Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on departmental budget 05, Federal Foreign Office, during the presentation of the 2022 federal budget in the German Bundestag

23.03.2022 - Speech

I will begin with a quote: “Of course he (Putin) can kill a person. Of course he can attack a country. But if the whole world works together, then he is lost. Then we will win.”

End of quote.

Those were the recent words of the Ukrainian writer Tanya Malyarchuk, who added:

“The only way to resist is not to be afraid.”

That must be the benchmark, and it is the benchmark for our action in the fields of foreign and security policy.

That is what we must do: stand together, act, with courage and with a clear stance. That is what now matters in foreign and security policy, in light of Russia’s illegal war of aggression, but also beyond it.

To this end, we need a dual strategic approach.

Firstly, we must be capable of acting now, rapidly and pragmatically; and, secondly, we must at the same time continue to resolutely pursue our long-term goals. That is the purpose of our National Security Strategy, and I am very much looking forward to developing it together with you.

It is on this dual strategic approach – and yes, it is a challenge – that our shared budget is based.

What is acutely needed now is for us to do everything we can to somehow alleviate the terrible suffering of the Ukrainian people. We are countering the brutality of this war with humanity, with humanitarian assistance, with medical care, with sleeping bags, with food supplies, with everything that is currently so vital and essential.

The special budget item for Ukraine that we have created in this budget, worth 1 billion euro, is a very positive and important step. One third of this sum will go directly towards humanitarian assistance. It is also clear that we will have to mobilise additional funding if these one billion euro are not enough – unfortunately it is impossible for anyone to predict how much will be necessary.

What is also acutely needed now is for us to stand even more firmly by our partners in Central and Eastern Europe. We are therefore working flat out to set up bases, what I call humanitarian hubs, that will allow us to bring people to safety from various different countries, and to do so in a spirit of solidarity.

I said this here a week ago, and I said it on Monday at the meeting of foreign ministers – you asked, what are we actually doing within the G7? I am doing everything I can so that, at our G7 meetings, we can ensure that people are distributed not only within Europe but on the other side of the Atlantic, too. Because these people are not always free to go where they choose. Anyone who has relatives or friends anywhere in Europe can go to them – that is the good thing, that they can enter our countries without a visa – but, as things stand, they cannot travel without a visa to the US, Canada or the UK. This is the issue that we must now tackle together.

These millions of children need school and daycare places, and more will follow.

The United Nations estimates the total at 8 million, and that is only the estimate for the coming weeks. This means that, if we not only want to ensure but must ensure – and it is our humanitarian responsibility – that families do not end up sleeping on the streets, then we must take concerted action to distribute people across Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic now.

Of course, there is also always the question of who does what, but pointing the finger at others is always the simplest thing to do in situations such as these. I believe the most important thing is for everyone to ask themselves: What can we do, pragmatically, rapidly, and without long rounds of coordination, just getting down to business right now? And so the first flight from Moldova to Germany will take off this Friday or Saturday – Land Rhineland-Palatinate was the first of the Länder to sign up – to bring refugees here from Moldova. I am pleased that many, many other Länder have joined this initiative.

However, as the largest European economy, we also want to show responsibility within the EU, NATO and the G7.

We have of course already debated the issue of weapons supplies here. I would like to say, quite honestly, thank you. Thank you for not letting up, for asking: What happened with the deliveries? Why were they held up? It deeply affects me, too, when I receive a call from my Ukrainian counterpart, the Foreign Minister, asking: Where are the weapons? Of course, we will make calls afterwards and look into what caused the hold-ups. But I can say very clearly that further Strela deliveries are on their way.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say – and this is not something that I am proud of, because I believe we would all have liked for there to be no war and no weapons deliveries, but I will say it loud and clear, because it always seems to be overlooked – that we are one of the leading suppliers of weapons in this situation. This is not something that makes us proud, but it is what we must do now in order to help Ukraine.

We are doing everything – because we do not have so many weapons that we can supply ourselves – to liaise with the relevant companies, to urge them to make further deliveries possible.

Yes, we are launching a special fund. And I very much hope that we will not spark any party-political disputes over this. We have brought about a watershed.

I know, the roles of government and opposition, I too still have to get used to my new role in some ways; but at the moment it is not a question of asking who suggested something first or last or second or third. At the moment it is a question of taking things that clearly did not go well in the past, and doing them better.

And, yes, we Greens said that a few years ago we might not have launched a special fund. But is that a sign of weakness?

In my view, it is absolutely a sign of strength to say, now is the time to change our policy. Let us change it together, in keeping with the times, in keeping with our responsibility! After all, it is our responsibility not to hold the debates of twenty years ago.

That was also my message in the Western Balkans. We can spend forever talking about what happened in the past; we must be familiar with history, recognise mistakes, in order to do things better in the future.

But to keep pace with the times, security, defensive capabilities, our ability to uphold our alliances, mean standing together within NATO in particular. And so we have held talks within NATO on how we can contribute with our capabilities, and not just on paper.

Every economist here is aware – what sort of capabilities are they, when we do less for security when GDP falls and more when it rises? Capabilities are a crucial issue, and that is why we want to work with you to ensure that we can strengthen our defensive capabilities and our ability to uphold our alliances.

I think I will also take the opportunity to say – and I considered for a long time whether I would respond to this, but because we have now heard it twice, yesterday from Mr Dobrindt and then today from you, Mr Merz, I will respond – highlighting the Bundeswehr here and then in the same sentence saying: “OK, the Bundeswehr and no more of this feminist foreign policy,” that breaks my heart.

And do you know why? Because a week ago I visited the Mothers of Srebrenica and they described to me how they still bear the scars of this war within them, and they said: “Ms Baerbock, back then in the early nineties, nothing was done,” when they, their daughters, their friends were raped; rape was not recognised as a weapon of war, was not prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

That is why twenty-first century security policy must include a feminist perspective.

This is not nonsense! It is not nonsense – it is in keeping with the times. And it has nothing to do with an unwillingness on my part to invest in the Bundeswehr. It has to do with the fact that I broaden my perspective to include all of the victims of wars.

That is why our National Security Strategy, too, will not just cover essential military expenditure but will also develop our approach of understanding security in broader terms, a human security approach.

Because we know all too well that, wherever crises worsen, it is in part – and we can see this in the fact that Russia is already preparing a grain war – because the issue of food security also has to do with security. The great danger is that the situation in the Sahel region will now deteriorate further. This is why, on the topic of the budget, it was so right and necessary for us to include the questions of humanitarian assistance, of food security and of support for small farmers, too, in this budget.

I would also like to express my gratitude for the fact that we have once again included a billion euro for culture – and here, too, some might ask what a billion euro for culture has to do with foreign and security policy – in this budget. With these funds we will support academics, artists and journalists, many women among them, not least from Russia, who are being persecuted, who are now able to come to us here in Germany, from Afghanistan and other countries around the world as well.

All of this is part of a comprehensive, values-led approach to foreign policy, where we take rapid, pragmatic action in acute crises and do not tie ourselves up in endless debates, but where at the same time we think strategically, outside of the box and ahead into the coming decades.

Because the only way to resist is not to be afraid – as Tanya Malyarchuk said.

It now falls to us, courageous and resolute. For freedom and peace in Europe.

Thank you very much.


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