Imagine a letter co-signed by former presidents, former representatives from both sides of the aisle, House speakers, former governors, attorneys general, cabinet members, ambassadors, CEOs, movie stars and directors, writers, astronauts, religious leaders, mayors, academics, mainstream media correspondents, and more — all united in stating “Nobody wants war.” Imagine the New York Times publishing this letter. The equivalent happened in Germany just a few days ago.
On December 5, the renowned weekly newspaper Die Zeit published the letter “Another War in Europe? Not in our name!” The more than 60 personalities from politics, business, culture and media certainly do not sound like the typical voices for peace, and indeed they are not. Nevertheless they came together to demand de-escalatory politics between the United States and the European Union, on one side, and Russia. They appeal to the German federal government, its representatives and the media to assume their responsibility for peace in Europe. The desire for a world without war is one shared far beyond the peace movement choir.
Such a letter might have been written in the United States in the 1920s or 1930s. Is it imaginable today? Should we ask ourselves why not? Here is the German letter and the names of its signers:
Nobody wants war. But North America, the European Union and Russia are inevitably drifting towards war if they do not finally halt the disastrous spiral of threat and counter-threat. All Europeans, Russia included, jointly hold responsibility for peace and security. Only those who do not lose sight of this goal are avoiding irrational turns.
The Ukraine-conflict shows that the addiction to power and domination has not been overcome. In 1990 at the end of the Cold War, we were all hoping for that. But the successes of the policy of detente and the peaceful revolutions have made us sleepy and careless, in the East and the West alike. For US-Americans, Europeans and Russians the guiding principle to banish war permanently from their relations has been lost. Otherwise, the perceived threatening of Russia with expansion of the West to the East, without simultaneously deepening cooperation with Moscow, as well as the illegal annexation of the Crimea by Putin, cannot be explained.
In this moment of great danger for the continent, Germany has a special responsibility for the maintenance of peace. Without the will for reconciliation from the Russian people, without the foresight of Mikhail Gorbachev, without the support of our Western allies and without the prudent action by the then Federal Government, the division of Europe would not have been overcome. To allow German unification to peacefully evolve was a great gesture, shaped by reason from the victorious powers. It was a decision of historic proportions.
From overcoming the division in Europe a solid European peace and security order from Vancouver to Vladivostok should have developed, as it had been agreed to by all 35 Heads of State and Government of the CSCE Member States in November 1990 in the “Charter of Paris for a New Europe.” On the basis of agreed established principles and through first concrete measures a “Common European Home” was supposed to be established, in which all the States concerned should have equal security. This post-war policy goal has to this day not been redeemed. The people of Europe have to live again in fear.
We, the undersigned, appeal to the federal government of Germany to assume its responsibility for peace in Europe. We need a new policy of détente in Europe. This is only possible on the basis of equal security for all with equal and mutually respected partners. The German government is not following a “unique German path”, if they continue to call, in this stalemated situation, for calm and dialogue with Russia. The Russians’ security requirements are as legitimate and just as important as those of the Germans, the Poles, the Baltic States and Ukraine.
We should not look to push Russia out of Europe. That would be unhistorical, unreasonable and dangerous for peace. Ever since the Congress of Vienna in 1814 Russia has been recognized as one of the global players in Europe. All who have tried to violently change that have failed bloodily – the last time it was the megalomaniac Hitler’s Germany that set about a murderous campaign to conquer Russia in 1941.
We call upon the Members of the German Bundestag, delegated by the people to deal appropriately with the seriousness of the situation, to attentively preside over the peace obligation of their government. He who props up a bogeyman ascribing blame to one side alone, exacerbates tensions at a time when the signals should call for de-escalation. Inclusion instead of exclusion should be the leitmotif for German politicians.
We appeal to the media to comply with their obligations for nonbiased reporting, more convincingly than they have thus far done. Editorialists and commentators demonize whole nations, without crediting their history. Every able foreign policy journalist will understand the fear of the Russians, since NATO members in 2008 invited Georgia and Ukraine to become members of the alliance. It’s not about Putin. State leaders come and go. What is at stake is Europe. It’s about taking away the people’s fear of war. Towards this purpose, a responsible media coverage based on solid research can help a lot.
On October 3, 1990, on the Day to Commemorate German Reunification, German President Richard von Weizsäcker said: “The Cold War is overcome; freedom and democracy will soon be put in place in all countries … Now they can conduct their relationships within a compact and secure institutional framework, from which a common life and peace order can arise. For the people of Europe a completely new chapter in their history begins. The goal is a Pan-European project. This is a huge challenge. We can archive it, but we can also fail. We face the clear alternative to unite Europe, or in line with painful historical examples, to fall back again into nationalist conflicts in Europe.”
