"All of us together will be needed," says Chancellor

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The Chancellor at the 55th Munich Security Conference "All of us together will be needed," says Chancellor

"The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?" was the theme of this year’s Munich Security Conference. For the Chancellor the answer is very clear. "All of us together will be needed." In her speech Angela Merkel called for multilateral structures to be further developed.

6 min reading time

Angela Merkel speaks at the Munich Security Conference.

In Munich Angela Merkel strongly advocated pushing forward with the development of multilateral structures

Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Excerpts from the speech given by Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Munich Security Conference


"Yes, we need NATO as an anchor of stability in stormy seas. We need it as a community of shared values, and we should never forget that we founded NATO not only as a military alliance but as a community of values, in which human rights, democracy and the rule of law guide our common actions.

We have seen in recent months that NATO is still extremely attractive, when we grappled with whether North Macedonia, as we can now thankfully all call it, could become a member of NATO."

Relations with Russia

"Russia, in the form of the Soviet Union, was, as it were, the antagonist during the Cold War. After the Berlin Wall came down we really did hope that we could come together and live together better. This was also the era of the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

If I look back now and recall that in 2011 on the margins of this Security Conference, Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov exchanged the ratification papers for the New START strategic arms reduction treaty, it seems very long ago, from our stance today in 2019. But at that time both of them spoke of a milestone in the strategic partnership. I tell you this to point out firstly what has happened over the last few years, but also to show you that things can look quite different again in another few years, if the different sides engage with one another."

International arms control

"For us Europeans, if I may be so bold, the really bad news this year was the announcement of the cancelling of the INF Treaty. After not decades, but years of violations of the terms of the treaty by Russia, this was unavoidable.

We Europeans all understood this. Nevertheless – and I say this to our American colleagues – it leaves us with a very interesting constellation: a treaty that was essentially designed for Europe, an arms reduction treaty that directly affects our security, has been cancelled by the United States of America and Russia (the legal successor to the Soviet Union). And we are left sitting there. Given our elemental interest we will obviously make every attempt to facilitate further arms reduction. The answer cannot be a blind arms race."

Defence spending

"Now Germany is facing criticism in this context [for the sum of its defence spending].

We have, however, raised our defence spending from 1.18 per cent in 2014 to 1.35 per cent. By 2024 we aim to be at 1.5 per cent. Many people think this is still not enough, but for us it is a huge leap.

Naturally we must also ask what we are going to do with the cash? Let me put it this way: if we all fall into recession and economic growth slows to zero, then it will be easier with the defence spending. But I don’t think that that is in the best interests of the Alliance. That is why it is right on the one hand to have these targets as a guideline, but it is also right to consider what our contributions are."

Germany’s international contribution

"Germany makes its contribution. We have now been in Afghanistan for 18 years, and about 1,300 German soldiers, male and female, are serving there. [...]

We are the framework nation in Lithuania. We have assumed command of the NATO spearhead for the second time. I’m not going to list everything, but all of these things are useful, particularly in terms of defending the Alliance. So, we are ready and willing to make our contribution.

We are now also active outside NATO – in Mali for instance. That was a huge step for Germany, since missions of this sort have not been part of our cultural practice in the way they have been for our French friends, for instance."

Displacement and migration

"The refugee question has been driven by the situation in Syria, where we have a civil war that also involves terrorist challenges. This poses a security challenge of an entirely different nature than we would have, for instance, were we called on to defend the Alliance.

Europe faced the question as to whether we are prepared to accept certain responsibility in the face of a humanitarian, civilizational drama – or not. The fact that so many refugees came to Europe was connected to the fact that we had not addressed the situation of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey at an earlier stage. Three million or more refugees had already arrived there.

The stability of these countries was genuinely jeopardised. And that drove the refugees to place their trust in human traffickers and smugglers and to say: we’ll try something else."

Development policy

"Over this same period – the period in which the Wales resolutions were adopted, in which we within NATO are moving towards the 2 per cent guideline – we have raised our development spending on the same scale, because we are convinced that development is also a security issue.

We are already one of the world’s largest donors, but if we do not at last pay enough for humanitarian aid, for Welthungerhilfe and for UNHCR, so that people can live better with their help, we will only perpetuate the refugee drama."

Iran’s nuclear programme

"Then we have the matter of Iran, an issue which is currently dividing us. We must be careful about this division, which troubles me greatly. In a speech in front of the Knesset I pledged that Israel’s right to exist is part of Germany’s reason of state. And I meant exactly what I said. I see the ballistic missile programme. I see Iran in Yemen. And above all I see Iran in Syria.

The only question that stands between us, between the United States and the Europeans is, do we further our common cause, do we help achieve our common goal of stemming the harmful impacts and the difficult impacts of Iran by leaving the only remaining agreement, or would we better serve our common cause by retaining the small anchor we have, in the hope that this will enable us to exert pressure in other areas too. That is the tactical question that divides us. Our goals are naturally the same."

Economic relations and world trade

"I support every effort to achieve fairness and trade. I am speaking here about reciprocity. That is something we need to talk about. We should do so in a spirit of partnership and in view of the fact that we still have so many other problems in the world to resolve that it would be helpful to reach an agreement. I have great hopes of the negotiations that are currently ongoing with the United States of America in the field of trade.

I will say this quite openly. If we are serious about the transatlantic partnership it is not easy for me as German Chancellor to read that apparently – I haven’t actually seen this in writing with my own eyes – the US Secretary of Commerce maintains that European cars are a threat to the national security of the United States of America.

You must understand. We are proud of our cars and we have every reason to be proud. These cars are also manufactured in the United States of America. BMW’s largest plant is in South Carolina – not in Bavaria – in South Carolina. And South Carolina exports cars to China. These cars cannot be less threatening because they were manufactured in South Carolina than they would be if they had been manufactured in Bavaria. If these cars are suddenly viewed as threat to the national security of the United States of America, then we are shocked."