Violence Potential

The book (editor Sabrow 2023) and the exhibition “Gewalt gegen Weimar. Zerreißproben der frühen Republik 1918-1923” need a broad European audience. The violence, which in the medium term destroyed the newly founded democracy of the Weimar Republic in Germany, is linked to the immediate aftermath of the 1st world war. The relatively calm abolition of monarchy in Germany did in no way prevent the eruption of violence within the new democracy. Extreme forces prepared in organized ways (Organisation Consul) and some in open public discourses the potential for the use of violence. Armaments left over from war equipped the Freikorps Movements and the potential to use the weapons was present at all times in the aftermath of WW1 in Germany. The contributions to the volume provide a detailed account of these 5 crucial years when democracy was able to defend itself against all odds. The strategies to take control of the country were built on a violent rhetoric which prepared the ground to put violent talk into action later on. This spiral of violence is hard to de-escalate once started. However, democracies have to foster ways to calm the spirits in periods of high potential violence. Elections as well as the campaigns before are the arms of democratic change. They should be used as such to pave the way to compromise.

Exhibition at Topography of terror Berlin 2024-6

Broken Promises

In a library catalogue, the entry of « broken promises «  returns more than 3000 times that the title has been used. « Promises kept » is almost as popular. A rapid inspection of titles reveals that the former titles suggest more factual analyses, whereas the latter is frequently used in the form of an imperative in combination with “should be kept”. The book by Fritz Bartel “The Triumph of Boken Promises …” (2022) demonstrates the importance of the concept of broken promises in the social sciences. The rivalry between socialism, capitalism and the rise of neoliberalism is strongly influenced by the way they handle the breaking of promises made to their respective societies. The promises of increasing wealth and wellbeing have been part of all political regimes. To keep these promises is a completely different story. Especially since the first and second oil crises and many other kinds of crises, it has become much harder to keep these promises. Working hours, retirement ages or minimum wages are all at risk to no longer live up to the promises made in earlier periods. This has put welfare states under pressure that millions of voters perceive politics as a “game” of broken promises. Socialist political regimes like Russia are ready to use physical violence to shut up people that remind leaders of these broken promises. In democracies the ballot box is often used to sanction governments that do not live up to expectations of previous promises. A lot is about public infrastructure which is failing people. Migration, education, social and labor reforms are on top of the political agenda if it comes down to broken promises. The elections of the European Parliament gave many a chance to express their discontent about various broken promises. Maybe democracy is better in providing forms of letting off steam early and protracted protests rather than the Russian way to suppress any critical analysis, let alone opposition movements. Just like the move from industrial production to services as production models, with AI we are likely to see similar problems and probably also broken promises. The challenge is huge and promises should be made with an eye of what promises could be kept.

Public swimming pool closed for reconstruction 2024

Dietrich Gabin

In French cinema Jean Gabin is a much adored person. Equally, Marlene Dietrich had, probably an even more far reaching international career. Both were accomplished and successful actors long before the 2nd world war broke out. In the U.S both fell in love and had a long lasting romance together. Their war time activities and “engagement” in fighting Nazi-Germany were extraordinary. It meant that both took active roles to use their charisma to mobilize people and soldiers to fight for freedom.
Shortly after the war then, both made a last attempt to work together in a movie production, but it could not unite the couple again. The “Deutsche Kinemathek” displays currently a page from the Diary of the “Diva” to underscore to what extent “Dietrich” was depressed about the break-up of their longer lasting love affair. Some say Gabin was the only person who quit her, all (most?) other relationships were terminated by the Diva. The junctions of biographies are hard to predict. The circumstances of the 2nd world war and internalized civic obligations to fight for freedom and democracy were wholeheartedly shared by both, but eventually they grew apart nevertheless. Tough experiences even for the much adored persons on the forefront of the stages worldwide. There seem to be many instances of repetition of the same story not only in movies, but also in real life.
Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Museum 2024-5

Comparative Advantage

In economics all students go through the calculus of comparative advantage. People, regions or whole countries tend to apply comparative advantage to their production systems and ensuing internal or external trade. The basic  rationale developed by David Ricardo has not changed that much over 200 years. The fields of application, however, are continuously expanded. Lindsay and Gartzke (2020) have applied the comparative advantage rationale to military strategy. The paper quotes 26 times Clausewitz and demonstrates the links of strategy to the basic economic and social rationale of comparative advantage. It is the politics of production that even the presence of trade may override the rationale of comparative advantage to favour local production of “operational domains” or military equipment.
In Russia’s aggression and war against Ukraine own production and trading of weapons has returned to the forefront of the concerns. In addition to the production of ammunition, the provision of drones has dominated the international arms trade related to the Russian aggression. Resources and time for production are additional factors that have an impact on availability of weapons at the right time at the right place and with the sufficiently trained persons to operate them.
The strategies that cross domains or combine domains seem the most promising. The careful analysis of your own comparative advantages or disadvantages needs to be the basis of any strategic decisions. This has been known for 2 centuries at least and is still valid in many fields of application. Additional considerations for “home production” might add to the complexity of the issue. Sustainability has also found its way into the field of comparative advantage at last. This may alter the analysis of comparative advantage of operational domains as well. Lots of unresolved puzzles still around. It will need years to sort this out despite the urgency of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.(Image: AI Copilot.2024-4-30 2 political leaders deal weapons. One has a comparative advantage in ships. The other one has a comparative advantage in aircrafts. they deal together)

