Speech by Minister of State Werner Hoyer at the opening of a conference on “European Security Dialogue and Arms Control”

28.04.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my firm belief that European security dialogue, arms control and military confidence-building are inextricably linked. So I’m very glad this whole complex is the focus of this year’s conference, once again organized in cooperation with the Marshall Center. Only such a dialogue can create the necessary broad basis for long-term cooperative security in Europe.

This year’s conference is taking place at a very interesting juncture. Following the successful conclusion of the New START Treaty early this month, the issue of conventional arms control and disarmament in Europe is once more in the spotlight. The prospects for a serious, in depth debate on the subject are now brighter than they’ve been for a long time. If our conference can help move this debate forward, it will have accomplished its objective.

Here in this city twenty years ago the Wall was torn down that had divided Europe for decades. Ever since our continent has been growing together on a basis of close partnership. In the light of Europe’s centuries of shared history, this is a new and unique situation, a real cause for rejoicing.

The Euro-Atlantic area today is more secure – in classic, defence policy terms – than it ever was in the past. Former adversaries have become allies, partners and friends. This is a remarkable success.

In terms of political stability and economic prosperity, too, Europe has benefited and recorded impressive gains. The Open-Door policy pursued by NATO and the EU has played a crucial rule in stabilizing our new partner countries and member states. The countries of the Western Balkans, in the nineties the scene of horrific fighting and war crimes, are progressively embarking on reforms that will bring them closer to the European Union. Croatia and Albania are already members of NATO.

These successes, however, are only one aspect of a very diverse picture. For clearly pan European security is still unfinished business even two decades after the fall of the Wall. In recent years this has become increasingly obvious.

The most recent wake up call was in 2008, when the fighting in and around Georgia drove home just how explosive allegedly “frozen” conflicts can become. None of the existing organizations or instruments at our disposal could prevent the escalation of the conflict and the outbreak of hostilities.

We need to recognize, too, that the potential for cooperation between the various organizations operating in the Euro-Atlantic area has yet to be fully tapped. We’ve failed to consistently exploit synergies between relevant instruments, on occasions we haven’t exploited them at all in fact. Here I’m thinking first and foremost of the truly gridlocked relationship between NATO and the EU.

Another problem is that in many respects our perceptions of security and our reading of history twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall greatly diverge. We see this in the OSCE on many of the issues on its agenda and we see it most noticeably in relations between Russia and NATO.

So it’s time for a new approach. What’s needed now is to bring the European security project to a successful conclusion. That is a real challenge, for we have differing views about the correct diagnosis and most especially about what needs changing. This is not only a challenge, however, but also an opportunity, since the odds that we will succeed are better today than they were just a few years ago.

One important aspect of the discussion relates to Russia’s proposals for a new European security treaty. There’s no doubt the Russian initiative has played a key role in triggering the current intense debate on the future of European security. What began with the OSCE’s Corfu Process is now a hot topic in the NATO-Russia Council as well as among think tanks and political commentators across the Euro-Atlantic area.

One of the initiative’s core aims is to give the principle of indivisible security concrete substance. What President Medvedev is suggesting here is that this established OSCE principle should be transposed into law. That is a perfectly reasonable approach.

It does, however, raise a number of issues which are hard to define and clarify in legal terms. How, for example, does the concept of indivisible security fit with the freedom of countries to choose what alliances they belong to, something to which we are all committed? How do we reconcile indivisible security across the entire European region with the security guarantees provided by existing alliances? I fear it would be a difficult business to resolve such issues in a legal document.

As I see it, it would be better to concentrate our efforts on translating the principle of indivisible security into quite tangible, practical reality. Indivisible security means in my view finding ways to enable conflicts of interest to be converted into constellations that will yield returns for all parties.

A joint missile defence system, for example, would be an impressive concrete demonstration of indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic area. Just recently NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlined for us what such a missile defence system under a shared roof could mean: shared benefits and costs, shared intelligence and collaboration on developing relevant technologies. At present that may all sound utopian. But with the recent shift in US policy, there is now a realistic prospect we can indeed start thinking and travelling in this direction. Let’s grasp this opportunity!

And let’s grasp the opportunity to move forward in other areas, too:

  • by embracing an ambitious disarmament agenda in the area of sub-strategic and conventional weapons systems;

  • by ensuring greater transparency in armament projects and security-relevant export transactions;

  • by actively pushing ahead with the joint assessment of security threats now under way in the NATO-Russia Council.

