Speech by Minister of State Niels Annen at the Bucerius Summer School on Global Governance

20.08.2019 - Speech

Global Security Architecture in Upheaval – Searching for New Pillars to Uphold the Nuclear Non-Proliferation System and addressing the new Challenges of the 21st Century

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When preparing this speech, I watched the video of the remarks made by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the signing of the INF Treaty in December 1987.

It was a rare sight: The President of the United States and the General Secretary of the Soviet Union standing side by side in the White House, in harmony, proudly presenting a treaty they had been working on hand in hand for no less than seven years.

During the ceremony, Ronald Reagan stressed that with patience, determination and commitment a vital issue had been tackled despite “strong and fundamental moral differences” that continued to exist between the two nations.

When Mikhail Gorbachev took the floor, he emphasised the historic value of the treaty for future generations because of its “universal significance for mankind, both from the standpoint of world politics and from the standpoint of humanism”.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I’ve always found it remarkable that in the political climate of the Cold War the two most important antagonist countries came together with a shared vision of arms reduction and signed the first‑ever agreement eliminating a whole category of nuclear weapons. It was a beacon of hope in a bipolar time characterised by threats, propaganda and all kinds of measures short of open warfare.

Today, our world is no longer bipolar. The concept of two adversary blocs seems almost straightforward compared to the geopolitical shifts we’ve been witnessing in the last decade. And although the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is even more important in these complex times, three weeks ago, on Friday 2nd, we all woke up to a world in which the INF treaty had been condemned to history.

The treaty’s demise was a slow one: Starting in 2013 under the Obama Administration, the United States had raised its concerns more than 30 times with Russia before officially declaring it in material breach of the Treaty in December 2018.

There can be no doubt that the SSC-8 or 9M728 missile system developed and deployed by Russia violated the INF Treaty and posed a significant threat to Euro‑Atlantic security. The new missile is mobile, very easy to conceal and capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Moreover, it reduces warning times to minutes – therefore lowering the threshold for nuclear conflict – plus, it can reach European capitals.

Let me be very clear on this: The fact that Russia – despite repeated calls to return to full and verifiable compliance – continued to develop and deploy treaty‑violating systems, led to the agreement’s demise on 2 August 2019. It is Russia that bears sole responsibility.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Where do we go from here? How do we uphold the nuclear arms control architecture when one important pillar is missing? How do we prevent other pillars such as the NPT or New START from teetering?

There is no easy answer to these questions. But two aspects should be clear:

  1. We will have to stand together with our allies and search for a balanced, coordinated and defensive response to the risk posed by Russia’s missile system.
  2. Given the vacuum the INF Treaty leaves behind, the international community has to take a clear stand and reaffirm its commitment to the preservation of effective international arms control, disarmament and non‑proliferation.

To prevent the global security architecture from crumbling, we need to see the end of the INF Treaty as a clear wake‑up call. It is high time to fully commit once again to the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. A new era of nuclear arms races would have devastating consequences for global peace and security.

So, how can we uphold what we have achieved and ensure the INF setback does not trigger a domino effect?

Ladies and gentlemen,
What we need is a clear roadmap leading us to a system of nuclear disarmament and arms control fit for this multipolar world of the 21st century. It needs to build upon what has been achieved and – at the same time – take into consideration the obvious geopolitical shifts as well as new phenomena in the defence technology sector in the last decade such as autonomous weapon-systems, cyber activities, hypersonic systems and space technology.

