Speech by Chancellor Scholz at the Munich Security Conference on 17 February 2023 in Munich

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Ambassador Heusgen,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m certain I speak on behalf of everyone when I first of all respond to President Zelensky’s speech from Kyiv by saying to him:

Volodymyr, we would have loved to have you with us today.

Because Ukraine belongs here, at our side, in a free and united Europe.

However, we understand where your place has to be at this time – in Kyiv, working tirelessly for your country.

For that, we here in Munich wish you continued strength and confidence!

Let me extend a very special, very warm welcome to you, Madam Vice President. Thanks for joining the conference – once again, I may add.

It’s an honour to have you here with us – along with so many colleagues from the US Senate, the House of Representatives and the Administration.

Welcome to all of you to Munich!

Mr Ischinger, it was always important to you to ensure that this Conference was not just about giving speeches but that the participants entered into a dialogue with each other.

And, Mr Heusgen, I know that you set great store by that, too.

I’d therefore like to confine myself to a few points to, as it were, kick off our discussion.

First of all, Putin’s revisionism will not prevail.

On the contrary.

Ukraine is more united than ever.

The EU stands unified – and it stands behind Ukraine’s future EU membership.

NATO is gaining two new members.

At the same time, thousands of young Russians must pay Putin’s war with their lives. Many others have turned their backs on their country.

The Ukrainians are defending their freedom at such high cost and with remarkably impressive resolve.

And we’re supporting them – as comprehensively and as long as is necessary.

Germany alone provided more than 12 billion euro to assist Ukraine last year.

We’ve taken in more than one million Ukrainian refugees – granting them full access to our labour market, our schools, our universities.

We’re supplying cutting-edge weapons, ammunition and other military goods – more than any other country in continental Europe.

That not only meets the – it has to be said, justified – expectations of our partners and Allies.

We’re also assuming the responsibility which a country of Germany’s size, location and economic clout has to shoulder in times such as these.

In doing this, we have broken with decades-long principles of German policy. For example, the maxim that we don’t supply weapons in a war such as this.

I understand if some people here in Germany are concerned and question our decisions.

I want to say to them that it’s not our arms supplies which are prolonging the war.

The opposite is true – and that brings me to my second point: the sooner President Putin realises that he cannot achieve his imperialist objective, the greater the chance that the war will end soon with a withdrawal of Russia’s occupying forces.

That’s also Ukraine’s aim – as President Zelensky emphasised at our meetings last week in Paris and Brussels and once again just now.

We – Europe as well as the transatlantic and international communities – are firmly united in pursuit of this goal.

By the way, this includes documenting and prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russians in Ukraine.

It’s good that the Munich Security Conference is addressing this issue, for there can be no lasting peace without justice.

At the same time, we’re making sure that war doesn’t break out between NATO and Russia.

My third message is therefore: we will continue to strike a balance between providing the best possible support for Ukraine and avoiding an unintended escalation.

And I’m pleased and grateful that President Biden and many other Allies share this view.

After all, the path we’ve embarked upon together runs through uncharted territory.

For the first time in our history, a nuclear power is waging an imperialist war of aggression here on European soil.

There’s no blueprint for what needs to be done in this situation.

I believe we would do well to carefully weigh up all the consequences of our actions and closely coordinate all key steps among the Allies.

For this is a war in our neighbourhood, in Europe – a dangerous war.

And despite all the pressure to take action, which undoubtedly exists:

in this key question, caution must take priority over hasty decisions, unity over solo actions.

And from the outset, we have to provide our support in such a way that it can be continued for a prolonged period.

To date, any decision we’ve made on supplying new weapons systems has been taken on that premise: in the case of howitzers and multiple launch rocket systems, in the case of air defence weapons, armoured infantry fighting vehicles, Patriot missile batteries and, most recently, Western battle tanks.

And we will continue to decide on that basis in future.

That also means that all those who can supply battle tanks of this kind should now actually do so. Defence Minister Pistorius, Foreign Minister Baerbock and myself are canvassing intensively for this – and we will do so again here in Munich.

Germany will do everything it can to make this decision easier for our partners. For instance, by training Ukrainian soldiers here in Germany or providing support in terms of supplies and logistics.

By the way, I see this as an example of the kind of leadership which everyone is entitled to expect from Germany – and I expressly offer it to our friends and partners.

And that brings me to my fourth message: Germany is committed to living up to its responsibility for Europe’s security and that of NATO Allied territory – without any ifs or buts.

In previous years, it has often been said from this platform that Germany has to live up to its responsibility in the security policy sphere.

I share this view – and we will indeed fulfil our responsibility.

By providing an additional brigade to protect Lithuania.

