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The military will not solve a single problem

by Juergen Scheffran and Willi van Ooyen Monday, Nov. 13, 2023 at 7:32 PM

Solidarity could also be understood and implemented differently: as a concept that reduces violence and aims at protecting human lives in concrete terms. This includes not only refugee aid, humanitarian aid & all conceivable diplomacy. It is also important to examine whether social resistance measures planned for the short term make sense in this highly escalated situation.

"The military will not solve a single problem"

Peace movement in Germany

Call for anti-war demonstration in Berlin. Initiative publishes special edition of "Zeitung gegen den Krieg". An interview with Willi van Ooyen

[This interview posted on 11/7/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Willi van Ooyen is a peace activist and member of the press team of the "Never Again War - Lay Down Your Arms" initiative

Your initiative "Never Again War - Lay Down Your Arms" is calling for a nationwide demonstration in Berlin on Saturday, November 25. Shortly afterwards, the new federal budget is to be passed in parliament. What do you want to achieve?

We want to make the further militarization of Germany an issue: the appalling sum of 100 billion for the Bundeswehr and the NATO commitment to spend two percent of gross domestic product on defence every year. We want to call this into question. And this is urgently needed, as every day without a ceasefire in Ukraine means senseless bloodshed in a war that cannot be won by the country. The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza threatens a conflagration not only in the Middle East. We therefore need a different policy that ensures social justice and balance. We must protest together against military armament and social cuts.

You are publishing a special edition of the newspaper against the war. Isn't it likely that only those who are "peace-minded" will read it anyway?

We have been publishing our newspaper for years to coincide with the Easter March or Anti-War Day. Our initiatives distribute this special edition at information stands around the country to mobilize people for the demonstration on 25 November. In this way, we reach more people in pedestrian zones in cities than just those who are making their way to Berlin.

Authors of the special edition include Gregor Gysi, Die Linke, and Sarah Wagenknecht, formerly Die Linke. Did the team want to be balanced between the party and the newly formed Sarah Wagenknecht, BSW alliance?

Who owns the world? - Your subscription counts.

No, we are not sifting through different programs, but rather focusing on our own political ideas. We expect this to enable us to formulate the most consistent peace policy despite possible differences in party political organization. Irrespective of different formations, we offer personalities who are against war, further militarization and armament policy to join forces in the fight against it. That is our political signal.

Have you already given up on the parties of the traffic light government and the CDU/CSU as far as peacemaking is concerned?

We are not interested in which party or which left-wing alliance agitates for peace; we would also like to see people from the democratic left within the SPD. We also ask prominent figures such as Franz Alt to help promote our content. A wide range of independent personalities are also involved. Naturally, we are joined by organizations such as Friends of Nature, IPPNW, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War/Doctors with a Social Responsibility - as well as Die Linke.

How do you rate the trade unions in terms of their commitment against war?

We are campaigning for them to take a clearer position on peace policy. We are pleased about the resolution passed at the 25th IG Metall trade union conference at the end of October, which makes it clear that they see themselves as part of the peace movement. At Verdi, it has become clear that many delegates take a critical stance on the majority's approval of arms deliveries. We want to identify common positions of the peace movement and the trade unions and try to move the discussions forward. Because we are convinced that further militarization will increase social misery in Germany.

And how do you counter the accusation made by some Bellicans that the peace movement is naive with its demands for disarmament?

We have seen such attempts to ridicule our peace policy positions for decades. However, it is obvious that the military will not solve a single problem and that war has no prospects. It leads to the impoverishment of millions of people and forces migration. In this respect, we are relaxed about those who believe that peace can be achieved with weapons. Our position is to promote a policy of détente, negotiations and joint development processes. That is the only viable one.


Heikle Gespräche

Future-oriented science instead of geopolitics

Peace-logical perspectives on the Ukraine war

by Jürgen Scheffran

[This article posted in 11/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

It is indisputable that Russia is waging a war of aggression against Ukraine in violation of international law. The question is how to counter this. Geopolitics seems to be the means of the hour, while a logical peace response is largely ignored. However, geopolitical strategies promote rivalries and endanger the future of the planet. A future-oriented peace science is therefore needed - more than ever.

On October 16, 1914, after the German declaration of war on Russia and France, almost the entire teaching staff of German universities and technical colleges supported the war. They followed the so-called Manifesto of the 93 "To the World of Culture!", which justified the defense campaign: "The utmost has been done by the German side to avert it. [...] Those who ally themselves with Russians and Serbs have the least right to pose as defenders of European civilization".

The mood at the time ranged from trepidation at the overpowering threat to enthusiasm about the national unity that had finally been achieved. While there were initially massive protests and anti-war demonstrations, the SPD leadership performed a U-turn at the start of the war and agreed to war credits in a "truce" with the loyalists in the Reichstag.

Lonely against the war

But not everyone bowed to the war effort. Albert Einstein was shocked by the patriotic mood of almost all his fellow scientists and felt lonely as an intellectual and pacifist. Together with two other colleagues, he signed the "Appeal to the Europeans" written by Georg Friedrich Nicolai in the summer of 1914, which was not published due to a lack of further support. With foresight, it stated: "The battle that is raging today will probably not produce a victor; it will probably only leave the vanquished." They expected "all European relations to fall into an unstable [...] state". It soon became clear that the authors were right. Everyday life during the war made life difficult for many, mass unemployment, food prices rose and poverty increased. Scientists died at the front or contributed their expertise to the war effort.

