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"A new world order and transatlantic relations" - Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on 4 July 2008

04.07.2008 - Speech

Distinguished hosts,
Henry Kissinger,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Today is a special day for German-American relations. Today a circle is being closed – 67 years after the American Embassy was forced to abandon its work at Pariser Platz due to the war unleashed by the Germans; 60 years after the Airlift fed a city suddenly at the epicentre of the Cold War; and almost 20 years after the dream of German unity became reality.

The return of the US Embassy to its traditional site at Pariser Platz fills a gap – and not just geographically, but symbolically, too.

The United States of America played a crucial role in opening the Brandenburg Gate and settling the German question.

I remember well the enormous banner: "USA applauds the EU's first 50 years" that Ambassador Timken had hung from the scaffolding in 2007 while the building was under construction. That was a beautiful symbol.

Who would have dreamed in 1945 that Europe would today be the democratic, peaceful and free continent that it is? That young people from Portugal to Estonia are growing up with an ever stronger European identity? And nevertheless, Europe has remained anchored in its alliance with the USA – an alliance that is built on shared values, and which is not confined to governmental and parliamentary exchange alone, but which is filled with life by people on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is my heartfelt wish that this alliance remain alive and stable in this new age following the end of the Cold War. It is my wish that we face the global era in which we now find ourselves by defining joint goals and finding joint answers.

This applies without a doubt to the fight against terror, but that is by no means the only task facing us. At least as important is the question of how we are to peacefully integrate the new powers that are self-assuredly asserting themselves on the world stage into international structures. Of whether we will succeed in creating a global sense of responsibility combined with the awareness that the key issues facing humanity this century can, for the first time in our history, only be solved in concert, not in conflict. An awareness that we are all in the same boat as regards climate change, scarce resources, energy and disarmament.

Interdependence is, as it were, the signature of our time – in politics, on the markets, and when it comes to the risks.

What we – Germans and Europeans, together with the USA and others – will make out of this in political terms is still very much up in the air. What is certain, however, is that the clarity of the bipolar world and its division into good and evil no longer provide an adequate conceptual framework for the tasks ahead. The concepts of the Cold War – bloc building and containment – are outdated responses to the questions of today and tomorrow. The coming decades will be the crucial test of our human intelli­gence, as well as a test of our ability to solve conflicts not by confrontation, but in a new spirit of understanding and cooperation.

The defining feature of the global era is the convergence of the most different views and ideologies, the confluence of the most diverse ideas and perspectives.

And in this complex world there are, in my opinion, two things we need in order to do the right thing politically. First, we need firm positions as a foundation on which to act and win others round to our standpoint. Second, we need a far deeper, more genuine interest in the experiences of other cultures, in the collective memory of other nations, in their historical roots, and in the strengths and weaknesses of different peoples and communities.

Both together can serve as a compass which will keep us on the right path.

The transatlantic partnership has long been a great success story. America's relationship with Europe has paved the way for advances that neither of us could have achieved alone – neither the Europeans nor the Americans!

Even today, the political, economic and people-to-people contacts between Europe and America are closer than those that exist with any other world region. Herein lies an unparalleled opportunity: if we agree to, we can form the initial core for making effective global progress. That is why I call so staunchly for the renewal and further intensification of the relationship between the USA and Europe.

This call is directed at both sides – at Germans and Europeans as well as at the people and politicians of the US. We are all aware of America's fascination, in particular that of young Americans, with the rise of Asia. We are therefore always pleased when John McCain announces his solidarity with Europe and keeps alive the interest in a vibrant transatlantic partnership. I am equally pleased, and consider it a positive sign, that the Democratic presidential candidate will travel to Europe, to Germany and to Berlin in the coming weeks.

Let us work together to revitalize the transatlantic partnership. Let us turn to each other again – by reawakening old attachments, defining joint issues for the future and, as it were, rediscovering each other.

Of course, NATO continues to be the central plank of our common security in the Western world. But security in today's world can no longer be maintained by military means alone or purely in military alliances. In Yekaterinburg I recently told Russian students that it is no longer a country's land mass or the number of its tanks and missiles – or, let me add, its alliances – which determine its future viability, but rather its innovativeness, flexibility and the will to continually change.

And that is also why I proposed a new transatlantic agenda for the 21st century when I spoke at Harvard University this April.

In my opinion, such an agenda has three key items:

Firstly, sustainability and resources.

Climate protection, energy security and resource security are political issues that will determine whether we can live in safety in the world of tomorrow. These issues are flanked by questions relating to the mechanics of globalization: financial market instability, inflationary trends and "justice deficits".

All of these issues are extremely important for the US and for Europe. Proportionally, we in the West consume far more energy and pollute the environment to a much greater extent than people in other parts of the world. The dramatic rise in prices for raw materials and food has long since become a domestic policy issue.

On the other hand we are technological leaders and the backbone of the international financial system – and will remain so for the foreseeable future. So who, if not us, should lead the way in the struggle for greater energy efficiency, for renewable energies, for emissions trading systems and greater transparency on the capital markets?

And let me say to my own constituents, to those people in Germany and Europe who think we are way ahead of the US when it comes to climate protection. Such arrogance is totally out of place if we stop and look at what individual states and cities are doing.

