Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the 45th Munich Security Conference

06.02.2009 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Wolfgang Ischinger, ...

2009 is a special year. A crisis year full of challenges, risks and opportunities. A year in which the political system has to prove its worth. This is going to be a major test for all of us here in this hall who are engaged in shaping policy.

We have to tackle the downward spiral in the international financial and economic crisis. And we have to work together and do everything we can to ensure that this crisis brings about a fresh start and ushers in a new era.

The international financial markets and the global economy need a new order with better rules. We have to produce initial concrete results at the G20 summit being held in London at the beginning of April.

However, 2009 should also mark the start of a new era in global security and disarmament policy.

The Cold War has been over for twenty years now – so it's high time that we finally overcame the mindsets prevalent during that period, mindsets which sometimes still seem to overshadow us today.

Cooperation and joint action – not division and self-imposed isolation – are the principles of the global age. That should be the message we send from this year's Munich Security Conference!

I'm aware that this cannot be taken for granted. Everyone knows that the worldwide financial and economic crisis, that nuclear disarmament, that climate protection require common global policies.

However, when we get down to the details, when a small national advantage is to take a backseat to the long-term benefit of all, cooperation and international solidarity are by no means a matter of course, especially in times of crisis. Particularly when we have more than enough problems in our own countries.

For example, in the poorest and weakest states, where growing poverty can engender social unrest and regional conflicts.

Or in many emerging economies, where growth rates and foreign currency reserves are dwindling and dissatisfaction among the population is growing.

Or in industrialized countries, where the efforts to master the crisis will place a huge burden on public finances for many years to come.

All of this also has an impact on the scope for action in foreign and security policy: in relation to development policy, humanitarian aid or the prevention of conflicts.

Why am I emphasizing this point? Because I want to demonstrate that we cannot consider the key problems of our age – the financial and economic crisis, natural resources and climate policy, security and stability policy – on their own.

Richard Lugar told me on Tuesday that the global economic crisis poses a threat to our national security. And I would like to add that the wrong responses to the crisis – isolation, protectionism, thinking in purely national terms – can aggravate this crisis. The right answer in the 21st century can only be transparency and cooperation!

In Washington, a new Administration which has stressed its desire to cooperate with its partners has now taken up work. We're delighted that Vice-President Biden will be our guest here in Munich.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say: welcome to Munich, welcome to Europe, welcome to this strategic debate. We look forward to hearing your take on global issues!

Also on disarmament, which will be a central topic in this panel. Or rather, especially here!

For even if the “balance of terror” or other scare words from the Cold War era are a thing of the past, it's obvious that disarmament and arms control are very topical and urgent issues.

In the nuclear sphere, we are not only dealing with thousands of warheads in the established nuclear-power states. For proliferation risks threaten to undermine the entire non-proliferation regime.

In the conventional sphere, we can see that the entire disarmament architecture arduously constructed over years is on a slippery slope.

In both cases, there is urgent need for action!

Henry Kissinger, you, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn injected new momentum into this debate two years ago.

Just recently, four elder statesmen here in Germany responded to your call.

I share your vision: a world without nuclear weapons. Mohamed ElBaradei drew attention to the necessary steps towards this goal in recent days – in contrast to others but in the spirit of the Global Zero campaign.

One thing is clear: we are dealing with two sides of the same coin here. If, on the one hand, we want to effectively prevent proliferation then, on the other, the nuclear-weapon states must be genuinely prepared to reduce their arsenals.

In Washington I noted encouraging signals – towards “START NOW”, towards a significant reduction in strategic nuclear weapons. Time is short. The predecessor treaty is expiring and there are 11 months left to negotiate a follow-up agreement.

And success here could facilitate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in the Senate – another crucial step towards more nuclear arms control.

I myself put forward proposals on multilateralizing the fuel cycle with a view to reducing the risk of the uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear fuels and technology.

And, of course, we have to deal with current proliferation issues: Not only, but also Iran.

Let me make it quite clear again what this is not about: it is not about denying a country the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Rather, this is about preventing a military programme being developed under the guise of peaceful use.

The impression I gained in Washington is that after a long freeze, the Administration wants to enter into a direct dialogue with Iran. Naturally, I welcome that. Above all, however, I appeal to the political leadership in Tehran: seize this opportunity! Cooperation is the way to prosperity and the future – for Iran, too.

