- Reiner BraunGerman peace activist and executive director of the International Peace Bureau.
Germany’s new coalition government is refusing to send lethal weapons to Ukraine but has offered to send over 5,000 combat helmets to protect Ukrainian soldiers in case of a Russian attack. The move has been ridiculed as the U.S. and other NATO countries continue to send military support to Ukraine. In response, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised his country will stay in tune with European Union and NATO policies toward Russia. To speak more about Germany’s stance toward Ukraine, we’re joined by German peace activist and executive director of the International Peace Bureau Reiner Braun, who calls on the European Union to establish a more “common politics with Russia” to prevent a war in Central Europe. He also says war in the region could result in use of nuclear weapons that would lead to “the end of Europe.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue look at voices for peace amidst the tensions over Ukraine as we go now to Germany, where the new coalition government has refused to send weapons to Ukraine, even as the United States and other European nations have sent military support. Germany also banned Estonia from supplying German-origin howitzer weapons to Ukraine. Germany did send Ukraine 5,000 combat helmets last week to help protect soldiers in case of an attack by Russia. Germany’s defense minister said the move was a signal to Ukraine that, quote, “We are on your side.” But the move was ridiculed by others calling for a stronger stance, sending active military weapons. This comes as the head of the German Navy resigned this month after he made comments that downplayed the crisis, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised his country is in tune with EU and NATO policies towards Russia, but insisted, quote, “We don’t provide any lethal weapons.” Scholz spoke earlier this month at the World Economic Forum.
CHANCELLOR OLAF SCHOLZ: The Russian side is aware of our determination. I hope they also realize that the gains of cooperation outweigh the price of further confrontation. This is the basis on which we are engaging, because we are strongly — we strongly believe that global public goods can only be preserved through international cooperation, and peace is the most important one of them.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re going to Berlin, Germany, to speak with Reiner Braun, the executive director of the International Peace Bureau. He is a German peace activist, an historian and author who has campaigned against the U.S. air base in Ramstein and against NATO. Also with us, in Belgium, where NATO is based, is Ludo De Brabander, spokesperson for a peace organization based in Belgium which works with the global coalition No to War — No to NATO, which organizes an annual NATO counter-summit.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Reiner Braun, let’s begin with you. You know, we’re looking now at a post-Angela Merkel Germany at this moment in time with this escalation of militarism in — towards Russia in regards to Ukraine. Talk about the German peace movement and where it stands right now, and what this new government is about, which is in coalition with the Greens.
REINER BRAUN: You know, the new German government has two parties, which are totally anti-Russian parties. These are the Greens and the liberals. And both are trying to push the German politics more against aggressive behavior to Russia. This includes no to the pipeline. This includes the stop of sending military equipment to Ukraine. This means more confrontation.
And the German peace movement is campaigning for peaceful relations to Russia, for a politics of common security, for negotiations and for fulfilling the obligations of the Minsk II agreement. For us, the Minsk II agreement — which first said we need a new constitution in Ukraine, which make the country much more federal; we need negotiations between the two parts of Ukraine; we need elections in the Ukraine; and then come also a new border control — is the key point for a peaceful solution of the conflict.
And the Ukraine government is doing the opposite of this. They’re always trying to put more troops, more weapons to the borders, more maneuvers, 2.5 billion of U.S. dollars in the support from the U.S., for this aggressive U.S. government. So, what is the peace movement doing is to looking for a policy of common security, for negotiations and for mobilizing the people for peace against a very intensive war-oriented media campaign in our country.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to ask you, Reiner Braun, in terms — you mentioned the Minsk II agreement. To what degree is that agreement basically a threat to the hegemony of the United States, seeing as it was Europe trying to solve its own problems?
REINER BRAUN: It was the try of Europe to solve the problem with a Normandy discussion forum, which includes Russia and the two parts of Ukraine and France and Germany, and which excludes the United States, because the United States has very specific aggressive interests in Ukraine and in opposite to a policy of common security and negotiations in Europe. Russia was always trying to negotiate with the Europeans. It is one of the biggest mistakes of the European countries to deny these negotiations and go to the support of the U.S. confrontational politics.
And we hope that with a movement of the people, we come again to a more inclusive European politics, which is continuing the politics of the OSCE of the period of the ’80s and the ’90s, where we have a common politics with Russia in many points, and this was a peaceful part of German and European history. And we have to come back to that, because the opposition is war in Central Europe. Can you imagine what a war in Central Europe, with the high-technology development of all this, means? This means the destroyment of Central Europe. And I cannot imagine that this war will be, in the end, working without nuclear weapons. And this means really the end of Europe. So, the key point is: Are we coming back to a more peaceful European politics, or are we coming together in supporting the U.S. confrontational politics to more aggressions and more war-oriented against Ukraine and against Russia?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the — there’s been much made of the Nord 2 pipeline, that has been completed but not yet certified for operation, in terms of the influence that that has on Germany. Could you talk about that in relationship to this crisis?
REINER BRAUN: You know, the pipeline is an open question. I have many ecological problems with these pipelines. But in reality, these pipelines saved the energy security for Europe, above all, in these times, where energy becomes much more expensive. We had 50 years relations of energy to Russia and to the former Soviet Union, and always Soviet Union or Russia was fulfilling all their obligations to provide good prices. So we need these pipelines as an element of cooperation in opposition to the confrontation.
Let me say one example for the confrontation. It is always said that the Russian troops are nearer to the border to Ukraine. They are 350 kilometers far away from the border to Ukraine. But the NATO troops, including German troops, including U.S., Canada and British troops, they are 150 kilometers far away from St. Petersburg, a historical city of Russia. Who is in aggression to whom, when you are looking to these faces? And again, NATO is spending $1.1 trillion for military purposes. Russia is spending $65 billion for military purposes. Can you imagine that the country whose military budget is one-fourteenth of the budget of the other will be the aggressor? These are stupid stories which only show that the aggression comes from the NATO.
AMY GOODMAN: Reiner Braun, if you could talk about the assessment that the U.S. analysts in the corporate media often give of this post-Merkel government: They’re just trying to get their feet on the ground; they’re very wishy-washy, but they’ll get it together, and finally they will join with United States; they’ve been very wishy-washy until this point? Would you assess them in that way, or would you say they’re taking a completely different approach because they don’t want to send active military weapons to or be involved with a real military incursion?
REINER BRAUN: You know, in reality, all these countries are a part of NATO. And the NATO enlargement is the background of the crisis and the aggressions of the Western countries to the East. So, there are differently differences between the U.S. and the European countries, but there are many common points. And one main common point is that they want to include the Ukraine in the Western system, on the European Union level and also on the NATO level. And these are geostrategic regions — geostrategic arguments and facts. Ukraine is a very important part in the whole Eurasia game. Who are the main influences in Eurasia? Brzezinski was writing, who has Ukraine under control is, on the one side, controlling the way between Europe and Asia, and, on the other side, is weakening Russia. And there’s a common interest of the U.S. and Europeans. That is to weaken Russia and not to accept the Russian military and the Russian national interest. And that is the background of this deep, deep crisis. So, there are differences, but there are also many common points between the U.S. and Europeans.