.
  • Greatest possible unity in the West and constant cooperation and coordination of countermeasures.
  • NATO will jointly defend every millimeter of the territory of its member states, but will not actively intervene as a war party in the Ukraine war.

The West's decision not to actively intervene in the war was and is largely accepted in German politics, in public and in published opinion. But in view of the events of the war, especially after the Russian atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere were uncovered, a heated debate developed in Germany and beyond - one could describe it as a kind of substitute war - about whether and under what conditions Germany should give heavy weapons to Ukraine should or should deliver. This will be discussed later in this paper.

Putin's miscalculations

Russian troops were sent across the border on February 24.2.2022, XNUMX in northern Ukraine with orders and the expectation to “liberate” Ukraine; the troops would be greeted with flowers by the people. But the reality was very different from what was told by Russian propaganda. The troops were not greeted with flowers and flags as liberators, but with fierce resistance from the Ukrainian military and the population. Apparently Putin had planned to break through to the capital Kyiv in a few days and install a puppet government there. This project failed. The Russian troops had to retreat before they reached Kyiv. Human and material losses were high. The aura of unbeatable strength of the Russian troops was lost. In Bucha and other places that were temporarily occupied, unspeakable atrocities came to light. Russia willfully destroyed its reputation as a cultural nation.

The war has meanwhile shifted from the north of the country to the east (Donbas) and south (Mariupol), “where the Russian troops are doing everything they can to protect their president Vladimir Putin to come up with something he could call a win,” the recently published New York Times (nytimes.com, May 5.5.2022, 5.5.2022: "Putin's Forces Battle in East Ukraine to Feed His Hunger for a Victory"). On this day, May 71th, 24.2.2022, the war was 71 days old - a solution or even an end was and is not in sight. Nevertheless, a certain confidence is spreading in the West: Putin and his generals seem to have maneuvered themselves into a military impasse. Above all, the Russian president misjudged the unity of the West. From his point of view, he may have had a coherent plan before February XNUMX, XNUMX, but this plan did not work out for a number of reasons. After XNUMX days of war and destruction, the interim result is: Putin cannot be trusted; his actions are unpredictable - but the Russian flag does not fly over the presidential palace in Kyiv. 

In a consideration of Germany radio, in which the book "The war" of the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz which appeared in 1832, the current state of dispute between Putin's Russia and the West is described as follows:

“Sanctions like the current one between the European Union and Putin's Russia are half peace and half war. Hybrid warfare is the new name of the old game, constantly changing means and goals, playing off elements of politics and psychology, and leaving the enemy in the dark about how far one is willing to go. Insofar as the situation is low-intensity war, economics rather than arms, Clausewitz's teachings apply in all their rigor:"

“War is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse with the interference of other means. We say, with the interference of other means, to assert that this political intercourse does not end with the war itself, is not transformed into something completely different, but that it persists in its essence (...) Of course, the war has its own grammar, but not its own logic."

Carl von Clausewitz

Clausewitz formulated it in a complicated way at the time and is difficult to understand today. For a better understanding he adds Germany Radio explanatory to: “Books have their destinies. This also applies to General von Clausewitz and his treatise "of war". She may be close to 200 years old. By making politics responsible for peace, it couldn't be more topical."

And to continue the explanation: One day negotiations will (have to) take place and at the table will be that unpredictable Putin who cannot be trusted – unless there is a palace revolution in the Kremlin. But this is not to be expected. Therefore negotiations will be – with that Vladimir Putin at the table - require highly experienced diplomats capable of pulling off a farsighted diplomatic feat. Emotional appeals intended to hit the nerve of the public will not suffice. 

Claudia Major, Expert for security and defense policy at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik Berlin, does not expect any such negotiations in the near future:

“Currently, both sides still believe they gain more by continuing than by stopping. ... If Putin makes peace now, he must be able to sell it as a success at home. And right now, the Russian leadership thinks they could win even more. ... For Russia, a bad war is just better than a bad peace” 

sueddeutsche.de, May 4.5.2022, XNUMX: "Bad war instead of bad peace"

Emotions around the delivery of heavy weapons

I don't want to address the roller coaster ride of emotions into which the war has thrown people: for example, there is the image of David versus Goliath and the admiration for the courage and determination of the Ukrainian soldiers and the population. I also want to speak less of the cynicism of Putin and his justification for the war and the mendacity of Russian state propaganda: How clumsy was the statement by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Italian television that Hitler had Jewish blood in his veins (sueddeutsche.de, May 2.5.2022, 42: “XNUMX minutes of propaganda”). I don't want to write much here about the plight of the refugees caused by the war, nor about the Ukrainian President's television speeches Volodymyr Zelensky. However, I want to put a question mark behind some of the appearances of the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, who does not always act and formulate diplomatically but out of the need and distress of his country. It was certainly not far-sighted to call the German chancellor an “offended liverwurst” or to try to review German and European policies towards Russia in the middle of the war. Jürgen Habermas wrote about this in his widely acclaimed guest article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “The neglect of historically based differences in the perception and interpretation of wars not only leads to momentous mistakes in dealing with one another, as in the case of the brusque uninviting of the German Federal President. Worse, it leads to a reciprocal misunderstanding of what the other actually thinks and wants.” 

