Get out of the escalation spiral! For a new beginning in the relation with Russia (December 5th, 2021)
It is with the greatest concern that we are observing the escalation in the relation with Russia, which is once again intensifying. We are threatened with a situation in which war is possible. Nobody can benefit from this situation, and it is neither in our nor in Russia’s interest. We must therefore do everything now to break the spiral of escalation. The aim must be to lead Russia and NATO out of a confrontational course again. What is needed is a credible policy on Russia by NATO and the EU that is not naive or placid in good faith, but rather interest-driven and consistent. What is needed now is a sober realpolitik. One thing is certain: Russia’s threatening gestures towards Ukraine and the gesture towards NATO states in exercises and in particular through activities of the nuclear forces are unacceptable. Nevertheless, indignation and formulaic condemnations do not get us any further. A policy based unilaterally on confrontation and deterrence is unsuccessful; Economic pressure and the tightening of sanctions have – as the experience of recent years shows – been unable to persuade Russia to turn back. Rather, Russia sees itself challenged by Western politics and seeks to be recognized as a great power on par with the USA through aggressive behavior and to preserve its sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space. This increases the dangers for the Russian economy (exclusion from the SWIFT system) and a destabilization of the security situation, especially in Europe.
All of this must not be understood on the part of the West as an excuse for inactive or for the acceptance of the escalation intensification. NATO should actively approach Russia and work towards de-escalating the situation. For this purpose, a meeting without preconditions at the highest level should not be ruled out. We basically need a four-fold political approach:
First: a high-level conference, on the basis of the continued validity of the Helsinki Final Act 1975, the Charter of Paris 1990 and the Budapest Accord of 1994, but without preconditions and in different formats and at different levels, on the objective of revitalizing the European security architecture advises.
Second: As long as this conference is in session – and a period of at least two years would realistically be set for this – there should be no military escalation on either side. It should be agreed that there should be no deployment of additional troops and the establishment of infrastructure on both sides of the border of the Russian Federation with its western neighbors, as well as full mutual transparency in military maneuvers. In addition, technical dialogues at the military level must be revitalized in order to minimize risks.
Third: the NATO-Russia dialogue should be revived politically and militarily without any conditions. This also includes a new approach to European arms control. After the elimination of essential agreements for the security of Europe (INF Treaty, CFE Treaty, Treaty on Open Skies), in view of the Russian troop concentrations on the border with Ukraine, it is urgent to take targeted measures to create more transparency and to promote trust by reinforcement of contacts at political and military levels as well as to stabilize regional conflict situations.
Fourth: Despite the current situation, there should be more far-reaching economic cooperation offers. The decline in the importance of fossil fuels, on the export of which the Russian economy is heavily dependent, harbors the danger of growing economic risks for Russia, which in turn could lead to political instability. Economic cooperation could make an important contribution to European stability and also be an incentive for Russia to return to a cooperative policy towards the West.
Win-win situations must therefore be created to overcome the current blockade. This includes recognizing the security interests of both sides. With this in mind, a freeze should be agreed for the duration of the conference on questions of future membership in NATO, EU and CSTO. This would not mean a waiver of the requirement of fundamental standards agreed in the OSCE.
That may not be easy for many and it may not correspond to pure teaching. But every alternative is significantly worse. Germany has a key role to play here. Germany should refrain from anything that could weaken its firm anchoring in the transatlantic alliance, should work towards de-escalation and press for agreements that exclude the use of military means in Europe beyond the alliance’s defense. This should not be misunderstood as an invitation to Russia to change the territorial status quo in Europe, but there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis that does not lead to an uncontrollable escalation.
Ambassador (ret.) Ulrich Brandenburg, German Ambassador to NATO (2007-2010) and Russia (2010-2014); Prof. Dr. Michael Brzoska, Director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (2006-2016); Brigadier General Ret. Helmut Ganser, Department Head Military Policy at the German NATO Mission in Brussels (2004-2008); Ambassador (ret.) . Hans-Dieter Heumann, President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy (2011-2015); Ambassador ret. Hellmut Hoffmann, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Geneva Disarmament Conference (2009-2013); Prof. Dr. Jörn Happel, Helmut Schmidt University of the Federal Armed Forces, Hamburg; Ambassador ret. Heiner Horsten, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the OSCE in Vienna (2008-2012); Prof. Dr. Heinz-Gerhard Justenhoven, director of the Institute for Theology and Peace; Stephan Klaus, spokesman for the young GSP; Lieutenant General ret. Dr. Ulf von Krause, Commander of the Armed Forces Support Command of the German Armed Forces (2001-2005); Ambassador ret. Rüdiger Lüdeking, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany to the OSCE in Vienna (2012-2015); Prof. Dr. Gerhard Mangott, University of Innsbruck; General ret. Klaus Naumann, Inspector General of the Bundeswehr (1991-1996) and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee (1996-1999); Roger Näbig, Blog Conflicts and Security; Prof. Dr. Götz Neuneck, Deputy Scientific Director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (2009-2019); Jessica Nies, spokesperson for the Young GSP; Colonel ret. Harry Preetz, State Chairman Area I of the Society for Security Policy; Colonel et. Richard Rohde, Head of the Bonn Section of the Society for Security Policy; Brigadier General ret. D. Reiner Schwalb, Defense Attaché at the German Embassy in Moscow (2011-2018); Prof. Dr. Michael Staack, Helmut Schmidt University of the Federal Armed Forces, Hamburg; Brigadier General Ret. D. Armin Staigis, Vice President of the Federal Academy for Security Policy (2013-1015); Prof. Dr. Johannes Varwick, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg; Dr. Wolfgang Zellner, Deputy Scientific Director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (2009-2019).
ViSdP: Johannes Varwick, Herderstr. 15., 10625 Berlin; firstname.lastname@example.org