Speech by Foreign Minister Baerbock in the German Bundestag on the situation in Ukraine in the light of Russia’s illegal war of aggression and its impact on Germany and Europe

16.03.2022 - Speech

There is a tangible sense in this Chamber that all of us here find the images from Ukraine unbearable. And for us they are only images. For the millions of people in Ukraine they are bitter reality. It is thus obvious to us all – and that’s the good sign – that the most important thing now is for the Russian bombing of innocent people to stop! And when I say Russian, I mean Russian.

It is good, and it is important, that talks between Ukraine and Russia are underway. But we must be honest with ourselves. We don’t know whether these talks are genuine. A victor’s peace has little in common with real peace, and we should not fool ourselves otherwise. When someone talks about peace negotiations while bombing hospitals and residential buildings, then negotiations are not really what it’s about.

Nonetheless, the Chancellor has been on the phone, nonetheless we are engaging in these negotiations, nonetheless, although we have already been lied to, we are doing everything we can, in the knowledge that it might not at present achieve what we all want – an end to the bombing.

We must state here and now in no uncertain terms that there are not two sides, there is one side. In fact there is just one president who is responsible for this bombing, and that’s the Russian President.

It is awful, just awful. We have to get used to the idea that this war will get ever more cynical and more brutal. Having said that, Putin’s craven war is facing the incredible courage of the Ukrainians. Putin’s dishonest war – and it is only Putin’s war – is being met with a desire for the truth evinced by many Russian and Belarusian citizens, who have taken to the streets or quit their military service, well aware that they are thereby risking their own freedom, their own safety, and I pay humble tribute to their courage, as indeed I think we all do.

Putin’s lonely war – that it’s lonely is the only good thing about it – has come up against a united European and international community. But, and this is bitter, and as I said hard to bear, it is also the case that Putin alone has the power to end this cruel war now. That may make us furious, it may leave us aghast, but it does not leave us helpless. That is why we have joined forces and focused all our efforts in power-political terms on hitting Putin’s power structures wherever we can. Even by delivering weapons!

Since the point of a debate like this is to ask questions and upbraid the Government – that’s what this debate is for – I would like to try to respond to some of the issues you have raised. We are delivering Stinger missiles. We are delivering Strela missiles. But we can’t just make them appear out of thin air. You may say, “Deliver some more!” Well, the Defence Minister looked to see what we could supply. And in all honesty we have to say that we don’t have enough.

That’s why we racked our brains to figure out what else we could do. We made available funds, above all from the Federal Foreign Office, via the European Peace Facility – and, by the way, that’s another debate we’re holding – so that Ukraine can make its own purchases directly from arms companies. We are doing everything we can to ensure that these purchases can now be made very, very fast, with no bureaucratic obstacles. As you may know, under normal conditions three ministries are involved in reviewing such exports.

Believe me, we are doing all we can. And if we could wave a magic wand, if we could deliver more weapons, then we would.

We are also doing all we can on sanctions. But as I already said in connection with SWIFT: what’s gained by a sanction that is welcomed by all as a new sanction, when we know that we cannot implement it at present? That’s why, in the context of SWIFT, we examined how we could disconnect banks, how we could ensure that we really got into the system quickly. And it is working. In the Security Cabinet or Cabinet meeting today we heard that the rouble has fallen by 50%. We heard that government bonds cannot be serviced, that debts cannot be paid, because the institutions concerned have been completely disconnected from the financing system.

And yesterday – as I think everyone knows – we launched a fourth package of sanctions, addressing above all the question of how to close the loopholes that permit sanctions to be circumvented, for what’s the point of the best sanctions ever if five countries don’t stick to them? The task now is not to demand more, ever more loudly, but to hit the system ever more accurately and effectively.

We agree – and that is the amazing thing at this time, we have never before agreed on such defence policy and arms policy issues, and now we do and that’s great – we agree that we must spend more money, not least on security and the Bundeswehr.

But on this, too, the debate is ongoing. To be honest, I don’t want to talk about being glad in this context. But I think it’s good we are having this debate. It is right that we not only consider together how we can increase the defence budget by means of a special fund, but also how we can draw up a security strategy that really does the job – not just for now, but for the years to come, and in which networked security does entail having cyber capabilities. The necessary cyber know-how is probably to be found not in the armed forces but elsewhere in our country. We have never had a debate on this subject. Now is the time to have it, and to really make the money available.

I think we have excellent people in all parliamentary groups who can conduct this debate highly successfully.

But I also think – as is currently being proven – that we Germans have done some things right. Why were we able to convince other countries to unite with us now? Not just because it was in their economic interest, or because they thought it was necessary in defence-policy terms, but because they trust us, because our years of investing in diplomacy, in good relations, in listening, have paid off.

Permit me a quick digression, for this question has moved me, too. I’ve also wondered whether we should react tomorrow or not. We watched a video message from [Ukrainian Foreign Minister] Kuleba at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting and afterwards debated whether we should or not. Of course we are racking our brains. I think that at a time like this, being able to listen is a true strength.

Listening and letting what has been said stand, even letting the reproaches which will come stand. I think at such a moment it is a truly great achievement – being aware of our strength, which also lies in diplomacy.

I therefore want to make it clear – now that we’ve spoken at length about defence and security – that we need you all to this end; to this end we need above all the Budget Committee. Wherever we can help unconditionally, we must now help unconditionally! In some areas we can’t do that, because of economic dependencies. But we can do it in the humanitarian field.

Therefore I would like to mention three points of relevance for the coming weeks:

Firstly, humanitarian assistance. As my colleague Svenja Schulze said, the logistical situation is drastic – in Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv; in all likelihood Kyiv will now be hit harder still. We need more money. Thank you for enabling us to agree on an extra 350 million euro today. Unfortunately, we will need additional funds for “humanitarian support”.

The second point is something I mentioned earlier today to members of the Committee on European Union Affairs and the Defence Committee – support for neighbouring countries. We have seen what a huge amount they are all doing, especially the Republic of Moldova. The major security risk is that little Moldova will suddenly be taken over without a single tank, without any military action, because it is unable to maintain its electricity supply. We can help there. That means making stabilisation support available and being ready if Moldova needs us.

My third point is dispersion of refugees. Within Germany, we must together look and see where we are getting better – at local level, at Land (federal state) level, and also at the federal level. But we also have a responsibility at the external borders, when we see what is happening there. Over the last few days, the people who came were those who had a car, who had relatives in Europe. Now the people who have nobody left are coming.

I met an 80 year-old woman in Moldova. I hardly dared ask the question, but I asked anyway: “Where do you want to go?” And she said to Heaven. I don’t have anyone left. Where should I go to in Europe? We cannot tell her to voluntarily move on to one country or another. In case of doubt, she will simply stay where she is.

It is now our task to work together to create a network of solidarity across Europe and spanning the Atlantic.

That, too, is my appeal to our friends in Canada, in the US, and worldwide. We now have to disperse the people from the external borders.

This is one way in which we can help unconditionally.

Thank you very much.


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