Habermas describes the policy of detente before and after the end of the Soviet Union as successful. But it was a mistake to continue with a Putin who had become unpredictable. A mistake made by German governments was also “to make themselves dependent on cheap Russian oil imports under pressure from the economy.” Habermas then gives the wise advice: “The judgment of historians will one day decide the short memory of today's controversies.“ (sueddeutsche.de, April 28.4.2022, XNUMX: “War and Outrage”; guest post by Jürgen Habermas).

There are a lot of emotions and feelings in all these keywords and facts that can block a cool view of things. In the following I would like to address a very specific example of this: the charged discussions in Germany about the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine. This discussion contains everything that politics can offer: fierce discussions on all conceivable levels, in politics and in the media, there were and are examples of political strategy and tactics, there was and is a dubious exchange of blows and a lot of emotions. The decision on the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine was made by the decision of the Bundestag on April 28.4.2022, 586, which was passed with a large majority - 100 MPs voted in favor, XNUMX were against - but the discussions were and are not over after that.

If you google the terms "Bundeskanzler Scholz", "Zögerer" and "Zauderer", you get a series of offers, the tone of which gradually increased more and more. In technical jargon, this means “putting pressure on.” The military requirements of the second phase of the war were charged with the heinous Russian atrocities in Bucha – they were dismissed by the Russian side as fake and staged, which also led to disbelieving and angry shaking of my head. Aptly overwritten Joseph Kelnberger in der Süddeutsche Zeitung his report on the ARD talk show Anne Will from May 1.5.2022st, XNUMX "Germany in gun fever."

At the time of this talk show, May 1.5.2022, 28.4.2022, the boiling point of the weapons debate had actually already passed after the Bundestag had agreed on April XNUMX, XNUMX. During the interview with the Mirror, published on April 22.4.2022, XNUMX, the Chancellor spoke out against the delivery of heavy weapons by Germany and said that in this situation "a cool head and well-considered decisions are needed." He pointed out early on "that we can do everything do to avoid a direct military confrontation between NATO and a highly armed superpower like Russia, a nuclear power. I am doing everything to prevent an escalation leading to a third world war. There must be no nuclear war” quoted from karenina.de: Olaf Scholz: “There must be no nuclear war” – Der Spiegel 17/2022, 22.4.2022. A few days later he changed his attitude. The conference organized by the Americans on April 26.4.2022, XNUMX in Ramstein should have made a significant contribution to this. In Ramstein, many countries - including those outside of NATO - were willing to support Ukraine. This should have made the decision easier for Scholz. The chancellor had "developed" his position, he said Saskia Esken (SPD) at Anne Will.

To introduce his report "Germany in the arms fever". Joseph Kelnberger Marie Agnes Strack Zimmermann (FDP), which Scholz had previously repeatedly criticized. The following passage from Kelnberger reflects the tense, uncertain and inconsistent debate situation within the traffic light contrary. Its formulations are reminiscent of Goethe's poem "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". Kelnberger writes:  "Yes, yes, it will be with the Germans and this war, believe me Marie Agnes Strack Zimmermann. The whole country is only in the “arms fever”, is immersed in the “big and small weapons knowledge”. And in the end Germany will lose its fear of Putin, of a Third World War, of a Russian nuclear attack. The FDP politician is there now – yes, what? Cheerful?” Towards the end of his report, the journalist quotes the Anne Will assigned foreign minister Annalena baerbock, who admitted that Putin's threats do not leave her indifferent. But Germany and Europe must do everything to ensure that Putin "never wins another war of aggression". And that includes the delivery of heavy weapons. Finally, a statement from John Wadephul, the deputy group leader of the Union, who already considered it a "serious political mistake" that Olaf Scholz talked about the possibility of nuclear war at all. The last sentence of the report: "Of course, that would also be a way of dealing with people's fears: just keep silent."

If all of this is not enough to describe the unclear and uncertain situation before the decision in the Bundestag on April 28.4.2022, XNUMX, a few more press headlines are quoted below that hardly leave a good hair on the Chancellor's alleged hesitation:    

