Question: The revival of transatlantic relations will be one of your main projects in the coming year. You talk of a “New Deal” and want to reach out to the new Biden Administration. The new US Government has very precise expectations of Germany on some issues. What will you offer? For example as regards the US demand that work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline be stopped?
Maas: There will still be issues on which we have different opinions, and can continue to have different opinions. There’s no point talking about European sovereignty if the term is understood to mean that we will in future do everything Washington wants. What is important is for us to adopt the same line on key strategic and geopolitical issues, for us to be on the same team. But the German Government will not change its mind about Nord Stream 2.
Question: What about the two-percent target for NATO? So far the German Government has only committed itself to spending 1.5 percent of GDP on defence by 2024.
Maas: We have vowed to meet the two-percent target, and we have stated how we can get there. I think that in view of the coronavirus crisis all countries will have to look anew at their finances. Once that has been done, we will have to talk about the implications for the course we are on and for the target as such. But at present the position of the German Government is that the two-percent target also applies to us.
Question: The United States also expects Germany to continue to play its role in nuclear deterrence. There seem to be doubts about this in your party...
Maas: It’s perfectly okay for such things to be discussed. It’s not a question that can be answered easily. But we cannot answer the question having regard only to Germany. We have to remember that we are part of a whole and thus have to maintain security guarantees for our neighbours, especially our eastern neighbours. In my opinion, this factor has not been given enough weight in the debate. When people say that we – Germany – want to opt out of nuclear sharing, they should also take into account what that means for our partners.
Question: The US also expects Germany and Europe to do more to stabilise neighbouring regions from which the US is withdrawing. Germany is already militarily active in the Sahel, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Is it conceivable, in your opinion, that the Bundeswehr could be deployed on combat missions again if necessary in conflict regions?
Maas: I feel safest when Germany takes care of its security as part of an alliance. And when you’re in an alliance, of course you have to stand by the decisions taken by the group. Membership comes with obligations as well as rights. And these obligations have to be taken seriously. Diplomacy must always have the aim of ensuring that combat missions do not become necessary in the first place. I therefore consider it important for Germany and our international partners to greatly step up our efforts to prevent conflicts.