Thomas RödlSpeech by Thomas Rödl at the Easter March on 16.04.2022 in Munich,
Thomas Rödl, Spokesman DFG-VK Bavaria

Speech on YouTube with photos from the Munich Alliance against the war and racism

Hello, I welcome you to this year’s Easter march of the peace movement!
Our motto: No to war! Negotiate instead of shoot!

The war in Ukraine has been raging for 7 weeks:

  • We condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law!
  • We demand the withdrawal of all Russian troops!
  • We protest against the imperialist and militarist great power policy of the Russian president!
  • We call on the warring parties to agree on a ceasefire and to negotiate a political solution!

I would like to start by talking about an issue that unfortunately does not play a role in the public discussion: Nuclear weapons

The Easter march today is in the tradition of the Easter marches of the opponents of nuclear weapons from about 1960. We still live in the nuclear age, there are these nuclear missiles with intercontinental and other ranges, missiles of all kinds, fired from the ground, from submarines or from airplanes. Is it already over? Unfortunately no. I have the impression that many people are just now realizing again that we are living in the age of nuclear weapons. Suddenly nuclear war, the possibility of nuclear war, is present again. About 60 years ago was the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviet Union had begun to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. Distance Havana to Washington 1700 km. (Reference value Berlin Moscow 1600 km) Before that, however, the U.S. had deployed intermediate-range missiles in Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Italy. It is common knowledge that the world was on the brink of nuclear war. The USA could not accept that the enemy’s weapons of destruction were stationed so close to their capital. They forced the Soviet military to dismantle the missiles in Cuba again. In return, the U.S. has agreed to withdraw its medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. This is less known.

For nearly 20 years, there was a tacit agreement that the United States would not deploy nuclear weapons in Europe that could reach Soviet territory. Then came the so-called rearmament with Pershing 2 missiles and cruise missiles, in the FRG, Great Britain and Italy. The Pershing 2 missiles would have reached Moscow from West Germany in 15 minutes, dramatically shortening the response time for the Soviet military leadership. Millions of people in Europe understood at the time that these weapons systems could be used offensively and have a destabilizing effect. Then came the INF Treaty, hundreds of missiles and warheads were scrapped.

I’m not wallowing in the past to tell you what a great peace movement we had back then. But to point out what we have not achieved. We did not achieve in the 1990s that all nuclear weapons would have been scrapped. Many fellow citizens believe deterrence is outdated, nuclear weapons are out, no longer an issue. But!! The front line between West and East has been maintained, since the end of the Soviet Union, there are much fewer nuclear weapons, but they are still directed against each other. and it is still is a major factor which weapons are stationed where and in what time they can cover a given geographic space to reach a target. The relationship between the U.S. and Russia, or NATO and Russia, has never been one of partnership or even friendship. No – they were always potential war adversaries, potential nuclear war adversaries who could nuke each other. Unfortunately, the modernization and technical improvement of nuclear weapon delivery systems is not in the public eye. And this is an essential part of the prehistory of the current war!!!

With the eastward expansion of NATO, Russia had the perspective that NATO would bring more and more troops and possibly also nuclear weapons closer and closer to Russian territory. The military logic behind NATO’s eastward expansion: We are superior, from the entire economic and military potential, all Eastern European states are now in NATO. We keep Russia at a distance, from the German point of view. The front is 1000 km further east. The same military logic in the Russian point of view: we must not allow Ukraine to join NATO and thus NATO’s military apparatus to move directly to the Russian border. Regarding the current debate, we now heard from a retired lieutenant colonel, Ulrich Scholz, who also worked on the planning staff at NATO headquarters, he was asked what goals Russian President Putin was pursuing? I quote, “President Putin does not want Ukraine to join NATO, he wants Ukraine to remain neutral. During the negotiations before the war, the West had declared NATO membership as non-negotiable. That left Putin with only the military option. As it stands, a compromise will come down to just that. No NATO membership for Ukraine for the time being. We could have had that (compromise, he means) even before the war.” So: We, Germany, NATO, are not uninvolved observers, but part of the conflict!