Just as the catastrophic end of the First World War was foreseeable, so was the path to it. Some academics and intellectuals who observed the socio-economic, industrial and military logic of the times foresaw the major systemic confrontations. For example, the Polish-Russian industrialist Ivan (Jan) von Bloch, a friend of Bertha von Suttner, described the coming great war in his six-volume work from 1898 (Scheffran 2014). He was nominated for the first Nobel Peace Prize for this in 1901, shortly before he died. The example of the British meteorologist Lewis Frye Richardson also shows the relevance of sober science. After the First World War, Richardson used a model to investigate how the dynamics of armaments had built up, which later prompted him to issue warnings about the Second World War (Scheffran 2020).

The present of the past

Almost one hundred years after the First World War, a German government once again finds itself embroiled in a war in which borders are to be moved by force of arms. A German SPD chancellor calls for a turnaround and mobilizes war credits for rearmament and arms deliveries in a hot war that must not be lost. The public mood fluctuates between trepidation about the threat and enthusiasm about a previously unattained unity in Europe. Geopolitical considerations dominate the public debate, leaving little room for dissenting opinions. The economy threatens to tip over into a deep crisis, the populations of all warring parties have to pay for the war and suffer from sanctions and high food prices. The battle leaves behind only the defeated.

In view of such associations, it can be argued that the historical situation today is completely different from a hundred years ago and that similarities can be explained by the general logic of war. Germany has learned from the lost world wars and the won Cold War, has become more civilian, does not wage war itself, but stands by the attacked side, legitimized by a democratically elected parliament. Today, it is no longer about "fatherlands", but about a feminist foreign policy.

However, the question may be raised as to whether the choice of means does not put all this at risk. With Russia and Ukraine using military means and the West imposing the toughest sanctions and heavy weapons, all parties are escalating the conflict and prolonging it with increasing damage. They are undermining the lessons of history, reviving geopolitical power struggles with cold and hot wars, laying the foundations for new violent conflicts, consuming enormous resources, obstructing negotiated solutions, marginalizing civil society, peace forces and dissenters. The question of how this came about, how mutual disregard and threats contributed to it, is suppressed.

Back to the future

In addition to the past, the future, about which supposedly nothing can be said, is also ignored. As with the world wars, the dangers of the current world situation were described beforehand - including by the author of this article, summarized in an article four months before the start of the war (Scheffran 2021). Among other things, it shows that after Putin took office, there were warnings of a new Cold War (2000), that the Iraq War and other Western wars paved the way for this (2003), that complex crises and conflicts endangered international security (2008), that an unstable world situation like that of the First World War was possible (2009), that links between climate change, flight and conflicts were emerging (2012) and that multiple crises were developing in the globalized world (2016). The conclusion: "The situation is reminiscent of the upheavals a hundred years ago, with the First World War, the Spanish flu, the global economic crisis and fascism, which led to the Second World War" (Scheffran 2021, p. 218).

In politics, statements about the future are often dismissed as know-it-all, and "safe" catastrophe science, which is only called to the front when there is already a fire, is preferred to "uncertain" prevention science. In order to look into the future in a scientifically valid way, however, there is no need for prophecies; it is enough to recognize development directions, path dependencies or red lines whose interaction crosses critical boundaries. These observations are also not deterministic insofar as the systems under consideration are made and controlled by people and can be changed by political decisions. This presupposes that the truth can be spoken publicly. In the "free West", this should be self-evident without being personally discredited, even when it comes to categories of "good" and "evil". With the resurgence of geopolitics in politics and the media, however, independent peace studies are coming under pressure.

The return of geopolitics

At the beginning of the 20th century, the theory of "geopolitics" developed in the wake of the European colonialist tradition of geography, which could be instrumentalized for power politics.1 While geopolitics had long been discredited in Germany due to its personal and ideological links with National Socialism, it regained importance after German reunification. The Ukraine war has increased the influence of geopolitical think tanks. Geopolitical arguments on the part of the new old system rivals are recognizable. Putin's neo-imperial aspirations tie in with Russia's colonial expansion (e.g. the Crimean War of 1853-1856) and the foundation of the Soviet Union based on this. Conversely, the Eurasian land mass aroused desires in the West, from Napoleon's conquest of Moscow to the geopolitics of the USA during the Cold War and beyond. The book "Grand Chessboard" (1997) by former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski is still used today as a central argument. In it, he formulated the goal of US geostrategy that there should be no challenger that controls the Eurasian landmass and challenges US dominance.

These goals can in turn be used by Putin to denounce threats to Russian security interests from the West. After initially seeking recognition for Russia in the West and engaging in partnership and trade, the ongoing deterioration of relations dashed all hopes. NATO's 16-fold military superiority, NATO and EU eastward expansions, Western military interventions in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, the establishment of a European missile defense system and the termination of arms control treaties motivated Russian threatening and violent actions in the post-Soviet space.

This also applies to the war against Ukraine and its prehistory. When Russia's military threats on the border with Ukraine did not lead to negotiations in early 2022, Putin began the attack on Ukraine. Support for the separatists, territorial gains in Ukraine and "punishment" for their orientation towards the West are possible motives for the invasion, which also serves as a lever to demonstrate Western powerlessness to the world. He is prepared to pay a high price for this, which has not deterred him from his reckless plan any more than Western superiority. With the start of the war, such rationalizing explanations of Russian behaviour were pushed into the corner of the "Putin experts", while Putinologists outdid themselves with speculation as to who understood Putin best. They vacillated between the strategic genius, the irrational demon and the unscrupulous dictator - explanations whose scientific foundations are questionable.

If Europe and Russia weaken each other and the European peace order is in tatters, this does not necessarily contradict the interests of the USA, on the contrary. In the short term, it strengthens the unconditional unity of the West and NATO under American leadership, cements Russia's separation from Germany and Europe, allows profits from fracking gas, the mobilization of the arms machine, provokes the ideological struggle between democracy and autocracy as in the Cold War and opens up domestic political advantages in upcoming elections. Even if some see Washington as the key to overcoming the war in Ukraine, it remains unclear whether and when this key will be used.

