Opening Speech by Guido Westerwelle at the 26th Forum on Global Issues entitled “Global Zero – Challenges along the path to a world free of nuclear weapons”

15.06.2010 - Speech

Ms Hoppe, Professor Müller, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I bid you a warm welcome to this 26th Forum on Global Issues here at the Federal Foreign Office.

I particularly want to thank the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt for co-organizing this forum with the Federal Foreign Office.

The Forum on Global Issues already discussed the topic of disarmament and arms control three years ago, in 2007. At that time people lamented what they called the “stalemate” in disarmament. We can all feel that over the last twelve months or so disarmament and arms control issues have gained new momentum. Today we have the chance to make real progress on disarmament.

German foreign policy is peace policy, and has been for several decades now. We have learned this lesson from our own history. Given that foreign policy is peace policy, we must pay particular attention to disarmament and arms control.

At yesterday’s meeting of European foreign ministers we discussed in detail the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme. A few days ago the UN Security Council adopted a joint resolution. All this shows that disarmament is not merely the order of the day but the central concern of this decade.

The question confronting us now is whether we make the coming decade one of rearmament or disarmament. This is why I want to warmly thank you for joining those of us who want to make this a decade of disarmament.

Not only did President Obama revive the debate on “Global Zero” with his Prague speech in April 2009, the United States have since then also taken concrete steps. In Prague President Obama further specified his clear statements made during his speech here in Berlin, his first on European soil as presidential candidate. We will support him in his efforts.

The US has not only reduced the role of nuclear weapons in its Nuclear Posture Review; for the first time in its history, it has revealed the composition of its nuclear arsenal. This act of transparency can truly be described as historic. We all know that transparency is the precondition for confidence, which in turn is the precondition for concrete disarmament.

The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington made the securing of nuclear material and the prevention of nuclear terrorism the task of the international community.

The United States and Russia have agreed to a considerable reduction of their strategic arsenals in the New START Treaty. We all know this was no easy matter.

Russia and the United States are embarking on a course of cooperation and concrete steps. This makes me hopeful for further disarmament successes.

This momentum has also extended to the multilateral negotiations.

In the German Government’s view the Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty this May was a success for three main reasons:

First, the international community reaffirmed its commitment to non-proliferation in New York. That is all the more significant because there was a danger that some conference delegations would not support the motion.

The last Review Conference five years ago failed. All those who now say that this year’s Conference conclusions are not specific enough should recall that five years ago no agreement was reached at all. The fact that this year’s Conference agreed to strengthen the NPT is a major success.

Second, in the Conference final document, all of the signatory states agreed to work towards the complete abolition of all types of nuclear weapons. Global Zero has thereby become the common goal of the 189 participating states.

We cannot rate this highly enough. Those of you who attend these international conferences and who, like many of you here, are concerned with foreign and in particular security policy are aware of how difficult it is to agree on a joint document. The fact that Global Zero was agreed by 189 member states is a huge step in the right direction.

Third, the Conference participants also agreed on a very concrete action plan which may lead to a general rethink on the issue of nuclear armament.

The international community cannot allow this opportunity for nuclear disarmament to pass by. That’s the momentum I’m referring to.

Nuclear disarmament takes on an even greater role when it comes to insisting that states like Iran adhere to the principles of nuclear non-proliferation.

The three pillars of the NPT have been valid for the last 40 years now: the nuclear-weapon states must all disarm, the non-nuclear-weapon states must renounce nuclear weapons, and everyone – including Iran – has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Some have publicly given the impression, often deliberately for propaganda purposes, that the international community wants to forbid Iran from peacefully using nuclear energy. That is certainly not true! Of course Iran has the right to use nuclear power for civilian, peaceful purposes. We are prepared to cooperate with and support Iran on this. But this has to be linked with complete transparency, so that Iran does not clandestinely pursue nuclear armament within a civilian programme. This would have incalculable effects on security in the region and indeed the whole world.

For that reason it was right that the UN and, yesterday, the EU sent out such a clear reaction.

Because of Iran’s continued stubborn refusal to disclose the details of its nuclear programme, the UN Security Council last Wednesday adopted stricter sanctions in Resolution 1929.

Yesterday the EU foreign ministers decided that we will extend these sanctions and make them more targeted, so that they don’t impact Iranian citizens. The goal of the sanctions is to steer the Iranian leadership back to the negotiating table.

Iran’s agreement with Turkey and Brazil on its nuclear research reactor is an important move, one for which we have several times publicly praised the Turkish and Brazilian Governments. But this trilateral declaration fails to solve the overriding problem of the Iranian nuclear programme’s lack of transparency.

Iran has to return to the negotiating table. Our offer of dialogue is still valid, and our hand remains outstretched. The international community’s aim is negotiations.