Russian Angst

The title of a book “Russian Angst” by Thomas Franke summarizes the state of Russian society under Putin. It dates back to 2017, but the underlying process of Angst in the Russian society is increasing rather than diminishing due to the already 2 years long intensive hot war of Russia against Ukraine. The Russian Angst is a fear of a continued roll back of its authoritarian rule in Eastern parts of the world and its internal threat that its own people will claim more rights like freedom of speech, freedom of the press and effective democratic voting rights. In a dictatorship the “Angst” is a pervasive phenomenon which creeps into all spheres of live. Franke and Dornblüth (2023) describe the toxic society in Russia. Intoxication and torture of opponents are used by the Putin regime as a threat to suppress critical voices in Russia. Through this a climate of “Angst” is spread so that any internal opposition has to face very high risks to utter any discontent. The experience of a barbarian, totalitarian regime is well known. The threat to life and the presence of intimidation to any disobedient behaviour are strictly persecuted. Nevertheless, the need to think beyond the Putin regime is well under way. The more external and internal, real or imagined threats are countered with brutal force, the more the regime reveals its true kind of governance by force. This invites and leads to the strengthening of counter forces both internally and externally. It seems like box fight in the before last round of a very vulnerable, weakened and isolated boxer. Not many will bet on the likely loser and more countries who previously supported Putin will stop their erroneous policy. Russian Angst and loneliness will further increase.

Need of War

It seems like a horrific idea to talk about the need of war. We might have deemed it outdated to read about the terrible love of war or about the strategy of war. However, the time of war is back in Europe and Eastern Europe feels the real threat and Ukraine the bombs hailing from Russia. Why does Putin love war? The love of war is largely driven by domestic issues. Staying in power for unliked authoritarian leaders is easiest if they indulge in external conflicts. Dictators love war because it makes it easier for them to sustain leadership through brutal force within the country due to a proclaimed external threat or even outright engagement in war. Democratically elected leaders know that they will leave office eventually in a peaceful way (exceptions like Trump are rare). Dictators use any force or terror necessary to stay in power. The love of war is part of this.
Hence, the need of war goes without questioning, if a country in decline or at risk of decline tries to uphold an inefficient, belligerent regime. Beyond rational reasons, such regimes will abuse ideation about national pride, the national interest and anything pertaining to some supposed myths of nationhood to justify its need of war. The dictators have all failed eventually as resistance against this need of useless war is found out by enemies either within or externally. But thousands or millions of victims will suffer. The pressure against the need of war has to rise internally from opposition as well as from alliances of democracies that do not need war to motivate their people to achieve the best they are able to deliver.
Therefore, the defence of democratic rule is, at the same time, a fight against the need of war by some doomed regimes. After winning the war comes the difficult task of winning peace. This means to create a state of affairs and a state of mind that can do without the need of war. If the external threat diminishes the internal threats might rise and have to be contained as well. Lots of challenges, even for mature democracies. (Image: Berlin 2022-10)

Satellites

Every now and again satellites make headlines. In international politics the “Sputnik moment” of 1957 was such a key defining moment. Russia sending a satellite into space set off a massive investment programme in the United States to counter a potential threat from Russia coming from space. In 2024 we discuss again the next ratcheting up of in a race of armament threatening the earth from space. Russia is believed to enable satellites to carry a nuclear bomb that would orbit around the earth and could lead to mass destruction of satellites that nowadays enable navigation, communication and monitoring what is happening on earth.
As beyond the state-owned satellite networks there has been a private satellite network that assisted Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian aggression, we probably are about to witness the extension of warfare on earth into space. In addition to the so-called cyberwar, which threatens computer-based systems with viruses, ransomware or break-downs, we may face new kinds of threats. We shall have to consider this as part of modern warfare.
Since the late 1960s there exists an international agreement not to use space for nuclear arms. However, Russia does no longer seem to respect its commitment to this. A further escalation of the war of Russia in Ukraine with “conventional” weapons carries the risk to set off another arms race including the earths orbit. This is no science-fiction or whistle blowing, but based on a high-level report and press coverage by the New York Times on 2024-2-17 (Link).
The outrageous implication of such a massive explosion in space is that its implications of the globe on parts of the world and people not being a party in the war will suffer most likely as much as the opposed nations. The food shortages due to Russia’s aggression caused people in Africa to suffer or even die of hunger. Satellite outages of a massive scale will have severe consequences as well.
Information and communication systems have proven to be determining the outcome of a war. This has been one lesson of more than two hundred years of studying military strategies since Clausewitz. Space and satellites have apparently not contributed to improve the understanding of each other, but only the communication within the respective communication bubbles. Maybe artists can help us to overcome the danger of escalation. (Image: “Afrogalactica” by Kapwani Kiwanga 2011: calogue of exhibition “The length of the horizon” Wolfsburg and Copenhagen 2023).