Let’s go back 12 years, 2010: NATO strategists could have said, we are in the superior position, all Eastern European countries are now in NATO, Russia cannot be dangerous to us. Ukraine remains neutral, we can live with that. But in the years that followed, the U.S. upgraded Ukraine, pumped in hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, and organized joint maneuvers, thus incidentally and secretly building Ukraine into a NATO partner.

On the war in Ukraine. We condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law! And we demand the withdrawal of all Russian troops! Well, but now what to do? We cannot end the war through reasonable appeals. No one can materially force Russia to withdraw. We now see daily the destruction in the cities, or largely destroyed cities like Mariupol. Of course, I understand the desire to defend the homeland against Russian aggression. But — Who wants to defend a city militarily, accepts that the city will be destroyed. Who wants to conquer a city, must bomb out the defenders, so happened in Falludja, Aleppo, Mossul, Grosny… Or, as in the second world war, think of the pictures of Stalingrad 1943 or Berlin 1945. Military defense leads to self-destruction. A pragmatic argument for pacifism.

Is defensive warfare a just war? (Question to the people – who thinks that a defensive war is a just war?) What is the point of just war, if even in the case of military victory, everything is broken? The alternative from a pacifist point of view is: cease military defense, lay down our arms and declare: We defend ourselves with political, civil and non-violent means. Even a military victory would be a disaster for Ukraine! What are people fighting and dying for in Ukraine? For the right to become a member of NATO? Neutrality has already been accepted by the political leadership. For the sovereignty of Ukraine? For the freedom to toil for a generation to rebuild and service foreign loans? But who defines what Ukraine is? If the nationalistically oriented Ukrainians want their own state, then they must also accept that the nationalistically Russian-oriented citizens want their own state or annexation to Russia? The peaceful coexistence of different peoples in one state, that would actually be the better solution. The war makes that impossible for decades to come.

Now to the question: How does Germany react?
Ladies and Gentlemen,the organizers of the Munich Easter March reject arms deliveries to Ukraine! Those who supply weapons prolong the war and increase the suffering of the people. Russia seems to accept the arms deliveries at the moment. But slowly and gradually NATO is becoming a direct party to the war. A direct confrontation up to the use of nuclear weapons becomes conceivable. Are we just about to slide into the third world war? (I don’t want to predict anything) Just as we slid into the first world war? Therefore: No arms deliveries to Ukraine! Suddenly 100 billion euros are made loose for further armament. The following comments on this: From the year 2000 to 2020, the Federal Republic of Germany has spent approx. 700 billion euros spent on the Bundeswehr.

What have we achieved with this? Have we won the war against terrorism? 20 years the Bundeswehr has been in Afghanistan, and what have we achieved? Did we use it to prevent this war? Already in the coalition agreement, the parties of the traffic light coalition agreed to increase defense spending to 2% of the gross domestic product. This means increasing defense spending from the current level of around 47 billion euros to around 70 billion euros. (in 5 years, this would be an increase of more than 100 billion euros). So that was already decided, but without a statement of how that was going to be financed.

Secondly, what do you want to achieve with it? What capabilities should the Bundeswehr receive? Do we want a Bundeswehr with 500,000 soldiers and 3,000 battle tanks again, do we want to invade Ukraine to kick Russia out again? What does that mean, strengthen the eastern flank? Move NATO troops and bases east? Station new nuclear missiles there? That means pushing the confrontation further and preparing for the next major showdown.

Third, and actually needless to say, this spending competes, of course, with social spending, with the need to maintain infrastructure, and, of course, with the need to invest to limit global warming. (more on this in the speech of the closing rally).

Ladies and Gentlemen,
With today’s Easter March, we are advocating a new policy of détente that takes into account the security interests of all states,

  • we advocate the strengthening of the OSCE
  • we advocate disarmament instead of rearmament
  • for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany,
  • for the accession of the FRG to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  • we advocate humanitarian aid and civil conflict transformation,
  • we oppose the 100-billion-euro weapons program of the FRG

We want joint security instead of confrontation.
We need more pacifism in the country, but pacifism needs to organize better to be politically effective.

Note : The appeal Preserve democracy and welfare state – No high armament in the Basic Law!