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Commentary :: War and Militarism
Time for a New Detente Policy
01 Nov 2015
The past subordination under the US policy oriented to regime change and chaos in the Middle East must be ended. A diplomatic offensive to end the war in Syria on the path of negotiation with Russia is necessary. Since March 1999, NATO was expanded with a dozen lands.

By Sahra Wagenknecht

[This article published on 10/22/2015 is translated from the German on the Internet, Sahra Wagenknecht is chairperson of the DIE LINKE (The Left) party in the Bundestag.]

Germany subordinates its Russia policy under the regime change policy of the US. That is wrong, says the head of the DIE LINKE fraction in the Bundestag. A renewal of Willy Brandt’s policy of rapprochement is necessary, Sahra Wagenknecht writes.

When the social democratic German chancellor Willy Brandt began his Eastern policy in 1969 that emphasized a détente relation to the Soviet Union and ou89r eastern neighbors, he was called a traitor by conservative circles. All those who stress cooperation instead of escalation in relation to Russia are treated that way today. However a new policy of détente is really urgent now. Neither the world nor Europe will be more secure and peaceful if we rely on a policy of sanctions and refused dialogue with Russian leaders. A political solution for Syria that ends the civil war and is brought forth together by the West and Russia could trigger a new start of relations. To that end, a radical turn in German foreign policy is needed. Past subordination under the US policy oriented to regime change and chaos in the Middle East must be ended. The freedom of movement that is won could then be used for a diplomatic offensive to end the war in Syria on the path of negotiation with Russia.


The first signs of an understanding appear. When German chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier now urge a negotiated solution without preconditions, this is a first encouraging step. Unfortunately the knowledge that a peaceful solution in Syria is impossible without or against Russia comes too late for many persons. The former Finnish president and Nobel Prize winner for peace Antisaari pointed out a Three-Point-Solution for Syria – dialogue between government and opposition, no weapon shipments to the opposition and an “elegant way for Assad to resign” – was already proposed in 2012 by the Russian UN ambassador. In arrogant conceitedness, this initiative was brushed off at that time by the US and its allies. Since then, the number of casualties of the Syrian civil war has exploded from 7,500 to over 250,000 with millions of Syrians escaping from war and Islamic terror.


The clear rejection of a NATO that trusts in rearmament and global power demonstrations is a prerequisite of a new détente policy. It is sad that the end of the Cold War was not used to build a “common house of Europe” – including a security alliance with Russia. This chance was missed and the promise given to Gorbatchev in the course of reunification was broken that NATO would not move one centimeter to the East. Since March 1999, NATO expanded with a dozen countries. In Rumania, the US began building a missile defense which Russia perceives as a threat. The European central command of this rearmament project is on German soil in Ramstein. When German bombers patrol Eastern Europe with full war cargo, that is dangerous because the slightest misunderstanding can lead to a military escalation. Modernized US nuclear weapons as now stationed in the Eifel are the last thing Germany needs. Whoever doesn’t understand that Europe cannot survive a war with nuclear power Russia hasn’t understood anything. A strategy of heavy armaments and subliminal nuclear threats is as irresponsible today as in Willy Brandt’s time.


NATO bombed Yugoslavia in 1999 in violation of international law. More or less violent overthrows of unsavory governments were attempted in Iraq, Libya, the Ukraine and Syria. The consequences were fatal. In Libya, Islamic militias terrorize the population today. Parts of the Mediterranean coast are ruled by the so-called Islamic State in whose camps oppositionals are tortured to death. In parts of Syria and Iraq, IS has erected a cruel terror regime not afraid of exterminating and enslaving whole groups of the population. In the Ukraine, a fascist storm troop is established with the rightwing parallel to the state security structures that harasses and intimidates people. The wars and the regime chance policy of the US and its allies have destabilized whole regions and provoked terrorism and immense tides of refugees.

The Syria conflict shows very clearly the false approach of German foreign policy. First, offensives for an overthrown of the government pushed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Katar and Turkey were supported. Shock over the consequences of its own policy followed when the conflict escalated to a civil war with thousands of dead and millions of refugees on the way to Europe. At the same time, they are plagued with despondency in bringing about a real change.