  • "Now it's about tank deliveries" Details on military aid to Ukraine remain classified - the opposition sees chaos and concealment in government communications (Heilbronn voice, 7.4.2022)
  • "Weapons, more weapons and even more weapons" NATO wants to significantly increase its military support for Ukraine - It is still unclear whether tanks will also be supplied (Heilbronn voice, 8.4.2022)
  • "Olaf Scholz' Hesitancy over heavy weapons is hard to understand' Olaf Scholz always under pressure. The chancellor should give up his reticence (tagesspiegel.de, April 14.4.2022, XNUMX: Comment by Maria Fiedler)
  • "The jubilation is followed by disappointment" Chancellor Scholz under pressure - disagreement on weapons in Europe, the coalition and in the SPD "We deliver weapons that everyone else also delivers," says Scholz. When asked whether he would also be the delivery of heavy weapons, he always reacts evasively. He says sentences like: “We will not go it alone. Germany will act no differently than other countries.” The problem is that it is no longer entirely clear what NATO's common line actually is. There are reports that individual countries are already supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine. The Czech Republic is said to have launched several dozen Soviet-designed T-72 tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles. Poland and Slovakia have agreed to deliver Soviet-designed fighter jets to the Ukraine, which Germany and the USA have so far refused to do." (Heilbronn voice, 16.4.2022)  
  • "Hesitant Scholz" The Federal Chancellor came under pressure on the issue of arms deliveries. Our author says: "While the deaths in Mariupol, Lviv and Kharkiv continue unabated and the Russian aggressors launch their major offensive, the Chancellor leaves Ukraine and the public in the dark as to whether Germany is ready to deliver heavy weapons. (Heilbronn voice, April 19.4.2022, XNUMX; opinion comment from Jurgen Paul).
  • "Have mercy on Olaf Scholz!" "After proclaiming the turning point, the anxious question is whether the recently elected German government is capable of doing justice to such a pathetic formula. For many, the matter is already clear: Chancellor Olaf Scholz is proving to be a pathetic procrastinator who is unable to meet either the expectations of his citizens or the desperate desires of the Ukrainians for arms deliveries. The chancellor and his party, embroiled in squabbles with Russia, as insecure cantonists in a country that just thought it was proud to have worked through a nagging debt? Does the accumulation of new guilt threaten the return of what has been suppressed?” (fr.de – Frankfurter Rundschau, 25.4.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX; comment by Harry Nutt).

The enumeration of newspaper headlines and quotations could be continued. Delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine? I looked for convincing arguments and answers and often only found more or less successful formulations. Not only did politicians express themselves quite vaguely, public opinion also changed rapidly. "Shortly after the beginning of the war, the citizens were against it - but the mood has now changed," reported the Süddeutsche Zeitung and gave figures that prove the public's uncertainty about heavy weapons: "In March, only 31 percent had spoken positively and 63 percent negatively on the arms supply question, which was still hypothetical at the time." After the decision of the Bundestag on April 28.4.2022, 56, 39 percent held of those surveyed, the decision that the federal government and the Bundestag ... have reached is correct. At least 54 percent consider such arms deliveries to be wrong. (The term “ruled” used here describes the decision-making process very precisely). However, according to the SZ report, “approval of a tough policy towards the aggressor is quite ambivalent. 59 percent of the Germans surveyed fear that Russia will attack other countries. And as many as XNUMX percent believe that with the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, the danger of a Russian attack on Western countries will also increase" (sueddeutsche.de, April 29.4.2022, XNUMX: "Majority of Germans for delivery of heavy weapons").

In my opinion, the weapon question could not and cannot be answered clearly and unequivocally with "yes" or "no". The Bundestag passed a resolution on this, but talked and written about the decision-making process and in particular about the handling of the problem by the Chancellor. The judgment or condemnation of Olaf Scholz became an excellent media topic. Scholz was labeled a hesitant and procrastinator. He should be urged to make a quick decision, because that urging might go down well with the general public. More time for careful consideration, especially the consequences of the decision, seemed superfluous. And when Scholz finally decided and the Bundestag decided with a large majority on April 28.4.2022, XNUMX, the world only seemed right again for the time being.

Richard Meng, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Neue Gesellschaft/Frankfurt issues, summed it all up: “There is a lot to discuss these days. Hopefully with rational analyzes and arguments, because the widespread emotional debate about the Ukraine war alone will not go any further" (Neue Gesellschaft/Frankfurt issues, 5/2022; Editorial by Richard Meng).

Jürgen Habermas and Kurt Kister called for reflection

In view of all these political and emotional theaters of war and side-wars, and also in view of the confusion between the relations between several federal governments and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the possible causes of Putin's war against Ukraine, I was in the Süddeutsche Zeitung published in-depth and thoughtful guest post by Jürgen Habermas absolutely welcome (sueddeutsche.de, April 28.4.2022, XNUMX: “War and Outrage”; guest post by Jürgen Habermas). Already in the introductory sentences of his contribution, Habermas defines the extensive field of observation: "Shrill tone, moral blackmail: On the battle of opinions between former pacifists, a shocked public and a weighing Federal Chancellor after the attack on Ukraine." 

