Speech by Federal Chancellor  Olaf Scholz at the Munich Security Conference

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Esteemed colleagues,
Mr Heusgen,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The biggest land war in Europe since the Second World War has been raging in Ukraine for two years now. Every day, Russia’s aggression claims innocent victims. Every day, people cry, grieve and die in Ukraine. And that is why in my speech today I want to focus on this war in our neighbourhood. 

Despite huge losses, significant parts of the Russian armed forces remain intact. Russia has been preparing its troops for this war for many years, and has developed new, lethal weapons systems at all levels. The Russian economy has long since been operating in war mode. To all intents and purposes, Putin has brought the economy, education, science and culture in Russia under his control. Anyone who actively works for freedom and democracy has to fear for their life. What that means is shown by the shocking, the appalling, news of Alexei Navalny’s death in Russian detention. Not least, Putin is sending ever more troops to the front. 

We all have to ask ourselves two years after the start of the war whether we are doing enough to signal to Putin: “We’re in for the long haul!”? Are we doing enough, given that we know full well what Russia’s victory in Ukraine would mean? Namely, the end of Ukraine as a free, independent and democratic state; the destruction of our peaceful order in Europe; the gravest test of the UN Charter since 1945; and, not least, an encouragement to any and all autocrats around the world to use force to resolve conflicts. The political and financial price we would then have to pay would be many times higher than all the expense of our support for Ukraine today and in the future. 

What does all of this mean for us? What must it mean for NATO and for Europe? Two things are key in my view. 

First of all, the threat from Russia is real. That is why our deterrence and defence capabilities have to be credible and remain credible. At the same time, we don’t want a conflict between Russia and NATO. For that reason, all countries supporting Ukraine have been in agreement since the start of the war that we will not send our own troops to Ukraine. 

However, Putin and the military establishment in Moscow must be left in no doubt that we, the world’s strongest military alliance, are able to defend every square metre of our Allied territory. For that, it’s important that we further strengthen NATO’s European pillar, also in the sphere of deterrence. 

I’m probably not telling you anything new when I say: Germany will invest two percent of its GDP in defence this year and also in the coming years – in the 2020s, 2030s and beyond. We have to do more than ever before to ensure that our deterrence meets the demands of the modern world. 

That is why we stated in the Federal Government’s first National Security Strategy our intention, among other things, to promote – and I quote: “the development and introduction of highly advanced capabilities, such as precision deep-strike weapons”. We are discussing that with France and the UK. This is in line with the efforts by Emmanuel Macron and myself to strengthen the European defence industry. 

For regardless of how Russia’s war in Ukraine ends, and regardless of the outcome of elections on either side of the Atlantic, one thing is crystal clear: we Europeans must do much more for our own security – now and in the future. Our readiness to do so is considerable. 

That is what I told President Biden during my visit to Washington last week. Our efforts during the last 24 months have underscored that. And Joe Biden and I were also in complete agreement that our transatlantic alliance will remain valuable and strong – on both sides of the Atlantic. Because we are united by shared values and beliefs: freedom, democracy, the strength of the law and respect for the dignity of every individual. For that I’m deeply grateful to the President and to all our North American friends in the audience today. Thank you for being such strong allies and friends!

Let me also state clearly that any relativisation of NATO’s mutual defence guarantee will only benefit those who, just like Putin, want to weaken us.

My second point concerns our support for Ukraine. The European Union and its member states have made available just under 90 billion euro for this purpose so far. On top of that will come the additional 50 billion euro in financial assistance alone that we’ve just agreed on for the coming years. In the European Union, we have taken in more than four million Ukrainian refugees – one million of them here in Germany. All of this was and still is the right thing to do.

Only yesterday, President Zelensky and I signed an agreement in which we make durable security pledges to Ukraine. This shows that our support is broad-based and comprehensive. Above all, however, it is long-term. Already, the military support provided and planned by Germany amounts to more than 28 billion euro. For this year, we have almost doubled our military assistance, to more than seven billion euro. Then there are pledges of six billion for the next few years.

I very much wish – and this is something I and some of my European colleagues are lobbying very urgently for in this forum too – that similar decisions would be taken in all European capital cities. I know it is not easy. It’s not easy here in Germany either. Just like in other countries, there are critical voices here as well, asking “Shouldn’t we be using the money for other things?”. And Moscow is fanning the flames of such doubts – with targeted disinformation campaigns, and with propaganda on social media.

It is true that this war at the heart of Europe is making huge demands of us as well. Yes, the money we spend now and in the future to ensure our security is then lacking elsewhere. We are noticing that. However, I would also say this: without security, all else is nothing. Only if we all provide the necessary finance, in the long term and in a spirit of solidarity, will our defence industry reliably increase production. And thereby also contribute to our own security.

Since the start of the war, the United States has provided Ukraine with something over 20 billion dollars a year in military assistance – with a gross domestic product of 28 trillion dollars. A similar effort must surely be the least that can be expected from every European country. After all, we are talking about the biggest threat to security on our continent, about a war here in Europe – albeit one with global repercussions. Only if we are credible in this regard will Putin understand that there will be no peace dictated by Moscow, because we will not allow it.

And that brings me, Christoph Heusgen, to the silver lining you mentioned in your opening speech yesterday. That silver lining does exist, and it is brighter than one might think from watching the news or reading the papers. We stand more united than ever. Sweden and Finland have decided to join NATO. We have adopted new defence plans in NATO. In Germany, we have enshrined in our constitution a special fund of 100 billion euro for the Bundeswehr. Some 80 percent of this has now been committed. Defence Minister Pistorius and I have decided to station a German combat brigade permanently on NATO’s eastern flank, in Lithuania. The NATO summit in Washington in July will show how much Europe is now contributing to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area. That is good news as we mark 75 years of the Alliance.

Russia, by contrast, has not attained a single one of its goals in this war. Putin wanted to take Kyiv in two weeks. Two years on, Ukraine has liberated over half of the territory occupied by Russia. Russia has lost control over the western Black Sea. This is thanks first and foremost to the Ukrainian armed forces. I have the utmost respect for their courage and their hard-fought successes! However, support from all of us has played a part. And that should be an incentive for us now, not to ease up. But rather to continue resolutely on this path. Germany is precisely that: resolute. And at the same time grateful for our united stance, today and in the future. Thank you.