“Doing nothing isn’t an option.” Rethinking arms control

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaking at the Conference on Capturing Technology – Rethinking Arms Control at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaking at the Conference on Capturing Technology – Rethinking Arms Control at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

15.03.2019 - Article

New high‑tech weapons are making the world an ever more dangerous place, and important disarmament agreements are in serious difficulties. Foreign Minister Maas wants to start a new dialogue on disarmament. A conference in Berlin marked the start of this initiative.

Foreign Minister Maas seeks to inject fresh impetus into the international debate on arms control and disarmament. “We won’t get anywhere in a multipolar world with the logic of the Cold War,” Maas stated on Friday (15 March). “We must adjust the rules that we have to the realities of today,” he emphasised at the start of a conference on disarmament convened in Berlin.

New momentum for the debate

Maas had invited government representatives from NATO countries, EU member states, Russia, China, India, Japan and Brazil to Berlin to explore themes related to “Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control”.  The programme includes discussions and working sessions on the threats posed by new weapons technologies. The objective is to generate new momentum for the international debate on disarmament and arms control.

Almost no internationally recognised rules

“Essentially, the question is whether we are in control of technology or whether, ultimately, it controls us,” Maas said in his speech. The development of fully autonomous killer robots, cyber weapons and new biological agents has created scenarios for which there are to date almost no internationally recognised rules.  

Dramatic changes since the Cold War era

The rules currently designed to limit and control rearmament worldwide date from the Cold War. Since then, the world has changed dramatically as a result of new weapons technologies and shifts in the global balance of power. Key treaties are also coming under ever more pressure, in part because of these changes. The INF Treaty is at breaking point due to Russia’s violation of it. The New START Treaty is also on the rocks. 

Four priorities

Germany considers it indisputable that the international community must respond to the new threats. Foreign Minister Maas has identified four priorities: introducing a worldwide ban on fully autonomous weapons, establishing an international dialogue on missile technology and proliferation, drawing up universal norms for cyberspace, and setting up a panel of experts on the dangers of new biotechnologies.

Find out more:

Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the conference 2019 Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control

Political Declaration: Conference ”2019. Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control“, Berlin, 15 March 2019  PDF / 188 KB


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