Foreign Minister Westerwelle in an interview with Financial Times on the NATO's Strategic Concept, Afghanistan und the situation in the eurozone
Question: Looking to the Nato summit in Lisbon, are you satisfied with the new
strategic concept, or do you want further amendments?
Foreign Minister Westerwelle: Some of Germany ´s core concerns have been taken into account.
The proposals made by the Nato secretary-general are a very good basis. It
is clear that Nato sees itself as a political union of values, and also as
a defence alliance it supports the need for disarmament and nuclear
nonproliferation. The invitation to Russia to take part in a missile
defence system is of historic importance. The fact that President Medvedev
wants to go to Lisbon shows how important that invitation is to Russia. In
my conversations in Moscow with the Russian government, especially with
Foreign Minister Lavrov, I got the clear impression that they want to study
the details objectively. That alone is huge progress. I can´t anticipate
the speech of President Medvedev. But look, 20 years after Europe was
reunited after the fall of the (Berlin) Wall, Nato is making an offer to
Russia to take part in a defence and security project. There are three
possible responses: to reject it out of hand; to accept it unchecked; or to
engage in constructive discussions. That Russia has decided on the third
way is very welcome.
Question: Will the allies themselves agree?
Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Question: Do you think that agreement on a missile defence system will open
the way to further nuclear disarmament?
The American government under President Obama has set the
course with its nuclear posture review. That reduces the strategic
importance of nuclear weapons. As long as there are nuclear weapons in the
world, we in our defence alliance will have to rely on nuclear deterrence.
But the way to a nuclear free world depends on confidence-building through
nuclear and other forms of disarmament. After a decade of setbacks for
disarmament, our initiatives seemed to be little more than a trickle. Now
we´ve got a considerable tide moving.
In New York we founded a group of
states from all regions of the world that feel particularly committed to
the goals of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation - Japan, Australia
and Germany are in the lead. And this time the nuclear non-proliferation
conference in New York was a success, unlike when it last met five years
ago. The new Start treaty has been agreed. We are counting on its being
ratified by the US and Russia. So the debate over nuclear zero is in full
flow round the world. Why are disarmament and nuclear disarmament so
important? Because they are a commitment that gives us the authority to
demand nuclear non-proliferation (from others). Disarmament and nuclear
non-proliferation are two sides of the same coin. If we in the West, if the
nuclear powers, disarm, then they will be much more credible in insisting
that other states should not acquire nuclear weapons.
Question: But the Americans do not wish to withdraw their medium-range
missiles from Germany, as you want.
I can only respect and applaud the American government for
giving momentum to the disarmament debate. The vision of a nuclear zero
which the American president talked about in his outstanding speech in
Prague is now part of that debate. And that is why I am very happy about
the close partnership both with the USA and in particular with my American
counterpart Hillary Clinton. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty is based
on three pillars.
1.Anyone can use nuclear energy if they are committed to international
2.The nuclear powers will disarm, so that
3.the international community can demand with special authority that no one
else arms themselves with nuclear weapons.
Question: Do you not have a problem with France over your desire to have an
arms control committee set up within Nato, while the French want to stress
the importance of nuclear weapons in the new strategic doctrine?
I would not describe it as a problem, but rather as a
necessary discussion in preparation for convergence of different,
historically based points of view. France has been a nuclear power for
decades, just like Britain, and naturally has a different attitude when it
comes to the role of nuclear weapons to what we have for example in
Germany. We have learned the lessons of our history. But at the G8 summit
in 2009, France also recognised the goal of a world without nuclear
weapons. So the fct that we need to discuss the question is perfectly
We are 28 Nato member states, and naturally they need to bring
their different positions closer together. Let me tell you straight out:
the Nato strategic concept will protect our common security interests, and
address new challenges, stress our community of values, and - really
revolutionary for a defence alliance - also emphasise the role of
disarmament for global security. Every concept sets a goal and at the same
time amounts to an agreement on common action. That is why it is a
strategic concept. The last Nato concept was agreed in 1999. After Lisbon
you should just do one thing: look at the old concept of 1999 beside the
new concept. I am sure that the role of disarmament will clearly be given
Question: Is there not a danger that this new concept will push Nato in the
direction of become a global policeman. Am I justified in fearing that?
