“Putin is not belligerent“

The entrepreneur from Attendorn Arndt Günter Kirchhoff on an interview regarding a new glimpse of hope in the relationship with Russia.

Attendorn. The Munich Security Conference in February of this year marked a low point on the East-West-relations since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Russia’s Prime Minister Dimitri Medwedjew initiated his keynote speech addressing a “New Cold War”, a “Third Earthshaking”, with foreseeable areas of irritability and growing worries especially in the Western hemisphere. For many years Arndt Günter Kirchhoff the entrepreneur from Attendorn, belongs as a Presidium Member of the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI) and as one of the high-profile participants of the Security Conference. This newspaper has spoken to Arndt Günter Kirchhoff, who will be elected as the Employers President of North-Rhine Westphalia in June, about his opinion on the last Munich Conference and the new glimpse of hope on the international stage of politics.

Mr. Kirchhoff, you have taken part in the Munich Security Conferences for five years already. How important is this meeting of politicians, military officers and economic leaders from all over the world?

Arndt Günter Kirchhoff: This conference is the most important dialogue platform for peace since the early 1960s. One can possibly compare it to the economy summit in Davos. But for Munich, since more than just issues of peace and the economy are discussed, it is even more important. The Security Conference is a meeting of the world’s superpowers on the highest political level. About 1000 participants represent most countries in the world and believe me when I say that it is taken as seriously as it should be.

Looking at it from the outside one could think that the Cold War has made its return to our world. Especially since Russia acts in a really harsh manner, unwilling to compromise and help harmonize East-West-relations again.

No question, in Munich opinions were uttered merciless in February. But it is also a tradition to speak merciless at these kinds of conferences. And despite this verbal saber-rattling I am convinced that Russia, especially Putin, is not belligerent. He simply feels ostracized and wants to be treated on the same level as the West. And in my opinion this is totally right. Putin has responsibilities to bear together with the West. One has to realize that and also the Americans have to accept it.

What role does Europe play in this matter?

We as Europeans of course have a great interest in peaceful relations, seen as we are already right in the middle of it geographically. Europe has to take a common stand, the EU has a clear right of ‘say’ in the world.

You are invited as a representative of the economy to the Security Conference. What do you consider as your task?

The economy needs preferably a politically peaceful environment for their investment decisions. If these are present, then the German economy is not only able to support a positive development in other countries; but also to prosper financially for itself.

An important economic issue during the last Security Conference was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the USA. What is its current status?

My confident expectation is, especially after the conversations in Munich, that the Partnership can be initiated this year. Europe and the United States form the only market based on the same values of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. That is why we have to set the respective world standards. We must not leave this to others.

Has the world become a little bit better and more peaceful after the Munich Security Conference?

I have the impression that the geopolitical climate has relaxed noticeably; even though the crisis in Syria is still completely eminent and Europe still displays a dramatic lack of solidarity. It is a bad day when the heads of governments present themselves as nationalist politicians. Nobody should avoid this dialogue. This is by the way a significant characteristic of the Munich Security Conference.

(Source: IKZ)

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