Putin's war clears away lies: Germany and Europe are becoming lonely

Before the summit of the EU and the G7 in Elmau, SPD leader Klingbeil presents ideas for the implementation of the turning point.

Putin's war clears away lies: Germany and Europe are becoming lonely

Before the summit of the EU and the G7 in Elmau, SPD leader Klingbeil presents ideas for the implementation of the turning point. Almost none of this is really new. Above all, it is about finally drawing conclusions from the realization that Europe is on its own in an uncertain world.

Rarely has a term been so meaningless and overused as Olaf Scholz's "Zeitenwende" introduced into public discourse on February 27th. The word had to be used to justify Germany borrowing a further 100 billion euros in addition to the already horrendous debts to deal with the corona and climate crisis in order to strengthen the Bundeswehr for national and alliance defense. Tenor: After Russia's war of conquest against a sovereign state, the rule-based state order as a guarantor of peace can no longer be relied on. But it's more like this: after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nobody could lie to themselves about how dangerous the multipolar world had become for Germany and its EU partners. If the "turn of the era" were to exhaust itself in this simple realization and the Bundeswehr billions: Germany's future would be in bad shape.

At a conference at the turn of the century, SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil presented his ideas as to what consequences Germany should draw from the supposedly only now changed situation. Klingbeil's considerations are largely guided by the realization that many countries are not following the US-European sanctions policy against Russia, but are adopting Russian narratives and blaming the West for the threatening hunger and economic crisis in the world. If Donald Trump were still US President at the moment, the EU, Great Britain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand would be almost alone in the war against Russia. And what is not, can be in two and a half years - if America votes again.

The assumption that an overwhelming majority of states would set out on the path to free democracy in the course of economic globalization was a mistake. Klingbeil hereby cleans up on behalf of his party. Other parties were a little further along. The continent of the former colonial empires is losing its influence on the rest of the world. That doesn't have to be bad, but in the competition between authoritarian and democratic states, it's not going so well at the moment.

It is understandable that the Europeans, with their lofty values, are met with a great deal of distrust in the Global South. Sometimes these morals served as a cheap pretext for otherwise motivated military interventions, and where these beliefs would have called for more commitment, the West held back out of self-interest. The foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan and Mali were primarily motivated by their own security interests. Many people outside Europe see an unbroken continuity with the former colonial powers, as long as they asserted their interests with force, until finally Europe and the USA were too exhausted for further adventures of this kind.

And now? Europe must position itself all the more politically, economically and militarily in such a way that it can pursue its interests on its own. These include: overcoming the climate crisis, restoring and maintaining a peacekeeping state order, and maintaining and promoting prosperity and social balance. To achieve these goals, Klingbeil introduces a few terms that are unfamiliar to the SPD: "interest", "leading power" and "military force as a legitimate means of politics". In truth, every federal government has pursued what it believed to be German interests; has tried to play among the first violins in the state orchestra and since 1999 has continuously deployed Bundeswehr soldiers abroad. But she rarely made herself honest.

Anyone who wants to fill the term "Zeitenwende" with substance must conduct a debate about what German interests are and how they are to be weighed against convictions. There is a lack of any line: The Federal Republic and the EU countries cooperate with numerous dictatorships and autocracies out of economic interests. On the way to climate change, dependencies will tend to increase in order to import fossil fuels for the transitional period, and large parts of the hydrogen required will tend to be produced in geographically more favorable regions of the world. Whoever has the Erdogans and Al-Sisis of this world as partners cannot constantly raise the moral index finger without losing credibility. A stringent line is urgently needed as to which states are acceptable as partners and which are not, and what compromises can be made, for example when dealing with China.

The situation is similar with Klingbeil's other terms: never advancing without risk and aligning political positions with foreseeable majorities, as Germany has done for a long time, particularly in its European policy, will no longer suffice. For Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is definitely modeled on his predecessor Angela Merkel, the "leading power" demanded by Klingbeil poses a challenge: so far he has shown little willingness to do so. At the summit of the EU Council and heads of government and at the subsequent G7 summit in Elmau, he will be able to show whether he wants to and can set a new tone and set the agenda. The chancellor is not lacking in self-confidence.

And then there is the military component: Klingbeil wants to give the Bundeswehr "respect and recognition" again. There is no need for flag appeals or patriotic stickers on vehicles. But one approach is to bring the Bundeswehr more into the public eye and to equip and structure it in such a way that it becomes an attractive employer. It's not new, but it hasn't been consistently implemented. And it must be stated why the people in Germany need their Bundeswehr: Not to establish democracies in states where the social prerequisites are not in place. Germany needs the Bundeswehr to secure a peace in Europe that is more threatened than it has been in decades - while the US is no longer reliably there to do it for us.

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