A day later the published Süddeutsche Zeitung an in-depth look at Kurt Kister, from 2011 - 2020 member of the editor-in-chief of the SZ, with the headline "Feelings at the attack". Kister introduces his contribution with the statement: “Today, emotion is part of the heavy artillery. Logical but unfortunate that it Olaf Scholz because it is difficult. About Germany in the triangle of affect, effect and reason.” In response to the extensive criticism of Scholz in the matter of scissor weapons for Ukraine, Kister asks the question: “Can something better happen to a politician in Germany, let alone a Federal Chancellor, than from Jürgen Habermas to be defended?” (sueddeutsche.de, April 29.4.2022, XNUMX: "Feelings at the limit", by Kurt Kister).    

These are two great examples of the special strengths of the print media: illuminating the background of a development, showing connections, conveying insights that the fleeting images on the screen can hardly achieve. Both texts helped me to organize my thoughts and conclusions on Putin's war and specifically on the issue of arms supply to Ukraine. The analyzes of Habermas and Kister will play an important role in a few years' time when current events are to be dealt with.

Similar to how other viewers describe this war Jürgen Habermas – Kister described him as the archetype of the public intellectual with enormous influencing power in the great debates about constitution and state, about freedom and restrictions, about morality and religion, about nation and views of history – to start with his personal shock at Putin’s decision to go to war,

"After 77 years without war and 33 years after ending a peace preserved only in the balance of terror, albeit threatened, the disturbing images of war have returned – on our doorstep and unleashed at random by Russia. The media presence of this war event dominates our everyday life like never before. A Ukrainian president who understands the power of images delivers powerful messages. The daily fresh scenes of raw destruction and enervating suffering find a self-reinforcing echo on Western social media. What is new about the publication and calculated public impact of an unpredictable war may impress us older people more than the younger ones, who are used to the media.”

Jürgen Habermas

When reading these sentences, one can almost feel the questions that plague Habermas: How can it be that a country and the leadership of a country, after two devastating wars and their consequences that hit this country in particular, unleashes a new war? Where is the reason, the sense of responsibility, the look at the consequences? Where is the special morality that should also play a role in political decisions? Questions that don't allow you to look away, that almost force you to do "something". “Thus, among the viewers in the West, alarm grows with every death, shock with every murder, indignation with every war crime – and the desire to do something about it to do. The rational background against which these emotions boil up nationwide is the natural taking of sides against Putin and a Russian government, which launched a massive war of aggression in violation of international law and which violate international humanitarian law with their systematic, inhuman warfare.”

Habermas mentions Ukraine's demands on the West and is no doubt also thinking of the president's media-savvy appearances Zelensky and its ambassador in Berlin Melnyk: "The demands of the innocently beleaguered Ukraine, which unceremoniously turns the political misjudgments and wrong decisions of previous federal governments into moral blackmail, are as understandable as the emotions, compassion and need to help that they arouse in all of us are self-evident."

Habermas counters these justified demands and the understandable sympathy and all the emotions with his own insight: “And yet it irritates me the self-confidence with which the morally indignant accusers in Germany are taking action against a federal government that is acting in a considered and cautious manner.” Habermas points to a red line that the West has drawn for itself: We will not become an active war party in this war! He describes soberly what this also means for the support provided by the West: “Anyone who, despite this threshold, wants to push the Federal Chancellor further and further in this direction with an aggressive, self-confident tenor overlooks or misunderstands the dilemma into which the West is being thrown by this war; because he tied his hands with the morally well-founded decision not to become a party to the war... The dilemma that has left the West to risky weighing up alternatives in the space between two evils - a defeat in Ukraine or the escalation of a limited conflict to the Third World War - is obvious."

It would go beyond the scope of this discussion to cite all the astute details from the Habermas op-ed. He describes how much easier it is to cheer on from the stands than to fight yourself: “The warmongering rhetoric doesn’t get along well with the audience box, from which it sounds eloquent. Because it doesn't invalidate the unpredictability of an opponent who could put everything on one card. The West's dilemma is that it can only signal to a Putin, who may be ready for a nuclear escalation, the principle that he is relying on the integrity of state borders in Europe exist.”   

The last section of the guest article is worth reading, in which the European Habermas describes what conclusions the European Union should draw from the current development: "It is not by chance that the authors of the "turning pointThose left and liberals who, in the face of a drastically changed constellation of the great powers - and in the shadow of transatlantic uncertainties - want to get serious about a long overdue insight: A European Union that neither wants to destabilize its social and political way of life from the outside nor allow it to be undermined from the inside, will only be able to act politically if it can also stand on its own two feet militarily. Macron's re-election marks a reprieve. But first we have to find a constructive way out of our dilemma. This hope is reflected in the cautious formulation of the goal that Ukraine must not lose the war.”

How much time does a difficult decision take?

