It is possible to learn from past mistakes

This is from German President Joachim Gauck’s speech in Liège today, commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

 This war began in western Europe with Germany’s completely unjustifiable invasion of neutral Belgium. The invasion only followed military logic, and it thus became apparent on the very first day of the war that treaties were worthless and that the standards of civilisation had been rendered null and void.

[…] in Germany itself, intellectuals and artists wrote a disgraceful text in which they declared that crimes against a country and its people, including even attacks on culture, were justified and indeed necessary. What had become of the community of scholars and artists? What had happened to the civilisation called Europe?

Nationalism had blinded almost everyone’s hearts and minds. Neither the standards of culture and civilisation, nor religious faith, nor reason were strong enough to sway people’s consciences in another direction. On the contrary, people actually believed that they were morally and religiously in the right. In the clash of cultures, feelings of superiority and extreme national egoism triumphed over empathy. The utter failure of diplomacy […]  the erroneous belief in a short military campaign to resolve international disputes; and finally, propaganda that knew no bounds and demonised the enemy in a way hitherto unknown – all of this led Europe into a fratricidal war, which ultimately spread far across the world.

Two questions:

Can anyone not see the parallels with Russia and Ukraine today, a hundred years later?

Can anyone imagine a Russian leader – today, yesterday, ever – making such a speech about Russia?

read the whole speech here. It is worth reading

crimea poppies.web

 

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