The roadmap should incorporate six elements:

    Arms control and nuclear disarmament belong on the international agenda. We need to raise awareness! The one UN organ that has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security has to face the challenges in this area head‑on. That is why, as a current non‑permanent member, we’ve made the promotion of arms control and disarmament a priority for the two years of our tenure and – for the first time since 2012 – put it on the agenda of the Security Council last April.
    Be it within the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) or the “Stockholm Initiative” – together with close partners it is our aim to contribute to globally strengthening all three pillars of the NPT: nuclear disarmament, non‑proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. This cautiously calibrated balance is the basis for the NPT’s universality. Only on that basis can we ensure the future of the NPT for which we all share responsibility. In 2020 – when the NPT is up for review once again – all parties will either win together or fail together.
    We need to prevent further escalation. And for that, we have to remind ourselves of a fundamental truth of the era of détente: Only reliability and transparency create mutual trust. And only mutual trust brings security.
    This is why Germany will promote an enhanced level of transparency when it comes to detailed reporting on nuclear arsenals. We will foster defensive operational doctrines and work passionately on developing robust and credible monitoring procedures for the dismantlement of warheads – an indispensable prerequisite for the Global Zero aim.
    The New START Treaty will expire in 2021. This US‑Russian Treaty has obliged both parties to verifiably reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals. As such, it is an important element rendering a nuclear arms spiral between the two big nuclear‑weapon states impossible.
    Given the demise of the INF, an early extension of the New START Treaty would not only be an important positive signal to the world, such a step would give the US and Russia time to agree on a follow-on agreement, ideally including new weapon systems as well as new parties. Therefore, our call on Russia and the United States is clear: Live up to your responsibility as leading nuclear powers and give us this necessary sign of security in these times of uncertainty.
    Another fundamental truth of the era of détente is that there will be no security without Russia, let alone against Russia. We need an inclusive dialogue about security in Europe. This means the US, Russia and European partners at one table talking openly about
    a) measures to reduce nuclear risks,
    b) new technological developments and
    c) options for preserving and further developing New START.
    Only an open dialogue can reduce mistrust: As long as one side perceives a certain behaviour or policy as a threat, there will be no lasting security.
    The rise of China and its long‑term and comprehensive military transformation process is a challenge in itself. China’s ambition to consolidate its regional predominance is supported by major investments in cyber activities, hypersonic systems and space technology.
    Within the group of nuclear‑weapon states, China sees itself as responsible and moderate player. Indeed, its no‑first‑use doctrine contributes to reducing nuclear risks.
    However, China still lacks both the willingness to allow for greater transparency of its nuclear arsenals and the readiness to be included in a global and transparent arms control system.
    Our message to China in this regard should therefore be: A predominant role in the region and – with that – a more important role within the Security Council should go hand in hand with an increased sense of responsibility for the global arms control architecture. In other words: China needs to step up coordination and openness with its international partners to create the necessary level of trust to stabilise the international security architecture.
    Our rules‑based order in arms control should keep abreast of the times and not be overtaken by events. To me, some of the innovations still sound like science fiction: space weapons, for example, or missiles that travel five or more times the speed of sound and leave no possibility for any kind of human reaction.
    For us, it is of utmost importance that new military technologies are captured by new and innovative arms control schemes and that human beings remain accountable for the use of those weapons. Fully autonomous weapons beyond human control should be prohibited.
    Thus, we want to enshrine the principle of effective human control over all lethal weapons systems at the international level.
    In this context, our Minister hosted the conference “Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control” in Berlin in order to boost the discussion and take an important step towards better understanding risks emanating from new technologies and exploring ways to include them in the gobal security architecture.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Questions about new developments in autonomous weapon systems, missile technology, bio-technology and cyber warfare are closely linked to ethical issues. How can we protect the inherent and inalienable right of human dignity? We have to acknowledge that non-regulated technological development in weapon systems might strike at the very heart of our constitutional values. Therefore, we have to act with due foresight!

To put the six elements I’ve just described in a nutshell: We have to

  • raise awareness and set the agenda,
  • prevent further escalation by building mutual trust,
  • commit to existing treaties,
  • create a Euro‑Atlantic‑Russian dialogue,
  • address arms control beyond the bi-polar Cold War framework
  • rethink arms control in light of the development of new high-tech weapon systems.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I hope we’ll face up to our responsibilities and not disappoint future generations. They will hand down their verdict on what decisions current governments took at this historic juncture.

I’m very much looking forward to what you all have to contribute to the discussion today.

Thank you very much.


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