Members of the Bundestag,
We discussed and approved the Annual Disarmament Report in the Cabinet today, and I would like to explain the German Government’s stance on it to you.
The security environment has changed significantly in recent decades. In particular, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in violation of international law, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, North Korea’s dangerous nuclear ambitions and the crisis on the INF Treaty make us all painfully aware that the topics of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control now top the political agenda again and will continue to do so.
This is also shown in the Annual Disarmament Report 2017, which we approved this morning. It notes these developments and describes action fields in which the German Government responded with concrete measures and projects during this time.
The German Government is very concerned – and indeed has been for quite some time – about the growing appeal of nuclear weapons, the resulting global trend towards rearmament, and the burden on the current disarmament and arms control architecture. Allow me to mention a few examples.
We are facing the threat of a new nuclear arms race, particularly in Europe. President Putin recently announced new weapons systems aimed at expanding Russia’s nuclear capabilities. Russia is thus increasingly questioning the international arms control architecture created after the end of the Cold War, which we believe will also be circumvented in this way.
That is why we will continue to call on Russia to clear up the current serious allegations concerning its violation of the INF Treaty, as complete adherence to this treaty is crucial for Europe’s security. The German Government will lobby particularly vigorously for this in the near future.
North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programme and the large number of tests it carried out in 2017 pose a threat to peace and security not only to the region itself, but also, in our view, to the whole world. This is the largest crisis in the nuclear non-proliferation regime to date. We thus warmly welcome the fact that North and South Korea are now starting to communicate with each other and the possibility of direct talks between the US and North Korea. At the same time, it is clear that the talks can only be successful if North Korea is serious about negotiating on scaling back its illegal missile and nuclear programme. We do not see this willingness at the moment.
The Vienna nuclear deal with Iran showed that proliferation crises can be resolved by diplomacy. However, the agreement’s continued existence is currently at risk. The US is openly questioning its continued participation in the agreement, although there is no question that Iran is adhering to the Vienna nuclear deal. This topic is one of our priorities. Along with France, the UK and our other EU partners, we are doing our utmost to ensure that the agreement is upheld and implemented in full.
In all our endeavours, we are keeping sight of the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, although there are currently many obstacles on the path to such a world and our goal still seems a long way off. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, whose fiftieth anniversary we are celebrating this year, and its three pillars will continue to underpin and guide our endeavours. We are taking a step-by-step approach and working hard to bring about concrete and verifiable progress in the field of nuclear disarmament. We are making particular efforts to pave the way to talks on banning the manufacture of fissile material for weapons and to introduce instruments to verify nuclear disarmament.
Members of the Bundestag, we were shocked to learn of the internationally prohibited use of a nerve agent in the UK, as I am sure you were too. We share the UK authorities’ view that Russia is likely to have been responsible and made this clear at the Council meeting in Brussels at the start of the week.
We also find the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria, which has gone unpunished, to be unacceptable. The German Government will continue to work to ensure that those behind the chemical weapon attacks are identified and brought to justice. We discussed this in depth with our French partners at the start of the week. Let’s not forget that it is our common duty to ensure the Chemical Weapons Convention is universally implemented.
Thank you for listening.