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.)