Interview with Joachim Gauck – Can you create peace with weapons? “Yes, Germany

He was an ordinary federal president: Joachim Gauck (82) spoke openly to the conscience of the Germans!

In the BILD interview, Gauck takes a clear stance on the Ukraine war. He talks about Putin’s invasion, the debate over arms supplies in Germany and his relationship with Russia.

IMAGE: Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “I do not want Ukraine to lose the war.” Do you want to sign it?

Joachim Gauck: “Yes. I can sign this sentence.”

Why is he not talking about a victory for Ukraine?

Gauck: “Because it leaves a lot of room for reflection on what a victory over military power Russia might look like.”

What is a victory for you, and what would be a clear defeat for Putin?

Gauck: “It would be a defeat if he could not achieve his war goal. Putin’s first goal was probably not just land grabbing, but above all ‘denazification’ and ‘demilitarization’ of Ukraine. Behind this lies the negation of Ukraine as a nation, the eradication of the national mood and an incorporation into ‘Russky Mir’. He will not be able to do that. I understand that many are wondering: what kind of defeat will the aggressor accept. It is not up to us to answer that. “It is up to Ukraine. We have no recommendations to Ukraine on whether to relinquish territory or accept other conditions for living in peace and freedom.”

In an open letter, intellectuals warn against arms deliveries. A good contribution to the debate?

Gauck: »The letter is actually positive for the debate. If there is silence about difficult topics that concern many, then it is not good. However, I do not share the letter writers’ opinion at all. And there were also answers like the open letter from Ralf Fücks and other intellectuals. The debate may help us to see that true peace cannot be built on decreed slavery.

I stand with those who want to give all possible support to the innocent victims of the war. “

Can you make peace with weapons?

Gauck: “Yes. Without the Allied weapons in World War II, there would have been a Europe under Nazi rule. But even without this historical review, it should be clear to us that in the current situation we should first let Ukraine speak. What do you have? need for your freedom struggle? When people then say to us: We want to fight for our freedom, we even risk our lives, then it is not up to us to explain to them from a safe place what the right thing is. It would be hard “And very arrogant. It is also important to keep in mind that the Ukrainians are also defending freedom and peace in our part of Europe. Only a success from Ukraine should prevent Putin from further imperialist attacks on European neighbors.”

Joachim Gauck with the two BILD political reporters Kai Weise (left) and Ralf Schuler (right)Foto: Christian Spreitz

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Joachim Gauck with the two BILD political reporters Kai Weise (left) and Ralf Schuler (right)Photo: Christian Spreitz

The peace movement in the GDR wanted to forge swords into plowshares. Should we now have plowshares in mind?

Gauck: “Yes, unfortunately. We do well not to speak abstractly and generally about the situation, but rather concretely: Good and evil are clearly divided in this war. There is an attacker and a victim. Therefore, we can and will not leave those who defend “Their right to integrity and freedom, out in the cold. NOT wanting to show solidarity with a victim is a sign of inhumanity. For me, it is a human necessity to help the helpless. The criminals’ tanks and rockets must be countered with something other than plowshares.”

You have never visited Russia as President. How is your relationship with Russia?

gauck: “I have an emotional closeness to the Russian people, who in history have never experienced a functioning democracy in just one election period. I love Russian writers, musicians, painters. But I learned the hard way what communism means. And I can pretty well recognize the children of communism who were on the move as an intelligence elite. There I rediscover the central characteristics of the past: first, the Leninist mantra of never relinquishing power once it has been won. Second: Can also rule on right. Thirdly, open debate and freedom of expression will be abolished. Fourth, intelligence services create control over the public in order to create fear and conformity. If you keep these imprints in mind, then we see the same pattern in Russia today, only without communist ideology. Instead of a new form of nationalism with an imperialist air. It is all linked to an offended leader and an offended community mourning the loss of its former greatness. It’s a dangerous mixture. “

Is it worth talking to Putin at the moment?

Gauck: “Responsible politics must also talk to dictators. We must never do without diplomacy. However, it is important to negotiate from a position of self-confidence and strength. That turned out to be the case during the Cold War. “

are we too weak

Gauck: “We woke up too late. Especially many intellectuals, but also politicians, have confused desire with reality and ignored or downplayed the naked facts – such as Russia’s bleeding to death over the rule of law, the atrocities against its own people, the political assassinations and imperial ambitions. and attacks from the Kremlin. “

How do you explain the proximity of many East Germans to Russia today?

