Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the event “Global Arms Control: Made in Hamburg” organised by the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH)

21.05.2019 - Speech

The fact that the Hamburg Parliament is providing City Hall as a forum to discuss an issue as complex as arms control, underscores this city’s great tradition in security policy.

For when I meet my counterparts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania here today, the citizens of Hamburg are also seeing alliance partners from the era of the Hanseatic League.

Even back then, they were aware of the strength of multilateralism and of the possibilities it offered for security, common rules and prosperity.

I’m therefore especially pleased that you, Edgars, will be addressing the guests gathered here today after me.

However, Hamburg not only stands for what we can achieve together. Owing to the devastating air raids of July 1943, Hamburg also symbolises the consequences of nationalist aberrations and military aggression. Here in this city, they had a catastrophic impact on our own civilian population.

It was certainly also these formative experiences which led to Hamburg producing a whole series of politicians in the following years who rose to prominence in the security policy sphere – including three Defence Ministers [Schmidt, Apel, Rühe].

I would like to single out Helmut Schmidt. Germany’s first peace research institutes were established during his tenure as Defence Minister in the government of Willy Brandt and his Ostpolitik:

They were the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and in 1971 the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, whose work we’re honouring today.

With the establishment of these institutes, the then Government was demonstrating its deeply held conviction at the height of the Cold War that security policy isn’t comprehensive if it relies solely on deterrence and military superiority.

Without doubt, the two will be indispensable for the foreseeable future. That’s why we stand united as NATO allies and why Germany is helping to protect its eastern neighbours by deploying its own soldiers.

However, we can only ensure lasting peace if we manage to build up confidence while, at the same time, reducing tensions and risks.

This dual strategy of deterrence and détente is most likely what the former director of the IFSH, the bold thinker, strategist and foreign policy expert Egon Bahr, meant when he said, “For Germany, America is indispensable; Russia is immovable.”

For me personally, it’s a given that this also means that even today we have to cultivate a dialogue with Russia, even though Russia is making no secret of the fact that it’s building up its nuclear and conventional arsenal, as well as, increasingly, its cyber capabilities.

Talks like that with my counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Russia resuming compliance with the INF Treaty, thus ensuring the preservation of a treaty so important to Europe, on European security and, naturally, on Ukraine and the Minsk Process are not always very enjoyable.

However, the German Government and Europeans are convinced that confidence and a readiness to engage in dialogue ultimately form the basis of any international order.

Confidence, or more accurately a leap of faith – particularly in us Germans – was also the basis for European integration, which transformed former enemies into a family of states. I’d like to remind you of this in light of the European elections this coming Sunday.

It follows that the ultimate objective of our policy must be to restore the confidence that has been lost: confidence that international rules are valid, that treaties will be reliably adhered to and that a promise made today won’t be revoked by a tweet tomorrow.

We’re striving for this around the world – and not alone. For example, we’re striving for it in a “group of friends” founded by us and consisting of 24 states in which we discuss the fundamental issues of a modern conventional arms control architecture, as well as in the Structured Dialogue through which we’ve anchored this issue in the OSCE.

Or, as it were, at the highest level – in the United Nations.

For the first time since 2012, Germany put nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control back on the UN Security Council agenda in early April. I found it encouraging that all Security Council members spoke in favour of strengthening the nuclear order on the basis of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

I firmly believe that greater transparency of nuclear arsenals and the development of control mechanisms are possible. They’re also the basis for further reducing nuclear arsenals.

And without any loss of security!

First and foremost, it is the largest nuclear-weapon powers, the United States and Russia, which are called upon to take action. However, with its increasing military might and growing ambitions, China must assume greater responsibility in the security sphere and get involved in shaping tomorrow’s arms control architecture.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Academic advisers are of invaluable help, especially in lengthy and complex processes such as arms control.

They are guides, critics and intellectual sparring partners for politicians, diplomats as well as the military. In their research and in exchanges with experts and politicians around the world, they search for ways and means which we don’t yet know or don’t recognise.

With Germany’s steadily growing responsibility for security in Europe and the world, with the return of military threats and confrontation to Europe, with the emergence of new powers and international terrorism, as well as with the development of new technologies, this need is changing and evolving rapidly.

The officers at the Command and Staff College here in Hamburg will tell you that the nature of war will continue to change in the coming years. In the not too distant future, robotics and artificial intelligence will revolutionise military systems.

That means that those technologies on which we as industrialised nations rely could turn against us in the security sphere: largely autonomous killer robots could become reality.

The German Government therefore wants to enshrine the principle of effective human control over all lethal weapons systems at the international level, thereby taking a major step towards the global prohibition of fully autonomous weapons.

Further issues have been raised, for example, in relation to new – possibly nuclear –hypersonic weapons, whose speed will tear existing deterrence strategies to shreds. Or with regard to warfare in space, which is of growing importance due to the satellites for communication, reconnaissance as well as command and control.

Finally, the risks are also increasing due to biological weapons in a globalised world in which the relevant know‑how and technology are ever more widely available – to states but also to terrorists and criminals.

Partly out of a desire to send the political message that Germany is addressing these issues, I – supported by my Dutch and Swedish colleagues – hosted the international conference “Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control” on 15 March.

Based on the conclusions drawn from this event, we will advance these issues in many different ways, especially multinationally, and put them on the agenda in the United Nations, NATO and the OSCE. A follow‑up conference, at which we’ll examine what progress has been made and where we have to make even more resolute efforts, is planned for 2020.

In all of this, we’re building intensively on the dialogue with experts from the academic world, without whom Germany would be unable to play a leading role in arms control.

The governing parties expressed their appreciation of these experts in the 2018 coalition agreement, in which they resolved to strengthen the role of academic expertise in peace and conflict research.

Today, one year later, we’re celebrating with you a very tangible example of how we in the Federal Foreign Office implement these decisions.

Thanks to broad support from the Bundestag, we’re providing up to one million euros from the Federal Foreign Office budget this year and in the following years for the research and transfer project Arms Control and Emerging Technologies at the IFSH.

Professor Schröder,

With this funding we want to help make the IFSH a leading centre for arms control research in Europe and beyond.

The future office in Berlin will serve to strengthen the exchange with the Government even more.

One particular focus for us is promoting young researchers. We want to preserve the rich, interdisciplinary expertise of the last few decades and to use it for the research challenges of the present and future.

Led by Professor Schröder and with a rejuvenated yet experienced team, the IFSH will now be able to research and advise with greater effectiveness.

They do this in the exemplary tradition of the IFSH, for whose work I would also like to thank Professor Neuneck and Dr Zellner.

Your expertise has always been a great help to the Federal Foreign Office.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m pleased that the Federal Foreign Office is able to foster peace research in your city in this way.

Global arms control is waiting for fresh impetus: it’s urgently required. Thank you!


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