West Europe

There has been a shift of political borders in Eastern Europe. Russia has been trying to shift its border further to the West by brutal force attacking Ukraine. Political defence and military action have managed to preserve western values in Ukraine. On the 13th of February 2024 the meteorological data confirm a clear belonging of Ukraine to the western climatic conditions. Temperatures in Kiev are very similar to the western hemisphere and very different from the cold in Moscow. This is just a little detail or coincidence but it bears a nice resemblance to the political weather currently in Europe. It is by all means much colder in Moscow than in western Europe. The time and the climate are a changing.

Clausewitz 3

As the Russian aggression in Ukraine continues it is interesting to re-read Clausewitz again. In his major work on strategy in warfare we rediscover lots of strategies that Putin’s army applies in the war against Ukraine. But equally, the successful defence strategy of Ukraine with a sizable difference in the size of the army, they both let us better understand the theoretical considerations and relevance of Clausewitz until today. For example,the overriding importance of the size of an army in comparison to the opponent was discarded by Clausewitz (p.111-112) already. He refers to the battles at Rossbach and Leuthen in the Seven Years’ War 1756-1763. Frederic the Great won 2 battles despite having armies of half the size or even less at his disposal (Tempelhoff). Training and morale of the armies is an important part of the explanation of a later outcome. In terms of strategy Clausewitz mentions surprise and wit in chapters as well. The next 3 chapters are devoted to (in modern words) distribution and mobility of forces in space and across time including additionally a strategic reserve. The “classical warfare” which Clausewitz transforms into a theory of warfare is followed with horrific resemblance by Putin’s Russia in the 21st century. “War is an instrument of politics” writes Clausewitz 200 years ago (p. 467-8).
The painters or theorists that attempted to go beyond this rationale have had a hard time to convince politicians otherwise. The idea that law and courts will replace the atrocious power play of nations is silenced again for some years, only to come back with more force eventually.
(Image Extract from Nationalgalerie and Digital Collection of Gemäldegalerie 2024-1 by Adolphe Menzel “Ansprache Friedrich des Großen an seine Generale vor der Schlacht bei Leuthen 1757) unvollendet.

Survivors

The survivors of war have experienced unimaginable violence and suffering. Once fighting ends the horrors of war live on in the memories of all survivors irrespective of which side they have been fighting. Almost all have lost someone or something they cherished before the outbreak of war. Käthe Kollwitz has depicted these horrific experiences in many examples of her art work. They speak to us today just as much as in the past. Berlin is a great place to learn more about her art. The image below is an extract from a drawing in poster form edited by the International Trade Union Federation from 1923 shown in the Brücke Museum in Berlin Dahlem in 2023.

Continuity in 2024

The Russian aggression continues on Ukrainian territory also in 2024. Based on false allegations and stories about a supposed Russian heritage based on Ukraine territory the ongoing war is once again fought more about the past than the present. The future is entirely disregarded by Russia as if it is clear to them that they do not have a future of the dictatorial regime. If a country does no longer care about future perspectives or future generations even, this country is likely to become very dangerous for neighboring countries and beyond because of the high discounting which implicitly applies to all its investments. Western companies who moved out of Russia had immediately high losses. At the same time Russia continues on a daily basis to destroy lives and property. We just shall not stop to support the fight for freedom and democracy in Ukraine as long as it takes. It fighting for our future rather than demons of the past.

Berlin 2023-12-30

Finding Peace

In international conflicts it the task of diplomacy to find or negotiate peace agreements. Monitoring of the evolution and progress is part of the deal. For societies internally it is equally important to find peace again. Totalitarian regimes are characterized by terror and intimidation of its own citizens. This holds true today as much as in the past. Finding peace, however, necessitates to prosecute criminals and this irrespective of their previous or current status in society. The American authorities after the 2nd world war have held more than ten thousand prisoners due to their commanding functions in the NS-time. After 3 years of imprisonment and attempts of so-called re-education the evaluation of the results were of very modest success. Most prisoners would find excuses rather than admit to their participation in the killing machine of the Nazi throughout Europe and over more than a decade.

The study by Christa Horn (1992) “Die Internierungs- und Arbeitslager in Bayern 1945-1952” comes to the same sobering conclusion (p. 127 extract below). This bears the danger that the totalitarian ideology continues to have supporters and even the transmission to other generations might be attempted. This highlights the importance of reconciliation in the lengthy process of finding peace. It far from easy to resolve who is guilty and of what. The Americans started the process before handing over responsibility to the regional judicial system. More than 75 years after 1945 we still have to name and insist on the criminal behavior of the totalitarian regime with millions of party officials and even more followers. Finding peace is a protracted process if not a struggle that involves 3 and maybe 4 generations by now.