By assisting Poland and Slovakia with air defence and air policing.

By protecting critical infrastructure in the North and Baltic Seas.

And by leading NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and keeping 17,000 troops on standby to that end.

In order to be able to accomplish that – and more in future – we are putting an end to the neglect of the Bundeswehr.

We’ve laid the foundation for this by creating the special fund of 100 billion euro for our armed forces.
To realise this, we amended the Basic Law – with the support of our country’s largest opposition party.

This fund allows us to finally change gear in terms of building up our Bundeswehr’s capabilities.

Of course, the new combat aircraft, helicopters, ships and tanks will result in an increase in expenditure on ammunition and equipment, maintenance, exercises, training and personnel.

And I therefore want to take this opportunity to reaffirm what I said in the Bundestag three days after the war began:

Germany will increase its defence expenditure to two percent of gross domestic product on a permanent basis.

In order to invest this funding in a meaningful and sustainable manner, we need a high-performing and competitive arms industry – in Germany and in Europe as a whole.

Therefore, my fifth point is: the European Union must pull together strategically when it comes to arms policy.

We’re developing the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) together with France and Spain and the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) with France.

And we’re also making progress in the joint development of European capabilities.

One example of this is the European Sky Shield Initiative proposed by Germany, which is intended to strengthen Europe’s air defence within the NATO framework.

These are steps towards a Europe of defence and armament, as I outlined last year at Charles University in Prague.

They are also steps towards a Europe more capable of taking action in geopolitical terms.

Towards a Europe which is also a stronger transatlantic Ally.

That also means doing more to resolve conflicts in our neighbourhood.

This is the purpose of the European proposal initiated by President Macron and myself on an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo.

And I hope that Belgrade and Pristina will grasp this historic opportunity – in the interest of stability in the Western Balkans and throughout Europe.

Further steps must be taken to consolidate a geopolitical Europe. After all, security cannot be achieved through military strength alone in our digital, technological and globalised world.

And that’s why my sixth point is:
for us Europeans – and I’m ultimately talking about all open and democratic societies like our own – it’s crucial that we become more resilient overall.

That will not be achieved by de-globalisation, by turning our backs on the world.

That would be a betrayal of our own values – as well as an ill-advised decision economically.

Rather, it can only be achieved by ending one-sided, risky dependencies – and making our political and economic relations broader and more robust.

We Germans know what we’re talking about.

After all, we in Germany ended our dependency on Russian energy during the course of the last twelve months.

That required a huge effort.

We will reduce such critical dependencies in other areas, too – for example, with regard to strategically important raw materials or cutting-edge technologies.

Incidentally, I believe this goal should be included in our National Security Strategy.

We’re already strengthening our own production capacities, for example for semi-conductors.
We’re already diversifying our supply chains and gaining new suppliers and markets – in the Asia-Pacific region, in Africa, in Central and South America.

At the same time, this is always also about facilitating that these regions have a greater political say. Indeed, it’s about demanding this say.
For it’s also in their interest that fundamental principles of our peaceful order and of the UN Charter are not trampled underfoot.

By the way, that was one of the reasons I travelled to Beijing last autumn.

All countries are called upon to defend certain fundamental principles of the international order – including China.

And I’m glad that President Xi made it clear on that occasion that he is firmly opposed to any threat to deploy nuclear weapons and most certainly to their actual deployment in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

At the same time, I’m under no illusions about what we can achieve through dialogue alone – also among our democratic partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“Europe has to get out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems” – this quote from the Indian Foreign Minister is included in this year’s Munich Security Report.

He has a point.

It wouldn’t be Europe’s problem alone if the law of the strong were to assert itself in international relations.

However, to be credible as a European or North American in Jakarta, New Delhi, Pretoria, Santiago de Chile, Brasilia or Singapore and to achieve something, it’s not enough to emphasise our shared values.

We have to genuinely address the interests and concerns of these countries – as the basic prerequisite for joint action.

That’s why it was so important to me to not merely have representatives of Asia, Africa and Latin America at the negotiating table during the G7 Summit last June.

I really wanted to work with these regions to find solutions to the main challenges they face: growing poverty and hunger – partly as a consequence of Russia’s war – as well as the impact of climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic.

And that brings me to my seventh and final point: if the multipolar world of the 21st century is to have an order which is based on justice and penalises injustices, then we need new forms of international solidarity and new ways of enabling countries to have their say.

The Munich Security Conference has also recognised this, Mr Heusgen.

It seeks an exchange of ideas with all countries which share our interest in a world where power is bound by rules.

Which is not revisionist.

That’s what I’m calling for – and it’s what I’m working to achieve.

And I’m glad that many of you are at my side.

And now I’m looking forward to our discussion!