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Lars Klingbeil at the SPD party conference in Berlin: Military is explicitly recognized as a means of peace policy

Photo: Clemens Bilan / EPO

At its party congress in Berlin, the SPD repositioned itself in terms of foreign policy. In the motion adopted by the approximately 600 delegates entitled "Social Democratic Responses to a World in Transition", the party redefines its relationship with Russia, among other things. She also calls for Germany to play a leading role in the world. In the resolution of the party congress, the military is explicitly recognized as a means of peace policy.

After the Russian attack on Ukraine, the SPD was accused of having underestimated the security risk posed by Russia for a long time. The 2021 election manifesto still stated: "There can be peace in Europe not against, but only with Russia." Now this sentence is turned into the opposite in the party congress resolution: "As long as nothing fundamentally changes in Russia, Europe's security from Russia will have to be organized."

Organizing "Security from Russia"

In his speech on the motion, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil once again admitted mistakes made by his party in its Russia policy of the past decades. "It was a mistake not to distance ourselves from Putin's system earlier," he said, referring to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. Russia has abandoned the system of common security and shared values. "Today it's about organizing security from Russia."

At the same time, however, Klingbeil defended the policy of détente with the then Soviet Union and its allies initiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the then SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt. Instead of coming to terms with their own Russia policy, conservatives have tried in the past two years to "throw dirt on the legacy of Willy Brandt," he said. As chairman, I will not allow Willy Brandt's legacy to be damaged."

At the SPD's first party congress in two years, the dual leadership of Klingbeil and Saskia Esken as well as General Secretary Kevin Kühnert were re-elected on Friday. In addition, the Social Democrats decided on a reform of the debt brake and a crisis levy for the wealthy.