Witamy na stronie Federalnego Ministerstwa Spraw Zagranicznych
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Szanowni Panstwo,
Don’t worry I won’t torture you further with my Polish.
Thank you very much for inviting me to this workshop. Thank you, Rüdiger, for reaching out to me. I very fondly remember our days together in Washington. It is an honor and a pleasure to speak to such a group of distinguished experts. Today’s workshop is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the transatlantic debate.
The conference takes place right after the end of NATO Leaders’ Meeting in London.
We have every reason to celebrate the Alliance’s 70th birthday. NATO is the most successful military alliance in history. For its 1 billion citizens NATO has kept peace and guaranteed freedom based on our common values.
Without NATO’s security guarantee the fundamental changes 30 years ago leading to the fall of the Iron Curtain would not have been possible. We Germans were beneficiaries of this development. We are therefore extremely grateful to all our allies – particularly the US - who contributed to our unity in freedom. We are also grateful to our Polish friends who helped to make it happen via Solidarnosc’s inspiration and assistance to the former GDR refugees.
NATO has always been the bedrock of our common security. The Alliance has proven time and time again its unique contribution to security both inside and outside Europe. We’ve gone out of area, we are addressing challenges 360 degrees and we are recalibrating collective defense. We have successfully adapted to changing circumstances, but we kept the essential: our common purpose and the solemn commitment as enshrined in Art 5.
Let me clearly state: Germany is a proud member of this Alliance. We are in favor of a strong, united NATO tied together by common values and capable to act. The Alliance is one of the cornerstones of our multilateral engagement.
Ladies and Gentleman,
Contrary to many doomsday sayers NATO is very much alive and kicking. On the military side, NATO is doing more together than it has been doing for many decades. We increased our troop presence on the Eastern flank. We increased the operational readiness of our forces. We have strengthened the command structure, bolstered cyber defense and stepped up the fight against terrorism. The US is increasing its presence on the Eastern flank in line with the NATO-RUS Founding Act. We welcome that.
We are not only saying that: Germany plays a very active part in strengthening the Eastern flank.
We were the first to lead the VJTF (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force) east and we are now leading the battlegroup in Lithuania. In January 2019, we again took the lead for NATO´s VJTF. We are actively participating in Baltic Air policing. We host the new NATO Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, which will play a vital role in coordinating strategic deployments. We are one of the lead nations in Afghanistan. We are heading NATO’s activities in the Aegean Sea.
Through the defense and investment package we are increasing our defense investment in line with the 2% and 20% guidelines. In the last 5 years, non US defense expenditure has grown by over 130 billion US-$. Following latest decisions Germany will now contribute as much money to NATO’s budget as the US.
The German defense budget is at a record high. At 50 billion Euros it has increased by 45% over the last 5 years. In 2020 we will reach slightly more than 1,4 % of GDP. Chancellor Merkel has made clear that Germany is determined to reach the 2% goal by 2031.
Ladies and Gentlemen
However, NATO’s increased military engagement is only one side of the story. NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg alluded to this point in his famous speech here in Warsaw on March 8, when he rightly pointed out the paradox: Yes we are doing more militarily.
But there are political differences between allies on important issues such as trade, climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, burden sharing, China and other issues.
NATO is not only a military alliance, it is also a political alliance tied together by common values which we cherish. Therefore in order to strengthen Alliance cohesion we have to somehow deal with these issues. In this context it is appropriate that the London declaration addresses China in a balanced way, stressing both opportunities and challenges.
If we are honest, however, we must recognize that serious political debates among allies have not taken place when they were required. Recently, important decisions e.g. on Syria have been taken by individual allies without prior debates in Brussels, even though NATO as a whole may be implicated in Art 5 scenarios. In order to address these issues voices FM Maas proposed a strategic review process by a high ranking expert group to be chaired by the Secretary General.
NATO leaders in London took up this proposal and requested the Secretary General to present to Foreign Ministers a Council-agreed proposal for a forward looking reflection process. The aim is to further strengthen NATO’s political dimension including consultations.
