In June, a group of German intellectuals, creative artists and publicists published the call “Armistice now!” – including Juli Zeh and Richard David Precht. Now 96 Eastern Europe experts are demanding worldwide: Deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine! Now! Read her open letter exclusively on FOCUS Online.
In June 2022, a group of well-known German professors, cultural workers, journalists and an ex-diplomat first published in “DIE ZEIT” and later in “ZEIT ONLINE” a well-sounding text about a ceasefire in Ukraine. The concerned celebrities do not fail to brand Russia in general and its President Vladimir Putin in particular. However, they seem to think that a peace agreement with Moscow is unproblematic. These figures of thought are not unusual in Germany.
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The piquant thing about the collective call for negotiations between Ukraine and Russia is that no signatory had previously been conspicuous by having dealt with Russian-Ukrainian relations in depth. It can be assumed that none of the signatories understands Ukrainian. One wonders how many of the callers are proficient in Russian and to what extent. This repeats the pattern of the famous “Open Letter to Chancellor Scholz” from 28 intellectuals and artists who are not very familiar with Eastern Europe in the magazine “EMMA” of April 29, 2022.
It is only to be welcomed if journalists and academics outside of Eastern Europe studies also speak out publicly about the region. Since the call is about a war between Ukraine and Russia, the complete absence of researchers on Ukrainian and/or Russian politics, the army, history and culture is surprising.
Why are there a number of professors at the forefront here, but no prominent Eastern European historians, Russian researchers or Ukrainianists? Shouldn’t those specialists who, after decades of work on Ukraine and/or Russia, are familiar with one or both of the countries, be the dominant authors of such a peace appeal? Shouldn’t a large number of German intellectuals with dozens if not hundreds of friends, colleagues and acquaintances (sometimes relatives) in the target region support this appeal? Why didn’t the letter come from a well-known German institute for Eastern Europe instead of from a group of intellectuals who seemed to have come together at random?
The underrepresentation of Russia and/or Ukraine expertise in the letter on the Russia-Ukraine war is no coincidence. The callers paint an incomplete picture of the course of the first four months of the war. You write, for example: “Thanks in part to massive economic sanctions and military support from Europe and the USA, Ukraine has so far been able to defend itself against the brutal Russian war of aggression.”
However, these factors were of secondary importance until June 2022. Most of the heavy weapons used by Kyiv for national defense were of Soviet or Ukrainian design. The economic sanctions against Russia, which are actually massive, have so far only had a small part of their effect. They had not had any significant effect on Moscow’s conduct of the war by the time the appeal was published.
The undersigned of the open letter, like other commentators recently interested in the topic, seem to have the following or a similar scenario in mind for solving the Russian-Ukrainian conflict: the West should use the now largely used up self-produced heavy weapons of Ukraine, if at all replace only to a limited extent with western equipment. Restricting military-technical assistance to Ukraine opens the way to productive negotiations with Russia. The creeping disarmament of the Ukrainians finally leads to peace.
Few experts on Eastern Europe would agree to support such an approach to contain Russian imperialism. Anyone who has dealt intensively with the post-Soviet space of the last 30 years knows how difficult it is to deal with Moscow’s hegemonic claims. Few researchers, journalists or activists who have studied the behavior of the Kremlin in Moldova, the Caucasus and Ukraine over the past decades would support such an approach.
In misjudgment of the nature of Putin’s internal regime and foreign policy doctrine, the call, like other such statements, proposes the opposite of what is needed to deter the Kremlin. Apparently, the undersigned do not see Ukraine’s ability to maintain self-defense as their main task.
Instead, the group proposes continuing the reluctance to curb Russian expansionism that the West has attempted on several occasions since 1991 in Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The letter writers have little interest in contemporary post-Soviet history; they are therefore offering the continuation of a Western policy towards Russia that has brought us into the predicament we are in today.
The letter writers are also not aware of the ethical ambivalence of their undertaking. The undersigned probably know little about the Russian torture prison “Isoljazija”, which has been operating in Donetsk for years. One can recommend corresponding reports and other international organizations or the autobiographical book “Heller Weg” (Stuttgart, 2021) by the former “Isoljazija” prisoner Stanislaw Aseev.
Disturbingly, the Russian mass expropriation, deportation, mutilation and murder of the civilian population in the territories of Ukraine newly occupied by Moscow in 2022 appears to be secondary to the letter writers. The celebrities’ plan entails Russia being able to continue this practice in much of Ukraine in perpetuity. The potentially genocidal implications of Ukraine’s tacit cessions of territory to Russia remain in the dark.
The signers of the “ZEIT” appeal “Armistice now!” recommend the West – as a Russian and Ukrainian proverb says – to step on the same rake that it has stepped on several times before. Giving in – for the umpteenth time. What repeatedly did not work before February 24, 2022 should now be the solution. This paradoxical thesis is given plausibility by the media presence and listed professorships of the signatories.