Until the Ukraine conflict we thought we here in Europe were on the right track. Today, a quarter of a century later, Richard von Weizsäcker’s words are more relevant than ever.
Mario Adorf, Actor
Robert Antretter (Former Member of German Parliament)
Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bergmann (Vice-President Alma Mater Europaea)
Luitpold Prinz von Bayern (Königliche Holding und Lizenz KG)
Achim von Borries (Regisseur und Drehbuchautor)
Klaus Maria Brandauer (Schauspieler, Regisseur)
Dr. Eckhard Cordes (Chair of Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft)
Prof. Dr. Herta Däubler-Gmelin (Former Federal Minister of Justice)
Eberhard Diepgen (Former Mayor of Berlin)
Dr. Klaus von Dohnanyi (First Mayor der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg)
Alexander van Dülmen (Vorstand A-Company Filmed Entertainment AG)
Stefan Dürr (Geschäftsführender Gesellschafter und CEO Ekosem-Agrar GmbH)
Dr. Erhard Eppler ( Former Federal Minister for Development)
Prof. Dr. Dr. Heino Falcke (Propst i.R.)
Prof. Hans-Joachim Frey (Vorstandsvorsitzender Semper Opernball Dresden)
Pater Anselm Grün (Pater)
Sibylle Havemann (Berlin)
Dr. Roman Herzog (Former President of Federal Republic Germany)
Christoph Hein (author)
Dr. Dr. h.c. Burkhard Hirsch (Former Vice-President of Federal Parliament)
Volker Hörner (Akademiedirektor i.R.)
Josef Jacobi (Biobauer)
Dr. Sigmund Jähn (Former Astronaut)
Uli Jörges (Journalist)
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Margot Käßmann (ehemalige EKD Ratsvorsitzende und Bischöfin)
Dr. Andrea von Knoop (Moskau)
Prof. Dr. Gabriele Krone-Schmalz (Former Correspondent ARD in Moskau)
Friedrich Küppersbusch (Journalist)
Vera Gräfin von Lehndorff (artist)
Irina Liebmann (author)
Dr. h.c. Lothar de Maizière (Former Minister-President)
Stephan Märki (Intendant des Theaters Bern)
Prof. Dr. Klaus Mangold (Chairman Mangold Consulting GmbH)
Reinhard und Hella Mey (Liedermacher)
Ruth Misselwitz (evangelische Pfarrerin Pankow)
Klaus Prömpers (Journalist)
Prof. Dr. Konrad Raiser (eh. Generalsekretär des Ökumenischen Weltrates der Kirchen)
Jim Rakete (Fotograf)
Gerhard Rein (Journalist)
Michael Röskau (Ministerialdirigent a.D.)
Eugen Ruge (Schriftsteller)
Dr. h.c. Otto Schily (Former Federal Minister of the Interior)
Dr. h.c. Friedrich Schorlemmer (ev. Theologe, Bürgerrechtler)
Georg Schramm (Kabarettist)
Gerhard Schröder (Former Head of Government, Bundeskanzler a.D.)
Philipp von Schulthess (Schauspieler)
Ingo Schulze (author)
Hanna Schygulla (actor, singer)
Dr. Dieter Spöri (Former Federal Minister of Economy)
Prof. Dr. Fulbert Steffensky (kath. Theologe)
Dr. Wolf-D. Stelzner (geschäftsführender Gesellschafter: WDS-Institut für Analysen in Kulturen mbH)
Dr. Manfred Stolpe (Former Minister-President)
Dr. Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz (Former Ambassador)
Prof. Dr. Walther Stützle (Staatssekretär der Verteidigung a.D.)
Prof. Dr. Christian R. Supthut (Vorstandsmitglied a.D. )
Prof. Dr. h.c. Horst Teltschik (Former Chancellor advisor for Security and Foreign Policy)
Andres Veiel (Regisseur)
Dr. Hans-Jochen Vogel (Former Federal Minister of Justice)
Dr. Antje Vollmer (Former Vice President of the Bunderstag)
Bärbel Wartenberg-Potter (Bischöfin Lübeck a.D.)
Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker (scientist)
Wim Wenders (Regisseur)
Hans-Eckardt Wenzel (songwriter)
Gerhard Wolf (Schriftsteller, Verleger)