Winning Peace

Most analysts of international conflicts deal with winning or losing a war. At best they deal with short-term versus long-term versions of winning and losing. However, the question of how to win or achieve a lasting peace is rarely researched. Research on the 2nd World War reveal as soon as the turning point of the war was achieved the preparation of what will come after defeat. Organising humanitarian relief is part of warfare. The U.S. has set a good example of how to organise humanitarian aid as well as ensuring a lasting peace in Europe after the 2nd World War. Lots of books have been written on the Marshall Plan to get the economies in Europe (Western Europe) back to producing. Much less attention has been devoted to the important element of “de-nazification” of whole societies.
To win peace after the monstruous crimes of the Nazi-regime and the millions of followers and ruthless fighters was a challenge without precedents. The U.S. gave a good example of how to handle the process of winning peace in the regions under its military authority. In the following I shall refer to work published by Christa Horn (1992) “Die Internierungs- und Arbeitslager in Bayern 1945-1952”. The Allies had agreed upon to pursue war criminals. In April 1944 the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces published the “Handbook for Military Government in Germany”. It was deemed important to detain “certain government and party officials and members of police and para-military formations” (p.17).
Common to demilitarisation efforts after a war, it is the primordial function to reduce the risks of a renewed uptake of guerilla-like attacks due to the amount of arms still widely available or hidden on the enemy’s territory. The document specified further that the continued presence of Nazis in government and other exposed positions “might be a threat to the security of the Allied Forces or an impediment  to the attainment of the objectives of Military Government in Germany” (Arrest Categories Handbook, P.2). Denazification was a means to an end. The size of the task was, however, underestimated at several instances. For example, the organisation of the arrest and detention of more than 100.000 persons was a difficult task. After the end of fighting the transition to peace is not instantaneous. Hierarchical military and party structures had to be dismantled. The so-called “automatic arrest” issued on 13.4.1945 included all grades from the NSDAP down to the “Kreisleiter” or even “Ortgruppenleiter” as well as SS members and their “Helferinnen” (Horn, 1992 p.21). These arrests without judicial procedures came under critic as not-American in the U.S., but it took until 10.10.1948 to abandon this procedure. The literature on the issue refers more to the lack of adequate judicial procedures to handle such so many legal procedures with qualified persons as well as the difficulty to organise detention camps for more than a hundred thousand persons that should deserve to be prosecuted. Handing over to the national or regional judicial instances was, therefore, an important step. The risk to abandon the process of “denazification” was evident, but it was equally important to counter the expansion of the Russian-domination in Eastern Europe with the help of a strengthened Western Europe. Winning peace is a delicate balance of prosecution through the winners of the war and the subsequent prosecution of criminal actions through the indigenous population and its new institutional and judicial setup.
Social Sciences have a lot of solid insights to offer to win peace. With careful consideration they are helpful to learn from even for current international affairs and raging wars. Demilitarisation is only a small part of winning peace. Changing mind sets to internalise humanitarian values remains the biggest challenge and involves more than one generation.

Arms trade

The sustainability of war depends a lot on the availability of arms. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) publishes regularly updated data on arms trade. The report ranks countries who are the most important exporters as well as importers of arms (from 2018-2022). The lists show for exporters that the U.S has been at the top of exporters with 40% of the global export share followed by Russia with 16%. France 11%, China 5.2, Germany 4.2 come next on the list. Taken together Italy, Spain and the U.K. reach another 10% jointly of global exports. South Korea and Israel come in with shares of 2.4 and 2.3 respectively. The top ten serve allies but also more broadly the world arms trade and race. New dynamics have started to come into force. The Russian aggression and war on Ukraine territory will have an impact to the extent that Russia is probably exporting less and shift to a more importing state.
Among the importing countries India is leading the ranking followed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. More generally Asia and the Middle East were the most important buying countries. Importing arms might be interpreted as an indicator of perceived threat to a country. Long cycles of arms renewal may also drive statistics of arms trade, but new threats like cybersecurity and space technology have created new fields of potential attack and defence.
All in all, yet another rationale attributed to Clausewitz seems to play a role in driving the arms trade. “If you are perceived to be weak, an enemy will use this to attack”. Well, this also means that buying arms, producing or importing them, could deter a military aggression. That form of deterrence of aggression is known from the nuclear arms race as well. In the realm of conventional weapons, we have thought, it would no longer apply. We were mistaken in this respect. The dividend of peace has come to an end for many countries. The SIPRI report (2003, summary p.9) shows the continued rise on the global level of the arms trade. Why are we so scared of each other? Russia has reverted to imperial politics using conventional weapons. Containing such disrespect of internal law needs our full attention to avoid a spreading to other areas. The link of diplomacy and trade needs close scrutiny.