After all, this war and its consequences can also be seen as a preparation and test case for the confrontation with China, currently the real challenger and antithesis of US hegemony. The conflict with Russia could thus promote the conditions for the coming war with China (NATO members' willingness to mobilize, US claim to leadership, militarized rhetoric and response to developments in China).

Bloc confrontation and the Global South

With the war in Ukraine, the Global South is increasingly playing a role as a geopolitical actor. Although the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution against the Russian war of aggression on March 2, 2022 with a majority of 141 states, the 35 abstentions (including China and India) and five votes against (Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Eritrea) revealed significant differences. Some states expressed understanding for the Russian position, did not support the Western coalition and are prepared to join a counter-coalition of the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). They see opportunities to promote their interests in a bloc confrontation - as they did during the Cold War.

Due to colonial experiences, a "Global West" is viewed critically; it is accused of Eurocentrism, double standards and injustice in asserting its interests, if necessary with violence and against the rules. The West thus appears as a "villain" (von Weizsäcker 2022) that wants to impose its value-based model of liberal democracy on others, which it itself has taken centuries to achieve, sometimes at the expense of the colonies. The geostrategic chess games envisaged by Brzezinski (1997) and others affect not only the interests of Russia and China, but also those of Central Asia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which do not consider themselves to be Western democracies.

If Putin succeeds in creating a new division in the world ("The West and the rest"), this would be a success for him that goes beyond the Ukraine war and his regime. While the West was initially intoxicated by the new unity, since the G7 summit in June 2022, the realization that the world is divided seems to have reached the leading nations of a Western-oriented world order, especially as the parallel BRICS counter-summit was no coincidence. The Western world order must now show what it can offer its competitors. If weapons and sanctions destabilize the West and the world and polarize societies, they can become counterproductive. The corresponding populist movements are waiting for their chance to exploit this weakness in their favor, and not only in Western democracies.

Rearmament is not a turning point

Arms spending has been increasing worldwide for years. The "turnaround" proclaimed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz is forcing this rearmament in order to maintain the existing world order by force. However, this is not a turning point - it is a way back, especially as this was already being prepared before 2022 (see, for example, Bunde et al. 2020).

Three megatrends are more suitable for a true turning point: the socio-ecological transformation, the influence of the Global South and the role of social media and civil society (Scheffran 2021, p. 222): "The trends mentioned have the potential to turn the tide, as after the French Revolution at the beginning of the 19th century or with the First World War at the beginning of the 20th century."

For such a turning point, we need a resilient energy supply and sustainable climate protection within planetary boundaries, which also serve to secure peace and point the way to a viable and liveable world in the common home of the earth. The coexistence and cohabitation of different world orders to overcome these problems is more promising than further geopolitical power struggles, which not only put the West at risk, but also the planet. Peace science must therefore advocate a transformation based on the logic of peace - even and especially in times of dominant geopolitics.


1) For the history and tradition of geopolitical (explanatory) images of the world and the logic of war, see W&F 1/2013 "Geopolitics".


Brzezinski, Z. (1997): The grand chessboard. American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives. New York: Basic Books.

Bunde, T. et al. (2020): Zeitenwende / Turning Times. Special Report, Munich Security Conference.

Scheffran, J. (2014): The Impossible War: Jan Bloch and the Mechanics of the First World War. W&F 2/2014, PP. 38-42.

Scheffran, J. (2020): Weather, war and chaos. In: Gleditsch, N. P. (ed.): Lewis Fry Richardson: His Intellectual Legacy and Influence in the Social Sciences. Cham: Springer, pp. 87-99.

Scheffran, J. (2021): Myths of established security policy: "The West can solve the world's problems". The Peace Watch 3-4, pp. 205-236.

Von Weizsäcker, E. (2022): The West as villain. Guest article, Blog der Republik, 14.4.2022.

Jürgen Scheffran is Professor of Integrative Geography, Head of the Climate Change and Security Research Group (CLISEC) at the University of Hamburg and a member of the W&F editorial team.

published in: Science & Peace 2022/3 War against Ukraine, page 30-32


War against Ukraine

Assessments of the situation

by Juergen Scheffran & Klaus Harnack

[These articles posted in 2022 and 2023 are translated from the German on the Internet,]

Violently escalating conflicts and wars always pose several challenges for science, social movements and journalism internationally: how to respond adequately to the crisis? How to show and live solidarity that is not just cheap, presumptuous or paternalistic? How to influence the conflict and act in a way that makes sense in terms of peace policy? Of course, the war against Ukraine poses the same questions for us. In the following articles, the members of the editorial team attempt a first cautious sorting of what peace studies could contribute to the solution and transformation of the conflict, which dynamics need to be critically scrutinized and which questions are still open.

Some of the considerations in this focus are still in their infancy, and some may already be obsolete by the time this issue is published, but we would still like to attempt a - as always temporary - classification.

Throwing everything overboard?

Peace studies and the peace movement in the context of the war in Ukraine

by Melanie Hussak and Jürgen Scheffran

Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine, which violates international law, has shaken up the coordinates of the international order. If you believe the narrative in the mass media and government policy, war is once again raging in Europe for the first time since the Second World War, despite the wars in Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union after 1990. The impression is being created that the liberal world order has secured peace in the world for three decades and has now suddenly been torn from its slumber by an unscrupulous dictator. Under the dictates of the proclaimed "turn of an era", in which everything is dominated by the logic of war, earlier certainties about war and peace have become obsolete or naive. Does peace policy as a whole need to be put to the test?