It is a great gain for the German Government and the German Bundestag that the disarmament of all types of nuclear weapons and therefore also tactical nuclear weapons has been added to the mandate of the New York Review Conference. A cross-party position on disarmament has been agreed, one which unfortunately has not been sufficiently noticed by the public.

Tactical nuclear weapons have up to now not been included in arms control efforts. Following the adjustments made by the United States in its Nuclear Posture Review, we now want to discuss the role of nuclear weapons in NATO’s strategy.

For that reason I initiated this discussion at NATO’s Tallinn Summit in April along with the foreign ministers of the Benelux countries and Norway. For us NATO is not just a security alliance but rather a community of shared values and the forum in which such political future issues must be debated.

Of course it would be unrealistic to assume that NATO would immediately delete nuclear weapons from its strategy, but it would be anachronistic to simply carry on as before.

We all know that when we talk about tactical nuclear weapons we have to look closely at Russia’s arsenal.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we also know that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. All disarmament efforts over the past decades have required great stamina. There are always a thousand reasons not to disarm and only one real reason to do so – disarmament itself, the goal of increasing world peace and security for humanity, which should be enough to persuade us, the representatives of our societies, to take this journey.

The Alliance’s New Strategic Concept is to be adopted at the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November. Until then the Alliance will agree on the extent to which nuclear weapons correspond to today’s security environment. The first public statements by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the Tallinn meeting were encouraging.

It is also encouraging that the United States has now announced that it wants to discuss tactical nuclear weapons with Russia. This is directly relevant to us here in Germany, as tactical nuclear weapons are still stationed in the far west of our country. The German Government is working, of course in coordination with our NATO partners, to have these weapons withdrawn.

Russia has the much larger arsenal of these types of weapons and certainly won’t change its strategy from one day to the next. There is still a lot of convincing and confidence-building to be done and transparency must also be ensured, but here too I certainly see positive progress.

I have seen some movement just in the eight or nine months during which I as foreign minister have discussed this issue with Moscow and my Russian counterpart. We have to acknowledge that. I want to encourage those in Russia, and there are many, who think along the same lines.

Sometimes disarmament is driven by the need to save money, but what’s so terrible about that? It’s not as if the situation was very different during the 1980s with regard to perestroika. Just think of the link between perestroika and the NATO dual-track decision. It’s not as if the world was full of “peaceniks” during the mid- and late 1980s. The historic door to perestroika had been opened by pragmatism and necessity born of circumstance.

We should use tight budgets as a way of advancing the disarmament process. Maybe those budgetary constraints can have a positive influence in that they oblige the international community to disarm more quickly and courageously.

The aim of the strategic dialogue with Russia remains an area of common, complete security stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. We must agree on the framework of European security in the 21st century. Nuclear disarmament must not re-open the possibility of conventional wars. We must always bear this connection in mind.

For that reason we must also reduce conventional imbalances. Alongside nuclear disarmament we need legally binding conventional arms control. To do this we in Europe must overcome the crisis in the CFE regime.

The idea of a conventional war in Europe may seem far-fetched to all of us here, but let us not forget that beyond the borders of the EU, regional conflicts are being fought with tanks.

Let me just remind you of Georgia two summers ago, of the Balkans in the 1990s, of war on our own continent. Conventional disarmament is one of the lessons learned from our own European history, not just that of the middle of last century in all its brutality but also of more recent times in Europe.

Global controls on nuclear material are a matter of life or death for humanity.

There are still more than 23,000 nuclear warheads worldwide, and the existing fissile material is sufficient to make thousands of additional nuclear weapons.

Some of the conflicts in the Middle East, on the Korean Peninsula and in South Asia have a nuclear dimension, with the threat of a new nuclear arms race.

This is why it is so important that the New York Review Conference also reaffirmed the need for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Abolishing all existing nuclear weapons is the only way to truly guarantee that they will not be used. But that’s not enough.

An agreement on a comprehensive halt to the production of fissile material is also necessary to rule out the development of new nuclear weapons.

Global Zero is also the only way to guarantee that fissile material and nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists. This is a real danger, which was rightly discussed at the Washington meeting of world leaders. We must take this threat seriously. The consequences of a nuclear 9/11 would be devastating to a degree far beyond our comprehension!

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.

We in the German Government have stated that disarmament and arms control are key building blocks for a global security architecture. This has been a guiding principle of Government policy since day one and it also sets the compass for the coming years.

Let me warmly thank you for bringing your knowledge, experience, creativity and ideas to this Conference. We will carefully assess your conclusions and translate them into policy.

Those politicians who currently call for a nuclear-weapon-free world are often thought of as naive. But President Obama and the other proponents of that vision have never said that Global Zero was achievable tomorrow, next week or in five years’ time.

Nonetheless, it is the right vision for our world – this is my firm belief.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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