Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas: “The future of the INF Treaty as a key element of European security”

08.11.2018 - Speech

Speech by Heiko Maas, Member of the German Bundestag and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, during the debate on matters of topical interest “The future of the INF Treaty as a key element of European security”, held in the German Bundestag on 8 November 2018.

Madam President,

Members of Parliament,

The language of politics is quick to label an event a “milestone”. Yet, the proliferation of such milestones raises certain doubts as to whether this is justified.

However, when in 1987, in the middle of the Cold War, the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles was concluded, it was doubtless a milestone. The INF Treaty provides proof that it is possible to reach agreement in times of massive confrontation, that all sides live a safer life when mutual distrust can be overcome.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan knew this when they signed the Treaty. And all those bearing political responsibility today in Washington and Moscow should call this to mind.

Today’s world is unfortunately a world away from the logic of détente. The sad truth of the matter, a truth which we must not simply accept, is that the rules governing multilateralism are becoming more porous and we risk arriving in an era in which nuclear weapons in particular are no longer subject to any restriction.

This trend has not come from nowhere. During his Presidency, Barack Obama called upon Russia years ago to allay suspicion of a possible violation of the INF Treaty.

We are engaged in close dialogue with Russia on this matter. I brought it up with my Russian colleague Lavrov and demanded that he create full transparency, particularly at this time and during this discussion when there is reason to believe the Treaty could be revoked.

Next week sees a meeting of the German-Russian High Level Working Group on Security after the German Government decided in May to relaunch this format. Here too, these issues will be addressed.

That was also our message at the NATO-Russia Council which also met last week at our insistence. So that is where we are on dialogue with Russia.

As far as the United States is concerned, we are working to ensure that President Trump does not act hastily on his announced withdrawal but talks to us Europeans to explore the scope for upholding the Treaty.

I spoke to my American colleague about this and our State Secretary is currently in Washington to continue these discussions.

Why are we doing this? We want to keep the INF Treaty because we do not want Germany or any other country in Europe to provide the backdrop for a nuclear arms race.

That is why we need this Treaty. But it doesn't end there. After all, our disarmament policy is not based on antiquated principles. We want more and we need more.

Important as the INF Treaty is for the global arms control architecture, maintaining it is not enough to secure peace in Europe.

On disarmament and arms control policy, we find ourselves in a completely new situation facing many new challenges.

For some time now, the East-West conflict has no longer been the determining factor. Asymmetry has long since increased. Countries such as China are significantly increasing their arsenals of missiles and nuclear weapons without this being accompanied in any way by confidence-building.

Rapid technological developments are blurring the lines between conventional and nuclear threats. The constant emergence of new weapon systems increases unpredictability and influences the strategic balance.

We need more international arms control and disarmament policy.
Four points make up the core of our policy:

We need, firstly, open exchange on security in Europe between the United States, Europe and Russia. For this to happen, the European Union needs to speak with one voice. Only if we create awareness that we live in a common area of security in Europe will we present a truly capable front to the outside.

Here in particular, we need a European eastern policy. The aim is, together with our eastern neighbours in the European Union, to reach out to our eastern neighbours on the other side of the EU external border. What we are talking about ultimately is the indivisible security of all Europeans.

It is in this spirit that we should seek exchange with one another and also with the United States and Russia. The aim has to be to rebuild long-lost trust by creating mutual transparency.

Here we can link back to the positive experience of the initiative we launched on conventional arms control in the OSCE framework because lasting security on our continent can only be created if we pull together, not if we pull in opposite directions.

I would like to address all points which are being discussed not just in Germany but also in other places in Europe: We are concerned about the deployment of nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad. We cannot ignore the fact that our eastern partners in Europe are even more concerned. It is also important that the exchange does not start and end with finger-pointing. That is where we are at the moment. After all, two monologues are never going to generate reasonable dialogue.

We want, secondly, to move the discussion on a comprehensive, international transparency regime for missiles and cruise missiles forward. After all, whether we are talking about the Near and Middle East or East Asia, the very race for such weapons triggers an escalation in global conflicts.

Arms control must, thirdly, once more become a key component of international diplomacy. Recent years do not give the impression that this has been the case. That is why I will use my talks in Beijing in the next few days to advocate transparency and arms control; after all, it is sorely needed there.

We must, fourthly, ensure that international legal standards keep pace with the development of highly modern weapons. What seems to belong to the realm of fantasy is in part a deadly reality. Lethal autonomous weapon systems that kill without any human control need to be prohibited worldwide.

That is the goal of an initiative at the United Nations which we, the German Government, launched. I would be delighted if the entire chamber would support this initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen,

the question of human control also arises in the case of other new systems such as hypersonic weapons or space weapons.

We are long past the stage where people are only talking about this. They are long being developed. At a conference in Berlin next year, we want to focus on how to regulate such weapons internationally. And we will use our seat in the Security Council in the coming year to get the issue on the agenda there, too.

Esteemed colleagues,

we need allies for all this, allies to stop the global rearmament trend. We will work to ensure disarmament finds its place once more at the top of the international agenda.

And we will need to be peace-makers here because at the end of the day a lesson learnt from détente is no less valid today: namely that only reliability and transparency build trust, and only trust creates security.

Thank you very much.


Top of page