I want to come back to the "hesitant" and "hesitant" accusations leveled at the Federal Chancellor and Joseph Kelnbergers critical headline "Germany in arms fever." Jürgen Habermas writes, "... in Germany, a shrill battle of opinions, fueled by press voices, has broken out about the type and extent of military aid for the beleaguered Ukraine." Also Kurt Kister deals with this aspect in his reflection "Feelings at the ready". Kister examines the attitudes of leading politicians towards the issue of guns and describes how they are perceived in their specific ways of communicating:

"Olaf Scholz is the reasonable procrastinator who does not arrive; Annalena baerbock is the world traveler in matters of determination; Robert Habeck is the intellectual yoga teacher you want to trust.” … “At a time when outrage is understandably a political criterion, empathizers like Baerbock find it easier than philanderers like Scholz. When affect co-rules, "success" is constant, a very popular term, "to apply pressure." Then words are understood as deeds, and Tony Hofreiter becomes a nationally respected foreign policymaker.”

Kurt Kister

Kister refers to the "stimulus-response model" from behaviorist psychology, according to which important parts of the federal government's Ukraine policy have so far been based: "With every week of live mediated atrocities and crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine (external stimulus), the We -must-do-something-reactions have also become stronger in the Federal Republic (internal stimulus). The chain of reactions, each interrupted by ever stronger stimuli, was as follows: first condemnation and outrage, then refugee admission and financial support for Ukraine, then export of so-called defensive weapons, then so-called heavy weapons (first five to 50 older anti-aircraft tanks). The next step will probably be an energy embargo, first oil, then gas.”

Kister does not use the terms "hesitant" and "procrastinator" as a reproach or even as a demand on the Federal Chancellor. Rather, he names those facts that make Scholz carefully weigh up every further step: “In this model, the penultimate step would be for the West, including the Federal Republic, to participate in the war. Chancellor Scholz fears this just as much as the philosopher Habermas.” When describing the individual steps up to “participation in the war”, there is a crucial problem: “In the perception of Russia’s political and military leadership, the West, is NATO, are the USA have long been warring parties because they support Ukraine.” Habermas also addresses this problem:  "The West, which left no doubt about its factual participation in the war from the outset by imposing drastic sanctions, must therefore carefully weigh up with every further step of military support whether it is not also crossing the indefinite limit of the war, which depends on Putin's power of definition formal entry into the war.” 

Even reading this description of the chain of possible consequences of a decision is difficult. How difficult might the decision-making process in the traffic light government have been? Emotional outbursts and great emotions may have been of little help. All those who thought they had to describe Scholz as a "hesitant" and "procrastinator" should be given food for thought by the final sentence in Kister's reflection: “After the penultimate step, there is only one last step. That consists of either Russia giving in and a complete withdrawal (as long as Putin is in power, this is not so likely). Or in World War III.”

Kurt Kister wrote at the beginning of his reflection: "Can something better happen to a politician in Germany, let alone a Federal Chancellor, than from Jürgen Habermas to be defended?” This question can also be asked in a different way: “What goes wrong when the most important German thinker and philosopher has to defend the Federal Chancellor?”

The Ukraine conference on April 26.4.2022, 40 at the American Ramstein Air Force Base is likely to have played an important role in the deliberation process and on the way to the Chancellor’s decision on heavy weapons. At the invitation of the USA, decision-makers from more than XNUMX countries came together; it was mainly about further military aid. The group of participants went far beyond NATO; Traditionally neutral states such as Sweden and Finland were also represented, as well as Australia, Japan and the EU. The US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was able to announce in Ramstein that more than 30 governments have provided Ukraine with military aid worth a good 5 billion US dollars. 

At least two points will be remembered from the Ramstein conference:

  1. The US Defense Secretary's statement that the US would continue to move "heaven and earth" to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs. Plus Austin's cool-sounding statement: "Ukraine believes it can win the war, and everyone here is doing it."
  2. The message from the German Defense Minister Christine Lambert, in Berlin the day before - i.e. on April 25.4.2022th, XNUMX - it was decided that Germany would stop the delivery of Cheetah anti-aircraft tank will make possible. Via a ring exchange, Slovenia supplies Russian-made tanks that the Ukrainian military can easily service. In return, Slovenia will receive tanks from the Bundeswehr. Furthermore, Ukraine will be able to buy weapons from German armaments companies, which will then be paid for by Germany.

A few days later, Germany agreed to deliver self-propelled howitzers – as part of an overall package that includes training and ammunition, as well as possible contributions from other NATO partners (Heilbronn voice, May 7.5.2022, XNUMX: "Delivery of self-propelled howitzers confirmed"). The decision on the delivery of heavy weapons was thus officially settled; it wasn't the 'procrastinators and procrastinators' discussion. 

Had the Federal Chancellor taken too long to make this decision? Christine Lambert pointed out that it was not an easy decision for Germany to “have said goodbye to a decades-long practice of reluctance to export arms to war and crisis zones (information and quotations from a report by the Deutsche Welle, dw.com, April 26.4.2022, XNUMX: “Germany now wants to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine after all”). This was a further step in the "turning point" he follows; it was certainly tactically smart to announce the U-turn to the general public at the Ramstein conference.