Youth Reserve

As the Russian aggression in Ukraine continues its war in Ukraine, it is important to analyse the impact of the prolonged war. Certainly, Russia underestimated the length of the war in the first place. We shall be soon in the 20th months of the aggression. It is not only an aggression on Ukraine territory and Ukrainians, but also a disaster for all those fighting on Russia’s side. Many young recruits to the army did not expect to be drawn up and be compelled to fight on front lines of a war. Most of these young people will not even really why they are risking their life. Russian imperialistic behaviour is not what they imagined to be their future role.
Putin has changed the story book of millions of youth, for those of the soldiers and those who left the country in time to evade been pulled into the horrors of war. With so many months passing while at war, each birth cohort of Russians completing their schooling and serving in the military will face existential threats to their very survival. It is likely to be a lost generation that cannot think of other opportunities rather than passing through the hierarchies of the military ranks. It was not their war at the beginning, but Putin and the old military commanders who are responsible for the mess, but youth pays the highest price in terms of foregone other professional careers and development rather than death or mutilation.
The defence by Ukrainians with better equipment arriving day by day is likely to increase the losses of the Russians, where many still do not know why they are sent to fight. The price for Russia to pay for the aggression is rising every day Ukraine manages to defend itself. Other countries in the neighbourhood of Russia were very surprised of the ruthless imperialist approach by Russia. They stepped up their defences considerably to guard against another extension of the conflict. The toll is on youth even beyond Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine@Book Fair

It is great to see so many publishers and authors at the Frankfurt book fair 2023. Because of the massive Russian misinformation not restricted to Russia, but in Western countries, too. Awarding a prize to those activists that sort truth from fake news is very important in this respect. 200 square meters of exhibition space reflects the size and quality of publishing. Lots of translations are underway as well. freedom of publishing and the press is something we usually take for granted until it is gone.

#fbm23

Geo-politics

In the middle of October 2023 we witness the unexpected and unwanted rise of the geo-political importance of the European Union. First, after the aggression of Russia to realise a huge land grab on Ukrainian territory, the European Union managed to define its new geo-political role in supporting the Ukrainian struggle of independence and freedom versus Russian oppression. This means continuous support of several forms: humanitarian, supporting infrastructure like energy and food supplies as well as military equipment for defensive purposes. Achieving our own strategic autonomy means decoupling from energy supply from Russia despite huge investments to build interdependence particularly by Germany or Finland. Additionally, strategic autonomy means relying on international partners that share our values and quest for sovereignty. Supply chains for production systems have to be re-organised to ensure independence even in military conflicts.
A new role has become evident also in the attack from Hamas on the state of Israel. Historic links and responsibilities to the creation of the state of Israel have led the European Union to make its voice heard in the Middle East to limit escalating confrontations.
These changes in the geo-political role of the European Union have far-reaching implications internally as well as in its external relations. Some have been spelt out by Luuk van Middelaar (2022, adviser to Herman van Rompuy) in his lectures “Le réveil géopolitique de l’Europe”. In the introduction he makes clear what are the 3 major elements of the geo-political wake-up for Europe: (1) power, (2) territory and (3) narrative. Europe has shunned away from its geo-political role as a powerful player. (1) Believing more in a peaceful role, a moderator, deviating from its colonial past, upholding the primary role of international law and justice, the European Union has been forced by external powers disrespecting these premises to enter into various international border conflicts as a power in its own right. (2) Questions of territory matters most if they are challenged by powerful neighbours who are not inclined to respect international law. Even uncontrolled migration is part of this disrespect of territorial integrity. (3) Speaking in the name of a whole community of countries who share the same values gives a convincing force to be able to overcome national particularities and predilections.
However, the European Union’s new geo-political role has to be carefully communicated not only to the outside world (it is in no way thought to be offensive), but also internally. For example, the budgetary implications of the geo-political role need to be communicated to the electorate and public opinion(s) in Europe. Do not forget to take carefully prepare the whole population on this new role. Donald Tusk held steady to counter claims from the PIS-leaders in Poland to reduce the geo-political role of the European Union. Many countries and people sharing our values are eager to see the European Union to accept this new geo-political role to defend human rights, internal law and justice. (Background reading: Middelaar, L. v. 2022. Le réveil géopolitique de l’Europe. Paris : Collège de France. doi :10.4000/books.cdf.12770 ). Image: Extrait  LeMonde diplomatique 2019-11) for discussion.