We don't think so, because this war once again confirms many earlier findings. Not everything that was previously correct and pointed out the dangers of this tricky situation can be thrown overboard. In the run-up to the war, there were enough warnings to avoid the driving forces leading to war and to contain the escalation spiral. This knowledge is needed to penetrate the fog of war.

Is there co-responsibility?

The prevailing opinion in the West is that Vladimir Putin, driven by Russia's imperial great power ambitions, is solely responsible for this war. While this is correct with regard to the order for the war of aggression, reducing it to a single war aggressor does not do justice to the dynamics within the Russian leadership and population. Even before the war, there was a geopolitical struggle between enforcing the liberal world order on the one hand and deliberately breaking the rules on the other.

This conflict cannot be understood without the co-responsibility of the West for the previous escalation of the conflict (see Zumach 2022, among others). Western states (above all the USA) have not always shown consideration for their own principles, nor for international law and its contribution to world peace (see Zumach in this issue, p. 21). The opportunities for nuclear disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons were not seized, existing treaties were questioned or terminated by both sides, and new agreements such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or the control of space armaments were blocked. The hardliners have played into each other's hands with various military interventions. The arms industry and military strategists who make money from war have long been pushing for a "turning point" in geopolitical power struggles and an accelerated rearmament. However, the Western threat has not deterred Russia from attacking Ukraine. While warnings of a coming Cold War were ignored two decades ago (Scheffran 2000), today almost everyone is talking about a new Cold War or even a world war.

Drawing lessons from conflict analyses

What remains in this situation? Lessons from conflict history and analysis have often been ignored in this war. (Self-)critical views are discredited by the political-media complex, in which the West is the victim but not the perpetrator. Any personal responsibility for avoiding the causes is rejected. However, the war in Ukraine confirms in many ways earlier findings of peace science and the peace movement, including the following:

Instead of creating security, the military and armaments increase the mutual threat, which promotes countermeasures and an arms race. Arms deliveries to crisis and war zones add fuel to the fire, reinforce security dilemmas and spirals of violence and prolong war.

Armaments and war consume funds and resources that are not available to tackle social problems and pollute the environment and climate. Like other crises and conflicts in recent years, this war has a lot to do with the expansive history of capitalist systems, which reaches various limits and causes upheavals and crises (Scheffran 2021).

The system boundaries also cause the renaissance of nationalist, authoritarian and identitarian patterns of behavior, which are linked to violent great power ambitions. This applies not only to Russia or China, but also to the liberal democracies, which are throwing principles overboard in the fight for hegemony. As a result, the already thin air is gradually being removed from the priority given to the civilian side and the ban on violence in international norms, which means that the possibilities for non-violent conflict transformation are becoming ever smaller.

The momentum of military violence and escalation destabilizes international relations, promotes fear of threats, is difficult to stop and makes the search for ways out and solutions more difficult (see W&F issue 3/2015 on peace negotiations).

Media reporting often reinforces outrage reflexes as if in an echo chamber, creates enemy images and bloc confrontation (see W&F Dossier 80).

Military means are poorly suited to tackling the (security) policy challenges of our time (climate change, pandemics, resources, terrorism, cyber conflicts, networked security) and hinder their cooperative solution. Instead, security policy should follow a logic of peace that avoids wars instead of waging them. Knowledge about peace solutions must be utilized (see W&F Dossier 75)

Making alternatives conceivable

This war has global and systemic effects like no other before it. The immediate consequences mainly affect the people in Ukraine, but also the population of Russia and people all over the world. However, the damage and costs are also destroying the conditions for a sustainable peace order and another conceivable nuclear war risks the end of humanity. Economic wars, arms deliveries or military actions that have fueled the escalation spiral before and during this war are also problematic, as are sanctions that affect the population worldwide (see Werthes and Hussak in this issue, p. 18).

So alternatives are needed. Humanitarian aid for refugees and victims of violence must be supported, as well as the expansion of links to civil society and the peace movement in Russia and Ukraine in order to mobilize movements to end the war. Civil society with its civil principles for human coexistence and conflict resolution must be promoted everywhere, as must de-escalation and diplomacy, an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of weapons. Negotiation and mediation between the conflict parties, protection and strengthening of international law, creation of a European and global peace architecture including Russia and China are also needed. The concept of common security relies on diplomacy and "win-win" solutions and takes into account not only its own security interests, but also those of other players.

Instead of a "turning point" for confrontation, rearmament and war, we need a turning point for cooperation, disarmament and peace, for common security, sustainability and the solution of global problems through viable concepts for a "liveable world" in the common house of the earth (Scheffran 2022). However, these concepts must also be heard and applied.

Necessary shifts in peace research?

The events of recent weeks have led to both old and new debates in peace research and the peace movement. They concern topics such as the European security order, rearmament programs and possibilities for a rapid energy transition. However, they also show the need for new thematic priorities, which have been mentioned many times but have not been given enough space within the peace community. For peace research, this war could mean paying more attention to early warning systems and including more military analyses and scenarios in risk assessments, even if their conflict management methods are strictly rejected. In addition, more attention needs to be paid to Russia's political disinformation and destabilization efforts abroad and their support by European right-wing parties.

A look at the numerous statements on the outbreak of war from academia and the movement reveals a broad consensus on a missed opportunity for prevention (see documentation, p. 27). The greatest scope for action is attributed to preventive peace work, which develops instruments such as dialog and negotiation at various social and political levels (Fischer 2022). There is also broad agreement that a sustainable peace order cannot be achieved without Russia.

We believe that greater cooperation between peace research, the peace movement and peace education is essential. Each of these actors in the peace community can make important contributions to different levels of action and phases of conflicts. The war in Ukraine can be a reason - albeit a sad one - to rethink the relationship with and to each other by agreeing on common objectives and to strengthen the exchange between them. This is also one of the aims of this magazine.

