Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Frage: Looking to the Nato summit in Lisbon, are you satisfied with the new strategic concept, or do you want further amendments?
Außenminister Westerwelle: Some of Germany ´s core concerns have been taken into account. The proposals made by the Nato secretary-general are a very good basis. It is clear that Nato sees itself as a political union of values, and also as a defence alliance it supports the need for disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation. The invitation to Russia to take part in a missile defence system is of historic importance. The fact that President Medvedev wants to go to Lisbon shows how important that invitation is to Russia. In my conversations in Moscow with the Russian government, especially with Foreign Minister Lavrov, I got the clear impression that they want to study the details objectively. That alone is huge progress. I can´t anticipate the speech of President Medvedev. But look, 20 years after Europe was
reunited after the fall of the (Berlin) Wall, Nato is making an offer to Russia to take part in a defence and security project. There are three possible responses: to reject it out of hand; to accept it unchecked; or to engage in constructive discussions. That Russia has decided on the third way is very welcome.
Frage: Will the allies themselves agree?
Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Frage: Do you think that agreement on a missile defence system will open the way to further nuclear disarmament?
The American government under President Obama has set the course with its nuclear posture review. That reduces the strategic importance of nuclear weapons. As long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, we in our defence alliance will have to rely on nuclear deterrence. But the way to a nuclear free world depends on confidence-building through nuclear and other forms of disarmament. After a decade of setbacks for disarmament, our initiatives seemed to be little more than a trickle. Now we´ve got a considerable tide moving.
In New York we founded a group of states from all regions of the world that feel particularly committed to the goals of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation - Japan, Australia and Germany are in the lead. And this time the nuclear non-proliferation conference in New York was a success, unlike when it last met five years
ago. The new Start treaty has been agreed. We are counting on its being ratified by the US and Russia. So the debate over nuclear zero is in full flow round the world. Why are disarmament and nuclear disarmament so important? Because they are a commitment that gives us the authority to demand nuclear non-proliferation (from others). Disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are two sides of the same coin. If we in the West, if the nuclear powers, disarm, then they will be much more credible in insisting that other states should not acquire nuclear weapons.
Frage: But the Americans do not wish to withdraw their medium-range missiles from Germany, as you want.
I can only respect and applaud the American government for giving momentum to the disarmament debate. The vision of a nuclear zero which the American resident talked about in his outstanding speech in Prague is now part of that debate. And that is why I am very happy about the close partnership both with the USA and in particular with my American counterpart Hillary Clinton. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty is based on three pillars.
1.Anyone can use nuclear energy if they are committed to international transparency and co-operation.
2.The nuclear powers will disarm, so that
3.the international community can demand with special authority that no one else arms themselves with nuclear weapons.
Frage: Do you not have a problem with France over your desire to have an arms control committee set up within Nato, while the French want to stress the importance of nuclear weapons in the new strategic doctrine?
I would not describe it as a problem, but rather as anecessary discussion in preparation for convergence of different, historically based points of view. France has been a nuclear power for decades, just like Britain, and naturally has a different attitude when it comes to the role of nuclear weapons to what we have for example in Germany. We have learned the lessons of our history. But at the G8 summit in 2009, France also recognised the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. So the fact that we need to discuss the question is perfectly normal.
We are 28 Nato member states, and naturally they need to bring their different positions closer together. Let me tell you straight out:
the Nato strategic concept will protect our common security interests, and address new challenges, stress our community of values, and - really revolutionary for a defence alliance - also emphasise the role of disarmament for global security. Every concept sets a goal and at the same time amounts to an agreement on common action. That is why it is a strategic concept. The last Nato concept was agreed in 1999. After Lisbon you should just do one thing: look at the old concept of 1999 beside the new concept. I am sure that the role of disarmament will clearly be given more weight.
Frage: Is there not a danger that this new concept will push Nato in the direction of become a global policeman. Am I justified in fearing that?
We are sticking to the core commitment of Nato in Article V. That means we will defend ourselves in the case of any armed attack. We are not going to water that down. But it is equally clear that everything Nato does in the future will be in accordance with international law. Our behaviour is in accordance with international law.
