Speech by Guido Westerwelle on presenting the Federal Government’s Annual Disarmament Report to the German Bundestag

26.03.2010 - Speech

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

in his now famous Prague speech almost exactly a year ago, President Obama sent out a strong message about global disarmament. The uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons is probably one of the greatest threats to our security. Curbing this danger is a matter of survival, which is why disarmament and arms control are hugely important for the whole of humanity. It is the greatest single challenge to humanity.

The decade has only just begun and we cannot afford to take this issue too lightly. At the beginning of a new decade we stand at a crossroads where we have yet to determine whether it will be a decade of rearmament or disarmament.

The Federal Government is ready to shoulder that responsibility. For this reason I felt it was important to present the Annual Disarmament Report of the Federal Government to this House, the German Bundestag, right at the start of the year.

In the Coalition Agreement we stated that disarmament and arms control were key building blocks for a global security architecture of the future. This has been a guiding principle of the Federal Government’s policy since day one and it also sets the compass for the coming years.

In the last century the so-called nuclear balance of terror helped ensure that following the Second World War Europe did not plummet once more into war and destruction. However, some things that were appropriate for the Cold War have now outlived their useful life.

The deterrent effect of nuclear weapons is increasingly being overshadowed by the growing danger of nuclear arms proliferation.

We face the perilous prospect that within ten years the number of nuclear-weapon-states could have doubled, to include countries that are not even on our radar today. We face the prospect that nuclear weapons will be in the possession not only of states but also of terrorists.

Disarmament and arms control are not a concern of the past; they are tasks that require urgent attention in the present and in the future. Disarmament is not simply naive idealism. Pursuing disarmament policy is not ingenuous; indeed the opposite is the case: it would be ingenuous to abandon it.

It is no coincidence that the same foreign policy mediators on both sides of the Atlantic who during their active service as politicians and statesmen advocated with good reason the deterrent approach, today are striving for nuclear disarmament and a nuclear-weapon-free world. Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Richard von Weizsäcker and Egon Bahr are calling for the same approach as Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, George Shultz und William Perry.

Last September the Heads of State and Government of the UN Security Council mapped out the path to a nuclear-weapon-free world. Let me take you back to Resolution 1887 of 24 September 2009. In a historic session led by President Obama, all countries were called upon to commit to this path of disarmament. This also makes it clear that disarmament is not peculiar to Germany but is embedded in the policies of the international community.

The successor agreement to the START I Treaty between the United States of America and Russia is now within reach. We are relying on the very latest talks that are about to begin to produce a result, so that – this is our hope – in a few days it may even be possible to conclude an agreement. A successful conclusion would signal that the two leading nuclear powers, which between them possess more than 90 per cent of all nuclear weapons, are taking their disarmament responsibilities seriously. The agreement could also clear a path for further negotiations, which should include the matter of reducing the number of so-called tactical nuclear weapons.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty sets down three fundamental principles: first the duty of non proliferation, secondly the principle of general and complete disarmament and thirdly, incidentally, also the undisputed right of all countries to civilian use of nuclear energy. The Agreement is based on a reciprocal promise: the commitment to non-proliferation, matched by the nuclear powers’ commitment to disarmament. They are two sides of the same coin.

As you know, the Review Conference five years ago failed. The world cannot allow another five years to pass by. We want a successful outcome to the Review Conference in New York in May. We need a renewed commitment from the Treaty States to the rights and obligations of the Treaty; and we want an action plan with concrete steps for bolstering the fundamental principles of the Treaty that I have just spelled out. The Federal Government will work towards this end.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, to date Iran has not provided evidence that its nuclear programme is solely in the pursuit of peaceful goals. An Iran in possession of nuclear weapons would not only be the fuse to set off the proverbial powder keg in the region, but would also jeopardize the entire global non-proliferation regime. This is something we in the international community cannot and will not tolerate.

We continue to call upon those states that have achieved the capability to produce nuclear weapons outside of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to renounce the acquisition of nuclear arms and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The non-proliferation regime is bolstered by every single new accession.

