Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in the German Bundestag to mark the 75th anniversary of NATO

04.07.2024 - Speech

Translation of the German speech

Vasyl is in his early thirties and is deployed to the front for the third time.

The first time was in 2014, when the Russians came to take Mariupol and he joined the Ukrainian army to defend his hometown.

Later on he worked in Kyiv for an international company, learned perfect English, and at the weekend, like so many others, drove out to the dacha with his international friends. When the Russians attacked Ukraine again in February 2022, Vasyl went back to the army. He lost his lower leg in the battle for Bakhmut. While he was recovering, he married his girlfriend.

Today Vasyl is back at the front, of his own accord.

Esteemed colleagues, next week Washington will host a meeting of the most successful defensive alliance in the world, an alliance that, as President Truman said at its founding in 1949, is bound by “the ties of a peaceful way of life” – for 75 years now – with the aim of protecting democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Interestingly, Truman went on to say that the alliance pursues this aim so that we can “get on with the real business of government and society: the business of achieving a fuller and happier life for all our citizens”.

And this is precisely what Putin has been attacking for two and a half years – the shared life of all of our societies and citizens in peace and freedom.

This is precisely why men like Vasyl are now at the front for the third time – to defend their way of life in freedom in Europe.

And this is precisely why the summit, the anniversary in Washington, will not only be a celebration but also a time to discuss in depth how we can continue to expand our support for Ukraine.

Because Putin’s glide bombs are not just targeting Ukrainian power plants and residential buildings every day, they are also targeting our way of life in freedom in Europe every day. His bombs are intended for us, too.

And so it must be clear to us in Washington next week that Putin’s Russia will remain the biggest threat to our security and freedom in Europe for the foreseeable future. We did not choose this! We did not want this. But it is the reality of our time, and we must focus our policy accordingly.

Our security and our freedom are not measured in quarterly figures or in legislative terms. Our children will eventually ask us, and not in 75 years’ time, when all of us will most likely no longer be here, but in five, ten, fifteen years: What did you do to protect our democracy and our freedom? How much was our Europe in freedom worth to you?

This is why we are investing in our own robustness, as we in the Federal Government committed to doing in our National Security Strategy, together with the democratic parties. By setting aside 2 percent of our GDP for our security long‑term, by permanently securing NATO’s eastern flank with a battle-ready brigade in Lithuania, and, above all, by continuing to support Ukraine.

And yes, to my colleagues from the AfD, that costs money. This is no secret. It is the honest truth. But have you ever asked yourselves what it would cost if we did not protect our peace and our freedom? It would be too great a price for our children to pay.

And so I would like to say, because in the end this does bother me a lot, that supporting Ukraine is not an act of charity. It is an investment in our own security, in our own freedom.

Or, as my Latvian colleague said this week: “For us, peace is not a theoretical debate. We directly border Russia, and others directly border Belarus and Ukraine. If you’re not there, who is?”

If Russia fails in Ukraine, then Latvia and the whole of the Baltic will be safe. But the reverse is also true, and when you say that you don’t want to continue supporting Ukraine, then you must ask yourselves: What does it mean for Latvia, what does it mean for our eastern European neighbours, if Russia wins in Ukraine?

Because it is clear that this imperial ambition that Putin has expressed time and again in his speeches is directed towards us, too.

Nobody knows how the coming weeks and months will unfold. But what we do know, regardless of the outcome of the US elections, is that NATO must become more European in order for it to remain transatlantic.

The good thing is that we have further intensified our efforts to this end just this week in Poland. Putin wanted to divide and weaken NATO. He has achieved precisely the opposite. We have not only gained two strong allies, Finland and Sweden, but we have made Europe as a whole stronger – via joint European armaments as well as the European Sky Shield Initiative. And by continuing to support our partners in the Baltic, in Poland and in Romania and thereby regaining trust. Trust that we lost in the preceding years due to our policy on Russia, trust that we are now building up again as a result of the Zeitenwende, our new approach for this new era, and as a result of our investments in Europe and in NATO. Esteemed colleagues, we cannot afford to gamble away this trust, not least when it comes to budget debates.

This is why it is so important for us to make it clear that the Zeitenwende is not a flash in the pan, but a new direction that will endure beyond legislative terms, a long-lasting investment in our security, in our way of life rooted in freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Not just in Ukraine, but in all of Europe.


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