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Putin challenges Europe: Will only rearmament help?

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Putin challenges Europe: Will only rearmament help?

Eat. Democracy in crisis mode – a panel of experts debates war and peace and the future of Europe at the Ruhr Political Forum in Essen.

War in Ukraine, war in Gaza, Putin is challenging Europe and Trump’s election victory seems possible. Europe is in crisis mode. In addition, the EU states do not agree at all! Whether it’s the climate crisis, accepting refugees or supporting Ukraine – Europe is drifting apart. Rising right-wing populist tendencies have the potential to dramatically increase the centrifugal forces within the Union. The theme of the Ruhr Political Forum could hardly be more timely: “A Europe that can defend itself together – too good to come true?”

A top-class group of experts discussed this question in the Essen Philharmonie on Thursday evening in front of around 2,000 guests from politics, business, science and society. The sought-after military expert and politics professor Carlo Masala from the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich and the journalist and long-time correspondent in Moscow sat on the podium Katja Gloger from Reporters Without Bordersthe Bundestag member and defense expert Serap Guler (CDU) from Marl as well Achim Post, member of the Bundestag and chairman of the NRW SPDdie European MP Terry Reintke (Greens) and Janusz Reiter, former Polish ambassador to Germany and the USA. The round was moderated by Jörg Quoos, editor-in-chief of the Berlin central editorial office of the FUNKE media group.

Two years of war in Ukraine

In his keynote speech, Masala first outlined the global threat situation, at the center of which is the EU. “We are facing a dramatically accelerating challenge,” said the military expert. “We are in the midst of a struggle for a new world order.” States like China and Russia wanted to impose a new world order in which large states set the rules and expand their spheres of influence. “If Russia prevails in the war against Ukraine, it will change the security situation in Europe for decades,” said Masala. For Europe, this means having to invest massively in defense and security.

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Around 2,000 guests followed the debate on the top-class podium in the Essen Philharmonie. © FUNKE Photo Services | Jacob Studnar

The second danger is the rise of anti-European and right-wing populist parties in Europe. “And these are all Russia-friendly,” Masala said. “That can’t mean anything good for Europe.” A third major danger threatens Europe from an election victory for Donald Trump in the USA. “We don’t know whether US democracy will survive his attacks this time.” It could therefore be that the USA will no longer be Europe’s strong protective power. “We Europeans would then be defenseless against an aggressive nuclear power, Russia.”

Debate about the atomic bomb

Europe is not yet well prepared for these challenges. The states would have to come together to form a real defense union, build common military structures and invest in security and the military. “One thing is clear: politically, things cannot continue as before.” It would therefore be fatal if anti-European parties were strengthened in the elections to the European Parliament in June, said the politics professor.

In order to provide Ukraine with long-term military support and to be able to guarantee effective defense, the German and European arms industry must be ramped up quickly and massively. It is not clear whether this can be achieved quickly and comprehensively enough. And the previously taboo question about a European atomic bomb flared up. Masala, however, considered this to be “completely illusory”.

European Union too cumbersome

Against the backdrop of this threatening scenario, European politician Terry Reintke (Greens) complained about the political sluggishness of the EU. “We need too long to make important decisions, especially in the area of ​​security policy. Therefore, we have to move away from the principle of unanimity.” Individual nations should not be able to block the entire Union, she said, referring to the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

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Like Achim Post (SPD), Serap Güler (CDU) also called for permanent and high investment in the defense capability of Germany and Europe. “By that I don’t just mean military security,” said Güler. The concept of security must also include energy, economy and trade. “We are not at war yet, but we are no longer at peace,” warned Güler.

“Putin won’t stop”

“The attack on Ukraine showed us that Europe cannot stay like this if we want to survive,” said former Polish ambassador Janusz Reiter. “Defense spending also shows that we take our security seriously. This signal is aimed at our friends – but also at our enemies. Until now, they have not taken Europe seriously. “I am not pessimistic,” said Reiter, despite all the crises. “But there are enormous challenges ahead of us.”

The “murder in installments” of regime critic Alexei Navalny once again shows how important it is to confront Putin, said journalist Katja Gloger. “Russia sees itself at war with the decadent West. And this war is being fought in Ukraine right now,” Gloger said. “We have to be clear: Putin won’t stop.”

>>>> The Ruhr Political Forum

For over 30 years heard the Ruhr Political Forum one of the most important debate forums in the Ruhr area. This comes from a private initiative by the Essen lawyer Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, NRW’s European Minister until 2022 and chairman of the Political Forum to this day, is one of the socio-political event series with, according to his own statements, the greatest audience response in Germany.

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