SPD: The price of error – politics
It was clairvoyant what Heinrich August Winkler said in December 2016 SPD wrote in the register. In the party organ Forward the party historian recommended: “One should try to explain history. One should not glorify it.” Winkler is himself a member of the SPD. Derived from the “legend-shrouded social-democratic Ostpolitik”, which is inseparably linked to the names of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr, wishful thinking instead of realism has unfortunately spread in view of today’s Russia. Mind you, that was in 2016, two years after the annexation of Crimea.
In the drafts for a new Ostpolitik the SPD, it seems as if the driver of this process, Chairman Lars Klingbeil, has read a lot of Winkler. In the internal party debate, he already emphasized that Leonid Brezhnev wanted to contractually secure the borders in Europe in the 1970s, but Vladimir Putin wanted them to be revised – by force. The principle of “change through rapprochement”, which Bahr presented in 1963 at the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, was able to prove itself because the most important partner for it, the Soviet Union, had become a power after Khrushchev’s fall, “which is no longer about it in Europe revolutionary change, but to preserve the status quo, i.e. to preserve the dominion created in 1945”.
In the mid-1970s, defense spending was well above today’s levels
For this reason, Moscow was even willing to meet the Western pressure for the recognition of certain human rights, at least on paper. This is what happened in the Helsinki final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in 1975. But Putin is concerned with expansion. And Brandt has already flanked his Ostpolitik with an element that has only slowly been added to Germany since the outbreak of war: its own military strength, in conjunction with NATO.
According to the Bundestag’s scientific service, defense spending was 3.4 percent of gross national product in 1973, then rose to 3.5 percent in 1974 and 1975. At the end of the Cold War, it fell to 1.5 percent in Helmut Kohl’s (CDU) chancellorship Percent. It was clear to Brandt that “his treaties with the East needed the solid foundation of the treaties with the West, that without the support of the Atlantic Alliance there could be no German contribution to the Western policy of detente, that the ability to deter and the willingness to reach an understanding were two sides of the same medals were,” said Winkler. At the same time, it was a big mistake to ignore civil rights movements like Solidarność in Poland, because you didn’t want to offend the party and state leaders. The destroyed trust, until today.
In 2016 it was the current SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mutzenichthe Winkler with his parliamentary colleague Achim Post im Forward disagreed. One must “dare more dialogue with Russia”. More cooperation is needed, also for more arms control; At the same time, however, it was also a clear signal to Russia that the inviolability of the borders was non-negotiable.
If you like, the Winkler Line clearly asserted itself with a delay due to the Russian war of aggression. The SPD is in a painful molting process, this time they were on the wrong side of history. “Some European countries, and above all Germany, have for too long relied exclusively on a cooperative future with Russia and have failed to develop scenarios for dealing differently with Russia,” says the self-critical draft of the Commission on International Politics (KIP), which was approved by the Executive Board. .
It bears Klingbeil’s handwriting. “It was a mistake to stick to the assumption that increasing economic ties would contribute to democratization and stabilization in Russia in the long term.” It is now necessary to organize “security from Russia” – instead of with Russia. That is the central sentence, the historic break with their own Ostpolitik so far, although they in the SPD are sure that there will also be a Willy Brandt in view of Putin’s epochal break, would not have acted so differently than Chancellor Olaf Scholz does today. They also want to approach their Eastern European partners, who have so far been ignored. Klingbeil is traveling from Kiev to a conference in Warsaw to meet the social democratic party leaders from Eastern Europe. According to the will of the SPD, Germany should also take on an active leadership role at international level. But what exactly does that mean?
For political scientist Wolfgang Merkel, that’s wishful thinking. Merkel, who has been a member of the SPD Basic Values Commission for 25 years but is not a party member, has problems with the 23-page paper. It is full of “optimistic poetry”. The reality is as follows: the influence of Eastern Europeans is increasing in Europe, and Poland feels closer to the USA than Germany. For Europe and a stronger leadership role for Germany, “there will be much less room in the emerging bipolar world order than is uncritically assumed in the paper.” Between a bipolar world with China and Russia on the one hand and the USA and the West on the other, a strong non-aligned camp will develop in the Global South.
Above all, the concept raises the question of what exactly does security “from Russia” mean? Does that mean only conventional rearmament? Or also an expansion of nuclear sharing? Should Ukraine be quickly admitted to NATO, what security guarantees are conceivable after a ceasefire? If you spell that out for Germany alone, you’d quickly come to the conflicts that are already weighing on the traffic lights – conflicts over distribution. “The SPD is in a specific dilemma,” says Merkel. “She feels committed to social balance, that’s her DNA, so to speak. If she gives it up, she loses her identity and probably the elections as well.”
But if you look at security from Russia in purely military terms, two percent of economic output for defense spending would not be enough, to which Germany has already committed itself. “That will put significant pressure on social spending.” And this in a phase in which high investments in climate protection and the restructuring of industry can be expected, said Merkel. The great social impositions would have to be cushioned financially. “There will be conflicts in the party, that’s the breaking point.”