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Peace to Europe, not NATO

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For the vast majority of the population of the former Federal Republic, NATO has been the guarantor of peace and freedom for a long time. Anti-communism, fuelled by the fear of the Soviet Union operated by the world revolution, the Berlin Blockade and the construction of the Berlin Wall left little room to think about alternatives to NATO.

But in 1965 at the latest, when US President Lyndon B. Johnson bombed North Vietnam and deployed more and more ground troops to South Vietnam, a discussion about the policy and objectives of the Western power started especially in the universities. The military infrastructure of NATO, which has always been a US military structure in its core, brought about Germany’s involvement in every US war like that of other states’, which were integrated into it. That has not changed until today. In his book “The Grand Chessboard” former security adviser to Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, commented this dependence as follows: “The brutal fact is that Western Europe and increasingly also Central Europe, remains largely an American protectorate, with its allied states reminiscent of ancient vassals and tributaries.”

The prevailing view, according to which Gerhard Schröder did not participate in the Iraq war of George W. Bush is not the whole truth. This war was also fought from US facilities in Germany. If Saddam Hussein had been equipped with long range missiles, he would have been entitled to attack US facilities like the German Ramstein Air Base.

As in the 80s, the peace movement took a stance against the establishment of further nuclear missiles in East and West, the calls for a withdrawal from the military infrastructure of NATO became popular. Germany’s participation in the war in Afghanistan and NATO’s eastward enlargement as a major cause of the Ukraine crisis are meanwhile also discussed among politicians of the conservative spectrum and raise the question whether a longer stay of Germany in the NATO, may increasingly be setting the security of the Federal Republic of Germany at risk. The so-called war on terror led by the United States is a terrorist breeding programme and increases the risk of terrorist attacks in Germany, as the former CDU MP Jürgen Todenhöfer properly analysed the situation.

Already in 2007, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt stated: “For the peace of the world, today there is much less risk emanating from Russia than from America. (!) Even if America’s hegemony will endure for a long future, the European nations have nevertheless to maintain their dignity. (!) The dignity is based on our adherence to the responsibility of our own conscience.”

On 13 December 2014, at the occasion of the demonstration called the “Friedenswinter” in Berlin, in front of the Federal President’s office, the theologian Eugen Drewermann said: “NATO is the most aggressive alliance of all times.”

So peace instead of NATO!

But if NATO will be resolved like the Warsaw Pact, then what? The Left Party knows that the change of military alliances is not a sufficient condition to keep peace. Foreign politics was and is fighting for resources and markets. Euphemistic speeches about human rights, democracy and free market economy cannot change this fact. The famous phrase of Jean Jaurès “Capitalism carries war within itself like a cloud carries rain” has been confirmed in recent decades over and over again. As the battle for raw materials and markets is also discharged by military action, such as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have shown, Pope Francis comes to the conclusion: “We are in the middle of the third world war, but in a war of instalments. There are economies that must wage war in order to survive. Therefore, they produce and sell weapons.”

Since for the Left, capitalism and democracy are incompatible with each other, it knows that to build a democratic society with a different economic order is essential. Another democratic economic order would also change the present power structure of the world, in which the US global dominance has reached an unprecedented scale.

Interestingly, this basic policy approach of the Left concerning insurance for peacekeeping is also shared by US policy hardliners. Brzezinski writes in the above-mentioned book “The Grand Chessboard”:

“Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.”

This is the same idea that Immanuel Kant formulated in his essay about “Perpetual Peace”. He demanded a republican constitution for all states so that citizens would then be empowered to decide for themselves whether or not there was to be war. They would have to decide on “bringing all the calamities of war upon themselves”. Translated to the current situation, this means that we would not be involved in the Afghanistan war if the population had voted on it or if politicians and journalists favourable to wars of intervention had been exposed to the trials and tribulations of the war in Afghanistan themselves.

Prerequisite for a structurally peaceful world is the development of a truly democratic society, i.e. of an economic order that prevents large amounts of capital leading to an accumulation of power, because it leaves the capital to those who earn it by their labour.

