M100SC 2022: War and Peace. A New World Order

Thursday, 15 September 2022, Orangery Sanssouci, Potsdam

23 March 2022. Russia’s military attack on Ukraine marks an epoch-making turning point, not only for Europe, but for the entire world. The brutal invasion is the largest armed conflict on the European continent since the end of the Second World War, with enormous consequences for geopolitics, the economy, democracy, society, and the environment.

The construction and enlargement of the EU were accompanied by a “peace myth” lasting more than 30 years from the Western side, which came to an abrupt end on 24 February 2022. This shock will vibrate through society for a long time and have profound consequences.

According to Francis Fukuyama’s prediction of the “end of history”, it means the first major historical break after reunification and the end of the Cold War, the end of the hoped-for perpetual peace in Europe, the end of the hoped-for “change through trade”, the end of the European security system established by the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. It is the result of years of “resigned indecision on the part of the West towards a Russia that transgresses all rules and disregards all values” (German historian Herfried Münkler).

Already in 2015, Timothy Snyder wrote that Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea and armed support for separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts marked “the end of a long period of European history” in which “certain rules were considered permanently valid and state sovereignty inviolable”. Moscow’s actions, which violate the UN Charter, the CSCE Helsinki Final Act, and the Budapest Memorandum in equal measure, mean that there is now more at stake than a revolution in one country. Nothing less than the international order is at stake.”

It is above all the move towards freedom and democracy in its sister country Ukraine that the Kremlin sees as obviously threatening. It is a war against democracy.

According to German historian Andreas Rödder, this war is “a deeper caesura than 11 September 2001”. Europe lacks “hard power”: “This is because we have fantasised a world in which everything can be solved without violence and with diplomacy. We need a new realism. We must bring about more unity in the European Union and in Europe, we must actively build solidarity in the transatlantic alliance. And we must show decisiveness.” Freedom has its price.

How does Europe, how does the Western world want to defend and strengthen democracy, freedom, freedom of the press and freedom of expression? Do we need to change our thinking, our priorities, our policies? Have the media allowed themselves to be led too strongly by the “peace myth” and have failed to conduct a factual, analytical, balanced debate at an early stage about what Putin’s aggressive policy would mean? What role does social media play in this context? How are fake news, disinformation and cyberattacks used as weapons of war; what impact do they have on reporting; how are journalists confronted with them and how can they counter them? (Here there will be inputs from participants of the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop, which will take place before the Colloquium on fake news and disinformation).

The aim of the 18th M100 Sanssouci Colloquium is a constructive, intersectoral conversation between 50 to 60 representatives from politics, media and academia from across Europe and beyond about the prospects for a free, democratic Europe in the face of a new world order and what role the media play.

To allow us to react to current events, we reserve the right to amend the programme.