We need a new détente policy with Russia. This can also be the key for solving the conflict in Syria on the way of negotiation. The German government must set signals for this. Besides diplomatic offensives, we must stop weapons exports to the region. German weapons cannot be used in the wars in Syria and Yemen by the dictators of the Gulf states. Willy Brandt needed incredible courage to oppose those relying on confrontation. We must make the effort today to overcome the decreed despondency against all resistance.



Democracy and social security in Europe as an alter native to further cuts in social expenditures through a “pact for competition”

There is no end in sight for Europe’s crisis. Throughout the continent, people are experiencing a lost decade and the situation is worsening. Every month, 200,000 jobs are lost, raising unemployment numbers to record heights. Twenty-six million Europeans are now out of work, ten million more than when the crisis began. Many who have kept their jobs have seen their wages reduced dramatically making basic costs of living a struggle to afford. In Greece, there are not enough soup kitchens to feed the hungry and in Spain, evictions are emptying buildings too expensive to be occupied. Both countries have youth unemployment rates bordering on 60%—the impact of this crisis is being felt most by those who had no hand in its creation.

The crisis was made by those who championed neoliberal policies which put trust in unregulated financial industries and engendered a competition between states. These policies have proved disastrous: the continued distribution of wealth from the bottom to the top has led to a lopsided society where the rich have been made richer and the poor have been made poorer and greater in number than ever before. The government response to the crisis has made the situations worse for those already effected. Austerity measures have led to spending cuts to public services such as health care, low income subsidies, public transport, support for the elderly and child care. These services were essential in fostering the economic autonomy of women who, now faced with a society greatly reduced, are threatened by a potentially permanent regression in strides made towards gender equality.

The austerity measures have been enacted by a European Union listening to neoliberal governments, think-tanks, the European Central Bank and the EU Commission. Along with cuts to public expenditure, an increase in privatization and across the board wage freezes have weakened employee and union rights. Mass lay-offs and closures have created a climate of fear where the fight for a secure income has become a fight for survival. This battle is being played out between employees, pensioners and the socially disadvantaged at home and transnationally. Rather than raising money by taxing immense corporate profits and those with higher wages, governments are refusing to spend money on those most in need, further widening the gap between rich and poor.

Despite this growing gulf, austerity is being intensified with plans for obligatory implementation of the measures for all EU nations. Member states have already been made to commit to a drastic reduction in public spending. Legally binding treaties have made it possible for the EU Commission to issue sanctions against countries with “structural budget deficits” who do not adjust their national economic policies to meet the Commission’s expectations. These extreme policies were ratified without democratic consent. Required stages of legislation were bypassed and the European Parliament was stripped of its decision making power.

Furthermore, states have been made to commit to binding “Treaties on Competitiveness”. Insisted upon by those influenced by neoliberal ideals such as Angela Merkel and members of the EU Commission, these treaties will force deeper cuts to wages and pensions while increasing working hours and privatizing education, resource management and health care. This legislation requires countries with or without a budget deficit to comply. Resistance to reform will be reacted against with damaging fines while national parliaments who radically alter their current structure will be rewarded with financial subsidies. structural reform across the continent appears to be inevitable.

Perhaps not. We are voicing our refusal of the EU’s Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness. Austerity has failed and the implementation of its measures must cease. We must turn to a democratic, social and ecological Europe that will serve its people. This requires:

• A European re-distribution of wealth through fair income and higher taxation of wealth and profits
• An end to wage decreases and discrepancies between member states within the monetary union through current account surpluses that harm other member states
• Strengthening employee and union rights
• Stronger regulation of financial markets
• Democratization of the European fiscal policy
• The creation of treaties to reduce unemployment in every member state
• A European investment program to extend infrastructure and ecological modification
• A European social union
Intensifying political interaction through the European Union can only be done by demanding a stronger emphasis on democracy and a dedicated care for the well-being of all Europeans.

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