As for conventional weapons, our main task is to find new perspectives for the centrepiece of arms control in this sphere: the ailing CFE Treaty.

The dilemma is clear – the security environment has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War: the demise of the Warsaw Pact, NATO enlargement. The adapted CFE Treaty is an attempt to adjust the content and future membership of the Treaty to these changed circumstances. However, it is still to be ratified. What we have instead is the old CFE Treaty, which is still valid but whose implementation Russia has unfortunately suspended.

Our task is clear: in the interests of us all, we have to find a way out of this stalemate. The Georgia conflict was not the first indication that there are still very real military threats to security and stability in Europe.

Thus, we need conventional arms control today as urgently as we did 20 years ago. But we need more: the aim now is not so much preventing a major bloc conflict but rather creating an effective set of instruments which help minimize the risk of regional conflict.

I'm therefore convinced that if we want to salvage the CFE regime, we will have to work in this direction.

That's why I want to invite senior experts to Berlin this June with a view to producing concrete proposals on the way forward.

One thing is certain when we talk about disarmament: here, too, we will only make progress if we broaden our outlook, if we don't stop at disarmament.

If we all join forces and make a new effort to rebuild the trust which has been lost.

If we talk not just about disarmament but also about what else can be done to further develop the security architecture in Europe: towards a pan-European security architecture which also includes Russia in an effective manner.

However, even today the old dream of a common area of security stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok isn't going to materialize overnight.

I fear it'll remain a dream if we seek its fulfilment through a new binding treaty, with many years of negotiation and the uncertain outlook of ratification in more than 50 parliaments.

Instead, I say: let's now start to work on a new security architecture! But with concrete projects which help to create new confidence; with concrete joint projects in which a new spirit of cooperation can evolve and take root, for example in the disarmament sphere.

The window of history is open: we have a new US President, who offers and demands a new way of thinking in the entire spectrum of disarmament and security policy. Russia also has a President who belongs to a generation whose thinking is influenced much less by the Cold War than those of his predecessors. He, too, has put forward proposals.

My advice is that we should make the most of the opportunities that offers! It may be easier to simply perpetuate the spectres of the past – but it won't bring more security.

Let's look instead to see where there are positive signs. Take, for example, missile defence. Russia has announced that it won't be stationing any Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad for the time being.

I believe this is reason to look again at the planned missile defence shield in Central Europe and seek solutions that all sides – the US, Europe and Russia – find acceptable. I still maintain that where common threats exist, it must be possible to find common solutions.

But don't misunderstand me: the work on a new security architecture doesn't mean calling into question what guaranteed our security over decades – our transatlantic alliance. Let's be clear: we will still need NATO in future.

However, we cannot get round a debate on the Alliance's future strategic aims. We need a frank discussion on what NATO's tasks should be – beyond the debates on enlargement which have taken up so much of our time recently.

It won't be enough to adopt a mandate for a new strategic concept at the forthcoming summit and then allow it to evolve as part of the day-to-day business of NATO's fora!

I'm convinced that this should be preceded by a political process comparable in terms of impact and vision to the Harmel Report, which gave NATO new orientation in a similar critical phase 40 years ago. I strongly recommend that a group of eminent persons be set up, with instructions to propose, within a realistic timeframe, but in an unblinkered fashion uninfluenced by the current agenda, possible roles for NATO in the decade to come.

In my view, the forthcoming 60th anniversary provides an apt opportunity to begin work on such a fundamental reorientation.

Disarmament and non-proliferation, renewal of the security architecture, the future of NATO – I believe all of this is linked to the other challenges of tomorrow's world: climate protection, work on a new global financial order, energy security, the settlement of regional conflicts.

All of these issues must be part of a new transatlantic agenda for the coming decade. For they will determine whether we succeed in shaping the future and creating a global community of responsibility which reliably integrates the new players on the international stage.

For me, this week which ends with the Munich Security Conference began in Washington. The new American Administration faces immense challenges. However, a spirit of renewal, drive and optimism was palpable there. I look forward to working with the Administration. And following in-depth talks with Hillary Clinton and General Jones I know:

2009 will not only be a difficult crisis year but also a year which sees concerted efforts to bring about a new era in foreign and security policy.

We need it!

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