Each of these three groups has the opportunity to address other channels of communication, initiate dialog processes and make use of scope and windows of opportunity. One example of successful cooperation is the dialog processes carried out by the "Nansen Dialogue Network" ( after the wars in the Western Balkans from the 1990s onwards. Another method is the theater work carried out by Hamburg director Georg Genoux in Russia and Ukraine (Genoux 2021). He impressively describes the individual and social transformation potential of conflicts that can arise in artistic processes.

All of this makes it clear that peace research findings should by no means be thrown overboard in times of escalating war; rather, it is up to us to call for peace research to be strengthened, to renegotiate our relationship with the peace movement and to resolutely advocate civil and non-violent ways of transforming conflicts.


Fischer, M. (2022): War in Ukraine. Bread for the World blog, 27.02.2022.

Genoux, G. (2021): Healing the soul. The power of theater. Science & Peace 3/2021, pp. 42-44.

Scheffran, J (2000): Back to the Cold War? Russia and the US claim to hegemony. Science & Peace, 2/2000.

Scheffran, J. (2021): Myths of established security policy: "The West can solve the world's problems". The Peace Watch 3-4/2021, pp. 205-227.

Scheffran, J. (2022): Climate protection for peace: The Ukraine war and planetary boundaries. Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 4/2022, pp. 113-120.

Zumach, A. (2022): Putin's war, Russia's crisis. Le monde diplomatique, 10.03.2022.

A psychological look at the situation

by Klaus Harnack

A good indicator of our inability to understand and categorize this war is the question repeatedly raised in the media: "How do I explain this war to the children?" Is this question, which is legitimate in itself, not in reality a proxy question that shows that we ourselves are still completely in the dark when it comes to categorizing this war? In the first moment of shock, we find ourselves empty-handed with regard to our options for action, because most peace-oriented natural sciences are based on an understanding of prevention rather than intervention. In the face of the escalating conflict in Ukraine, it is therefore all the more important now to refer less to our own cautionary activities in the past and more to identify peace-psychological methods and findings that counter the current logic of war with a well-founded logic of peace.

Groupthink and saving face

With regard to the aggressor, the theory of "groupthink" (Janis 1972) could contribute to an explanation of how the attack came about. Groupthink describes a process within a closed and isolated group in which the group makes decisions that are no longer comprehensible to outsiders and are objectively bad. The cohesion of one's own group is considered much more important than the decisions made themselves. This mechanism is driven by the threat and isolation of the group. Opinions become more and more aligned and divergent points of view that are actually helpful are increasingly actively fought against and suppressed in order to stabilize the self-formed artificial group dynamic. The defense against threats to the group's convictions thus becomes the primary goal. Examples of this can be seen in the seemingly absurd, publicly held meetings of the Russian National Security Council in the days before the start of the war in February 2022 or in the decisions of the Ukrainian leadership to ban certain parties from exercising their political mandate.

While the theory of "groupthink" can be used to explain the origins of the decision to attack, addressing the need for a face-saving exit can provide a possible way out of the current situation. As difficult as it may be emotionally, from a psychological point of view it is always necessary to open a back door for the aggressor in the diplomatic arena. Clausewitz already emphasized that nothing is more difficult "than retreating from an untenable position", because the more powerful an aggressor is according to their self-image, the tighter their own psychological corset becomes and the smaller their own radius of action to revise actions from the past. One opportunity here lies in Russia's very diffuse justification for the war, which could enable the war to be settled without internal loss of face and prevent further escalation. Here, the war apparatus could invoke the "successful" support of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, a weakening of Western influence within Ukraine or the "successful" defense of Russian national interests.

Cognitive dissonance

A psychological classic that describes the experience of those indirectly involved is the construct of "cognitive dissonance", made famous by the US social psychologist Leon Festiger (1957). Like other consistency theories, it describes the internal harmonization of cognitions, motivation and actual actions, which strives for freedom from contradictions in one's own thinking.

Cognitive dissonance reduction is described as the driving force that attempts to close the gap (incongruence) between one's own ideas, beliefs and desires and reality by systematically aligning the perception of reality with one's own ideas and desires. This can happen at the state level through propaganda, but also as an internal mechanism at the individual level. Russia's narratives in the run-up to the conflict and the decisions made by the West, such as the handling of NATO's eastward expansion, Nord Stream 2 or the previous situation in Crimea, document this process. Building on this knowledge, future decisions could be better reflected upon and the statements of the parties involved could be checked for possible interests and resources in order to better represent future measures of rapprochement on the basis of a broader acceptance in the political discourse.

Satisfying basic needs

For the period after a hopefully early end to armed violence, the "needs-based model of reconciliation" (Shnabel and Nadler, 2008) points to some fundamental aspects for meeting the needs of all parties to the conflict. In a nutshell, the model states that victims have experienced a reduction in their status and power, while perpetration is accompanied by a reduction in the moral-social dimension. For reconciliation to take place, these losses must be restored in the course of a rapprochement, i.e. the victim needs compensation for the loss of control suffered in order to be willing to reconcile, while the perpetrator wants to receive recognition from the victim and third parties again. This should be particularly taken into account in mediated third party discussions in order to support the diplomatic process.1

Of course, this theory, like the previous ones, only represents partial aspects and, in their limitations, do not fully do justice to reality; however, all theories point to options for action that can lead us out of the inability to understand and the lack of options. For application, they need to be expanded and sharpened by other disciplines in order to achieve the goal of a peace-oriented doctrine. A doctrine that takes into account both the current situation and the situation after the end of the conflict and, with the help of the tools of peace-oriented sciences, applies the logic of peace even in times of war.


