Dr. Hans Günter Brauch (Political Scientist & Historian; Chairman, AFES PRESS)

06.11.2010 - Interview conducted by Ana Lucas-Palomares & Joel MacMillan

Q1. What would you say is the most important thing we can learn from the reunification of Germany, and how can such a lesson help other countries to prevent future conflict?

The first major lesson, as I indicated in my lecture, it was the first and only global transformation that was peaceful. It was the first unification of Germany that was peaceful, the previous ones were all associated with wars with our neighbours. This was really the biggest event that occurred that triggered the reunification of Europe. The fact that so many young people from all parts of Europe are here today is a sign of hope. This also, however, requires a tremendous amount of responsibility and I indicated the fears that were associated in the event, and I recall very well the French students, they were all very concerned, as the French and British debate was at the time, on how would Germany use its power. It is very significant that now, with the EU’s 27 members, war is no longer a possibility. Also as a German I would say the fears that were determined by the historical setting could be allayed with further integration.

Q2. How did the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union encourage the international community to re-evaluate issues of global security and vulnerability?

There were different perspectives in 1990. Many of the policy makers were trained in light of the WWII and the Cold War experience, and that determined their thinking, their planning and so on. There were some efforts between 1990 and 1992 to test the collective security system. For example in Iraq, it was the EU and and the Security Council Ultimatum, so it was not a war by the UN. But it was a conflict sanctioned by the UN Security Council once Iraq did not abide by the ultimatum. In Europe we had the regional organization that came out of the conference on security co-operation, and this initially played a bigger role in Yugoslavia with the UN. But the organizations are so weak, they don’t have resources and they don’t have components to use force, and sometimes you have to use force. The turning point was the various conflicts in Yugoslavia. With Milosevic it started when he played the nationalist card in Kosovo, and this incensed a fire of nationalism. Looking back, in 1990 they were lacking the clear, united European signals with regard to Yugoslavia. Gorbachov was different, contrary to the Chancellor who compared him as the new Goebbels. But in 1990, what I think was an error was the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia and it was understandable for a lot of reasons. It also triggered fears in France and the UK because of the German role in WW II. This lack of historical sensitivity at the time reinforced fears of the German role. It was not wise that we went ahead of the EU agreement implementation; we should have been much more restrained. The second thing, is that there was no perspective for membership of Yugoslavia in the European Union. The EU membership was the carrot and the stick. The stick part being, if you play your nationalist policies, trying to get into power with the nationalist card, you will not join the EU. It was a very clear signal that it was not public advice, it was soft negotiations. But for the security and independence of the Balkan countries, the membership in the EU was so crucial for the economic independence from Russia. There was learning from the missed opportunities in Yugoslavia, but 300,000 people paid for it with their life. I’m not so sure it could have been prevented, but looking back the lack of historical sensitivity of various German politicians and lack of planning played a big part. What is needed, and this is not always easy is a longer term planning perspective. Not just day to day reactive politics, but to have a perspective of change, but also to have the realistic tools and instruments to implement those change in a peaceful way.

Q3. France and the UK recently signed a nuclear treaty. Do you consider this agreement a result of austerity measures, or do you feel that it will legitimately strengthen security between both states? Bearing this in mind, what do you consider the future of non-nuclear proliferation agreements between states to be?

Well this is a result of the bail out of the banks, however sometimes crisis leads to innovation. Now you have two Conservative governments who co-operate on issues that have been so vital to the national soul, both in France and the UK. But it’s designing our symbolic nuclear forces, and the nuclear component is a thing of the past, but they are very important symbols of difference. I am happy that the Germans never had the ambition to join the nuclear club. The public sentiment in Germany have changed significantly since the second World War, and a new generation with totally different visions has grown up. This is a sign of hope, but in a lot of countries there are still things that can be done better, but my hope is co-operation. However, as it relates to your question I think move is related to economic measures such as Gorbachev with Perestroika. Secondly, the nuclear component is not as necessary anymore, and also let’s hope the new treaty gets through congress, and that Medvedev and Obama’s vision is back on the agenda. I hope the UK and France go ahead with reducing the nuclear component to what both consider is minimal. This is a national decision and it also has to do a little bit with national pride and distinctiveness as a permanent member of the security council. However, militarily speaking, the nuclear component has outlived its time. With regard to the new nuclear powers, I’m not so sure you can contain them. There are still a lot of nuclear weapons available, and the United States will not give up all of their nuclear weapons, nor will Russia, China, or India. But the hope is to stop the proliferation jointly, and in that regard, the signals in Obama’s speech in Prague was crucial. It pointed the responsibility of the nuclear powers in the non-proliferation treaty for their own reduction, and this has long been ignored. Let’s hope for the better that the austerity measures trigger a major change, that probably only two conservative governments could do together.

Q4. The work of UNU-EHS looks to improve the in-depth understanding of “cause and effect relationships”, in order to find ways to reduce risk and vulnerability within a global context. How can cultural diplomacy help in deepening international understanding of the plight of more vulnerably countries?

I am a fellow at UNU-EHS, but I do not work there. Their mandate is to look at the environment from a human security perspective. They look at the impact of climate change, and also environmentally induced migration and they have put some of these issues from a human security perspective. They are one of the many voices within the UN system, and they have done a tremendous amount of work in the last six years to enhance visibility. It has a high visibility as an area from let’s say change from a functional perspective, and to enhance co-operation among scientists. But not just to do science for science’ sake, but for science to have an impact on helping poor countries in enhancing resiliency. Hazards you cannot prevent, but people die because of the high social vulnerability and this can be reduced by better training, infrastructure, and so on to reduce the human casualties.

Thank you for your time.