Publishing in War

The right to publish without censorship is one of the first rights that suffers during wars. This has been the case since warfare has used communication as a strategic weapon. Therefore, it is important to research the often, subtle forms of control and censorship applied before and particularly during each war. The printed press was the prime target due to the scope of readers that can be reached timely and repetitively. From the history of how to silence critical voices we can learn about the proceedings, which even today find lots of authoritarian regimes copying these methods.
Using many illustrations from the 1st and 2nd world war in Belgium, 3 major forms of resistance to censorship become apparent. (1) The most obvious is closing down a newspaper rather than endure censorship and thereby being forced to contribute to war propaganda. (2) With risk to their own life, many people in the resistance movements relied on information to actively counter the worsening conditions of life and oppression of opinions or criticisms. (3) The third way at these times consisted in quitting the active contributions, but it incurred the danger that in fact the newspaper continued to appear as before, although with lenient journalists and editors. Today we would frame the latter form of continued appearance of a journal as “continued as fake news”. However, the issue is more complicated than that. Apparently, the readership needed still access to vital information of how to get access to food stamps or other day-to-day necessities including distraction from the horrors of war as it became an enduring feature of life.
This is my short summary of the inspection of some of the historical newspapers that are available with online access and the most valuable summaries provided by Emmanuel Debruyne and Fabrice Maerten in their blog entries on the overview pages linked to the “Belgian War Press” project. These are also valuable sources that hint at war crimes committed at these times as the collaborating press did not shun away from bragging about crimes. The clandestine press was also important to coordinate the various resistance movements and spread ideas of how contributions could be made to weaken the occupying criminal forces.
At times of communication via internet, in addition to the printing press, the war of communication needs much more resources above all digital-savvy resistance movements. A huge task to train people time to enable them to identify fake news and careful exercise of spreading correct and verified information nowadays.
Image Source: Extrait du « Bulletin Intérieur du Front de l’Indépendance », daté 15-11-1942, CEGESOMA BG85, Brussel.

Human Rights

At times of war it is even more important to highlight the importance of respect of human rights. Russia continues to bombard civilians and destroys infrastructure that heats and feeds millions of people. Hamas in the Middle-East has killed more than a thousand civilians in Israel. Pushing violence beyond limits without respect of basic human rights is a very dangerous path for all human beings. Structures within each society need to take care of respect of these limits. The rule of law is fragile in authoritarian states or outright discarded. This makes human rights violations especially in wars or warlike conflict even more likely. The Human Rights Film Festival Berlin attempts to raise awareness to the facts of human rights violation wherever they occur across the globe. Following the link you have a chance to view some of the films online. The online flipbook allows to turn the pages of the magazine, which accompanies the film festival and provides a lot of additional information on the various categories. The section on the deep fakes is demonstrating how the use of fake news and fake images have an influence on us. The intensity of such fake news usually rises when elections approach in democracies. European elections will be seriously endangered through this kind of interference by Russian computerized disinformation networks and China is catching up on such misuse and systematic blocking of free information to its citizens. We shall have to be even more attentive to details in information and misinformation campaigns. Trusted websites and information channels of mass media have to step up their cybersecurity defences. Even small sites like this one have a responsibility to guard against abuses. In opening up the comments on the blog entries only for some time had the consequences of deleting “hundreds” of spam entries and undercover advertisements offering links to malicious sites. Filtering such spam is a professional task and has relatively high costs involved. A potential threat to the freedom of opinion and freedom of speech. Support for film makers and documentalists is important to strengthen the support of human rights.(Image: Human Rights Festival Magizine p.18 by Jenny Brunner, HateAid)

Nations Fail

Ever since Adam Smith wrote on the “Wealth of Nations” the topic concerns social scientists. The discourse around the wealth of nations has become even more fundamental these days. Beyond wealth calculated in economic terms we are convinced to add well-being of the population as well as the state of the environment into the accounting procedures like national accounts. But wait a second. Similar to the term wealth we have to widen our perspective in what is considered to be a nation. Shifting borders through wars (Russia aggression on Ukraine) or separatist tendencies of regions, (re-)unification of Germany or Korea (eventually) show that the nation is a concept in flux. Considering migrants from former colonies still as having residential rights in the colonising country shows, there is more to nations than a one size fits all nation concept.
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson had published the book on “Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” already in 2012. On the 3rd of October Germany celebrates its re-unification only because the Russian dominated German Democratic Republic (and the other Eastern European satellite states under Russian control) can be considered as a failed state. These Russian dominated states crushed private initiatives and build corrupt systems where party allegiance and hierarchical structures were overemphasised. Following Acemoglu and Robinson (chapter 10) the lack of diffusion of prosperity is likely to be the root cause. Even similar to the French revolution, which brought about tough measures of redistribution, the external threats to the post-revolution France demanded subscription of masses into armies to defend the young republic against aristocratic rulers in the surroundings. If monarchy in France is a failed state, the post-revolution France survives due to high identification with the republican idea. The Soviet dominated Ukraine is a failed state, but the Ukraine of today resists due to its willingness to defend its own republican ideals. To get virtuous circles of development started, inclusiveness across the board is necessary. Leave nobody behind, seems to be a shortcut summary. It is much easier said than done. Loosing younger generations in the sense that they no longer subscribe or feel part of an inclusive wealth of the nation is a highly dangerous path. Failed states have a history in failed inclusive social and economic practices. Democracies are at risks just as much as authoritarian nations. However, democracies have better institutional settings to address the lack of inclusion and in multiple ways.
When I celebrate the 3rd of October in the Federal Republic of Germany I celebrate (1) the accomplished failure of the GDR, its undemocratically elected elites, corrupt institutions and the failure of the thousands of willing collaborators of the Russia-backed regime; (2) the peaceful resistance movement, (3) the relatively short-lived humanitarian focus of the Russian leadership at the time to not send in the tanks and (4) the willingness of the FRG to support 20 million new citizens for many years to come (5) the allies of the FRG to accept the potential security threat of a strengthened Federal Republic of Germany, which might entail a shift in the balance of power in Europe.
And yet, even in 2023 we pose questions on what is the concept of failure, when authoritarian regime can still survive for sooo long and some still accomplish extensions. We keep questioning the sense of the term “nation” in modern times and across the globe. Too many wars are still fought in the name of a “nation” even if only a handful of military-supported leaders and single autocrats try to impose wars in the name of some rather vague or plainly mistaken claim of nationhood.
On the 3rd of October we celebrate that “nations can fail” opening a path into a more prosperous and inclusive society. Some nations fail, just because they were no nation in the first place. The GDR was such an artefact of international compromise as part of the overall “balance of power” and the Cold War. The result of this process gives so much hope to other divided nations (Korea) or nations under authoritarian oppressive rule.

