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Opening statement by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during questions put to the Federal Government in the German Bundestag about arms shipments to Ukraine

27.04.2022 - Speech

Questions in wartime. I think it’s really almost impossible, not merely not easy, to respond in just one minute to questions about what we can do to stop this dreadful illegal war. For the brutal reality is that we can’t stop this war with simple answers. Only the Russian President can.

That’s why I think it’s important not to give quick, easy answers here today, on behalf of the Federal Government, but, in this complex situation in which we find ourselves, to set out our considerations clearly and above all to be honest. For in the present circumstances we can only act if we act together with our allies, if we act resolutely and pragmatically. That’s how we can play our role in alleviating suffering, sustaining Ukraine, helping the country exercise its right of self-defence, and above all in taking a united stance with our international partners against the Russian regime.

We therefore have – as is well known – jointly adopted five packages of sanctions over the past weeks. These are sanctions that, if need be, can be maintained in the long term, and not just by the European Union, but also internationally by the community that shares our values.

Over the past weeks, we have done everything we could to increase our assistance for Ukraine – in financial and above all humanitarian terms, as well as by supplying weapons.

Since the question of weapons was one of the issues of concern to all of you here in parliament, as well as the public and the world in general, I would like to focus on it first. It is important to clearly set out our considerations to this esteemed House and, above all, to explain what steps we are taking and what pledges we can live up to. Promising something is the easy part, it gets you a quick headline. But what really matters is that these weapons actually get delivered. It’s not about feeling better about ourselves, about thinking we’ve said or done the right thing for once. What matters is that we support Ukraine, support the brave people there as they fight for their freedom, their peace, and our European security architecture, and do so in a way that they really feel supported.

I want to state very clearly here that as the biggest country in the European Union, we have a special responsibility in this regard. Many smaller countries are rightly asking us: What exactly can we do? What exactly can those of us do who do not have the financial resources or the clout or the diplomatic missions worldwide? That’s why it was so important for us to coordinate these weapons shipments with our partners and to take all steps together.

We chose a certain course at the outset, for in a war that disregards all the rules on which we had agreed it is impossible to predict what the next step will be. Thinking rationally doesn’t help us know what the Russian regime will do. That’s why, when we initially said in the Bundestag that we, too, would supply weapons, we decided not to talk about it too much. Looking back, you can ask if that was sensible or not. Back then it was what we decided in light of our responsibility to ensure that the people transporting these weapons would not be attacked and that the weapons would get through to their destination.

Obviously, as we have seen worldwide, as I have seen as Foreign Minister, this resulted in many questions being raised. For that reason, now that the weapons have been safely delivered, I would like to tell you, on behalf of the Federal Government, what weapons we have supplied, without going into too great detail. We have provided thousands of shoulder-fired antitank weapons (Panzerfaust), Stinger surface-to-air missiles, Strela MANPADS, tens of millions of rounds of ammunition, additional shoulder-fired antitank weapons (Bunkerfaust), machine guns, antitank mines, hundreds of thousands of hand grenades and explosive charges. In addition, when we had no more stocks of our own, we created a list of items we could order from German companies to enable the delivery of further antitank mines, and above all artillery ammunition.

And, on 6 April, when the brutality of this war made itself felt once again, we said that, as NATO partners, we had to change our response. That is why on 6 April – and we all know what day it was, with another vote taking place here – a joint NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting was held. In my capacity as Foreign Minister of Germany and with Germany the current holder of the G7 Presidency, we agreed with our G7 partners the night before that we needed to coordinate these deliveries better. We had realised that nobody had everything. Unlike Russia, our countries have not rearmed massively over the past years – because we believed in the peaceful order.

From 6 April, we worked out of the public eye, but effectively, to prepare three-way exchanges with the aim of ensuring that the materiel needed, including Soviet-style tanks that can be operated immediately by Ukrainian soldiers, could be delivered by our partners. We will then fill the gaps this creates for other armies. United action – not saying who is better or faster, but working together and delivering what we can now – is the object and purpose of these three-way exchanges.

In addition, as you heard yesterday, the Defence Minister announced at a joint Defence Ministers Meeting that we could moreover supply Gepard self-propelled antiaircraft guns. This was no off-the-cuff remark. It is indeed another step, and it’s a step we can take together now.

At the same time, we are preparing a project with the Netherlands – about which I can say no more here – that pools our materiel, ammunition and training. Here, too, it was the case that no one country had everything that could be supplied, but together we can do something meaningful.

At the same time, our great challenge is to protect our own NATO territory, as my trip to the Baltic states underscored. Here in Berlin we feel safe. We can say the border is thousands of kilometres away. But if you’re in the Baltic, if you can really see the other side, if you stop and think what the Suwalki Corridor actually is – a very short strip of land that would cut off the Baltic States if taken, then you can’t just say, “We’ll be there if something happens.” It is our responsibility to support our Baltic friends and neighbours, who, like us, have once before fought a liberation struggle for us all.

That, too, is our common challenge now.

And here’s my final point, because the situation simply is so complex: We have a responsibility as one of the prime industrialised countries in the world. This war affects the entire world, regardless of whether you as a country have imposed sanctions or not, or believe in an international rules-based order or not. However, we, the industrialised countries, have a responsibility not to neglect other countries. I’d like to thank the colleagues who were with me in the Sahel. It is dramatically clear that, in addition to this brutal war, there will be a food crisis, a fight for food, which will strike in the midst of the climate crisis. We have to tackle these issues together: with pragmatism and aware that Germany, too, has a responsibility to play a leading role.

Thank you very much.

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