Germany

“Without Security, Nothing else Matters”

Federal Chancellor at the Munich Security Conference

February 17th, 2024
Editorial, News from Berlin
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In a speech to the Munich Security Conference, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for NATO to strengthen its deterrent potential and continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. Scholz acknowledged this would be expensive, but he stressed there is no alternative.

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has been going on for two years. “Every day, Russian aggression costs the lives of innocent victims,” said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in his speech at the Munich Security Conference. He went on to say that despite enormous losses in Russia's own ranks, President Putin was not letting himself be dissuaded from his imperialist dreams of returning Russia to the status of a great power.

Putin’s plan to conquer Ukraine quickly had failed, he said, but Russia had switched its economy to a war economy and expanded and strengthened its military potential, nevertheless. “Are we doing enough when everyone knows exactly what a Russian victory in Ukraine would mean?” the Federal Chancellor asked.

A credible deterrent to Russia

“The threat from Russia is real. That is why our deterrent must be credible and remain credible,” the Federal Chancellor said. No member state of NATO wanted a conflict with Russia, Scholz said, which was why all supp orters of Ukraine agreed that there must be no American or European troops in Ukraine. At the same time, Scholz noted that Russia had been warned repeatedly that NATO, the world’s strongest military alliance, would defend every square meter of its alliance territory.

In this regard, Scholz said, it was important to strengthen the European pillar of the alliance and thereby boost NATO’s deterrent effect. “As Europeans, we must do much more to look after our security,” the Federal Chancellor warned. Scholz pledged that Germany would invest 2 percent of its GDP on defence this year and every year from now on, through the 2020s and 2030s and beyond.

He also stressed that the transatlantic alliance and its mutual guarantee of assistance are vital for a functioning deterrent. “Any relativisation of NATO's guarantee of assistance will only benefit those who want to weaken us.”

Support for Ukraine must not collapse

Germany would continue to stand alongside Ukraine and had given far-reaching financial commitments for future support, the Federal Chancellor said. “I very much hope – and I am urgently calling on others to follow our lead here – that similar decisions will be taken in all EU capitals.” 

“I know it's not easy,” Scholz said, and stressed that it was not easy for Germany, either, but there was no alternative. “Without security, nothing else matters.” The Federal Chancellor promoted a fair distribution of burdens among Ukraine's supporters. This was the only way to address the currently greatest security threat on the European continent and its consequences, he said. 

The fact that the Russian army had not achieved its goals in Ukraine even two years after the outbreak of the war was "first and foremost the merit of the Ukrainian armed forces," said Scholz, expressing his utmost respect for their courage and hard-won successes. "But the support provided by all of us also contributed to this," he pointed out adding that this was an incentive not to let up now, but to continue on a determined path. Germany was prepared for this, the Federal Chancellor said.

The Munich Security Conference is regarded as the world’s most important expert meeting on security policy and celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2024. The international conference provides a forum for politicians, military and business representatives, non-governmental organisations and experts on security-related topics to hold talks outside diplomatic and protocol requirements. The aim is to conduct a broad debate on current foreign, security and defence policy issues.

Conversations in smaller groups

In addition, the Security Conference always provides the opportunity for direct talks with political actors. In Munich, Federal Chancellor Scholz met US Vice President Kamala Harris, delegations from the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, amongst others.

Federal Chancellor Scholz also met Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. During the meetings he urged for a swift conclusion to the peace negotiations between the two countries. Germany and Europe would be ready to support this as much as possible, he said, including through the efforts of EU Council President Charles Michel.

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News from Berlin