Statement by the President of the Max Planck Society

Martin Stratmann on the war against Ukraine

February 28, 2022

"All nations must come to the decision to renounce force as a final resort of policy. If they are not prepared to do this, they will cease to exist." This sentence concludes the Mainau Declaration of 1955, which was initiated by the first President of the Max Planck Society, Otto Hahn. After WWII, he was one of the most influential champions of global international understanding and international détente.

With this quotation, I wanted to remind you of the Mainau Declaration, which seems more relevant than ever. Nobody wanted to believe or could have imagined that another war would break out in the heart of Europe in 2022. That a dictator – and let us be clear, the Russian President is nothing less – is blatantly threatening the peoples of Europe with a nuclear strike is intolerable. The Max Planck Society strongly condemns the war against Ukraine launched by President Putin. It is a breach of international law and a crime against humanity.

As President of the Max Planck Society, I would like to express our sympathy and solidarity with all citizens of Ukraine, particularly the Ukrainian scientists who are cooperatively associated with us, and members of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. I know that the just over 80 Ukrainian colleagues working with us are filled with great anxiety about family and friends. Please let us know if and where we can provide support.

I have informed our institutes that the Max Planck Society is prepared to provide central funds at short notice, and with the least possible amount of bureaucracy, to enable Ukrainian scientists associated with Max Planck Institutes to continue their work with the support of local scholarship programmes. I hope that in this way we can make at least a small contribution within our means to somewhat alleviate their suffering, as well as that of their families.

At the same time, we see that there is also clear criticism from Russian civil society. That the protests are not louder should not surprise us – it takes great courage at this time to speak out critically against the Russian regime. This too is all too familiar to us from our own history: on 22 February 1943, in the jury courtroom of the Palace of Justice in Munich, the People's Court sentenced the members of the White Rose movement, Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, to death. Their crime was to have spread the truth about the war that Germany was bringing upon the world at the time.

A few days ago, Russian scientists published an open letter on the internet, in which they condemn this war (the page was temporarily offline, but is now online again; status 3/23/2022 it had more than 8000 signatories). "The responsibility for unleashing a new war in Europe lies entirely with Russia. There is no rational justification for this war."

By 24 February alone, 2000 Russian scientists had signed the appeal and more are still coming in. Many members of the Russian Academy of Sciences have signed. "The isolation of Russia from the world means cultural and technological degradation of our country with a complete lack of positive prospects. The war with Ukraine is a step to nowhere.

It is bitter to realize that our country, which has made a decisive contribution to the victory over Nazism, has now instigated a new war on the European continent. We demand an immediate halt to all military operations directed against Ukraine. We demand respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. We demand peace for our countries."

This war will also lead to severe distortions and restrictions in science. This is all the sadder because there are crucial research projects, especially in cooperation with Russian colleagues, that should contribute to solving the urgent global problems of our time, especially climate change. Unfortunately, the current situation leaves us no choice. Germany will therefore also apply sanctions in the area of research in response to the current aggression of the Russian regime.

Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society

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