Nuclear War

In the last few years we have witnessed a new surge in the investment in nuclear energy on the global level (IEA). Ever since the foundation of the initiative “International physicians for the prevention of nuclear war” in the 1980s, there have been relentless reminders of the devastating effects of such a war. In 2023 we are all aware of the real risk of attacks on the biggest nuclear power plant located in Ukraine. Nevertheless we continue to invest heavily in power plants that constitute a massive risk at times of war between irresponsible nations. Besides the publication of many high quality papers in The Lancet there is regularly space to keep the awareness of the dangers of nuclear war at a high level. Too many politicians shield themselves from dealing with such realistic dangers in the interest of supposed cheap and save energy for all. Both is no longer the case. Nuclear energy is expensive and unsafe in peace and horrible in war times. We cannot afford to abstract from these rising risks. The hype about anything nuclear like in the 1980s is grossly displaced (image of book below).

Hunger

The UN strategic development goals (SDGs) list after the eradication of hunger as number 2 no hunger by the year 2030. Following the report of FAO, the UN 🇺🇳 organization in charge of nutrition in a larger sense, the world is moving further away from reaching this goal in the 4 last years. The Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted supply chains and caused higher prices for basic ingredients. The poorest countries were most vulnerable to such price increases when even in the rich world government deficits were rising sharply. Before sufficient relief arrived Russia’s war in Ukraine destroyed crops, interrupted again supply chains from Ukraine to many of the poorest nations. Energy prices are a substantial part in the production of fertilizers for agricultural products. Same story Russia disrupted the whole supply chains for food production at affordable prices for the poorest parts of the world. Additionally, Indian food production was lower due to the drought, Pakistan had extreme flooding. Both countries are important export nations for feeding the world. Continuing climate change is likely to put global food production under additional pressure. Price rises will hit the poorest again and again. Feeding animals with crops that could otherwise alleviate hunger in other parts of the world puts the rich world’s consumption patterns also into the spotlight. Fighting global hunger is largely a question of how wealthy nations deal with nutrition. The struggle to fight obesity and hunger under the joint concern of malnutrition unites all parts of the world. Time to act together on both topics.

Peace and AI

Rather than asking AI to draft a peace treaty, I used AI to generate images to illustrate my blog entry on strategic thinking and peace deals. My own bias for impressionistic images in art have guided my choice previously. The alternative suggestions from AI based on BING reveals the progressive as well as stereotypical creation of images through algorithms. Same gender in all images, even if the women only image is rather progressive, but as a matter of fact women still tend to be involved less in warfare. The racial stereotypes of AI in image creation also needs attention as the 2 POC persons are depicted in an unfavorable way, not one of strength as for the caucasian stereotype. Living with AI is a joint learning process, likely to be a long one, too. Critical assessment of output remains a human task and we need to train people how to critically and carefully analyze the flood of images in addition to photos.