Wartime Press Freedom Day

While this paper was being drafted, May 3.5.2022, XNUMX was the Press Freedom Day. In view of the suppression of free and independent media and the persecution of journalists in some countries – even in the EU there are “black sheep” when it comes to press freedom – the importance of free and independent media has rightly been pointed out in the comment columns of newspapers.

“There is no democracy without a free press. And there is no dictatorship with a free press,” wrote Jurgen Paul in der Heilbronner voice. "In a democratic constitutional state, the media, as the so-called fourth estate, ensure that the powerful are watched closely, that decisions become transparent, that corruption and abuse of power are made public and have consequences for those responsible" (Heilbronn voice, May 2.5.2022, XNUMX: “Democracy needs a free press”; comment by Jurgen Paul).

I want to supplement this description of the state and socio-political importance of free and independent media with the first commandment from the "Ten Commandments of Journalism in a Democratic Society" (Schwarzkopf's Decalogue), the occasion of the 160th anniversary of German school of journalism announced on June 29.6.2009, XNUMX in Munich:

"You should do that Self-image make your own what your legendary role models have acquired over the past decades in the assimilation of classic (US) American Anglo-Saxon professional principles: Journalism serves to inform responsible citizens that they can rely on the objectivity, reliability and fairness of journalists .”

Schwarzkopf's Decalogue, Munich, June 29.6.2009, XNUMX

A look at the reality of journalistic work: In the worldwide ranking of the state of freedom of the press and information, published by the journalists' organization Reporters Without Borders was compiled, Germany slipped three places to 16th place. The reason for this drop was not so much any "pressure from above" from government measures, such as in the EU member states of Hungary or Turkey. In Germany, the pressure on journalists comes “from below”, from parts of civil society. In 2016, 18 physical attacks on journalists were registered in Germany, in 2021 there were 80 incidents. “Reporters Without Borders” expects a high number of unreported cases. 

Journalist work, for example at Corona demos, can be dangerous. Two-thirds of the attacks were registered during demonstrations in the unconventional milieu alone. An unacceptable fact in a democracy where a free press is essential (sueddeutsche.de, May 3.5.2022, XNUMX: Violence against journalists increases"). Journalistic work in times of war is life-threatening. According to the Ukrainian Institute of Mass Information (IMI) Seven journalists have been killed, nine wounded and at least 15 missing since the Russian invasion (ver.di public, 3-2022: War dictates the rules"). 

Against this background, especially in times of war, is media criticism appropriate? I initially felt on thin ice when parts of the “hesitating and procrastinating discussion” appeared to me to be media hype, which was less about weighing up arguments and showing connections and possible consequences than about spreading them out of moods and emotions that were growing in public. Jürgen Habermas wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung by a shrill battle of opinions fueled by press voices about the type and scope of military aid for the beleaguered Ukraine. I took this Habermasian formulation as confirmation that a critical discussion about media power and media responsibility is also possible in the current wartime. Media criticism is not ranting for ranting's sake; not mere criticism of journalists who do not share my point of view. Constructive media criticism means measuring the work of journalists against the standards they have set themselves: "Journalism serves to inform responsible citizens who can rely on the objectivity, reliability and fairness of the journalist." Or: " You shall from society and politics Independency of journalism and this distance also against them spokesman of your profession and contribute to the fact that your editorial team does not see itself as a fortress of faith of individual directions" (Schwarzkopf's Decalogue; Munich, June 29.6.2009, XNUMX).

With Habermas and Putin's war leads Carsten Brosda, Senator for Culture and Mewdien gave his speech at the opening of the media dialogue on May 3rd and 4.5.2022th, XNUMX in Hamburg. An abridged version was published as a guest contribution in the Süddeutsche Zeitung veröffentlicht (sueddeutsche.de, May 3.5.2022, XNUMX: “We need to talk”; guest post by Carsten Brosda). For Brosda, too, the Habermas observation was obviously an invitation to think and debate - just as it was an important food for thought for me. Brosda is also disappointed with some reactions, especially on social media: 

“On Friday, Habermas published a deliberative article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung released. He tentatively tries to differentiate the dimensions of the German reaction to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Such an essay is an offer – to think along, to contradict, to debate and to become wiser together by talking about it. But what happened?

At least on social media, the philosopher's complex argument was boiled down to a 280-character response within hours, and the differentiation evaporated. What remained were deliberately created misunderstandings. This can only be explained by the fact that anger and polarization “click” better than trying to differentiate and understand things. The economy of digital media fundamentally narrows the democratic discourse here.”

Carsten Brosda

Brozda links this statement with that discussed in Brussels Digital Service Act, which the EU Commission is currently working on and clearly states what it should and should not look like: 

“If things go badly, this results in quasi-state media supervision at the European Commission, which threatens to make the regulatory framework that has been achieved through many compromises in the member states partially superfluous. ... Anger and indignation, friend/enemy thinking and the desire to escalate things more and more are not good advisors. Instead, we can tolerate things being complicated, ambiguous, and contradictory. That's why we don't need state-organized gatekeepers who check the correctness and truth beforehand, we need strong and free journalism." 