Not long ago in Juneau, a town of some 30,000 souls in Alaska, the locals voluntarily reduced energy consumption by thirty percent within just a few weeks when they realized what would happen to them if the polar icecaps melted. Adults switched off unnecessary lights, a lift in the municipal library was put out of use, and the local TV dealers only kept one TV on in their stores instead of dozens. All I can say is kudos to the people of this town! That, too, is the America that we Europeans have to admire time and again for its unconventional solutions.

The second item on my transatlantic agenda is disarmament, arms control and global security.

We have a tremendous responsibility to make our disarmament policy a measurable success. I am stating this so blatantly because – and I know Henry Kissinger agrees with me – the subject has for many years scarcely been noticed. Thanks to our joint efforts we have put it back on the agenda. But now our words and conferences must be followed by deeds!

The trend towards ever more states obtaining access to nuclear technology or even acquiring the know-how to make nuclear arms must be reversed – otherwise an uncontrollable arms race will be sparked off.

This is why the international community has been working so resolutely to get Iran to show its hand with regard to its nuclear programme and to put all its cards on the table. And it is why the Germans have, at my suggestion, been arguing in the context of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for uranium enrichment and the fuel cycle to be brought more closely under international control.

I am very glad that this call for a new beginning – and for a lastingly nuclear-free world – has been taken up by some powerful proponents in the US. These include the four major US foreign policy realists – you, my distinguished friend Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn. The two presidential candidates are also very active in this field. That gives us cause for hope, for US leadership in the diplomatic efforts toward disarmament is not just necessary, but decisive!

Clarification of our relationship with Russia is also vital in this context.

Of course, the modernization of the state and the economy, as announced in several speeches by President Medvedev, is primarily a domestic affair for Russia.

But we are not just observers on the sidelines. It is my impression that we sometimes underestimate how much we and our attitudes influence the scope for change. My advice to us all is not to ignore changes on the ground whilst making formulaic pronouncements, but rather to support positive moves by means of cooperation.

That is the background to my offer of a "modernization partnership". This must be our joint concern on both sides of the Atlantic!

Let me return to Sam Nunn. He recently noted that given Russia's role in nuclear disarmament and on the Iranian issue, we must clarify whether we cannot perhaps view the country as part of a European-Atlantic security architecture.

The same thought was taken up here by Hans-Dietrich Genscher last week in an article in the Tagesspiegel newspaper. And just a few days ago, Lothar Rühl discussed the issue in the FAZ, our host's newspaper. It is a difficult issue, for which only some of the answers lie with us. It is difficult also because Nunn, Genscher and Rühl necessarily raise questions about NATO's present identity and prospects for the future. But these are questions that we cannot avoid without putting into question the letter and spirit of the Charter of Paris and indeed the constant need for reflection on a common area of security from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Again and again we have to make our citizens understand that conflicts far from our borders have a direct impact on our security in this interconnected world. This is true of trouble spots such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as areas of strife in Africa and the crises in the Near and Middle East.

We – America as a world power, and Europe as an important partner and neighbour – cannot abdicate the responsibilities that thereby fall to us. Germany thus stands by its participation in NATO operations in Afghanistan. We want to increase our contingent this autumn by some 1000 soldiers, i.e. by more than a quarter. This shows that we have assumed responsibility together – and will together bring the mission to its conclusion.

I would like to highlight the following as the third item on my transatlantic agenda: developing a global policy of responsibility together as a transatlantic project.

The key question for the coming years is what world order will prevail in the 21st century.

The rise of China, India and other powers on the international stage means that great political skills will be needed to ensure that change is peaceful. Just take a look at German history, and many of you will immediately know what I mean. The creation of Germany as a national state and its hegemonic aspirations in the heart of Europe gave rise to two World Wars and a Cold War before we finally managed to find a lasting, suitable balance within the framework of the European Union. We will have to act more wisely with regard to China, India and other new powers in the coming decades than some in Europe did before us! Let us chose the path of cooperation and inclusion! I am certain that the attempt to get the West in shape without considering the rest of the world will result in a world without the West.

We therefore want to give China, India and the others a role in shaping the world to come.

And we are therefore also considering whether the G8 sufficiently represents the multipolar world.

Changed circumstances require new concepts and a new readiness to assume leadership.

I see promising signs of this on both sides of the Atlantic. But let's be realistic – our relationship will also be tested during the next Administration, and partnership does not mean symbiosis.

But nonetheless it is true that together we can do far more than each of us can alone. And if we add in the mutual ties between the Germans, Europeans and Americans that have endured for decades, we have a firm foundation for a strong new agenda across the Atlantic.

And if I also consider the changes of leadership in the two major powers, the coming year could, if we act carefully and far-sightedly, become a "year of opportunity".

And so on this day when the American Embassy returns to Pariser Platz, let us not only look back, but also draw direction for the future from all that this day symbolizes.

And let me say to the many Americans in Germany: It's great to have you here; thank you for being and living with us! And to all the people on the other side of the Atlantic I would like to say: Let's work on our common future – and let's do it together!

Thank you very much!

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