But the Left cannot let itself be contented with this statement alone. Even in this day and age and given the current social and power structures, answers must be found. This brings a possible participation of the Left in a Federal Government into focus. The mainstream media and the regime parties SPD (Social Democrats) and The Greens look upon the willingness of the Left to engage in wars of intervention as a requirement for a common government. Should they hold on to this condition, there can be no red-red-green government.

The years of bombardment have led to a certain degree of discomfiture of several elected representatives of the Left and have caused them to pass some comments which have given rise to annoyances and confusion. Although the ban on arms exports had been a central promise of the Lefts’ last federal election campaign, some members of the Left called for arms sales to the Kurds to fight the IS. An elected representative working to abolish a key campaign promise behaves like the system parties and contributes to the continuous increase of abstentionism.

The political key mistake of this proposal, however, is that the demand for arms sales to the Kurds means to submit to the US imperialism’s logic of war. It is an open secret that US policy has the oil wells in the Kurdish region in mind, and by means of destabilization of the Middle East is working towards political structures that will guarantee the exploitation of oil reserves by Western corporations.

Of similar quality was the attempt made by some members of the Left to blue-pencil the call for Germany’s resignation from the military infrastructure of NATO, i.e. the US, from the Left Party’s programme for the European elections. Those who had made this proposal were disregarding the fact that with this, they are in favour of maintaining a US infrastructure on German soil, from where, amongst other things, the United States’ drone war with its thousands of dead is being controlled.

In the coming years the Left must make it absolutely clear that the condition sine qua non of their participation in a federal government is a foreign policy that withdraws from the military escalation for which US imperialism is responsible. In its basic programme, the Left calls for the conversion of NATO into a collective defense alliance involving Russia. This is a rejection of the unilateral eastward enlargement of NATO, which is a breach of the West’s promise and has led to the current crisis in Ukraine. The following requirements are a prerequisite for this security concept, which will overcome Cold War structures and which was also advocated by the SPD (the Social Democrats) for many years:

1. Merkel’s policy towards Russia must be replaced by an Eastern policy of détente which is based on Willy Brandt’s successful foreign policy.

2. A federal government in which the Left participates will not agree to Ukraine’s acceptance into NATO or any other states’ adjacent to Russia.

3. A federal government in which the Left participates will reject the stationing of NATO troop formations on the western border of Russia.

Moreover, our terms and conditions remain the same. The “Bundeswehr” (German army) must not participate in military interventions abroad, and arms exports to areas of tension are to be stopped immediately.

This list of demands is, of course, not exhaustive. So for instance we must set about the construction of a Willy-Brandtcorps for disaster relief and disease control.

It remains crucial that participation of The Left in a federal government is only justifiable if the German foreign policy undergoes a fundamental reorientation after the failures in Afghanistan, in Ukraine and in Europe.

 

First published by the Junge Welt under title: Frieden statt NATO (Peace instead of NATO), translated by the Swiss based-CC.

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Diplomacy

Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva

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19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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Analyzing the role of OIC

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oic

Composed of fifty-seven countries and spread over four continents, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second-largest intergovernmental body following the United Nations (UN). And it is no secret that the council was established in the wake of an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Safeguarding and defending the national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of its member states is the significant provision of the OIC’s charter. OIC charter also undertakes to strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among member states. Uplifting Islamic values, practicing cooperation in every sphere among its members, contributing to international peace, protecting the Islamic sites, and assisting suppressed Muslim community are other significant features of its charter. 

Recently, the world witnessed the 11-days long conflict between Hamas and Israel. In a recent episode of the clash between two parties, Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, claiming many innocent Palestinian lives. The overall death toll in the territory rose to 200, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1305 injured, says Hamas-run health ministry. This event was met with resentment from people across the world, and they condemned Israeli violence. After 11 days of violence, the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. The event of Israeli violence on Palestinians has called the role of OIC into question. The council, formed in the aftermath of the onslaught on Al-Aqsa mosque, seemed to adopt a lip service approach to the conflict. However, the call for stringent measures against Israeli aggression by the bloc was not part of its action. 