The ongoing dialogue within the Corfu Process offers an opportunity to strengthen the OSCE’s existing dispute settlement mechanisms. The Medvedev proposals, too, contain ideas for a conflict prevention mechanism. There is a realistic prospect, I believe, that the still widely divergent views in this area can at least be brought more into alignment.

The German Government is very conscious that Russia has not always been and is not now an easy partner. In their dealings with Russia or possible future members, EU and NATO countries are not prepared in any way to compromise their values, for that would be to sacrifice their own credibility. Given these many differences, building a security partnership that is viable over the long term is a formidable task.

On one of the most complex issues on the conference’s agenda, the importance of military alliances for a united and free Europe, Poland’s Deputy Defence Minister Stanislaw Komorowski had planned to give a speech today. He was killed in the appalling plane crash in Smolensk along with the Polish President, the nation’s top military and a large number of fellow parliamentarians. This tragedy and the way our Polish friends and neighbours mourned their loss left many Germans deeply moved. We are most grateful that, in this most difficult time for Poland, Adam Kobieracki, the man in charge of security policy at the Foreign Ministry, has agreed to speak here in his place. Mr Kobieracki was NATO’s first Assistant Secretary General from a new member state and will certainly have much of interest to tell us about the huge importance joining NATO had for the young democracies in Eastern and Central Europe and how this helped them consolidate their new status.

In our view, too, NATO’s Open Door policy remains a valuable instrument; no country wishing NATO membership should in principle be denied that option. What is equally important, however, is that NATO membership should enhance stability in Europe as a whole. NATO’s Open Door policy must not be used as a political tool – as was sometimes the case in the past – to sideline certain countries. By the same token, it must accept both now and in the future that countries may prefer the option of neutrality.

Even today the Alliance’s security and attractiveness is based on its mutual defence guarantee and collective defence efforts. But it is also based on close cooperation with partners that are not members of the Alliance. This has been the case ever since the Harmel Report and is even more the case today, for many of the new risks and threats we face emanate not from states but from non-state actors or arise in areas where state authority is weak or ineffectual. So clearly the most effective way to tackle new challenges is through a network of global partnerships.

This Alliance stands “for” something – for cooperation, stability, security. It is not “against” anything or anyone – let alone Russia, let me make that quite clear. That would most definitely not be in NATO’s interest, for we all have to recognize that many problems – in the southern Caucasus, too, by the way – cannot be resolved without Russia and certainly not by challenging Russia. That means logically there is simply no alternative to NATO-Russia cooperation, even if, understandably, for reasons of history this may not be to everyone’s taste.

There’s no way either that Russia can realize its ideas of Euro-Atlantic security by challenging tried and tested institutions which have made a valuable contribution to European integration. So the right course for both sides is to press actively and consistently for greater cooperation – and of course there’s unlimited scope for intensifying cooperation.

Building a cooperative security architecture with Russia means focusing on two key aspects: firstly, the future of regional cooperative security arrangements and, secondly, arms control in Europe.

Here we need to fix our sights particularly on the Black Sea region, including the southern Caucasus. Greatly enhanced stability, security and cross-border cooperation: that must be our aim for the region. That means we must continue to strengthen not only bilateral but also multilateral cooperation with the region over a broad front. We believe the prime tools for this are the European Neighbourhood Policy programmes, in other words, the Black Sea Synergy Initiative and the Eastern Partnership.

The Black Sea Synergy Initiative was launched during Germany’s EU Council presidency in 2007 with the aim of promoting practical cooperation in sectors of transnational, regional importance. The crucial thing is to bring on board all interested countries in the wider Black Sea region, including Turkey and Russia. After a halting start what we’re seeing now is like a spring awakening from winter sleep. The first environmental sector partnership was established in March 2010, others in the transport and energy sectors are due to follow.

A year after its launch in Prague in May 2009 the Eastern Partnership has already a host of tangible successes to its credit. Despite their sometimes marked differences of opinion, partners are now clearly cooperating. The negotiations the EU is conducting with a number of countries on association agreements are also making good progress. In January the EU opened negotiations with Moldova on an association agreement; with Ukraine these negotiations are already well advanced. In May the EU plans to approve the relevant mandates to open negotiations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

As I mentioned early on, the essential, key requirement for any kind of cooperation among the countries of Europe is a degree of mutual trust. We in Germany are convinced the best way to build such trust is a comprehensive arms control regime. In recent years far too much time has been lost here, which we now have to make good.

