Ukraine War: Debate about Wagenknecht-Schwarzer Petition |


As of: February 14, 2023 1:32 p.m

Sahra Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer have started a petition calling for peace negotiations. Russia is not at all interested in this, say experts.

Pascal Siggelkow, SWR

“Manifesto for Peace” – that’s the name of a petition launched on Friday by Left Party politician Sahra Wagenknecht and journalist Alice Schwarzer, which is causing ongoing discussions. In it they call on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to “stop the escalation of arms deliveries.” Instead, he should “lead a strong alliance at the German and European level for a ceasefire and peace negotiations.” At the latest if the Ukrainian armed forces attack Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin will resort to “a maximum counterattack.”

The petition has so far had more than 360,000 supporters, including some prominent names such as the theologian Margot Käßmann, actress Jutta Speidel and the former military policy advisor to ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erich Vad. A rally is planned in Berlin for February 25th.

Petition is a fallacy

The petition’s statements suggest that the best way to help Ukraine is to stop arms exports and advocate for peace negotiations.

That is a fallacy, says Michael Zinkanell, future director of the Austria Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES). Because it was not the arms deliveries that continued the war, but rather Russia, which attacked Ukraine. “Russia could end the war at any time – an option that Ukraine, as a defending country, does not have.”

The support of the West has ensured that Ukraine has been able to defend itself so successfully against the Russian attackers, says Zinkanell. With a cessation of arms deliveries and the resulting reduced defense options for Ukraine, it is possible that Russia would resume the original war goal of conquering Kiev. “Probably no one wants peace more than the Ukrainian people. However, there are currently no signs that Russia is interested in negotiations at all.”

weapons shipments and negotiations are not mutually exclusive

Julia Smirnova, senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Germany (ISD), also agrees. The authors would present a complex security policy situation in a distorted and simplified manner. “They ignore the fact that Russia bears primary responsibility for the war and the suffering of the people of Ukraine.”

According to Smirnova, arms deliveries and preparations for future negotiations are not mutually exclusive. By opposing military aid to Ukraine to possible peace negotiations, the petition plays into the hands of Russian propaganda.

It’s about undermining support for Ukraine in the West. The Western sanctions against Russia and the arms deliveries to Ukraine would be presented as a risk for the German population. “These narratives are based on pacifist attitudes and play on the population’s fears of an economic crisis or nuclear war,” says Smirnova. A Eurobarometer survey shows, however, “that 74% of the EU population approves of the EU’s support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.”

of Russia credibility doubtful

Russia would first have to make some form of concession to prove its own credibility, says Zinkanell. After all, the Kremlin had given no reason to trust him in the past. “Before the invasion, Russia claimed they were not planning an attack,” Zinkanell said. “Ceasefires announced during the course of the war, most recently at the beginning of January, were also not adhered to.” In addition, the Russian atrocities in the occupied Ukrainian territories showed that an end to hostilities would not automatically mean peace for the Ukrainian population.

Zinkanell believes that the scenario of German ground troops in Ukraine suggested in the petition is almost impossible. The petition literally states: “The German Chancellor still assures that he does not want to send fighter jets or ‘ground troops’. But how many ‘red lines’ have already been crossed in the last few months?”

Only in the case of a UN mandate as part of a peace mission could Europe send soldiers into the war zone – although in this case it would need Russia’s consent in the Security Council, which would be unthinkable under the current circumstances, said Zinkanell.

Nuclear threats as a Russian strategy

By suggesting that a nuclear strike by Russia would become inevitable if the West continued to cross “red lines” and support Ukraine, the authors would repeat and legitimize Russian threats to use nuclear weapons, says Sara Bundtzen, research and policy analyst at ISD.

The manifesto states: “It is to be feared that Putin will launch a maximum counterattack at the latest when he attacks Crimea. Will we then be heading inexorably on a slide towards world war and nuclear war?”

“Nuclear threats are part of Russia’s deterrence policy and have been used strategically by the Russian leadership since the beginning of the war to stoke fears and deter the West from supporting Ukraine in its right to self-defense,” says Bundtzen. In this context, the authors would take up the Russian narrative of an allegedly impending world war.

Negotiations with Western support more likely

Overall, the petition ignores numerous facts. “In particular, Russia has consistently escalated the war in recent months with attacks on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure, the declared annexation of Ukrainian territories and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of soldiers,” explains Bundtzen.

In Zinkanell’s view, Western support, contrary to the petition, may even make peace negotiations one day more likely. The past has shown that negotiations are often only an option for warring parties when the prospect of military success is low. This in turn can only be achieved if Ukraine continues to successfully stand up to Russia.

Russia shows no interest in negotiations

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev, also contradicted the petition: Whether negotiations take place between the two countries depends on Russia and Putin – not, as suggested in the petition, on Ukraine’s armed resistance. “We have no sign that Russia is in any way interested in achieving peace,” Makeiev said. Instead, the country’s political leadership wants “Ukraine to no longer exist as a country.”

On Russian state television, radio presenter Sergei Mardan says: “There is only one peace formula for Ukraine. The destruction of Ukraine as a state!”

ARD-Russia correspondent Ina Ruck writes on Twitter that statements like this are made countless times in Russia. In Germany, on the other hand, talk shows sometimes paint completely different pictures of Russia.

The political scientist Johannes Varwick, the first signatory of the petition, expressed the opinion on talk shows that Russia was sitting in the corner, that “kicking again” was the wrong approach – and that Ukraine was “lost anyway.”

Support from the far right

Many actors from the right-wing and conspiracy ideological milieu also share Russia-friendly positions with Wagenknecht and Schwarzer. Well-known pro-Russian disinformation channels and the Russian state broadcaster RT share the petition and call for demos. AfD co-chair Tino Chrupalla also promoted the petition on Twitter, as did the right-wing extremist “Compact” magazine.

Its editor-in-chief Jürgen Elsässer likes the call “extremely”: It’s good that “the two women are really hitting it hard” because the government is driving the “lemmings” to the brink, as he says in a video. Many of the original signatories are known and important people have gathered. However, according to Elsässer, Wagenknecht and Schwarzer “didn’t include anything that smelled patriotic in the list of initial signatories.”

Wagenknecht doesn’t seem to welcome the support of right-wing extremists and tells “Spiegel”: “With the selection of our initial signatories, we made it clear who we work with and from whom we hope for support – and from whom we don’t.”

This is Schwarzer’s second initiative

In the past, Wagenknecht has repeatedly attracted attention with pro-Kremlin statements. In a speech in the Bundestag, she accused the federal government of “launching an economic war” against Russia and called for an end to the sanctions imposed against Russia because of the war in Ukraine. In a tweet she wrote that the Greens were no longer interested in climate protection and that instead a “crazy war against Russia” was their priority.

Schwarzer has also sparked heated discussions with her views on the Ukraine war. In April 2022, she and 27 other celebrities wrote an open letter to Chancellor Scholz in which they warned of a third world war and called on Scholz not to deliver any more heavy weapons to Ukraine “either directly or indirectly”.

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