We are sticking to the core commitment of Nato in Article V.
That means we will defend ourselves in the case of any armed attack. We are
not going to water that down. But it is equally clear that everything Nato
does in the future will be in accordance with international law. Our
behaviour is in accordance with international law.
There are certainly new
threats that have arisen that we did not foresee in previous years, such as
terrorist threats, or the danger of the spread of weapons of mass
destruction. That should not just be considered from the point of view of
states arming themselves and therefore making whole regions unstable. On
top of that, the more countries that acquire nuclear weapons, the greater
is the danger of terrorist groups or other criminal organisations getting
their hands on nuclear weapons potential. And 20 people with one atom bomb
is an army.
Question: But is it the job of Nato to find these people and destroy them?
We have been fighting together against terrorism for a long
time, including on the instructions of the United Nations. We and many of
the other Nato member states are in Afghanistan with a UN mandate. That was
the difference with the war in Iraq. We are in Afghanistan on the basis of
a Un decision, clearly based on international law.
Question: Is Gaza the sort of place you can see Nato operating in a
I think that regional conflict resolution must stem from the
parties to the conflict, and above all must be supported by the UN. The UN
is an organisation, especially the Security Council, that gets involved
around the world in the solution of regional conflicts and the promotion of
regional stability. In my view, the UN role cannot be replaced by any other
sort of defence alliance.
Question: But when is a terrorist attack part of a regional conflict, and when
is it an attack on Nato itself?
You can´t say that abstractly or theoretically. One must judge
on a caseby- case basis. What we are working on is conflict prevention,
above all else.
Question: That is an integral part of it. The new strategic concept is part of
the worldwide reaction to September 11…
…and a great deal more. We have so many new challenges. The
danger of weapons of mass destruction, the danger of computer attacks,
so-called asymmetric threats. And moreover, we haven´t just got Article V,
we also have Article IV, for example regarding consultation in the
Question: You have talked of computer wars, and I must confess that I am
astonished that this strategic concept does not attempt to change Article V
to allow for mutual defence against computer attacks.
The debates will only take place when we get to Lisbon. We
might as well give up the summit if I tell you about the whole concept now!
Question: But how are we going to deal with computer wars, how can we organise
ourselves against them? As you said, that is one of the big new dangers. We
already saw that in Estonia and in Georgia, and interestingly most recently
in Iran. What should the Nato summit do to defend us all against this
Well that is precisely the sort of question which requires
international co-operation, even beyond Nato. I am no technical expert, and
also no computer specialist who can give you a practical answer. We have
also had a thorough discussion of this in our federal government, what we
should do against such computer attacks. In American or British English you
seem to speak very easily of war. I would avoid that. You speak of war…
Question: Like cyber war…
Precisely, and I speak rather of computer attacks, because the
word war is more easily and frequently used in English. You have a war
against climate change, don´t you?
In English one talks rather easily about a war against this or
that. In Germany we are very cautious about using the word war. That is why
we don´t speak of a computer war, but of computer attacks.
Question: Or of armed conflicts?
Certainly not! We are speaking of attacks. The precise
translation simply has another resonance, the meaning is more loaded. It´s
no wonder. I am speaking of computer attacks, and we will naturally also
discuss these questions. That is why I pointed out that we don´t just have
Article V. There are also further questions of cooperation and
consultation, that is all part of it.
Question: But in Estonia the whole financial and government system came under
computer attacks. And Estonia was already a Nato member, but Nato could not
do anything about it.
Perhaps so, because we must first become more technically
competent to defend with such new challenges. But that is not the job of
heads of state and government, or for foreign ministers, or even defence
ministers. We have to agree on a strategy. We determine that there is a
challenge that concerns our security, and then naturally we must talk about
the details of how we find an appropriate answer, which should be
proportional, efficient and focussed.
Question: If it is clear that such attacks come from Russia, how is it
possible to have a closer cooperation with the Russians?
I know of suspicions, but no proof.
Question: Can I ask you about Afghanistan? It is clear that the German
population is not enthusiastic about this “armed conflict”. How long can
you ensure the population still supports your involvement? How long can you
stay in the country?
