Interview with Foreign Minister Maas for the daily newspaper “Rzeczpospolita”

20.11.2019 - Interview

President Macron said in a recent interview for “The Economist” that NATO is suffering from “brain death” and that he cannot be sure if an attack on one member state will be seen as an attack on all. These are words coming from the leader of the biggest military power in Western Europe alongside the UK. To what extent does this call into question the present security architecture in Europe? In the case of an attack from Russia, can Poland be sure that Germany will come to its rescue?

Our neighbours in Poland can rest assured that we take their security needs just as seriously as our own. NATO has strengthened its presence in Eastern Europe considerably in recent years. Germany is making an important contribution to these efforts. Moreover, it is clear to all the Allies that NATO’s strength lies in its cohesion. This cohesion has guaranteed Europe’s security for 70 years and will continue to be essential for our security in the future. We must all work together to continue to develop NATO strategically and to equip it for current security policy challenges.

The US decided this year to reinforce its military presence in Poland. Does this so-called Fort Trump also increase the security of Germany? Can Europe trust the US for its security? Or rather should Poland be more committed to its security in its military cooperation with EU partners?

Poland is a close friend for us and an important partner in NATO and the EU. We need Poland’s active support in order to safeguard a strong and sovereign Europe. This is also in Warsaw’s interests. The EU must cooperate much more closely in security policy – not in order to replace NATO, but to strengthen the European pillar of NATO and therefore the Alliance as a whole. At the end of the day, this is also the best guarantee for ensuring that the US continues to be committed to NATO and, as was the case recently, strengthens its presence in Europe to this end.

Emmanuel Macron is convinced that “for the first time America has a president who does not share our idea of the European project”. He argues that “if we don’t wake up, there is a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny”. Is the EU really in danger of disintegrating? And in order to avoid such an outcome, is Germany ready to participate in the construction of a European federal state with a unique foreign policy that is able to defend itself without the US? As Minister Maas said at the Warsaw Uprising Museum on 1 August, Poland has a very different approach to sovereignty than Germany. If so, how can Warsaw be part of the vision proposed by president Macron? And is Germany ready to almost double its defence spending in order to prepare its army for a world without American security guarantees?

We Europeans will have to assume greater responsibility for our security in the future. This is why we established what is known as permanent structured cooperation in the EU in the area of security and defence policy and why we are seeking a closer partnership in the development of capacities and an intervention initiative, as well as to strengthen civilian crisis management. We know that we Europeans must invest in our security. Germany is doing its part. Since 2014, we have increased our defence expenditure by 45 percent in line with NATO criteria. However, it is also clear that the US remains Europe’s most important ally. We need support from the US now and in the future in order to ensure Europe’s security.

The French President is convinced that without rapprochement with Russia, a new partnership with Moscow, Europe will never be secure. To what extent does Germany share such a view and is ready to participate in a new “reset” with the Kremlin? Is the withdrawal of Russia from Crimea a precondition for this partnership? On 9 December, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet in Paris. For President Putin, a special status for the Donbass region seems to be a precondition for peace in Ukraine. To what extent could this block Kyiv’s ambitions to join NATO and the EU?

We have made our critical stance with regard to many areas of Russian policy clear time and again. For example, the EU responded as one to the annexation of Crimea and has been unanimous in keeping sanctions against Russia in place to this day. We continue to hold firm to this position as we will not accept this illegal annexation. However, it is also clear that we will continue to keep the door open for dialogue with Moscow. This is the EU’s common position and also that of NATO.


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