1) For further possible lessons from psychological negotiation research, see also Frech (2021).


Festinger, L. (1957): A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Frech, A. (2021): Learning peace. An introduction to the psychology of negotiation. W&F 3/2021, PP. 39-41.

Janis, I. L. (1972): Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin.

Shnabel, N.; Nadler, A. (2008): A needs-based model of reconciliation: Satisfying the differential emotional needs of victim and perpetrator as a key to promoting reconciliation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 94(1), pp. 116-132.

The return of the military

by Marius Pletsch, Paul Schäfer and Marek Voigt

Since the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and the armed conflict over the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics", which have been militarily supported by Russia since 2014, there has been a clear upward trend in armaments and military spending worldwide. In addition to the armaments against Russia after 2014, other factors were the American policy shift of the "pivot to Asia" - i.e. the focus on containing the emerging superpower China - under President Obama and later Trump's election, which prompted European countries to spend more on armaments. The intensifying conflicts over regional supremacy in South East Asia, the Middle East and Western "stabilization and training missions" on the African continent - particularly in the Sahel - are also contributing to the international arms race.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, in violation of international law, abruptly shifted the focus of foreign policy back to "state security". This was accompanied by the return of the Cold War's logic(s) of deterrence and a new conflict between West and East, which was apostrophized as "systemic". Both will allow this rearmament dynamic to gain momentum for years to come, tying up resources and attention and inhibiting cooperation on global challenges or bringing it to a complete standstill. This is particularly tragic as global crises such as the climate catastrophe will not wait until the blocs believe they have decided the systemic conflict militarily. The share prices of the arms manufacturers after the start of the war were harbingers of this. The "compulsion to deterrence" (Zellner 2022) is being proclaimed, and peace and conflict researcher Niklas Schörnig told the Evangelical Press Service that "[w]e are forced to think like we did during the Cold War" (Bayer-Gimm 2022).

German rearmament in a "new era"?

The Federal Republic of Germany is directly supporting Ukraine with modern and less modern armaments. Deliveries were initially made from the Bundeswehr's inventory. Since the possibilities here have been exhausted, weapons have also been sent directly to Ukraine by arms companies since the end of March.

A special fund of €100 billion is to be created for the rearmament of the Bundeswehr, completely independent of these direct arms deliveries to Ukraine, secured by the Basic Law, earmarked and exempt from the debt brake. The money will be allocated in this financial year. According to Federal Finance Minister Lindner's draft budget, the annual budget for 2022 provides for €50.334 billion and €50.1 billion per year from 2023 to 2026 for the Federal Ministry of Defense. NATO's 2% target is to be achieved and probably even exceeded over the next five years with the help of the special fund.

If the public impression is anything to go by, this is a dramatic change in German policy. However, a look at the coalition agreement from autumn 2021 shows that not much has changed in terms of the lines and general intentions and plans for German defense policy. The keywords here are: rapid clarification of the Tornado successor for nuclear sharing, drone armament, commitment and support for major multinational projects such as the "Next Generation Weapon System" in the "Future Combat Air System" (FCAS) and the "Main Ground Combat System" (MGCS). It is therefore obvious that the direction was mapped out. However, scruples, concerns and objections, including from the current governing parties, against this course have been wiped off the table with Chancellor Scholz's speech in the Bundestag on February 27, 2022. Now the plan can be greatly accelerated, financially secured and implemented without having to fear resistance. The term "turning point" should therefore be viewed with the utmost caution. Strictly speaking, it is aimed more at a public that is supposed to view all world events under the primacy of military deterrence of a "policy of strength". Scholz's blindsiding of parliament and the public fits in perfectly with this kind of "turnaround": no further thought or discussion is to be given to the sense and nonsense of a fixed rearmament (2% target), the procurement of spectacular large-scale weapons projects and the operational doctrine of the armed forces. The strategic debate on what the Bundeswehr should be used for and deployed for by policymakers is urgently needed. Herbert Wulf aptly writes: "Providing funding first and then asking what should be done with it is the wrong order" (Wulf 2022). What we are seeing now is "panic politics that is of little use to the Bundeswehr" (ibid.). A "National Security Strategy" is to be developed over the coming months under the umbrella of the Federal Foreign Office. By the time the strategy is ready, numerous groundbreaking resolutions will have already passed through the parliamentary process.

New blocs?

The new bloc confrontation with Russia and China on the one hand and "the West" on the other, which has been slowly but steadily intensifying over the years, will be accelerated by the war against Ukraine. During his visit to Poland at the end of March 2022, President Biden described the new systemic conflict as follows: He sees it as a "great battle between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and oppression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force. We must be clear about this: This battle will not be fought in days or in months. We must steel ourselves for a long struggle" (The White House 2022).

What is true about Biden's emphatic speech is that there is indeed a global conflict between authoritarian and liberal concepts of order, between the consistent implementation of human rights and their disregard. However, this conflict of values cannot be attributed to specific groups of states or alliances (the "good" West versus the "bad" East). A look at the various partners on the western half of the new major conflict shows that the old policy of double standards is to be continued. Those on the right side can hope for lenient judgment when it comes to democracy and human rights.

