Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to the Bundestag during the debate on the 2022 budget
I’d like to start by expressing my sincere thanks – some of you, distinguished colleagues, have already done so: in this extraordinary situation, which poses an extraordinary challenge for this budget in particular, we, you, have worked together. We were able – and this is truly remarkable – to ensure together that above all humanitarian assistance has been increased considerably by 35 million euro, especially for Ukraine. For that you have my heartfelt thanks. But let me say at the outset: we have to get used to the idea of doing this for a while yet – standing united but, above all, approving additional funding for the foreign affairs sphere in particular.
For the Russian President has evidently changed his strategy fundamentally. At first, he thought he could quickly march into Ukraine, take control of the country and then everything would be over. Fortunately, this strategy wasn’t successful. But that’s why he’s now relying on having greater perseverance than those of us who support Ukraine, greater perseverance than Ukraine and, above all, he’s relying on more brutal violence.
Of course, we could say, “We’re going to turn a blind eye”, as DIE LINKE has just suggested in this House once more, and “We’re simply going to look the other way and pretend it isn’t happening”. But Ukrainians cannot look the other way. Bombs rain down on them day after day. Tanks roll into their towns and villages day after day. When you look at the TV images – yes, I believe we should – you see the Donbass in particular being razed to the ground, town after town, village after village, by Russian troops attacking from a safe distance. This is a new strategy: first the missiles come, then the aircraft, the artillery and, when there is nothing left standing, the tanks roll in. We have to be honest and admit that this is a new wave of destruction. And it’s also a strategy intended to depopulate, to obliterate civilisation in the Donbass. The aim is to destroy the state structures there.
I therefore believe that we have to clearly and unambiguously state today that we will not look the other way. We will not take the easy way out, simply wishing that there was no war. No, we are defending people in Ukraine as best we can by supplying arms. That means that we first of all need much perseverance in supporting Ukraine. Secondly, we now need to supply more weapons, in particular artillery, drones and air defence.
We’re working with our partners on this. We’ve already discussed many times why some things are taking longer. Here too, however, I want to stress that it’s taking longer because there’s no point in simply saying, “We promise to send you something”. Rather, the equipment really has to get there and, most importantly, the troops have to know how to operate it.
I thought it was only right that critical questions were asked time and again: why is only old, decommissioned military equipment being sent? Ukraine has asked us to primarily send cutting-edge systems. That’s exactly what we’re doing now. We’re going to supply Ukraine with a ground-based air defence system, IRIS-T. A minute ago, you shouted out, “But that will take ages – yet again.” Yes, it’ll take time, several months actually, because it’s the most modern system there is. It was supposed to be going to another country. We managed to ensure that this did not happen and that it can now go to Ukraine. Because these medium and long-term signals are important, demonstrating that we will not abandon Ukraine in three months’ time but will do all we can to defend it on a durable basis without becoming actively involved in this war.
I’d also like to state clearly once more, and surely all of us here feel the same way, that everyone who has sense and a heart would like nothing more than for this brutal war of aggression to finally end. I mean, who wants war? No one. We all want to live in peace. However, we cannot say to the victims of rape or war crimes: well, we did cross our fingers for you. It’s just too bad it didn’t do any good.
What would happen if we were to stop, if we were to stop demonstrating our solidarity for Ukraine’s defence, if we were to stop providing military support? After all, that’s what DIE LINKE as well as the AfD are demanding. If you say, “Well, we should start making overtures to Putin and allow referendums to be held”, then I say to you: we’ve seen in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries that an end to the violence doesn’t automatically mean freedom. In fact, it can mean the very opposite. If we accept or merely imply that, then – to be honest – we would be betraying everything that the Ukrainians have fought for. We would be betraying the civilians of that country.
Mr Gysi – he’s already left – ah, there he is at the back. Thank you, I’m grateful for your comments because I believe that we have to address such arguments. After all, the carrot and stick approach was used for many years to deal with autocrats. And in light of the human rights violations inflicted on the Uighurs, you’re now urging me to say to China, “We want to offer you something.” But that could lead the regime to believe that if it violates a few more human rights then it may be rewarded with an even bigger bonus.
And I don’t differentiate between Uighurs in China, Ukrainians and persecuted Russian journalists and human rights defenders, between Yazidis and Kurds. After all, that’s the strength of human rights: indivisibility, no matter where you live in the world.
We’re therefore also working together here to defend our European peaceful order as well as international law. And to all those who say, “Warm words alone are not enough”, I want to state quite clearly: Ukraine is not only defending our European peaceful order. Ukraine needs a European perspective. It’s only right that the Commission has a proposal for every country. Because our strongest weapon at the moment is the united stance of all European countries, their joint support for Ukraine and the Western Balkans.
However, it’s also clear that more military capabilities alone will not be enough to prevail in this dangerous new world. That’s very obvious. Russia is also waging a hybrid war, a corn war, a disinformation war. That’s why it’s so important that in this budget – and let me say thank you once more – funding for cyber security, for crisis prevention, for upgrading, for stabilisation has been increased considerably.
It also includes humanitarian assistance to the tune of 2.7 billion euro. This is not only going to Ukraine but also to the Sahel region, to Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, where people no longer know what they can feed their children in the evening. We will have to increase these funds further in future. That’s my wish and it’s my urgent appeal when we negotiate the budget again in a few weeks’ time: we need more!
It has just been said: you’ve no idea where the money goes. – That’s always nice: saying one thing in the committee and something different here. WHO, UNICEF and all of the United Nations international programmes – that’s where our humanitarian assistance is going. For this is not about me puffing out my chest and saying: the German Foreign Minister provided the money. – No, this is about efficiency, about ensuring that the funding can be used – for example in Afghanistan – in places where we as Germans are rightly not present but where UNICEF can look after the children.
To us, a values-based foreign policy means that security is more than just the absence of war. It’s also about investing in education, in human rights work, and it’s about taking pragmatic action at the right moment. That’s the lesson we have all learned – also in Afghanistan. I’d therefore like to reiterate very clearly that when Russian citizens have needed us – journalists, human rights defenders – we have acted quite pragmatically and said: you can come to Germany without any bureaucratic obstacles.
Therefore, also on behalf of the Federal Interior Minister, I urge all Länder not to abandon these people. They, too, have courageously stood up to Putin. We need to hold out to them the prospect of a life in safety here in Germany.
This budget sends a clear signal to our partners: Germany is assuming responsibility in the sphere of foreign policy on the basis of values and with resolve. And above all, our partners can rely on us. I’m grateful that we are doing that together as democrats.