Likewise, the Kashmir issue, which has witnessed atrocities of Indians on innocent Kashmiris, looks up to the OIC for its resolution. Last year, during the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5 to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jam­mu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps. However, the global community seems to pay deaf ears to the OIC’s resolution. The Kashmir issue and the Palestine issue are the core issues of the world that are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. And the charter of the bloc that aims to guard the Muslim ummah’s interest rings hollow. About a year ago, the event that made rounds on electronic and social media was the occurring of the KL summit, which reflected another inaction of the OIC. The move of influential Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia), to sail on the idea to establish another forum to counter the OIC, manifested the rift in the bloc.  

Many OIC countries are underdeveloped and poorly governed and are home to instability, violence, and terrorism. The consequences of the violence and terrorism in the OIC countries have been devastating. According to Forbes, 7 out of 10 countries, which suffer most from terrorism are OIC members. The Syrian conflict is another matter of concern in the Mideast, looking up to OIC for a way out. An immense number of people have lost their lives in the Civil war in Syria.

Several factors contribute to the inefficiency of the bloc. The first and foremost reason is the Saudi-Iran stalemate. Influential regional powers (Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in the Mideast share strained links following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Both sides dissent each other on many fronts. Saudi Arabia accuses Tehran of interfering in its internal affairs, using terrorism as a tool to intimidate neighbors, fuelling sectarianism, and equipping proxies to de-stabilize and overthrow the legitimate government. Locked in a proxy war in the Mideast, the KSA and Iran vie for regional dominance. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program is met with strong resentment in the KSA since it shifts the Balance of Power towards Iran. Such developments play a vibrant role in their stalemate, and the bloc’s effectiveness is hostage to the Saudi-Iran standoff.

Political and social exclusion in many OIC states is the norm of the day, contributing to upheaval and conflict. In OIC countries, the level of political participation and political and social integration is weak. This fact has rendered OIC countries vulnerable to unrest. Arab Spring in 2011 stands as the best example. Furthermore, conflicts, since the mid-1990s, have occurred in weak states that have encountered unrest frequently. 

Saudi Arabia has tightened its grip on the OIC. The reason being, the OIC secretariat and its subsidiary bodies are in the KSA. More importantly, the KSA’s prolific funding to the bloc enhances its influence on the bloc. One example includes, in the past, the KSA barred an Iranian delegation from the OIC meeting in Jeddah. Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman, says Abbas Mousavi. “The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the deal of the century plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported. Given the Iranian growing influence and its access to nuclear capabilities, the KSA resorted to using financial leverage to reap support from Arab countries against Iran. For instance, in past, Somalia and several other Arab states such as Sudan and Bahrain received a commitment of financial aid from Saudi Arabia on the same day they cut ties with Iran. Furthermore, the summits of OIC, GCC, and Arab League are perceived as an effort by Saudi Arabia to amass support against Tehran. 

Division in the Muslim world and their clash of interests is yet another rationale behind its inefficacy. These days, many Muslim countries are bent on pursuing their interests rather than paying commitment to their principles, that is, working collectively for the upkeep of the Muslim community. Last year, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations. Following this, the Kingdom of Bahrain became another Muslim country to normalize its links with Israel. Such moves by the Islamic countries weaken the OIC agenda against Israel. 

OIC’s efficacy would be a distant dream unless the Saudi-Iran deadlock finds its way. For this purpose, Pakistan can play a vital role in mediating between these two powers. Pakistan has always been an active player in the OIC and played its role in raising its voice against Islamophobia, Palestine Issue, and the Kashmir issue. Shunning their interests and finding the common goals of the Muslim ummah, should be the utmost priority for the members of the bloc. Every OIC member ought to play its part in the upkeep of the bloc. Furthermore, a split in the bloc should come to an end since it leads to the polarization of member states towards regional powers. Many OIC countries are rich in hydrocarbons (a priceless wealth, which is the driver for the growth of a country); if all OIC members join hands and enhance their partnership in this sphere they can fight against energy security. And OIC is the crux for magnifying cooperation among its member states to meet their energy needs.

In this era of globalization, multilateralism plays a pivotal part. No one can deny the significance of intergovernmental organizations since they serve countries in numerous ways. In the same vein, OIC can serve Muslim ummah in multiple ways; if it follows a course of adequate functioning.

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