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Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s statement to the German Bundestag on NATO’s Strategic Concept, 11 November 2010

11.11.2010 - Speech

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Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, honoured colleagues,

For decades now, NATO has guaranteed our common security. Even those of you who like to demonstrate against NATO – as is your good right – must not forget that this freedom to demonstrate is also the result of our successful security policy and of NATO’s existence.

Our debate next week on the Strategic Concept will set NATO’s course for the years to come. Before going any further I would like to thank NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. I would also like to express my special thanks to Madeleine Albright and her group of experts for the important preparatory work they have done. Our impression is – subject of course to next week’s decisions in Lisbon – that the submitted draft provides an excellent basis for further deliberations. It takes our security interests into account. But it also makes it clear that we are a community of shared values. NATO is not first and foremost a military alliance, but a transatlantic community of values.

I would like to comment on a few specific points, without however wishing to prejudice the outcome of the deliberations. Today’s debate is a preliminary debate that will provide guidance for those of us taking part in the negotiations next week – to ensure that the right course is taken. We, the Federal Government, are pursuing a number of objectives with regard to the Strategic Concept, for which we will seek support during the negotiations.

One key objective is for NATO to commit itself to disarmament and arms control. Earlier this year, at the discussions in April, we managed to win a considerable number of allies for this goal. We all know that implementing President Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons is of its nature a very long-term goal, but it is a very rational goal. We want to support all steps in this direction. A reduced role for nuclear weapons is thus rightly part of the strategy that we, the Federal Government, want to support.

The debate next week in Lisbon should not be the final word on the issue. It must of course be continued. The debate on disarmament and arms control has not been concluded, but will continue in a follow-up process designed to bring us closer to our goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Progress has undeniably been made. This is shown for example by the USA’s Nuclear Posture Review and in particular by this year’s Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that took place in New York. This Conference did not end in failure, as the last one five years ago did. Rather, joint conclusions were agreed.

It is right that NATO considers itself a security alliance and a political union of shared values and has therefore committed itself to disarmament. Disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are two sides of the same coin. They belong together. Our times have brought new challenges and new threats. The more states that are in a position to acquire nuclear weapons, the greater the danger that terrorists groups may have access to them. Precisely that is what we must prevent, in the interest of the citizens of our countries, by taking far-sighted and wise action.

Of course it is necessary to include tactical nuclear weapons in this discussion. We remain committed to their withdrawal. However, we hope that this issue will first and foremost provide impetus for a much broader effort. The disarmament debate is now gathering momentum. I am thinking for example of the New Start Treaty. We very much hope that this Treaty will be ratified by the US, notwithstanding the changes wrought by the congressional elections, so that it can come into effect.

There is another remarkable, and in my opinion historic change – the missile defence programme, advocated and launched by President Bush, has taken an entirely new direction. While the missile defence project was initially conceived by the US as something to be implemented with one or two allies in Europe, it has now become a project pursued by the entire Alliance.

What is particularly important is that Russia has been invited to participate. We do not want there to be differing zones of security in Europe. We do not want divides in Europe when it comes to security, we want common ground. The fact that President Medvedev has said he will come to the Lisbon Summit is a significant gesture. We want to improve our security with Russia, not against Russia. That is NATO’s clear message.

I think we all have to acknowledge that we have come a tremendous way in this respect. If you cast your mind back to what was under discussion 20 or 30 years ago, and compare it to now, to Russia being invited by NATO to participate in discussions on missile defence and security, and Russia’s response – it doesn’t refuse but says it will observe, assess and consider its options – then we have to realize this is an historic development that we shouldn’t just wave through. We should rejoice. This is the peace dividend, the dividend of years and decades of hard work by politicians in many countries, of all political colours.

We have discussed this issue in the NATO-Russia Council, for example, which has been reinvigorated. These are good and sensible steps.

To conclude, I would like to underscore that we still consider NATO to be at core a defensive alliance. In other words, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty is not open to debate – and that’s something I’d like to say in particular to the eastern European member states. We are aware of the new challenges, such as cyber-attacks. But we also know that the mechanisms specified in Article 5 are not the only ones. The consultation mechanisms of Article 4 are also there to be used. That, too, must be taken into consideration. Strict adherence to international law thus remains our compass.

We are guided by two principles here. We want to shoulder international responsibilities. But we also want to continue our culture of military restraint. That is a clear line for the Federal Government as a whole. All other claims are absurd. We will live up to our international responsibilities, but we will adhere to a culture of military restraint.

The German Bundestag will have its eye on all Bundeswehr deployments. On behalf of the Federal Government I can assure you once again of our guiding principle, our compass: the Bundeswehr is not our governmental army, nor is it the army of any party or political majority. The Bundeswehr is a parliamentary army that can only act with parliament’s consent. That, too, is a guiding principle in our negotiations within the Alliance.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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