Read More on the Topic A World Without War

The United Nations logo is displayed in the General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters, New York (Sept. 2021)
The United Nations logo is displayed in the General Assembly Hall at UN Headquarters, New York Photo: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS | Eduardo Munoz

We never thought it possible that Russia would invade its Ukrainian neighbours, its former brother-state — and certainly not with such brutal war crimes. There is no end in sight. We fear that the war in Ukraine will go on for a long time.

Germany has learned an important lesson from the World Wars: Never again war! Never again militarism! The deep conviction of the vast majority of Germans was and is to always first seek a peaceful solution in conflicts. Unfortunately, this conviction has been shaken in recent months. The fear that such a war of aggression could be successful and then be followed by the next one and the one after that is palpable. The decision to take up arms, to rearm, and to supply weapons to Ukraine appears obvious. But there are, in fact, alternatives.

That said, do our old answers still apply? What could security guarantees for Russia’s neighbours look like without immediately lapsing into militarism? How can we raise the pressure on the Kremlin without triggering mass poverty and famine in Russia itself? And how to strengthen the United Nations so that it can once again play an important role in peaceful conflict resolution?

This dossier attempts to provide answers and background analyses to these three sets of questions.

What Role Can Sanctions Play?

The path to peace must remain peaceful, but it also cannot be helpless. Economic pressure has often helped to topple inhumane regimes in the past — think of the apartheid state in South Africa, for example.

On the other hand, there are many examples of economic sanctions condemning entire populations to starvation — and in the end only strengthening those in power in the respective country because all responsibility for the misery could be blamed on “the bad guys out there”. The merciless sanctions regime against Iraq in the 1990s is a particularly bad example of how sanctions are not always an effective solution.

We want to explore the question of how different sanctions regimes have worked in the past and what lessons we can learn from them from a left-wing perspective. In what kind of scenario could what kind of sanctions actually have a positive effect?

Collective Security Systems

NATO’s geopolitical role has been questionable, to say the least, in the past. It is not an “alliance of values” defending freedom and democracy, but an uncompromising power alliance whose member-states use brutal military force to assert their interests when necessary, like the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which violated international law, or as Turkey is currently doing with a war of aggression in northern Syria that is just as illegal under international law. Indeed, there are many good reasons to reject NATO.

But there are also other forms of cooperative security systems, such as the OSCE or the EU. They all have their specific advantages and disadvantages, their own interests and a different attitude towards the use of military means.

In light of the Russian attack, the — very understandable — fear of becoming a victim of aggression is growing in states like Finland, Georgia, or Moldova. The peace movement and the broad Left must also face the question of how the security of all countries in Europe (and beyond) can be guaranteed in the long term, even without NATO.

Democratizing the United Nations

What role can the United Nations play at all if the Security Council is blocked? The five permanent members mutually hinder each other’s resolutions with their vetoes, while the UN as a whole appears incapable of acting. Should the Security Council be expanded and the veto abolished? Or would it not make more sense to transfer important decisions to the General Assembly?

The question is similar in many other UN processes, from climate issues to disarmament: there, the consensus principle usually applies. It ensures the protection of minorities, but also often leads to blockades or to a minimal consensus, which is usually so minimal that it remains ineffective. But with the abolition of the consensus principle, individual countries would be exposed to the dictates of the majority.

How can the United Nations be strengthened and democratized in a way that allows it to once again play a stronger, active role for peace in the world in the future?

View the Dossier


Role Details
Senior Fellow for Peace and Security Policy Ingar Solty
Phone: +49 30 44310 - 165