In our view, this reflection process should submit proposals before the next summit on how NATO should address the central challenges and how the Alliance can be strengthened as a central transatlantic forum for Euro-Atlantic debate on strategic issues. It would be an opportunity to reemphasize the vitality of the Alliance and to strengthen its political dimension.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the aftermath of RUS’s aggression in Ukraine, NATO has adapted to the new realities. In Wales and Warsaw, we took the right decisions: Strengthening Deterrence and Defense, increasing our resilience in areas which have been neglected in the past, and dialogue.
The EU and individual allies have put various sanctions in place addressing Russia’s unacceptable behavior in UKR. The Donbas sanctions are tied to the implementation of the Minsk agreement. As long as Minsk is not implemented, these sanctions cannot be suspended. Germany and Chancellor Merkel have been very clear on that.
Germany and France, together with UKR and RUS, are now making another attempt to achieve progress. On Dec 9 a high level meeting of the so-called Normandy Group is scheduled in Paris.
A prisoner exchange, the recent liberation of the vessels, some progress on disengagement along the conflict line and the adoption of the so-called Steinmeier formula by UKR have created a positive momentum for such a meeting. But a lot of very heavy lifting lies ahead of us. If we are successful, this could be an important step to improve relationships not only between RUS and UKR, but also between Europe and RUS.
Beyond this immediate concern and in the medium term we need to move ahead on RUS, taking into account the specific experience and the strategic interests of all partners.
For the time being, a return to business as usual with RUS is not possible. More dialogue with RUS on some issues, however, is necessary, but difficult because of RUS’s behavior. Dialogue is not a concession to Russia because we are not going to back down on what we stand for. It rather remains a necessity to manage uncertainties and to minimize risks. For example a dialogue on military exercises can minimize the threat perception in the currently tense security environment.
Dialogue on arms control is particularly urgent. The existing arms control architecture in Europe is unraveling. There is no question that RUS has created this situation by -among others - cheating on INF and not implementing CFE anymore.
Nevertheless, for the sake of stability, we have an interest in talks with RUS on arms control, as Secretary General Stoltenberg recently said on German television. We need to do this together, keeping unity of purpose and not giving in to RUS’s attempts to divide the allies. It’s doable, we’ve done arms control in the 70’s, in the heydays of the Cold War, under even more complicated circumstances than today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Some allies raised doubts about NATO’s readiness to defend Europe. We do not share this view.
For the security of the Euro-Atlantic area, there is no alternative to a strong and reliable transatlantic cooperation. We need to stand together, because we are stronger together.
Both deterrence and defense of Europe are essentially NATO tasks. There should be no doubt about that. NATO’s borders should never be challenged by any aggressor. Ultimately, only a clear US security and nuclear posture for Europe can guarantee that.
For the foreseeable future, I do not see any alternative. As Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently reaffirmed in the Bundestag, Europe presently cannot defend itself alone.
NATO successfully stands for common security and defense, for common operations and for international cooperation with partners, inside and outside NATO.
NATO will be stronger, when the EU is strong. A strong EU has always been supported by the US for a very long time. NATO and EU are two sides of the same coin, as NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed.
In recent years, there has been unprecedented progress in NATO-EU cooperation. Germany greatly appreciates the fact that NATO and the EU are further expanding their cooperation.
NATO is our collective defense organization of choice. But NATO may neither be best placed nor willing to manage every crisis in our neighborhood. Therefore, it makes sense to prepare the groundwork for common operations without NATO. But these operations can never be done independently of NATO or against it. We do not want to duplicate NATO structures.
The European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) must provide more and better capabilities, cash and contributions. We Europeans need to take up more responsibility and strengthen the European pillar of the Alliance. The task is to better coordinate so that we can become more effective as a whole.
In that sense, permanent structured cooperation is a good initiative. It got off to a good start with now the third round of project proposals coming to an end. Important projects such as the one on military mobility are under way. Ultimately, they will help to strengthen the operational abilities of the Alliance.
Ladies and Gentleman,
The security of all NATO partners is strongly intertwined. Our security is indivisible. We need each other. Allies are strong force multipliers way beyond the battlefield. As partners, we need to work intensively together to tackle our common security challenges.
There are many challenges ahead and we may not always agree on how to counter them. But we work together on the basis of our shared values to address them. Solidarity, unity and cohesion are a strong platform on which we can stand side by side. Germany is standing strongly on this platform.
I wish you a stimulating workshop and fruitful debates.