Carsten Brosda

Brozda quotes two old hands of journalism - Peter Glotz and Wolfgang R. Langenbucher, from their 1969 book "The disregarded reader”: “The public task of the journalist does not consist in the public announcement of his private sentiments, but rather in the care, promotion and promotion of social time communication.”

Coming to today's journalism choose Brozda a challenging headline: "If Russian journalists had these freedoms, would they use them like we do?" And coming back to the current challenges of today's journalism: 

“Unfortunately, journalism is sometimes carried away today, by the constraints of the media. When reporting takes place in 280-character panting, when Twitter escalation determines the line-up of talk shows and even the most neurotic polarization is jazzed up into a fundamental dispute, then democratic processes suddenly sound hollow. However, our society is dependent on journalists who do not turn the escalation screw, who do not become "mad as hell", but who keep a clear head in hellish times. Societal discourse advocates can make it possible to endure the cacophony of public statements. Precisely because we can trust that someone will put the fragments together into a mosaic and offer us sensible interpretations.”

Carsten Brosda

Can a new debate about media freedom and media responsibility ultimately emerge from everything I have compiled here, from the polyphonic and sometimes dubious discussion about the supply of heavy weapons, from the observations of Habermas, Kister and Brosda? It would be nice!

Instead of a final word, a glimpse into an uncertain future

I want to address Ukraine and the USA. Both countries are very far apart; their future could not be more different. And yet what will happen in Ukraine and the USA in the next few years will have a direct impact on the future of Europe and the European Union.

First to Ukraine: Will Putin pull the nuclear card? I can not answer this question. An expert with far greater experience and insight recently commented in the IPG Journal of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung detailed on this question. Helmut W Ganser, Former brigadier general, qualified psychologist and former deputy Head of the Military Policy Department in the Ministry of Defense and military policy adviser to the German Permanent Representative to NATO in Brussels wrote: "Effective support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression is legitimate under international law and politically necessary. However, it must not be unlimited. Because the Russian President has the real option of a nuclear escalation.”  The center of gravity of military support to Ukraine is clearly in Washington and not in the European capitals. It is primarily the extensive American inventory services that have a strategic effect on the course of the war. 

And just in view of this fact sees Cancer a dilemma for the European allies of the USA: “Against this background, the need for European coordination with the United States on the purpose and goal of all support measures and their risks for European security is growing. Ultimately, this war is about the fate of Europe. It follows that the European NATO partners must seek a co-creating role and not just leave the helm to Washington.” Cancer uses a graphic image to describe this situation: “On the front stage, Russia and Ukraine are at war. Backstage, where events are being directed, the dominant geopolitical level of the conflict becomes ever more apparent: the power struggle between Moscow and Washington.”

Cancer would like at least two clarification steps from the western alliance:

  • In a strategic discourse worthy of the name, the aim and purpose of the support (of Ukraine) must first be as clear as possible... In the opinion of Cancer to be specified.
  • A (long overdue) political debate about which future European security order to aim for. How to deal with the inevitable confrontation and instability with Russia in the coming years? How does NATO – which will be strengthened by Finland and Sweden – position itself in this context?

Writes specifically about Putin's nuclear threat Helmut W Ganser: “Of course, the aim of the Russian warnings is to create a deterrent effect on western states. to stir up fears among politicians and the population and to prevent the West from continuing to support the Ukrainian military. However, it would be audacious and irresponsible to belittle the credibility and determination of the Kremlin leadership with speculation or belief.” (In my view, the military expert provides a retrospective assessment of the "hesitant" and "procrastinator" discussion in Germany).

To prevent Putin from a nuclear escalation pleads Cancer not primarily for more weapons but for secret diplomacy: "To prevent this (the nuclear escalation), permanent, confidential strategic communication between Washington and Moscow at the level of the White House and the Kremlin and between both General Staffs is of the utmost importance. One can only hope that this communication will continue to function, for example during the Cuban Missile Crisis.” However, fears Cancer, "that Washington is gradually approaching the threshold at which the Kremlin will deploy some of its numerous tactical nuclear forces."

Coming back to the debates in Germany: “Against this background, the German debate on the delivery of comparatively less heavy weapons to Ukraine falls short. The decisive test question is to what extent German arms transfers today and tomorrow, in conjunction with the achievements of other states, contribute to Kiev's successful defensive struggle, without Moscow in reaction approaching fatal escalation decisions. ... Because at its core it is about responsible, rational navigation in a political and moral dilemma situation in which there are no clearly correct ways out of danger" (IPG Journal, 24.5.2022; Helmut W Ganser: "Apocalypse equals").  

I would like to add a question to this extraordinary analysis by the military expert: How is it possible to work through such complex connections in the context of a 60 or 90-minute talk show that was deliberately cast with controversially discussing people in order to keep the audience on the screen?