Vera Ammer, Advisory Board member of the Lew Kopelev Forum e. V., Berlin
Anders Åslund, Stockholm Free World Forum, Washington, DC
Martin Aust, Department of East European History, University of Bonn
Margarita Balmaceda, School of Diplomacy, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ
Fabian Baumann, Department of History, University of Chicago, IL
Marieluise Beck, Center for Liberal Modernism (LibMod), Berlin
Jan Claas Behrends, Viadrina European University, Frankfurt an der Oder
Boris Belge, Department of History, University of Basel, Switzerland
Karel Berkhoff, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam
Florian Bieber, Center for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz, Austria
Uilleam Blacker, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL, England
Tim Bohse, Human Rights Monitoring East Ukraine, DRA e. V., Berlin
Thomas Bremer, Ecumenical Institute, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Karsten Brüggemann, Department of History, University of Tallinn, Estonia
Franziska Davies, Department of History, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Tatiana Dettmer, Management of the Lew Kopelev Forum e. V., Cologne
Martin Dietze, German-Ukrainian Cultural Association e. V., Hamburg
Benno Ennker, former Institute for Eastern European History
Sabine Erdmann-Kutnevic, Member of the Board of Memorial Deutschland e. V., Berlin
Rory Finnin, Robinson College und University of Cambridge, England
Jörg Forbrig, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Berlin
Annette Freyberg-Inan, Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam
Ralf Fücks, Center for Liberal Modernism (LibMod), Berlin
Klaus Gestwa, Institute for Eastern European History
Angelos Giannakopoulos, Department of Political Science, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine
Anke Giesen, Member of the Board of Memorial Deutschland e. V., Berlin
Oliver Gnad, Bureau for Current Affairs, Frankfurt am Main
Witold Gnauck, German-Polish Science Foundation, Frankfurt an der Oder
George G. Grabowicz, Slavic Department, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Gustav C. Gressel, European Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin
Rebecca Harms, former Parliamentary Assembly EURO-NEST, Wendland
Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, Center for Global Studies, University of Bonn
John-Paul Himka, ehem. Department of History, University of Alberta, Kanada
Christhardt Henschel, German Historical Institute Warsaw
Julia Herzberg, Department of History, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Anke Hilbrenner, Institute for Historical Studies, University of Düsseldorf
Richard Herzinger, columnist for THE UKRAINIAN WEEK magazine, Berlin
Helena Holzberger, History Department, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Mieste Hotopp-Riecke, Institute for Caucasica, Tatarica
Hubertus F. Jahn, Clare College and University of Cambridge, England
Kerstin Susanne Jobst, Institute for East European History, University of Vienna
Andreas Kappeler, Institute for East European History, University of Vienna
Christian Kaunert, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Irland
Sarah Kirchberger, Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel
Maria Klassen, Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen
Taras Kuzio, Department of Political Science, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine
Manuel Leppert, Thuringian Archive for Contemporary History, Jena
John Lough, Russia
Leonid Luks, former ZIMOS, Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Martin Malek, independent political scientist, Vienna
Georges Mink, European Interdisciplinary Studies Department, College of Europe, Natolin
Margareta Mommsen, former Geschwister-Scholl-Institute, University of Munich
Michael Moser, Institute for Slavic Studies, University of Vienna
Alexander J. Motyl, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University-Newark, NJ
Dietmar Neutatz, Department of History, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg
Tanja Penter, History Department, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg
Andreas Petersen, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Brugg-Windisch
Hans-Christian Petersen, Institute for History, University of Oldenburg
Heiko Pleines, Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen
Nikolaj Plotnikov, Lotman Institute for Russian Culture, Ruhr University Bochum
Detlev Preusse, formerly promoting foreigners at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Hamburg
Waleria Radziejowska-Hahn, Beirat des Lew Kopelew Forum e. V., Köln
Felix Riefer, Advisory Board member of the Lew Kopelev Forum e. V., Bonn
Maren Röger, Leibniz Institute for the Culture and History of Eastern Europe, Leipzig
Stefan Rohdewald, Department of History, University of Leipzig
Malte Rolf, Department of Eastern European History, University of Oldenburg
Per A. Rudling, Department of History, Lund University, Sweden
Gwendolyn Sasse, Center for East European and International Studies (ZOiS), Berlin
Sebastian Schäffer, Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Vienna
Susanne Schattenberg, Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen
Frithjof Benjamin Schenk, Department of History, University of Basel, Switzerland
Ingrid Schierle, Institute for East European History
Winfried Schneider-Deters, former Kyiv office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Heidelberg
Dittmar Schorkowitz, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle
Dietmar Schulmeister, National Team of Germans from Russia e. V., Dusseldorf
Martin Schulze Wessel, History Department, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Anton Shekhovtsov, Centre for Democratic Integrity, Wien
Timothy D. Snyder, Department of History, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Susanne Spahn, freelance historian of Eastern Europe and political scientist, Berlin
Kai Struve, Institute for History, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Sergej Sumlenny, former Kyiv office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation e. V., Berlin
Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz, former German Embassy in Moscow, Königswinter
Maximilian Terhalle, LSE IDEAS, London School of Economics and Political Science
Stefan Troebst, Global and European Studies Institute, University of Leipzig
Frank Umbach, EUCERS/CASSIS, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Andreas Umland (Initiator, ViSdP), Political Science Department, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Ricarda Vulpius, Department of History, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Edwin Warkentin, Museum for Russian-German Cultural History, Detmold
Torben Waschke, Institute for Geography, Justus Liebig University Gießen
Tobias Weihmann, non-governmental organization EUROMAIDAN PRESS, Kyiv
David-Emil Wickstrom, Baden-Württemberg Pop Academy, Mannheim
Martina Winkler, Department of History, Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel
Alexa von Winning, Institute for East European History
Alexander Wöll, Institute for Slavic Studies, University of Potsdam
Susanne Worschech, Viadrina Institute for European Studies, European University Frankfurt-Oder
Kerstin Zimmer, Center for Conflict Research, Philipps University of Marburg
(The naming of the institutions in the list serves to identify the signatories and does not mean that these institutions have made a statement. The initiator is responsible for the content of the letter.)