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There must be progress on disarmament"

16.07.2013 - Interview

In light of new challenges in an age of globalization and cyber attacks, Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle reaffirms his support for President Obama’s disarmament plans and calls for reinforcing the dialogue with Russia.

In light of new challenges in an age of globalization and cyber attacks, Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle reaffirms his support for President Obama’s disarmament plans and calls for reinforcing the dialogue with Russia. Published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on 16 July 2013.

Disarmament and arms control are anything but issues that belong to the past. On the contrary, there are new challenges in this age of globalization and cyber attacks. Today’s dangers cannot be compared with those of the Cold War, but that does not make them less of a threat. The risk of dangerous weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists or criminals has risen. The uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could become the curse of globalization. A world with significantly fewer weapons and a world without nuclear weapons is more than a moral duty; it is necessary for our security.

There are still more than 17,000 nuclear warheads worldwide. I see here above all our duty not to let our efforts towards disarmament, arms control and non proliferation abate.

After his re election, President Obama reaffirmed the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and in his speech before Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate he sent a powerful signal for a new chapter in nuclear disarmament. The United States want to reduce their nuclear weapons by up to a third and negotiate with Russia on this. There are still nuclear weapons in Germany as well. President Obama explicitly included these tactical nuclear weapons in his proposals. This provides support for our efforts towards a final removal from Germany and Europe of the remaining nuclear weapons.

The world will be a safer place if we can work together to make President Obama’s disarmament plans reality. For this reason we want to build bridges towards nuclear disarmament and reinforce the dialogue with Russia. Disarmament policy requires patience and the willingness to tackle big problems.

We have made progress in recent years: NATO has significantly raised its profile in the field of disarmament and now continuously integrates disarmament issues and arms control into its work. At the May 2012 summit in Chicago, NATO reaffirmed the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Together with our NATO partners, we have offered Russia a dialogue on sub strategic nuclear arms. The new NATO committee on disarmament has taken up its work on concrete transparency measures. We advocated strongly for all these steps. We will work just as energetically and persistently to successfully open a new chapter in nuclear disarmament.

The planned missile defence within the framework of NATO must not cause new divisions. The offer to Russia of participating in this system still holds, because our joint security is indivisible. On these important issues, our approach is one of dialogue and cooperation. At the same time, we must also seek news paths in the field of conventional arms control and build trust anew.

Current crises and tensions call for us to act. We agree with our E3+3 partners that we must use diplomacy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In this we continue to advocate an approach using both a willingness to participate in dialogue and the pressure of sanctions. The sanctions are working and have brought Iran back to the negotiating table. We will watch closely to see what attitude and negotiating positions the new President Rohani assumes. It is clear that many large obstacles must still be overcome on the way to a reasonable solution.

The international community reacted with great unity and decisive sanctions to North Korea’s most recent nuclear test and the testing of a ballistic missile. Beijing’s position was constructive and helpful. In uncovering North Korea’s nuclear tests, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization’s monitoring stations in Vienna played a key role. Although the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is still not in force, the verification system is already working reliably, thanks in part to our contributions.

The Syrian regime’s chemical weapons are an acute threat to the people of the entire region. We are very concerned by reports of the use of chemical substances. The Syrian government must allow UN experts to carry out an investigation on the ground. We are helping Syria’s neighbours to deal with the threat of chemical weapons better. These weapons should be secured and destroyed under international control in the course of a political solution.

In Libya we are still dealing with the dangerous heritage of Gaddafi’s weapons programmes. Circulating weapons and fighters from Libya have increased the instability in the region and contributed to the threat in the Sahel zone, also in Mali. In Libya we are involved in securing and destroying nuclear material and chemical weapons as well as collecting and securing small arms and shoulder fired anti aircraft systems.

Small arms kill more people around the world than any other kind of weapon. Regulating and limiting the international weapons trade is an important security policy issue. It is a milestone that a treaty on limiting the arms trade including small arms was agreed on in the United Nations. I signed the treaty on 3 June in New York. It is an important sign of our commitment that the German Bundestag ratified this important treaty that same month.

The German Government continues to maintain a responsible, restrictive arms exports policy. However, the public discussion about individual decisions shows that we need more transparency. I could imagine a new parliamentary control panel and prompted publication of the decisions taken.

Progress in the field of disarmament and arms control cannot be achieved overnight. However, it is necessary for successful globalization and a more peaceful world.

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