There are certainly newthreats that have arisen that we did not foresee in previous years, such as terrorist threats, or the danger of the spread of weapons of mass
destruction. That should not just be considered from the point of view of states arming themselves and therefore making whole regions unstable. On top of that, the more countries that acquire nuclear weapons, the greater is the danger of terrorist groups or other criminal organisations getting their hands on nuclear weapons potential. And 20 people with one atom bomb is an army.
Frage: But is it the job of Nato to find these people and destroy them?
We have been fighting together against terrorism for a long time, including on the instructions of the United Nations. We and many of the other Nato member states are in Afghanistan with a UN mandate. That was the difference with the war in Iraq. We are in Afghanistan on the basis of a Un decision, clearly based on international law.
Frage: Is Gaza the sort of place you can see Nato operating in a peacekeeping capacity?
I think that regional conflict resolution must stem from the parties to the conflict, and above all must be supported by the UN. The UN is an organisation, especially the Security Council, that gets involved around the world in the solution of regional conflicts and the promotion of regional stability. In my view, the UN role cannot be replaced by any other sort of defence alliance.
Frage: But when is a terrorist attack part of a regional conflict, and when is it an attack on Nato itself?
You can´t say that abstractly or theoretically. One must judge on a caseby- case basis. What we are working on is conflict prevention, above all else.
Frage: That is an integral part of it. The new strategic concept is part of the worldwide reaction to September 11…
…and a great deal more. We have so many new challenges. The danger of weapons of mass destruction, the danger of computer attacks, so-called asymmetric threats. And moreover, we haven´t just got Article V, we also have Article IV, for example regarding consultation in the alliance.
Frage: You have talked of computer wars, and I must confess that I am astonished that this strategic concept does not attempt to change Article V to allow for mutual defence against computer attacks.
The debates will only take place when we get to Lisbon. We might as well give up the summit if I tell you about the whole concept now!
Frage: But how are we going to deal with computer wars, how can we organise ourselves against them? As you said, that is one of the big new dangers. We already saw that in Estonia and in Georgia, and interestingly most recently
in Iran. What should the Nato summit do to defend us all against this danger?
Well that is precisely the sort of question which requires international co-operation, even beyond Nato. I am no technical expert, and also no computer specialist who can give you a practical answer. We have also had a thorough discussion of this in our federal government, what we should do against such computer attacks. In American or British English you seem to speak very easily of war. I would avoid that. You speak of war…
Frage: Like cyber war…
Precisely, and I speak rather of computer attacks, because the word war is more easily and frequently used in English. You have a war against climate change, don´t you?
In English one talks rather easily about a war against this or that. In Germany we are very cautious about using the word war. That is why we don´t speak of a computer war, but of computer attacks.
Frage: Or of armed conflicts?
Certainly not! We are speaking of attacks. The precise translation simply has another resonance, the meaning is more loaded. It´s no wonder. I am speaking of computer attacks, and we will naturally also discuss these questions. That is why I pointed out that we don´t just have Article V. There are also further questions of cooperation and consultation, that is all part of it.
Frage: But in Estonia the whole financial and government system came under computer attacks. And Estonia was already a Nato member, but Nato could not do anything about it.
Perhaps so, because we must first become more technically competent to defend with such new challenges. But that is not the job of heads of state and government, or for foreign ministers, or even defence ministers. We have to agree on a strategy. We determine that there is a challenge that concerns our security, and then naturally we must talk about the details of how we find an appropriate answer, which should be proportional, efficient and focussed.
Frage: If it is clear that such attacks come from Russia, how is it possible to have a closer cooperation with the Russians?
I know of suspicions, but no proof.
Frage: Can I ask you about Afghanistan? It is clear that the German population is not enthusiastic about this „armed conflict“. How long can you ensure the population still supports your involvement? How long can you stay in the country?
In Lisbon we will begin the process of handing over responsibility, by making it clear that next year we will hand over responsibility for security to Afghanistan and Afghan authorities in the first provinces. As we agreed in London and Kabul, we want to have handed over responsibility for security entirely to the Afghan government during 2014.