In Lisbon we will begin the process of handing over
responsibility, by making it clear that next year we will hand over
responsibility for security to Afghanistan and Afghan authorities in the
first provinces. As we agreed in London and Kabul, we want to have handed
over responsibility for security entirely to the Afghan government during
So we are opening up a perspective of withdrawal. If we begin to hand
over responsibility for security in the coming months, that should not be
confused with beginning a troop withdrawal, but as a precondition for
making our withdrawal possible one day in the future.
Question: The Americans say that we Europeans do not do enough to convince our
voters that this war is worthwhile. Is the future of Nato itself not
endangered by the war in Afghanistan?
I see a lot of shadows and many setbacks - especially with the
security situation. But I also see some light and many good developments.
Take the elections, which are part of good governance: Naturally the
elections are rightly criticised because of attempts at manipulation, but
the good thing is what is happening from Afghanistan itself. It is
important progress that the first mandates that were awarded because of
manipulation at the count were immediately cancelled. These were the first
elections in Afghanistan that took place under Afghan supervision. There
was not only higher voter participation, but also a lot of complaints from
the population itself, from Afghans themselves, and the Afghan authorities
drew their conclusions. They cancelled elections that were won through
manipulation, and that is remarkable.
I find it healthy that Germans have a
fundamentally sceptical attitude towards foreign (military) deployments.
That is because of the dreadful first half of the last century. At the same
time, Germans live up to their international responsibility in an exemplary
fashion, considering for example that they are the third largest supplier
of international troops.
Both parties in the government have stated that
they support the intervention in Afghanistan, and they have a majority for
that view. The same people who are inwardly sceptical about foreign
military interventions - which I find a justified view - have also
recognised the necessity and given those parties a big majority in
supporting the Afghan intervention. Both poles shape our foreign policy:
the culture of military restraint, and at the same time, the recognition of
our international responsibility. Germany is an excellent model in that.
Question: Has Germany changed in the past 20 years, since unification? I
remember Helmut Kohl saying he could not conceive of a German soldier
serving in the Balkans.
Yes. Germany has changed since reunification. This process has
been strenuously thought through both in society and in the democratic
process. If you think of our engagement in the western Balkans, that´s a
good example of how successful the intervention of our soldiers can by in
stabilising the situation, for we were able to reduce our troop numbers in
KFOR massively, from 8,500 to just 2,500 today.
In the meantime, President Tadic has worked through a policy change
towards Kosovo. In Vukovar, in Croatia, he made a remarkable speech
apologising for the massacre committed by Serbian troops.
So things are moving in the right direction there. I
would also mention the fight against pircy. The impression is given there
as if it was just a question of economic interests. If it´s a question of
protecting our shipping ands therefore ensuring that aid can get to Africa.
That was the starting point of the exercise, and it is succeeding.
Question: But in terms of power projection internationally, do you think
Germans really believe in it? Or will there be a great battle in society
over every future military intervention, wherever it may be?
I have just said I am happy that we have a healthy scepticism
towards military interventions of the Bundeswehr. There is nothing wrong
with that. Some foreign politicians may see it as a lack of firmness, but
only if they have not really studied the darkest chapter in our history.
Unlike most of our alliance partners, we have a parliamentary army. That
means that every foreign intervention must be approved by our parliament -
with a proposal from the government, but decided by the parliament. All our
friends in the world should be happy that Germany has drawn its lessons
from history, and not just in the federal constitution, with its principle
of a parliamentary army rather than a government army, but also it is a
vital element in society, given the readiness both to take international
responsibility, and to have a healthy scepticism and a culture of military
restraint that lies deep in the hearts of our people. I am proud of both
Question: In Brussels many people are saying that Germany has also changed its
attitude towards Europe since reunification - that Germany is more insistent on its
national interests, and has become very tough in the whole saga of the
eurozone crisis. What would you say about that?
In the preamble of the constitution of the German Federal
Republic stand the two core principles of its foreign policy: to serve
peace in the world in a united Europe. Because of that, Germany won a two
thirds majority outright in the UN, against two very respectable
candidates, in the first vote (for a seat on the Security Council), because
we have made multilateralism and European integration our political
In my first year as foreign minister I visited all the European
member states, and not just big France and Britain, or Poland, Italy and
Spain, but also others like Luxembourg, the three Baltic states and Malta.