The European Union also feels called upon to show its colors in this contest between democracy and dictatorship. It wants to finally become a powerful global player. It remains to be seen what the strategic core of these efforts should be: Independence from the USA as well or continuing to stand alongside the USA against Russia/China? Neo-colonial disregard for the interests of the Global South or a strict focus on global, equal cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? What we see instead is a focus on the military strengthening of the EU (see e.g. W&F 1/2021). The relative unity between the EU member states that has been fostered by the war is now to be used to drive this process forward. The toolbox for this has been filled to the brim over the past few years: Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defense Fund (EDF), the European Peace Facility or the increasing dual-use research in the EU's research programmes (e.g. Horizon 2020). As part of the "Strategic Compass", a new 5,000-strong task force is now also to be created, which is to be operational from 2025 (Demirel and Wagner 2022). Based on the experience of recent decades, it is impossible to say conclusively which of these plans will actually be implemented. The fact remains that the EU wants to focus its hegemonic power ambitions on the systemic conflict described above and back them up militarily. This means that the EU is failing to make a name for itself in the global conflicts of the future as a force for balancing interests, global cooperation, a policy of de-escalation and disarmament.

As of early April 2022, NATO does not appear to be willing to become directly involved in the war in Ukraine - the risks of escalation and an even larger war with active NATO participation appear too high. Nevertheless, troops and material are being deployed to the Eastern European member states.

At the same time, nuclear terror is back in people's minds and more present than it has been for over 30 years, including blatant threats to use these devastating weapons. This is all the more threatening as almost all bilateral and multilateral security instruments of intergovernmental cooperation no longer exist. In the field of nuclear weapons, only the "New Start" treaty for the limitation of strategic nuclear weapons remains; other instruments of nuclear and conventional arms control have been terminated, sometimes by the USA, sometimes by Russia. Deliberate, but also accidental use through misjudgment and unintentional incidents must be prevented. The current escalation does not make nuclear disarmament any less important, as the governments on both sides seem to believe, but all the more urgent. A half-hearted approach, like Germany's, is not very convincing. As Wolfgang Richter writes, Germany could make an important contribution here. Even if the signal for the states possessing nuclear weapons should not be overestimated, "the credibility of its disarmament and non-proliferation policy [...] would be strengthened if Berlin were to withdraw from nuclear sharing and communicate this as a contribution to global disarmament. As a political signal, such a step would give the NPT process a positive impetus" (Richter 2021, p. 99).

Even if they currently appear less opportune in the context of increased armament, militarization and bloc formation, options for de-escalation, diplomatic conflict resolution and disarmament must be put on the table now more than ever.


Bayer-Gimm, J. (2022): Peace researcher: West must rearm for understanding., 3.3.2022.

Da Silva, D.; Tian, N.; Marksteiner, A. (2021): Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2020, SIPRI Fact Sheet.

Demirel, Ö.; Wagner, J. (2022): Strategic compass points the way to EU military power. telepolis, 26.3.2022.

Richter, Wolfgang (2021): Disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear sharing. Germany's European and global responsibility. In: Maihold, G. et al. (eds.): German foreign policy in transition. Unstable conditions, new impulses. SWP Study 15, pp. 97-100.

The White House (2022): The Royal Castle in Warsaw. Warsaw, Poland. 26.3.2022.

Wulf, H. (2022): Panic politics., 15.3.2022.

Zellner, W. (2022): The compulsion to deter: The dilemma of the West. Leaves, 04/2022.

Reflections on pacifist action and solidarity

by Christiane Lammers and David Scheuing

With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, pacifist demands and questioning of the logic of war have come under further pressure. Pacifism and advocacy of non-violence is seen as a morally unjustifiable stance. Engaging in the spiral of violence is the only way to save Ukraine, Moldova and others - possibly us too - from Putin's grasp. In view of the violent escalation, we ask ourselves whether there are still options for a non-violent, solidarity-based response.

In an interview on the urgency of pacifist action, the philosopher of science Olaf Müller (2022) discusses the idea of rescue in this war situation, in the sense of protecting human lives: He argues that no defensive war is conceivable in the course of which a city is not reduced to rubble. The fate of Mariupol shows us how ruthlessly a determined aggressor reacts - especially when he or the soldiers see themselves legitimized by military counter-violence to save their own skin through killing and destruction. Far be it from Olaf Müller to deny Ukraine the legitimacy of (even violent) defense, but he draws attention to a difficult point: Does it correspond to our value system to accept thousands of victims in Ukraine and, we might add, hundreds of thousands of deaths from starvation, which will presumably die as "collateral damage" in the Global South this year and in the coming years?

Even with the justified reference to the guilt of the Russian aggressor in this respect, it is not possible to escape responsibility. Just as we have no right to dictate our own actions to Ukraine, it is also essential that we make our own decisions regarding our actions and self-critically question our German and European policies. The West's hope so far has been that Ukraine's military strength, supported by Western military aid and accompanied by massive sanctions against Russia, will end the war. However, NATO diplomats and military experts are already warning of a protracted war of attrition in which both sides can only lose and the likelihood of war crimes and high civilian casualties is rapidly increasing.1

If Müller's idea of salvation holds, it is therefore necessary for humanitarian reasons alone to work on the abolition of all means of violence. However, this alone is insufficient to counter the situation of aggression by an aggressor. Moreover, such a demand, made today, is likely to sound like a mockery to the ears of Ukrainians. They are right to demand our solidarity.

Solidarity as a vocabulary that promotes or reduces violence

But what does "solidarity" mean? From the Ukrainian government's point of view, solidarity is primarily understood to mean the provision of weapons aid and even direct involvement in the war. If it is argued everywhere in Europe that, in the end, it is above all force of arms that counts - for example in the justifications for the massive increase in the arms budget in Germany - then this is a consistent understanding. This equation could also be observed in other violent conflicts - e.g. in the now proverbial formula of "unrestricted solidarity" that Western states declared towards the USA after September 11, 2001.2

However, solidarity could also be understood and implemented differently: as a concept that reduces violence, the aim of which is above all to protect human lives in concrete terms. This includes not only refugee aid, humanitarian aid and all conceivable diplomacy. It is also important to examine whether social resistance measures planned for the short term make sense in this highly escalated situation.