Gauck: ‘The majority in the east vote and think like the rest of the country. But there is a striking minority that is alienated from various elements of a free society, with openness, with liberalism, with diversity. She also lacks a stronger authority. It also includes suddenly remembering that the Soviet Union harassed and ruled us, imposed an unwanted SED government on us and brutally suppressed the popular uprising in 1953. Stasi as a fear apparatus analogous to the KGB falls into oblivion – a danger to ancient times . Today, however, parts of East Germany feel dominated by the West. They will then deliberately be East Germans, and the relationship with Russia should then show: I am independent, not an Ossi who has become a Wessi. Unconsciously, however, it could also be a kind of catch-up Stockholm syndrome that prefers to connect with the oppressors of the past in a friendly way so that no harm happens. And then there is a small group of former oppressors who mourn the loss of their system. All this is bitter. Dictatorship has long-term consequences. “

What effect do the Soviet memorials in Berlin have on you?

Gauck: “As a citizen of the GDR, I never went to the Treptow Memorial, because for me it was an architecture of power and intimidation. As president, I have sought elsewhere to pay tribute to fallen Soviet soldiers. I went to the cemeteries for Soviet soldiers who died, or I remember the suffering and death of the Soviet prisoners of war at the Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock memorial. “

Many Ukrainians are now resorting to weapons of persuasion. Have you ever thought about doing it yourself?

Gauck: “Yes, absolutely. At that time in the GDR, I supported the slogan ‘Swords for plowshares’ for tactical reasons, and I also gave the symbols to critical young people. At that time, many of us in the GDR showed tactical pacifism. We were not in principle against weapons, but we did not want to fight under the circumstances of a dictatorship, let alone for it. To fight for freedom, not just to ask for peace, I have always accepted as a way of existence. People and states are not only good. It is lack of realism “Believing that fundamental pacifism can bring peace. Putting those who despise freedom and democracy in a position where they have sole power over the world with their weapons cannot be our goal.”

The federal government is talking about a loss of prosperity as a result of the war. What will it concretely mean for our children’s generation?

Gauck: “In my generation, many people lost not only wealth, but everything: life, property, homeland. We have all gone through deep valleys. We should not panic if there is a threat of a dive into prosperity. We live in a “Welfare state, where uprisings do not immediately threaten if gross domestic product stagnates. In times of crisis, we will not forget those who have so far been able to rely on the support of the welfare state. Politicians need not only counter-strategies in crises, but also when fears of the future arise.”

What do you mean specifically?

Gauck: “We need politicians who understand that the way we talk to people is a key element of politics. You have to talk to people in such a way that they get a sense of tackling the challenges together. There are good approaches in the federal government. If you look at Economy Minister Robert Habeck’s communication, you will see that you can definitely learn it. One can explain: Yes, we spend a lot of money on armaments. But what happens if we do not? So we are not facing a danger that is much worse than a dip in income or temporary shortages. ”

You just did not mention the Chancellor …

Gauck (smiles): “Fear must not paralyze us,” Olaf Scholz said in his televised speech. That was a good sentence. I assume he also attributes this phrase to himself. Especially in the next few weeks begins a particularly difficult time for Ukraine.We will have to mourn the countless victims of the brutal aggression. It is important to recognize that caution and courage are not mutually exclusive. There is a difference between being afraid and being afraid. We must not be paralyzed by fear and thus play into the hands of those who use it to conduct politics. ”

A major theme of your presidency was freedom. What did Corona do about freedom in Germany?

Gauck: “I am not one of those in the country who has become hysterical. I have always felt free despite the actions of the government. I have never really been able to understand the protest against it. If I had lived under governments like the Hungarian or Turkish ones, where one is constantly experiencing the narrowing of freedom, I would have understood the protests. I have seen a government that has been quite reserved and never arrogant, that has intervened less harshly than it could have done. Mistakes may have been made, but I have never seen freedom threatened. “

Last question: Former Tanzler Gerhard Schröder now wants offices and staff cuts. A rule that affects all previous chancellors and presidents. Is that okay?

Gauck: “I do not want to comment on that. When it comes to delegitimizing ex-Chancellor Schröder, he does it himself. It is actually a very sad story – for his party, his former cabinet colleagues and for a large number of Germans who once supported him, and who supports him today, can no longer understand at all. “

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