Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the opening of the first Missile Dialogue Initiative

18.10.2019 - Speech

Lieber Herr Ischinger,

Distinguished Members of Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2017, North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The world was shocked. A regional risk had turned into a global threat to peace and security.

In 2018, Russia revealed a totally new class of weapons to the world: a nuclear-powered cruise missile that President Putin himself called “invincible”. A weapon able to overcome even sophisticated defence systems and to disrupt strategic stability in Europe.

In 2019, Prime Minister Modi claimed that India had joined the “Space Super League” when its military shot down an old Indian satellite. Only four countries on Earth are able to do this. And while India advocates the peaceful character of its space programme, concerns over an arms race in outer space are growing.

Finally, just a month ago, two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones and cruise missiles. In an already extremely tense security environment, this could have been the spark leading to full-blown war.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These four examples show that we’re not dealing with science fiction when we discuss missiles today. Their growing range, speed and precision can turn almost any regional crisis into a global conflict. Their proliferation poses urgent threats to peace and security. All over the world.

This leaves us at a crossroads. We can either follow the current path. The path where countries strive to gain the technological edge, to achieve dominance. This path will lead to a global arms race.

Billions of euros, dollars or roubles will be spent on sophisticated missile programmes and defensive systems. Hoping to protect ourselves as best as we can.

Instead, mistrust will grow.

The risks of escalation will increase.

And every miscalculation could lead to disaster.

That’s the road we are currently going down.

Or we can choose a different approach: international cooperation. It’s the approach we’re choosing today. And I’m delighted to welcome all of you to Berlin! Each of you adds a special perspective to our discussion: the Chinese perspective, the Russian perspective, the Indian, Pakistani and European perspective, as well as the American and the Middle Eastern perspective.

For me, dialogue among us is already the first step towards addressing the security concerns we are all facing.

We need to understand where each of us stands, what our interests and concerns are. This is how we ensured peace in the past. This is “multilateralism in action”. And this remains the only way to build security in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To kick off this dialogue, let me offer some thoughts from the German perspective.

Arms control agreements that have ensured our security for decades are falling apart. The INF Treaty is the most prominent example of this.

Existing agreements still reflect the bipolar world of the past.

New technologies are changing the nature of warfare.

And our rules-based international order has a blind spot when it comes to the threat of missiles.

This is an alarming mix. We need to re-think arms control.

In March, we therefore started a global discussion on the future of arms control with more than 450 international experts and government representatives here in Berlin.

Together with my colleagues from Sweden and the Netherlands, we outlined an ambitious arms control agenda.

We are now working with partners to put that agenda into practice.

In April, we ensured that the UN Security Council addressed nuclear disarmament – for the first time since 2012!

Last month, we co-chaired a conference seeking to put an end to all nuclear testing.

Early next year, we will host the next ministerial meeting of the Stockholm initiative on nuclear disarmament in Berlin.

Our goal is to uphold and strengthen the nuclear order.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Another key element on our agenda is you – the Missile Dialogue Initiative. In times of “fake news” and obscure military programmes, transparency is more important than ever. Your meetings will therefore not take place behind closed doors. And we will make sure to share the results of your work internationally.

My hope is that this initiative will serve as a “clearing house” for ideas. Your analyses, the facts you agree upon and the policy options you propose will not just help to advance our diplomatic efforts. At the end of the day, they could contribute to an arms control regime for the 21st century.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Getting there won’t be quick or easy. It requires courage and political will to work together. To bridge our differences. And it requires experts like you who can inform our discussions. Who propose solutions. Because they understand what’s at stake.

“If you don’t start somewhere, you’re gonna go nowhere”. These aren’t just my words but also Bob Marley’s. So let me just add that today is a good start.

Thanks for joining us! And once again: welcome to Berlin!


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