With regard to refugee aid: everything must be done to ensure that escape corridors remain open or are reopened. Men and people who want to refuse military service must also be allowed to flee.

Humanitarian aid will be required on a large scale and for a long time. Considerable funding difficulties will have to be faced, as international humanitarian aid is under massive strain worldwide.

With regard to diplomatic initiatives that have been made public so far, it is somewhat irritating that, at least according to the media, the focus is primarily on Western government representatives. Schröder's meetings with Putin were met with derision, China was widely expected to take a clear stance against the Russian government and the UN was mainly used as a structure for declarations against Russia (see also Zumach in this issue, p. 21). This may all be politically justifiable, but does this not fail to recognize that a "neutral third party" is urgently needed to drive forward the negotiation of a ceasefire?

Hopes for social defense? Naive thinking?

Now to the latter: solidarity support for social resistance. The reporting on the war does not provide a clear picture of the nature, extent and relevance of the resistance of the Ukrainian civilian population. The high numbers of refugees within Ukraine and in neighboring countries suggest that the civilian will to resist is not as great as the Ukrainian government conveys. Be that as it may, civil resistance must be analytically separated from "social defense".

The former can also include violent means, including methods of armed guerrilla warfare. We have the heroic images of Molotov cocktails and Ukrainians building bombs in mind.3 However, violent civil resistance means that the civilians involved become combatants in the war, i.e. they are no longer protected by international law or the laws of war. In urban combat, unarmed civilians become "human shields". In the end, it will be almost impossible to tell whether civilians have been killed in combat or unlawfully murdered. The many dead found after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Kiev suburbs already give a bitter foretaste of how the logic of war is taking hold.

The question remains as to whether solidarity-based action could also be realized in the context of so-called "social defence" in the now highly escalated conflict. The focus of social defense is not the defense of territory, but the active defense of one's own way of life and values. The underlying assumption is that the population's "willingness" to cooperate ultimately determines whether the aggressor, in this case the Russian government, benefits from the war situation and the occupation of Ukrainian regions and cities. Methods of social defense include Slowing down work, boycotting, among others, institutions of those who profit from violence (often, for example, banks), general strikes or demonstrations. Of course, it should not be overlooked that non-violence in warlike conditions is also dangerous and can claim human lives. In Germany, the Bund für Soziale Verteidigung (BSV) in particular is working on and with this concept. The question of whether the conditions for non-violent social defense were and are given in Ukraine is answered in the affirmative (BSV 2022). The Metta Center for Nonviolence (2022) impressively documents that there is currently practiced nonviolent resistance in both Ukraine and Russia (see also Wintersteiner in this issue, p. 24).

Our solidarity is required here: In addition to the need to give weight to these approaches in political debates, it means supporting them in a concrete and practical way. Solidarity could be expressed in "civilian peacekeeping", even if this is primarily intended to be preventative (see Nonviolent Peaceforce 2021).4 The experiences of the "Balkan Peace Team" from the 1990s could be applied, which included local peace experts, protective accompaniment of human rights activists, visits to refugee camps, reconciliation work, youth work and lobbying (governments, diplomatic representatives and NGOs) as part of an international cooperation between several peace organizations (Müller and Foster 2012). But even for such approaches, they can only be effective if they are planned as part of an overall concept - a transnational emergency preparedness that peace organizations have lacked in recent years.

Pacifism and social defense as a rationale?

One final thought: many people who are active in peace work reject the special fund of €100 billion for the Bundeswehr that has been approved by the German government. In view of the insecurity caused by the ineffectiveness of previous instruments considered to be conflict-mitigating - from the UN Charter and international institutions to economic projects such as Nordstream 2 - we will not be able to avoid answering the questions: "What should happen if crisis prevention fails? Do we want our country to be able to defend itself?" The reasons given at the beginning for Ukraine raise the question of the form of self-defense we would be prepared to take. This question should not be avoided: Also because Social Defense, requires strategy, means and competencies. 100 billion would not be necessary for this, but planning and preparation, and possibly also a corresponding social culture. It is high time we questioned our own policies and fought for social defense - in solidarity with the people acutely affected by war, as well as for our own future.


1) See, for example, retired Lieutenant General Heinrich Brauß in an interview with Deutschlandfunk (Küpper 2022).

2) On the problematization of solidarity in the context of the war in Ukraine, see also Vondermaßen and Bieß (2022).

3) "Stern" and "Focus" verified various of these videos, which were distributed at the end of February 2022.

4) Surprisingly, the concept was also included in the German government's 2017 guidelines on civilian crisis prevention.


BSV (2022): Non-violent alternatives to war and armaments. Thesis paper by Christine Schweitzer, 15.03.2022.

Küpper, M. (2022): Military strategist Brauß fears "long war of attrition". DLF, 21.3.2022.

Metta Center for Nonviolence (2022): Resistance to war in Ukraine: Actions, news, analyses, and resources for nonviolence., continuously updated.

Müller, B.; Foster, P. (2012): The Balkan Peace Team 1994-2001 Non-violent intervention in crisis areas with the deployment of volunteer teams. Stuttgart: ibidem Verlag.

Müller, O. (2022): Options for pacifism in times of war. Interview with the SRF. Full transcript, W&F Blog.

Nonviolent Peaceforce (2021): Unarmed civilian protection. Strengthening civilian capacities to protect civilians against violence. Second edition. Self-published.

Vondermaßen, M.; Bieß, C. (2022): Solidarity with Ukraine. Blog post, BedenkZeiten (University of Tübingen), pdf at Plattform Zivile Konfliktbearbeitung.

Published in: Science & Peace 2022/2 Warlike Conditions, page 6-14

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