Peace Deal

In peace times we tend to forget about the deal making function of diplomacy. The Russian war in Ukraine brings back the fact that war times are a strategic operation from before the start, from start to end, and even afterwards. More than 500 days into the Russian aggression a lot of strategic efforts on all sides are concerned with the best strategies to pursue in order to prepare for starting positions for diplomatic peace talks. As Russia is currently pursuing again 4 nights and days of missile attacks on Kiev around the 14th of July (AFP), Ukraine is showing its continued resilience to Russian bombings assisted through modern missile defence systems.
Russia seems to demonstrate its willingness to continue assaults far into the terrain of Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces, step by step, increase the immense costs of a prolonged war to Russia. Russia is sacrificing a whole generation of youth for the neo-imperialist claim on Ukrainian territory. Ukraine currently demonstrates the ability and willingness to fight back its territory even in a protracted war.
Both sides battle for starting positions in case negotiations for the time after the hot war are about to begin. Russian bombing of Kiev might address more the western allies of Ukraine who might be more reluctant to send personnel to start rebuilding the country beyond financial efforts. Russia’s loss of soldiers, lots of material and facing the militarisation of the whole country incurs another historic loss for completely the wrong reasons.
Another analogy to the strategic game of chess becomes obvious. Many games end with a “remis” or a 1/2 point for each side. In chess it is an outcome of when 2 strategists weigh the chances of loosing as high as winning even if they continue for hours to play. It is the endpoint of an evaluation of own strategic options as well as those of the opponent. The handshake to conclude a remis needs careful preparation. Part of this is to demonstrate the ability to be able to sustain a prolonged battle despite the costs as a kind of threat to the opponent. We might believe that not much has changed since Thucydides and Clausewitz. However, Putin’s forceful opening of the war irrespective of loss of lives and against international law has lost its impetus and, with the turning of the tide. Ukraine is slowly winning back land, square mile after square mile. Strategic thinking is back in the foreground, but this is exactly the moment when diplomacy comes in. Negotiating for peace is the art of warfare. It is a formidable task to reach a peace deal when bombs are still killing people every single day. (Image: AI using Bing.com Text: impressionist oil painting of two soldiers from different countries shaking hands and making peace).

Geister

“ Herr, die Not ist groß!/ Die ich rief, die Geister/ werd ich nun nicht los.“ Dieses Zitat aus dem Zauberlehrling von Goethe aus dem Jahr 1797 könnte im Juli 2023 von Putin ausgerufen worden sein. Als der von ihm geförderte und üppig finanzierte Chef der Wagner-Armee Prigoschin plötzlich auf Moskau losmarschierte. So sehen das viele Analysten zu Beginn des scheinbaren Angriffs auf Moskau eigener Söldnertruppen. Frei nach Goethe fragen wir uns also: Wer und Wo ist der Meister? Wer ist hier der Zauberlehrling? Aber schon Goethe hat seine Ballade rasch und ohne Überraschung aufgelöst. „In die Ecke, Besen, Besen! Seids gewesen. Denn als Geister ruft euch nur zu seinem Zwecke, erst hervor der alte Meister.“ So entpuppt sich am Ende Putin wohl als der Meister und Progoschin „nur“ als sein Zauberlehrling.
Das ist nicht die herrschende Meinung der Redakteure und Editorialisten (Süddeutsche, LeMonde). Literatur der Romantik sollte besser aus der Tagespolitik herausgehalten werden. Weit gefehlt. Sie weitet den Blick auf Herrschende, meist Autokraten, und ihre tragischen Lebensverläufe.
Jetzt mal eine ernsthafte Vision(?) eines Politikberaters. Da die Mission von Prigoschin mit Unterstützung oder angeordnet von Putin in Butcha als abgeschlossen galt, und das Staatsheer diese Aufgabe übernommen hatte, wäre Prigoschin arbeitslos geworden. Den treuen Chefkoch Prigoschin aus St. Petersburger Zeiten, der Putin in seinen Restaurants schon hätte vergiften können, hat seinem Meister vorgeschlagen, Putins faktischen Schutz vor einem Anschlag oder einer militärischen Einsatzgruppe zu testen.
Militärisch gesprochen, läuft das entweder unter einer „false flag attack“, eines mit russischer Flagge getarnten Angriffs, oder einer „white flag attack“, dem Vorspiegeln einer geschützten friedlichen Mission (vgl. trojanisches Pferd).
Aus der Sprache der Börsianer kennen wir ebenfalls die „weiße Ritter“ Attacken. Dabei versucht ein anderes Unternehmen, eine InvestorIn oder eine im Hintergrund agierende Person (Progoschin), eine feindliche Übernahme eines Unternehmens zu verhindern. Dabei sind Mehrheitsbeteiligungen am Zielunternehmen oder Fusionsangebote die gewollte Lösung und Abwendung der feindlichen Übernahme.
Im Internetzeitalter kennen wir die bezahlten Hacker, die eine Webseite eines Unternehmens oder Behörde auf Schwachstellen testen und damit Datenschutz, Erpressung und Ausfälle vermeiden helfen.
Klingt alles kompliziert, ist es aber nicht. Es ist einfach Teil des modernen Arsenals von Strategen à la Clausewitz. Schachspielen mit echten Söldnern ist grausam und kostet echte Menschenleben für den Machterhalt. Der militärische Probealarm wurde getestet und der Schutz um Putin, den Meister mit seinem Zauberbesen kann verbessert werden. Sein Zauberlehrling Prigorschin ist wohl vielleicht sogar vom Springer (Schachfigur) in einen Turm eingetauscht worden. Vielleicht ist er aber schon längst die Dame an der Seite des Königs oder eben einer der Geister im Umfeld von Putin.