Right now it remains unclear whether a European conventional arms control regime has any future. Here we should remind ourselves that whatever advances, whatever successes there have been since the end of the Cold War, a Europe free of threat perceptions and regional conflicts is still a long way off. It’s true that new threats such as international terrorism, nuclear proliferation or Internet-based cyber attacks now loom larger in our security risk assessments, but what I might call “old-fashioned” military threats continue to be seen in Europe as a danger to be reckoned with. That’s why conventional arms control must be part and parcel of a comprehensive cooperative security architecture in Europe – it’s a sine qua non.

Combined with confidence- and security-building measures, a conventional arms control regime provides predictability and transparency on a broad, solid footing. Another reason we need such a regime is to safeguard Europe’s security for the longest foreseeable period with the minimum possible military resources. It’s not least budgetary constraints that compel us to become more creative here. There is now, both economically and politically, a window of opportunity for an arms control dividend, so to speak – and it’s an opportunity we must not miss.

Given the current pressure on budgets, I’m absolutely sure no country in Europe today can afford to fund massive conventional capabilities for national defence. That makes the case for a workable conventional arms control regime that contributes to structural crisis prevention even more compelling. For if the risk of military conflict is to be effectively reduced, we need a realistic and reliable assessment of military assets and capabilities – as well as the mutual trust generated by cooperating together.

But the only way conventional arms control can truly live up to present and future expectations is by taking the present security policy environment in Europe into account and evolving continually in the light of new developments. The existing arms control regime at any rate does not live up to these expectations.

Overcoming the deadlock in such a core area of European security will be no mean task. We must seize the moment now and put every effort into finding ways to resolve the current crisis.

As I said at the beginning, there’s now a realistic prospect it can be done. The US Administration’s recent appointment of a Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe confirms the renewed American interest in conventional arms control. Russia, too, has announced that it’s keen to see a viable conventional arms control regime.

Of course we’re well aware that conventional and nuclear disarmament are interconnected. But I totally disagree with the view that conventional disarmament would mean a greater risk of nuclear weapons being actually used. We must also refute the argument that nuclear disarmament would mean a greater risk of conventional war.

In the nuclear sphere threats emanating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area pose by far the greater danger. North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, the proliferation risks associated with these technologies and Iran’s nuclear ambitions not only pose a direct threat to all of us and the international order as a whole but also increase the likelihood of a dangerous arms build up in various parts of the world. The growing number of countries today with capabilities in proliferation-relevant fuel cycle technologies goes hand in hand with increasing risks of abuse. Nuclear terrorism is another risk that cannot be overestimated. Just how great it is was highlighted yet again at the recent conference in Washington. For the fact is that stockpiles of weapons-grade fissile material now amount to some 2500 metric tons. These stockpiles are found in every part of the world and in many cases are not as securely safeguarded as one would like to think.

The threat they represent, however, is one that affects the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole. That’s why we should make the most of this opportunity to cooperate.

The signing of the New START Treaty between the US and Russia in early April and the US Nuclear Posture Review will set the tone, we hope, for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May and NATO’s new Strategic Concept to be unveiled in November. We will be working hard to make arms control and disarmament top NATO priorities. As we see it, that means the role of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence in NATO’s overall strategy needs to be rethought and reduced.

Another step we would like to see – as proposed by President Obama in his speech after the signing of the New START Treaty – is the inclusion of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in future disarmament negotiations. At present they are not covered by any arms control mechanism. Twenty years after the end of East-West confrontation it must be possible to get rid of a Cold War relic that no longer serves any military purpose. That is the reason Germany wants to see all sub-strategic nuclear weapons still deployed on German territory removed. This must be done in close consultation with our NATO allies of course, we are not in favour of unilateral action here. When Minister Westerwelle raised this issue at the Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers last week in Tallinn, the initial debate revealed differences of opinion on this of course. On the whole, however, the discussion was very constructive. It’s important to make very clear in this connection that we also want to discuss with Russia how the very large number of Russian sub-strategic nuclear weapons can become part of the agenda of future disarmament negotiations.

For years now the technical know-how for manufacturing nuclear weapons and delivery systems has no longer been the exclusive, secret domain of a mere handful of countries. And for years now we’ve been faced by new security threats against which nuclear deterrence is meaningless. Now the dissemination of knowledge and technology as well as access to commodities has opened Pandora’s box more than just a slit, the task we face today is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The crux here is how to make renouncing possession of nuclear weapons more attractive than their possession. That is one of today’s greatest challenges and it’s one we can only come to grips with effectively if we leave the relics of the Cold War behind us, including Cold War mindsets. This, too, is a challenge that is best tackled jointly by the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole.

And now let me wish you and all of us a very successful conference. I’m greatly looking forward to what you have to say. Thank you very much for your attention!

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