It is noteworthy that the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has to call for guns ever louder, to a similar conclusion as Helmut W Ganser comes. On May 21.5.2022, XNUMX, he declared on television that the war in Ukraine could ultimately only be ended through diplomacy. This is undoubtedly true; but when, how and with whom this will happen is completely open. It would be foolhardy to speculate. Putin has led his country into an impasse by invading Ukraine. He will have to make a significant contribution to ensuring that Russia does not degenerate into this impasse. But far-sightedness and a great deal of diplomatic skill are also required in the West. 

It was wise to keep the discussions that have been flaring up again and again in recent weeks about all sorts of mistakes in the West's Russia policy to date, especially Germany's, on the back burner. Whether the Ukrainian President deliberately tried to start such a discussion - for example by disinviting the Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and with reference to his policies as head of the chancellery and foreign minister - I can't judge. Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin followed up on April 12.4.2022, XNUMX when he told a German TV station that the Federal Chancellor should come to Kyiv instead of Steinmeier (Heilbronn voice, April 13.4.2022, XNUMX: "Steinmeier not wanted in Kyiv"; Heilbronn voice, April 13.4.2022, XNUMX: "Surprise coup failed"). Even before Steinmeier was unloaded Zelenskyj operates with the past: "I invite Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy to visit Bucha and see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years. You will see the tortured Ukrainians with your own eyes.” (zdf.de, April 4.4.2022, XNUMX: "Germany and France prevented NATO membership"). The SZ journalist Nico Fried later summarized what such an attempt to come to terms with the past would be about: "You (Merkel's) Contact with Putin was intensive, always open, often controversial. As head of government, she shares common ground with the French President Nicolas sarkosy denied Ukraine early accession to NATO. Along with Francois hollande and later Emmanuel Macron mediated in the Ukraine conflict since 2014 without being able to resolve it. She campaigned for the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 but refused arms deliveries to Ukraine. When will Merkel speak? Will she admit mistakes, defend her decision – or both?” (sueddeutsche.de, April 28.4.2022, XNUMX: "The silence of the former Chancellor").

I think it is right not to have this discussion of the past at the moment, during the hot phase of the war. Jürgen Habermas wrote in his guest post in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:  "The short memory of today's controversies will one day be decided by the judgment of historians". If the West wanted to have such a discussion at the moment – ​​parallel to all the other problems raised by the war – Putin could happily rub his hands in the Kremlin if the states that are now united against him suddenly gave each other theirs earlier decisions would bang around the ears: The West in self-occupation.

A catastrophe for Europe: Donald Trump back in the White House

A completely different development, over which the Europeans have little influence, could turn into a catastrophe for Europe and a liberating blow for Putin. I want to formulate it as a question: what if in November 2022 the Trump Republicans regained control of the US Congress and <br><br>Donald Trump Return to the White House as President in 2024? With Zelenskyj effect Trump Another chicken to pick. Wanted from him Trump Dirt against his opponent at the time Joe BidenHe has the hoped-for campaign ammunition Zelenskyj not delivered; rather, the affair led to the first impeachment proceedings against Trump. 

The resurgence Trumps and his party in the US would have direct implications for the EU. Leading Republican and conservative groups in the United States have maintained close ties for some time Viktor Orban and the Hungarian ruling party Fidesz. This collaboration, it seems to me, is going almost unnoticed by the general public in Europe. American conservatives celebrate Orban as a hero and role model. In August 2021 went Tucker Carlson, the chief ideologue of the conservative TV station Fox News from Budapest on the air, including an extensive appearance by Victor Orban. The message from Carlson to his American compatriots read: "If you care about Western civilization, democracy, traditional families, and you are outraged by the cruel attack of global institutions on all three, then Hungary should interest you." In the interview, Orban returned the praise: Trump's "America First" was received as a very positive message in Central Europe, because it increased the chances of a "Hungary first" policy (tagesschau.de, 7.8.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX: "How Fox News pays homage to Orban"). 

In mid-May 2022, the opening speaker at a major event was the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Budapest the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. He explained to his American friends how he defeated the "international liberal left". the New York Times reported on it with a guest contribution from the Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University, Kim Lane Scheppele, who captioned his post “What <br><br>Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis Are Learning About the Politics of Retribution” (nytimes.com, 24.5.2022-XNUMX-XNUMX). In free translation, this heading could read: “From Victor Orban learning means learning to win”. Scheppele writes that the rules of retribution are very simple: "Make your opponents pay and your friends prosper." Tucker Carlson put it this way in 2021: "One could learn from a small nation like the Hungarians what needs to be done to prevent the destruction of a country: Close borders, foreigners, especially those from other cultures, are undesirable, Christianity and a nuclear family as a social ideal" (tagesschau.de, 7.8.2021:  "How Fox News pays homage to Orban"). <br><br>Donald Trump Back in the White House in 2024? In the European Union he would have a strategic submarine by name Victor Orban".  

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