So we are opening up a perspective of withdrawal. If we begin to hand over responsibility for security in the coming months, that should not be confused with beginning a troop withdrawal, but as a precondition for making our withdrawal possible one day in the future.
Frage: The Americans say that we Europeans do not do enough to convince our voters that this war is worthwhile. Is the future of Nato itself not endangered by the war in Afghanistan?
I see a lot of shadows and many setbacks - especially with the security situation. But I also see some light and many good developments. Take the elections, which are part of good governance: Naturally the elections are rightly criticised because of attempts at manipulation, but the good thing is what is happening from Afghanistan itself. It is important progress that the first mandates that were awarded because of manipulation at the count were immediately cancelled. These were the first elections in Afghanistan that took place under Afghan supervision. There was not only higher voter participation, but also a lot of complaints from the population itself, from Afghans themselves, and the Afghan authorities drew their conclusions. They cancelled elections that were won through manipulation, and that is remarkable.
I find it healthy that Germans have a fundamentally sceptical attitude towards foreign (military) deployments. That is because of the dreadful first half of the last century. At the same time, Germans live up to their international responsibility in an exemplary fashion, considering for example that they are the third largest supplier of international troops.
Both parties in the government have stated that they support the intervention in Afghanistan, and they have a majority for that view. The same people who are inwardly sceptical about foreign military interventions - which I find a justified view - have also recognised the necessity and given those parties a big majority in
supporting the Afghan intervention. Both poles shape our foreign policy: the culture of military restraint, and at the same time, the recognition of our international responsibility. Germany is an excellent model in that.
Frage: Has Germany changed in the past 20 years, since unification? I remember Helmut Kohl saying he could not conceive of a German soldier serving in the Balkans.
Yes. Germany has changed since reunification. This process has been strenuously thought through both in society and in the democratic process. If you think of our engagement in the western Balkans, that´s a good example of how successful the intervention of our soldiers can by in stabilising the situation, for we were able to reduce our troop numbers in KFOR massively, from 8,500 to just 2,500 today.
In the meantime, President Tadic has worked through a policy change towards Kosovo. In Vukovar, in Croatia, he made a remarkable speech apologising for the massacre committed by Serbian troops.
So things are moving in the right direction there. I would also mention the fight against pircy. The impression is given there as if it was just a question of economic interests. If it´s a question of protecting our shipping ands therefore ensuring that aid can get to Africa. That was the starting point of the exercise, and it is succeeding.
Frage: But in terms of power projection internationally, do you think Germans really believe in it? Or will there be a great battle in society over every future military intervention, wherever it may be?
I have just said I am happy that we have a healthy scepticism towards military interventions of the Bundeswehr. There is nothing wrong with that. Some foreign politicians may see it as a lack of firmness, but only if they have not really studied the darkest chapter in our history. Unlike most of our alliance partners, we have a parliamentary army. That means that every foreign intervention must be approved by our parliament - with a proposal from the government, but decided by the parliament. All our friends in the world should be happy that Germany has drawn its lessons from history, and not just in the federal constitution, with its principle
of a parliamentary army rather than a government army, but also it is a vital element in society, given the readiness both to take international responsibility, and to have a healthy scepticism and a culture of military restraint that lies deep in the hearts of our people. I am proud of both things.
Frage: In Brussels many people are saying that Germany has also changed its attitude towards Europe since reunification - that Germany is more insistent on its national interests, and has become very tough in the whole saga of the eurozone crisis. What would you say about that?
In the preamble of the constitution of the German Federal Republic stand the two core principles of its foreign policy: to serve peace in the world in a united Europe. Because of that, Germany won a two thirds majority outright in the UN, against two very respectable candidates, in the first vote (for a seat on the Security Council), because we have made multilateralism and European integration our political principles.
In my first year as foreign minister I visited all the European member states, and not just big France and Britain, or Poland, Italy and Spain, but also others like Luxembourg, the three Baltic states and Malta. We regard our European policy as a partnership on the same level for all member states, whether they are bigger or smaller, and whether they are economically more successful or unfortunately for a while rather lesssuccessful.