However, we need more than the Non-Proliferation Treaty on the path to a nuclear weapon free world. We can lay the foundations for this at the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting next Tuesday in Ottawa. With the USA, Russia, France and Great Britain, the G8 brings together four of the five permanent members of the Security Council and simultaneously four of the five original nuclear powers. In Ottawa I intend to work towards a common position among the G8 on disarmament and arms control. If the G8 countries speak with one voice, we can accomplish a great deal in the areas of disarmament and non proliferation.

What we also need is an internationally binding treaty regime to ensure consistent verification of weapons-grade material before it is put to military use. Only in this way can we exclude the possibility of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands. The Federal Chancellor will work towards this goal at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

We also need progress on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. This Treaty has been signed by 182 countries and ratified by 151. Even though the overwhelming majority of the international community wants it, this Treaty has yet to enter into force. We call on the countries whose ratification we still need for the Treaty to enter into force to delay no more in taking this step, which is so long overdue.

Disarmament and arms control, together with our national defence capabilities and a responsible arms export policy, are indispensable components of the Federal Government’s comprehensive security and peace policy. The North Atlantic Alliance is, and will remain, the basis for our security. The core mission of NATO remains the mutual pledge of all Alliance partners to support each other and to ensure collective defence. I make this point explicitly because it is of great concern to many countries, and because they expect assurance and a clear commitment on this issue too. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty will continue to be the backbone of the Alliance in the future.

However, the viability of NATO has a vital effect on the viability of all Alliance partners. That is why it is so important for NATO to find the right responses to the changed global security situation. The Alliance is working on a new strategic concept in the lead up to the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November. NATO must return to being a political locus where we reach agreement with our allies on the whole spectrum of common security policy. Disarmament and arms control also have their place in NATO.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, I have initiated a debate with my colleagues from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway in order that the topic “Disarmament and arms control”, so vital for the future, may once again become an integral part of Alliance policy. We intend to strive for this position in the Alliance at the end of April in Tallinn.

Without a close partnership with Russia a European security architecture is, at best, incomplete. Germany’s security is best guaranteed if there is comprehensive security from Vancouver to Vladivostok. It is for this reason that cooperation with Russia is so important. On the issue of missile defence we should spare no effort to find common and cooperative solutions. I am also confident that we can, and shall, discuss the reduction and elimination of tactical nuclear weapons.

This can only happen if we have a more transparent process from the start which strengthens confidence and is directed towards achieving verifiable treaty-based agreements. These weapons are relics of the Cold War: they no longer serve a military purpose, they do not create security and so, in the view of the Federal Government, they have no future.

However, it is also important to make the following point: it goes without saying that any decision on the withdrawal of remaining nuclear warheads from Germany will only be made within the Alliance and in partnership with our allies.

Nuclear disarmament and arms control are the watchword of our time because these weapons have the potential to destroy the whole of humanity. However, it is obvious that in their pursuit we must not neglect the matter of conventional disarmament. We must take care to ensure that nuclear disarmament does not re-open the possibility of conventional wars. For this reason the Federal Government believes that nuclear and conventional disarmament must go hand in hand.

We need an open dialogue between NATO and Russia in order to breathe new life into the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the CFE Treaty, and bring it into line with the needs of our time.

The fact that Germany’s voice is heard in international debates on disarmament is also thanks to the credibility German peace policy has earned over the decades. Today we can make the most of this asset we have worked together to achieve in our democracy. I am under no illusion – and neither are you, I know – that the way ahead will be straightforward. Disarmament and treaty-based arms control are hard nuts to crack but we just have to keep working at them with dogged determination. I am pleased that in this the Federal Government can rely on the broad support of this House. My thanks go to all my colleagues from the parliamentary groups – CDU/CSU, Alliance 90/The Greens and of course my own parliamentary group – who support this German security and peace policy strategy in both word and deed. We in the Federal Government see the cross-party motion, that has the overwhelming majority of this House united behind it, as both our duty and obligation. It is right and proper – and it is also important for our citizens to witness and know this – that in these crucial questions we share a bedrock of common values.

Thank you for your attention.

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