How would you describe the role of NATO in the current international system? How strong is it?
NATO is the most successful defence alliance in history. It has been a guarantor of Euroatlantic security for 70 years, and will continue to be so. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in violation of international law, NATO swiftly adapted to a changed international security environment: with a stronger presence in the East, faster operational readiness, a new command structure and new cyber approaches. Admittedly, we have faced serious tests in recent months, and the challenges confronting us in security policy are different today than they were even ten years ago. But all of us are called to work to ensure the cohesion of NATO and to strategically develop the alliance further.
Do you consider that Germany is under pressure from NATO to deliver on the 2 percent pledge? When could Germany reach those 2%?
Germany stands by its obligations within NATO. We have made a firm commitment to reverse the trend towards falling defence expenditure, and to invest more in this area, and we intend to keep our word. Since 2014, we have increased our defence expenditure by 45 percent in line with NATO criteria – none of our allies on the European continent spend more on defence. We stand by our pledges, and we demonstrate that through our activities in the alliance every day: We are the second largest provider of troops in Afghanistan. We have provided a German battalion for Lithuania since 2017. Our Eurofighters fly regularly from Estonia and Lithuania as part of the air policing mission in the Baltics. For 2019 we have once again taken the lead for the VJTF, and we are building a new NATO headquarters in Ulm. All these are very concrete steps to strengthen NATO. You can depend on Germany.
You have already expressed concerns about statements of Emmanuel Macron (about NATO and brain death). In your opinion what signals do Macron’s statements send to the other NATO countries? What signals do they give to Germany?
For 70 years, NATO has been a guarantor of peace and security in Europe. We are well aware that our American friends make a significant contribution to this institution. And that Europe also has to assume greater responsibility for its own security. That is why it was right for us to take targeted steps to strengthen European security policy cooperation. Not in order to replace NATO, but to strengthen the European pillar of NATO and therefore the Alliance as a whole. Our neighbours in Poland and the Baltic can depend on us taking their security needs as seriously as we do our own.
How has Turkey’s incursion in Northeast Syria changed (does it at all?) the current mood and condition of NATO?
Of course the situation in northern Syria is a topic that concerns us and on which we are focusing intensively. That is why it is good that we will now be holding a meeting with the NATO Foreign Ministers. It is always better to talk to rather than talk about one another. For in spite of our current differences with Ankara, it is clear that it is in our interests that Turkey, as a central partner also in NATO, does not move away from Europe.
United States Senate may soon move to impose sanctions and stop the “Nord Stream 2” project. Baltic countries, Poland, Ukraine are concerned that this is not a commercial, but a geopolitical project. What is the reason why those concerns were/are not heard? Do you believe that from Germany’s point of view there is a way back from “Nord Stream 2”? In Baltic states we see this question as part of security and geopolitical stability, that’s why it’s important to us to hear your opinion.
We are in ongoing contact with our Baltic friends as well as with our partners in Poland and Ukraine on geostrategic and security policy issues. We have stated in no uncertain terms that, for us, the security of these countries is non negotiable. With regard to Nord Stream 2, we take the concerns we hear from our partners very seriously. That is precisely why the Federal Government is actively working to safeguard the gas transit route through Ukraine alongside Nord Stream 2.