On June 19, an expert hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag on the “National Security Strategy” was held. One of the invited experts was Reiner Braun, long-time president of the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and former executive director of IALANA (International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms). The following text is his opening speech.
Cross-posted from Other News
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The (German) National Security Strategy is the opposite of what it claims to be. It is an insecurity strategy. Despite conciliatory sounding language, the content is confrontation, military intervention, rearmament and deterrence. Set pieces put together do not make a logically consistent strategy but are nothing more than old wine in a new bottle.
Security in the 21st century means above all peace policy and the development of diplomatic solutions to the 55 conflicts that dominate the world and cost the lives of thousands of people every day, cause hundreds of thousands of refugees, and permanently destroy nature and societies permanently.
Security in the nuclear age is not achieved through military measures, the militarisation of politics and society, by deterrence, but only through a consistent peace policy and disarmament. The present considerations on the national security strategy are exactly the opposite and will lead to a further intensification of conflicts and wars with active German participation.
The basis of a security policy that creates security for people and the environment can only be an active peace policy that takes seriously the Basic Law’s (the German Constitution) mandate for active peacebuilding. International law and the UN Charter should be taken seriously and not to use it instrumentally would be part of such a peace policy.
The basis for this can only be a policy of common security as presented by John F. Kennedy in his speech in Washington in June 1963, and by Willy Brandt, Egon Bahr, and also Walter Scheel with the German social-liberal government’s policy toward the East and its political as well as philosophical expression in the Olof-Palme-Report of 1982 and its continuation in the Olof Palme Report “Our Shared Future” in April 2022. The central sentence in the report, henceforth called the Palme Report, reads: “Both sides must achieve security, not from the adversary, but together with him.”
For, according to Egon Bahr, a nuclear war would be the end of all things. This is the decisive difference in quality that must be considered today. In other words: rearmament, disarmament and deterrence must be replaced by disarmament and common security. This statement is valid in view of the escalation dynamics that have arisen, for example, in the Ukraine war or the conflict regions around Taiwan or the China Sea. This statement applies even more today.
We need a new offensive debate on Common Security, especially in view of the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which is contrary to international law.
In 1968, after the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops led by the Soviet Union, the then Federal Foreign Minister Willy Brandt made a statement in the German Bundestag that the German government would continue to pursue the “policy of an outstretched hand” toward the Soviet Union. He stated, the reduction of tensions required “without illusions, to make an honest attempt to to prevent the great war.” This remains true today.
According to Egon Bahr, common security is the necessary Einsteinian thinking in the nuclear age. Albert Einstein said: “The atomic bomb has changed the world, but not the thinking of the people.” This finding holds true today in a time of fundamental geopolitical upheaval. In fact, however, it is difficult to change thinking, as the run-up to the Ukraine war shows. It is well known that conceivable nuclear destruction requires a new dimension of responsibility, but actual behavior remains in old traditions of thought. It is linked to first-strike considerations, surprise attack, the waging of wars, i.e., with the insane belief of winning a war.
At a time when interdependencies, be they social, environmental, economic, or political, are becoming ever closer and the world, which has grown together, is essentially on reciprocity, such a mindset can become a precursor to one’s own destruction. Peace and security policy, also with Russia and China must therefore be based on a new way of thinking, as the Palme Report and its 2022 update suggest. At that time, Palme was not alone with his ideas.
In the 1980s, the three independent commissions tried to describe politics in the global world. First was the North-South Commission headed by Willy Brandt with its report on a “Common Survival”, then the Palme Report, and finally the Brundtland Commission’s report “Our Common Future,” which addressed the issues of environment and development in the economy and society.
These three reports must be seen in their context. Only then do they develop their full force of a vision for a better, more just and peaceful world. Wouldn’t an update of these reports be the challenge for the national security strategy at a time of tectonic international geopolitical shifts?
The world stands at a crossroads. It faces a choice between an existence based on competition and aggression, or an existence based on a transformative peace agenda and shared security. Humanity is faced with the existential threats of nuclear war, climate change, and pandemics. Add to this a toxic mix of inequality, extremism, nationalism, gender-based violence, and shrinking democratic space for action.
Olof Palme’s core idea remains valid that nations and populations can only feel secure if their opposite nations and populations also feel secure. The national security strategy is to be developed at a time when new major challenges exist that threaten humanity, even making its self-destruction possible. This must be the time when a value-oriented policy provides new answers.
We are at times of fundamental upheavals in which the international structures and mechanisms that brought us stability and security in the past appear less and less to work. We have now two options: One option is a relapse into an aggressive nationalism, and the other is a vision of a new design. This was also the case in the 1930s after the unresolved causes and consequences of the First World War, led to fascism and the Greater German ideology. In the USA, on the other hand, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal led to the welfare state. These were the two poles that subsequently determined world events. The decisive factors are both the political culture in society and the will to shape politics. This is what matters today as well.
It is therefore worrying that in our country, too, public debate is very limited. It is increasingly focused on the here and now, on short term strategies and on military responses to global challenges. Politics, however, requires recognizing interrelationships and also historical context and to develop future-oriented responses in a rapidly changing world. Militarisation is not the answer.
What is needed – as the Palme reports also say – is a world domestic policy that goes far beyond questions of military security. This includes the unresolved climate question, which in turn is also leading to a massive deterioration in international relations. It is no coincidence that there is talk of the danger of a climate war because the weather extremes will, if the rudder is not turned quickly, trigger bitter distribution battles. A real security strategy therefore also requires a social and ecological world domestic policy – requires peace logic, to use a term that was once central to peace and conflict research.
Following the basic ideas of a policy of common security, the following requirements must be formulated today:
1. Strengthening the global architecture of peace: from the resumption of the talks on arms control and disarmament to the strengthening of existing and establishing new regional alliances for peace and security such as the OSCE. This also includes Germany’s and Europe’s own initiatives on ceasefire and negotiations to end the Ukraine war.
2. Disarmament and development: convening a special UN General Assembly on peace issues: (i) disarmament in favor of a peace dividend, (ii) strengthening of international law for disarmament and (iii) arms control and against arms exports.
3. Revitalization of nuclear arms control and disarmament: (i) Re-establish and strengthen the INF Treaty for land-based weapons systems, (ii) sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), (iii) the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones and (iv) political initiatives for the entry into force of the global test ban treaty.
4. Control and limitation of new military technologies and space weapons: (i) prohibition of cyber-attacks on nuclear control centers, (ii) prohibition of autonomous weapons systems and (iii) the limitation of hypersonic missiles.
This debate must not be conducted only among politicians and military leaders; it is above all a challenge to societies.
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