Anti-War Voices Gaining Ground in Germany

An online petition against Western escalation of the war in Ukraine, that quickly gathered over a quarter of a million signatures last week, has helped shift the balance in the public debate in Germany against the war party. Signed by 28 senior intellectuals and artists, the open letter to Chancellor Scholz warns an uncontrolled spiral toward nuclear war.

The main initator is Alice Schwarzer, the publisher of the leading feminist magazine Emma, who explained on May 1 in the Bild talk show “The Right Questions” : “For the first time in my life, I am seriously convinced of the danger of a new world war.” If the Russian leadership describes the danger of a conflict waged with nuclear weapons as very concrete, “then we simply have to take that seriously and weigh it very carefully.”

The open letter instantly set off a vicious spate of attacks, but rather than withdrawing, the initiators decided to strike back forcefully. Schwarzer accused her critics of “driving your tank at top speed into a catastrophe!”. Peter Weibel, an Austrian art manager and co-initiator of the Open Letter, reiterated the warning against a nuclear war, adding that “The chapter on the eastward expansion of NATO is the crucial point in my eyes”. It has been proven time and again, he said, that promises were given to Gorbatchov at the time of the German reunification, that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO.

Other signers like cabaret artist Dieter Nuhr, university professor Ulrike Guerot and book author Juli Zeh, also hit back at those leading the witch hunt, with Zeh warning that, at this point, Putin alone no longer controls the dynamic of developments, that the West has to contribute substantially to deescalate. As a result of the broad public attention which this open letter received, it also became clear that many Social Democrats (which most of the letter signers are oriented to) are profoundly discontent with the anti-Russian policy of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. That may have contributed to the huge defeat of the party (losing 40% of the votes) in the Schleswig-Holstein parliamentary elections on May 8.

Very significant is the intervention of General (ret.) Harald Kujat, the former inspector-general of the German armed forces which is the post of the highest military in the country. In in an interview with the May issue of Cicero, he states bluntly that “the main actors in this war are not Ukraine and Russia, but Russia and the United States. The United States has changed the focus of its strategy: the focus is no longer to protect and assist Ukraine in its defensive struggle against Russia’s attack, which is contrary to international law, but to weaken Russia as a geopolitical rival in the long term.” He recalled that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had stated in late April during a visit to Kiev that the United States “wants to see Russia weakened to the point where it can no longer do the things it did when it invaded Ukraine.” He called on Germany and France, in particular, to attempt to “persuade the U.S. government to reach a negotiated settlement”.

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