We regard our European policy as a partnership on the same level for all
member states, whether they are bigger or smaller, and whether they are
economically more successful or unfortunately for a while rather less
Question: But what about this agreement in Deauville between France and
Germany: all the rest had to fall in with it. Don´t you think you stress
your relationship with France too much in an enlarged EU?
At the very beginning of my time in office, I revived the
so called Weimar triangle. That is the close partnership between France,
Poland and Germany. This Weimar triangle has become an important motor in
the EU, alongside the close partnership between France and Germany that has
grown up over decades.
Question: But the eurozone is different?
As far as the stability culture is concerned we have many
allies precisely amongst those who joined the EU in the last years.
Question: But the Poles weren´t happy about the Deauville deal with France.
What counts is what was finally agreed.
Question: Are you happy with that?
I am happy that the Chancellor was able to successfully
negotiate what we agreed in the cabinet after Deauville would be the
negotiating mandate. Three points are most important. First, that
violations of responsible budget planning do not remain unpunished, and
political opportunism must as far as possible not interfere with imposition
I am one of those who, as a member of the opposition in the
Bundestag, criticised the relaxation of the stability pact – at Germany´s
instigation - in 2004/5 as a historic mistake. Unfortunately the parties
that were in government then, and are now in opposition, have refused to
support the solution to the problems caused by their own mistaken decision.
Second, the creation of a crisis mechanism, which will not be a (EU)
community instrument, because that would mean creating a form of legal
liability that would not be acceptable in our German legal system.
Third, we do not want to relieve private creditors of their responsibility.
Those who bet against countries, and loses those bets, and yet can go
home with their profits untouched, they won´t be let off. That must change.
Question: Do you agree with the Chancellor that if the Euro fails, then Europe
Neither the euro, nor Europe, will fail. That is why the
Chancellor and I as foreign minister are working for its success. I am a
Question: What does that mean?
It means that I am one of the first politicians in the country
who is happy to say publicly that I am proud of my country - and that was
long before the World Cup in 2006. I see Germany as embedded in a Europe of
values and co-operation. For me Europe is much more than a common currency,
and far more than a system to ensure our welfare at a time of
globalisation, much more than an internal market and the freedom to travel.
For me, Europe is a community of values. It is a political union that
serves both peace and freedom. Therefore the euro is a currency of freedom,
and not just a means of exchange. The European model of co-operation is
demanding, arduous, nerve-wracking even, and the negotiations often go on
all night. And the European model of co-operation also costs money,
although a lot less than it would cost to eliminate the sort of conflicts
that regularly occurred in past centuries. The model of co-operation has
taken over from the model of confrontation. And that is an unbelievable
good fortune for our generation. You are sitting here in a building around
which everything was bombed to bits in the war. You are sitting in a place
that was the source of oppression in a socialist dictatorship. In one hour
by car you can be in Poland, and there are no more border conflicts.
For the first time since Germany existed, it is surrounded by friendly states
who have organised themselves under a single European roof. Anyone who does
not love Europe can´t be helped. They´re just thoughtless. If you take
Europe for granted, then you will begin to lose it, and that is
extraordinarily dangerous. I see disturbing tendencies towards
renationalisation, regrettably both in Europe and in many countries of the
world. But it is our task to oppose this tendency wherever it may be found.
Question: But I read some awful articles in Bild Zeitung about Greece earlier
this year. That worried me a bit.
I ask you: there are always debates and bad ideas, in bar-room
conversations and in the media, but we are talking now about responsible
policy. You must have a clear compass, and mine has one clear co-ordinate,
and that is Europe.
Question: One last question: were you not rather disappointed that President
Obama said in Delhi that he supported India´s desire to become a permanent
member of the UN Security Council? He has never said it about Germany.
President Obama was speaking to the Indian and not the German
parliament. If he had not supported India for the Security Council in his
speech, it would have been a strange omission. I expect that he will make a
similarly friendly remark in Japan, where he is going at the end of the
Question: And then you´ll invite him to the Bundestag?
When he next has time to visit Germany I will be delighted to
hear the friendly words that President Obama, a man I greatly admire, will
find for both Brazil and Germany.
(The questions were posed by Quentin Peel and Gerritt Wiesmann)