26.06.2022, Niedersachsen, Hannover: Ein Teilnehmer einer Gegendemonstration zu den Befürwortern im Russland-Ukraine-Krieg demonstriert mit einem Plakat «Schwere Waffen? Sehr gerne!» auf dem Opernplatz. Foto: Swen Pförtner/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Oops, they did it again. Several German intellectuals – from Juli Zeh to Richard David Precht to Harald Welzer – have signed an appeal to end the war in Ukraine through negotiations. The reconquest of all areas occupied by Russia is unrealistic. A continuation of the war would result in “massive humanitarian, economic and ecological emergencies around the world”.

These are the same intellectuals who warned against the delivery of heavy weapons in an open letter to Chancellor Olaf Scholz two months ago and called for a “compromise that both sides can accept”. 57 other intellectuals reacted to this letter – from Ralf Fücks to Marianne Birthler to Hedwig Richter – and called on the federal government to deliver heavy weapons quickly. A success of the Russian war of aggression must be prevented.

Both open letters were lined with arguments and triggered a broad, public controversy. There were talk show invitations and interviews. Why not? For democracies, the dispute, especially over fundamental issues, is constitutive. Of course there are limits. Not everything that is covered by freedom of expression needs to be discussed in a community.

Luckily, pros and cons about whether anti-Semitic images should be shown, whether women should have the right to vote, or whether the death penalty should be reintroduced is frowned upon. At the same time, the number of taboo topics should be as small as possible. In the refugee fall of 2015, many opponents of the open borders felt marginalized. In the Corona spring, from 2020, many critics of the government measures felt marginalized. Shouldn’t there be two opposing opinions on the major issue of war and peace?

After all, the second appeal is characterized by belated but astonishing insights. It says: “Putin’s dictated peace must not exist.” – “Thanks to massive economic sanctions and military support from Europe and the USA, Ukraine has so far been able to defend itself against the brutal Russian war of aggression.” This can be continued.

The global conflict, as is now often heard, takes place between open, free, democratic systems and closed, autocratic and dictatorial systems. In Russia, the war in Ukraine cannot be discussed. Anyone who does will be imprisoned.

If the West manages to endure such debates without facing Vladimir Putin