The images we are seeing from Ukraine are almost unbearable. Thousands are fleeing. Everyone in this chamber has probably received a message from friends, acquaintances or colleagues with whom – as I did last week – they have recently sat down to lunch in Kyiv, but who are now saying “Please save us!”. Parents with small children are spending their nights in underground train tunnels, seeking shelter from the bombs and missiles. It could be us in those tunnels; it could be our children.
What’s happening at the heart of Europe as we speak was, up until now, inconceivable for someone of my generation. This marks the moment when wars of aggression returned to Europe. Our world is a different one as a result of this war of aggression launched by Putin in violation of international law.
Ambassador Melnyk, I welcome you to this chamber as the representative of the more than forty million brave Ukrainians.
I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that the unspeakable suffering of the men, women and children in Ukraine cuts to our very heart. We are stunned at what is being done once again to Ukraine, to the people in Ukraine. But we are not powerless.
We will not abandon you in the face of this ruthless aggression against your country.
This war is not a war waged by the people of Russia. This war is Putin’s war.
This war is an attack against our peace in Europe. This war is an attack against our freedom. This war is an attack against international law.
This war is an attack against all the values of a rules-based international order. This war is an attack against peaceful human coexistence. And it is a war that necessitates the revision of the very tenets of our foreign policy.
Speaking in this chamber about the supply of arms just a few weeks ago, I said that a 180 degree turn in foreign policy was something that needed to be done at the right time and in full awareness.
Sadly, this time has come.
Right up to the last minute, we tried diplomacy. The Kremlin strung us along, lied to us and rejected everything we Europeans stand for. Putin wanted this war – whatever it would take.
Russia ruthlessly attacked Ukraine. And Ukraine, like every other country in the world, has a right of self-defence – a right enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
And we who live by international law also have a duty together to defend that Charter of the United Nations.
It may be that Germany is today leaving behind a special and unique form of restraint in foreign and security policy. The rules we set ourselves for must not mean that we cannot assume our responsibility. If our world is a different one, then our policy must also be different.
A country with a parliamentary army and comprehensive democratic control may and must allow itself – as we are doing today – to take decisions on questions of war and peace in full responsibility.
In keeping with our deepest convictions, we will continue to be cautious when it comes to arms exports and military operations. However, at this historic juncture, in the wake of this brutal attack against Ukraine, we will decide in favour of support to Ukraine that includes not only our large-scale economic and humanitarian engagement but also the supply of military material and weapons.
Because we must not leave Ukraine defenceless against the aggressor bringing death and destruction to the country.
And, like the Federal Chancellor, I thank you all sincerely. That is the strength of this House; that is the strength of our liberal democracy: that we can argue fiercely on issues, but when it is a matter of defending our fundamental values, we all stand together across party lines. Thank you very much!
We are doing this because human lives are at stake. We are doing this because our international order is in jeopardy. We are doing this with circumspection and out of responsibility for our peace in Europe.
It is also a clear message to Vladimir Putin: the price of this war against innocent people and the violation of the United Nations Charter will be intolerable for the Putin system.
As the Federal Chancellor stressed, we must now do lots of things simultaneously. We must ensure that the people in Ukraine are rapidly provided with the bare essentials, with medical equipment and secure shelters.
To that end, we have, among other things, increased our contribution to the UN Ukraine Humanitarian Fund by five million euro. We will soon make a further ten million euro available to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
We will do everything in our power to ensure that the people who are fleeing all reach safety. We have prepared for that. This, too, is our strength, not only within the European Union, but also together with our friends in Canada, America and many, many other places in the world. We will not abandon those fleeing from Ukraine.
And yes, we need to talk about money here as well. I ask for support for making provision in the upcoming budget to ensure that we do have the money needed to protect these people.
There are three further crucial elements:
Firstly, sanctions. The bitter reality is that no sanction can stop this madness at this moment. If we did have some sort of sanction that would stop all this, then of course we would have enforced it long ago. What our sanctions can do, though – and this is key – is tell Putin: in the medium and long term, this war will ruin your country. Putin’s perfidious game is a long-term one; so our sanctions need to be long-term, too, and that’s why we must make sure we won’t run out of stamina in three months’ time; rather, these sanctions must hit at the heart of the Putin system.
That’s why they go hand in hand: economic, financial and individual sanctions. That’s why we are listing Mr Putin himself and Foreign Minister Lavrov: They bear the responsibility for this war.
That is why we will launch further sanctions relating to banks, oligarchs and family members. That is why we designed the Swift sanctions – and I can see why some people might have got slightly nervous, but I ask for your trust at this time – in such a way that they strike at the Putin system and don’t boomerang back to hit us, and why we act together with the international responsibility we all need to show now.
Secondly, we support our NATO allies; the Federal Chancellor has already made this clear. NATO is the guarantor of our security and freedom. That’s what it was established for, and nothing has changed.
And my final point: yes, we need to display toughness; but we are standing up here for international law and international rules. That is why at this time there always also needs to be dialogue, not with the aggressor, but with the international community. That must be our absolute focus now.
This is not just about Europe. No country in the world can accept its sovereignty being called into question if its stronger neighbour wants it.
If they did, Putin would have won.
That is why we must now join with all states which, like us, believe in the Charter of the United Nations to stand up to this aggression.
And so, once again here, in the historic German Bundestag, I appeal to all our partners around the world: nail your colours to the mast next week in the United Nations General Assembly! This is our international peace order. We must now defend it together.
When it comes to the choice between war and peace, the choice between an aggressor on one side and children hiding in underground train tunnels on the other, absolutely no-one can be neutral.
Thank you for making that clear together here today.