Orientational Knowledge and Recommendations for Action in Difficult Times: The Peace Report 2022

The latest edition of the annual peace report of the leading German peace research institutes was presented at the Federal Press Conference last week. These recommendations of the peace researchers are addressed to the German Federal Government and the German Bundestag, as Prof. Dr Tobias Debiel (Co-Director KHK/GCR21 and INEF, University of Duisburg-Essen) affirmed at the presentation. ‘We also want to offer orientation knowledge to a critical public.’ The report appears at a time of uncertainty and questioning, as ‘the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has brought down the European security architecture.’ Thus, it is safe to say, peace research, perhaps especially in Germany, is itself challenged. 

Against this backdrop, the authors undertake a particularly ambitious attempt to classify the current situation with its background, complexities, and cross-references. Their aim is to identify the lines of conflict and to propose steps that policymakers can take to counteract the threat of escalation. At the same time, they make clear with this publication that new perspectives on international politics are necessary. In addition to the analysis of current arms dynamics, there are contributions that deal with the structural conditions of a sustainable peace order: Perspectives of a feminist foreign policy and the control of security institutions – such as intelligence services – in the democratic process are highlighted.

The chapter ‘Institutional Peacekeeping’ deals with the conditions for the success of sanctions. This instrument rarely achieves its intended goals. Strategic value could sometimes lie in the fact that sanctions provide another non-military option for action in addition to negotiations. The report views sanctions as instruments of a value-based foreign policy. Sanctions can generate broadly shared political narratives – including stereotypes, if one thinks of boycotting French cheese or red wine – and are not infrequently on the level of PR campaigns. However, the report cautions that consequences for the sanctioned country's domestic politics and civil society are often not considered and calls for increased funding for better monitoring.

The boom in sanctions in the current situation can also be interpreted as a symptom. The security architecture developed after the fall of the Berlin Wall has been shaken. Arms control treaties have been unilaterally terminated or simply not renewed. In the chapter on arms dynamics, the authors state that contractual security has not been this bad for decades. At the same time, the research notes the beginning of a new arms race. Several countries are investing in new supersonic weapons. New treaties would have to include other players as contractual partners: China, France, Great Britain. The report suggests that the government should counter this ‘erosion of international control’ with a step towards détente, a risk which the authors consider calculable and which, moreover, opens up a negotiating position. Germany should withdraw from the so-called ‘nuclear sharing’ within NATO. This is about having a say in the development and implementation of the alliance's nuclear strategy and, in concrete terms, the stationing of U.S. nuclear weapons at home and the provision of national combat aircraft and pilots.

The withdrawal of U.S. weapons on European soil would take into account the declared renunciation of first use and could be linked to a Russian renunciation of stationing in Belarus (104).

The report speaks of a ‘denuclearization of deterrence’ in this context.

In the chapter ‘Sustainable Peace: Gender, Diversity and Violence’, the report takes a look at situations and trends of structural violence as observed across the war-peace dichotomy. The Global Peace Index (GPI), for example, goes beyond the mere recording of military conflicts. Here, we can see that the level of social and political unrest has increased by 244% globally between 2011 and 2019 (72). Numerous states have seen or found reasons in this to justify increasingly repressive authoritarian policies. The authors combine a look at socially disadvantaged groups – who are the first to be affected by such developments – with an analysis of gender-based violence and provide examples of how peacebuilding policies have not or should not take this aspect into account (Exclusion in Peace Processes: The Example of Sierra Leone, 79). It is one of the most dismaying facts of the subject altogether that wars continue to be conceived, declared, and executed by men. In a sense, the chapter on feminist foreign policy picks up the ball that the new German government kicked off in the coalition agreement. While acceptance towards diversity has grown significantly in the past 20 years, discriminatory legal systems persist, originating in conservative-reactionary, religious and nationalistic value systems. Feminist foreign policy here becomes an essential element of a values-based foreign policy precisely in the context of armed conflict.

It exposes dynamics that ground imperial claims from a dangerous understanding of masculinity. It can point to perspectives that go beyond the renaissance of deterrence, rearmament, and sanctioning. (71)

Here, one could wish, also lies an approach to working through and transforming enemy images of all kinds as they boil up in aggressive male politics. This goes from representations in school textbooks up (or down) to the last corners of diplomacy. Weren't the G7 heads of state just recently teasing about a joint bare-knuckle ride to Russia? One would have loved to know what was going through the mind of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and the only woman in the group, at that moment. 

The Peace Report 2022 provides a successful balance of focusing on the current situation (‘The Russian attack on Ukraine pursues imperial goals and bears features of a war of annihilation’) on the one hand, and introducing additional perspectives on general armament dynamics, institutional and transnational configurations, structural and sustainable aspects of a peace and foreign policy that increasingly cooperates with regional actors, on the other. Options for action include concrete steps of de-escalation (‘no first use’), intensive monitoring of sanction regimes, a fundamental rights-oriented security policy even in times of crisis, but also increased dialogue on the ground with difficult actors such as jihadist groups.

Martin Wolf

Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), Leibniz-Institut Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (HSFK), Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg (IFSH) and Institut für Entwicklung und Frieden (INEF) (2022) (eds). Friedensgutachten 2022: Friedensfähig in Kriegszeiten, Bielefeld: Transcript. [Open Access]

The Peace Report is a German-language publication. However, the statement and recommendations are available in English: www.friedensgutachten.de/en/2022/ausgabe.