Frage: But what about this agreement in Deauville between France and Germany: all the rest had to fall in with it. Don´t you think you stress your relationship with France too much in an enlarged EU?
At the very beginning of my time in office, I revived the so called Weimar triangle. That is the close partnership between France, Poland and Germany. This Weimar triangle has become an important motor in the EU, alongside the close partnership between France and Germany that has grown up over decades.
Frage: But the eurozone is different?
As far as the stability culture is concerned we have many allies precisely amongst those who joined the EU in the last years.
Frage: But the Poles weren´t happy about the Deauville deal with France.
What counts is what was finally agreed.
Frage: Are you happy with that?
I am happy that the Chancellor was able to successfully negotiate what we agreed in the cabinet after Deauville would be the negotiating mandate. Three points are most important. First, that violations of responsible budget planning do not remain unpunished, and political opportunism must as far as possible not interfere with imposition of sanctions.
I am one of those who, as a member of the opposition in the Bundestag, criticised the relaxation of the stability pact – at Germany´s instigation - in 2004/5 as a historic mistake. Unfortunately the parties that were in government then, and are now in opposition, have refused to support the solution to the problems caused by their own mistaken decision. Second, the creation of a crisis mechanism, which will not be a (EU) community instrument, because that would mean creating a form of legal liability that would not be acceptable in our German legal system.
Third, we do not want to relieve private creditors of their responsibility. Those who bet against countries, and loses those bets, and yet can go home with their profits untouched, they won´t be let off. That must change.
Frage: Do you agree with the Chancellor that if the Euro fails, then Europe will fail?
Neither the euro, nor Europe, will fail. That is why the Chancellor and I as foreign minister are working for its success. I am a European patriot.
Frage: What does that mean?
It means that I am one of the first politicians in the country who is happy to say publicly that I am proud of my country - and that was long before the World Cup in 2006. I see Germany as embedded in a Europe of values and co-operation. For me Europe is much more than a common currency, and far more than a system to ensure our welfare at a time of globalisation, much more than an internal market and the freedom to travel.
For me, Europe is a community of values. It is a political union that serves both peace and freedom. Therefore the euro is a currency of freedom, and not just a means of exchange. The European model of co-operation is demanding, arduous, nerve-wracking even, and the negotiations often go on all night. And the European model of co-operation also costs money, although a lot less than it would cost to eliminate the sort of conflicts that regularly occurred in past centuries. The model of co-operation has taken over from the model of confrontation. And that is an unbelievable good fortune for our generation. You are sitting here in a building around
which everything was bombed to bits in the war. You are sitting in a place that was the source of oppression in a socialist dictatorship. In one hour by car you can be in Poland, and there are no more border conflicts.
For the first time since Germany existed, it is surrounded by friendly states who have organised themselves under a single European roof. Anyone who does not love Europe can´t be helped. They´re just thoughtless. If you take Europe for granted, then you will begin to lose it, and that is extraordinarily dangerous. I see disturbing tendencies towardsrenationalisation, regrettably both in Europe and in many countries of the world. But it is our task to oppose this tendency wherever it may be found.
Frage: But I read some awful articles in Bild Zeitung about Greece earlier this year. That worried me a bit.
I ask you: there are always debates and bad ideas, in bar-room conversations and in the media, but we are talking now about responsible policy. You must have a clear compass, and mine has one clear co-ordinate, and that is Europe.
Frage: One last question: were you not rather disappointed that President Obama said in Delhi that he supported India´s desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council? He has never said it about Germany.
President Obama was speaking to the Indian and not the German parliament. If he had not supported India for the Security Council in his speech, it would have been a strange omission. I expect that he will make a similarly friendly remark in Japan, where he is going at the end of the week.
Frage: And then you´ll invite him to the Bundestag?
When he next has time to visit Germany I will be delighted to hear the friendly words that President Obama, a man I greatly admire, will find for both Brazil and Germany.
(Die Fragen stellten Quentin Peel und Gerritt Wiesmann)