Disarmament – one of the fundamental tasks of peace policy

04.02.2010 - Interview

This week, eight prominent political figures were scheduled to meet in Berlin: Henry Kissinger, Richard von Weizsäcker, Sam Nunn, Helmut Schmidt, William Perry, Egon Bahr, George Shultz and Hans Dietrich Genscher. These eight men have been working for peace for decades. Today, they are united in their conviction that a world free of nuclear weapons is both necessary and possible.

This road may be long and difficult, but I am convinced we have to follow it. We find our­selves at the start of a new decade, and we have to ensure that it is a decade of disarmament and not of armament. German foreign policy must play a part in this. For Germany foreign policy is peace policy. That means doing everything we can to prevent new arms races.

Globalization offers many opportunities, but it also has dark sides. The risk of the prolif­eration of weapons of mass destruction is greater today than ever before. The heinous machin­ations of international terrorism, as well as fanaticism and radical ideologies, are jeopardizing global and regional security. Anyone who welcomes globalization with realistic optimism must therefore do all they can to promote disarmament in order to make the globalized world safer.

With his speech in Prague last April, President Obama opened a window of opportunity and formulated visionary goals for disarmament and détente. It is only right that we take him at his word and work together to bring about tangible progress on disarmament. Like many others, I am counting on the Americans and Russians reaching an agreement soon on limiting and reducing their strategic arsenals.

In Europe, we have learned the right lessons from terrible wars. The European Union is one of the most successful peace projects in history. It is a cooperation model which serves as an example in today’s globalized world. We in Europe have succeeded through cooperation in transforming a continent blighted by wars into a union of peace.

That is why today we can talk to our allies about the withdrawal of the last remaining nuclear weapons in Germany. This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Germany’s reunifi­cation, a cause for joyous celebration. Reunification was made possible by the courageous people in the east of our country and all over Central and Eastern Europe who brought the walls of the Cold War crashing down. The withdrawal of the nuclear weapons is a peace dividend. It is time to work on this peace dividend – not on our own but in the closest possible agreement with our partners and allies.

We face momentous decisions in another region of the world. I am talking about the Middle East and the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. No one is denying Iran the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. On the contrary, together with our partners we have offered to enter into comprehensive cooperation with Iran. Unfortunately, the leadership in Tehran has turned down all offers to date. With regard to the proposal on enriching uranium abroad, too, we have only heard intimations from Tehran but no binding response to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

We will judge Iran by its actions, not by its words. It is up to Iran to end its refusal to cooperate by providing facts.

The German Government is adamant in its belief that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran is completely unacceptable. It would endanger security in the Middle East and beyond. The result would be a regional arms race – with less security for everyone. Israel, too, would feel threatened given the repeated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments by the Iranian leadership. We cannot accept this. If Iran does not resume honest negotiations, then we are prepared to support a decision by the international community to extend sanctions.

We need substantial progress on nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, this progress should not make it easier to wage conventional wars. For nuclear and conventional disarmament must go hand in hand. That applies in particular to the treaty system concerning conventional arms control and disarmament in Europe (CFE Treaty). The war in Georgia in the summer of 2008 brought home to us in a dramatic fashion that, unfortunately, wars can still break out on our own doorstep. For this reason, too, we have to urgently seek ways in a changed security environment to ensure that the necessary treaty adjustments can be ratified by every state.

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