“National defence equals collective defence”, stressed Defence Minister Boris Pistorius at the 2023 Munich Security Conference. He explained this in more detail in his keynote speech on NATO’s eastern flank. He also shared some childhood memories in his speech.
Minister Pistorius said that, having grown up in Osnabrück during the Cold War, he was very familiar with the eastern flank – as Germany had been NATO’s eastern flank when he was a boy. He said he had felt very safe in his home region at the time, because of the Allies’ presence. The eastern flank might have shifted since then, the Minister added in his speech, but unfortunately, “we are faced with a massive threat to our freedom and security” once more, he said, addressing the “brutal war of aggression and conquest” waged by Russia against Ukraine. “And that is why for me it is only natural that in Germany we show the same solidarity today. The security of the Baltics and Poland and that of all our Allies is also Germany’s security.”
A show of force was necessary, he opined, as tough economic sanctions had remained ineffective. To this end, Germany was delivering weapons, equipment, and ammunition and training Ukrainian personnel. Pistorius underlined that he had assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Kyiv “that Germany would help for as long as it takes.”
He added that the United States was an important partner that had “always guaranteed European security”. “At the same time, Europe must do more, a lot more.” “A stronger Europe for a stronger NATO,” as Pistorius emphatically put it, stressing that Sweden and Finland should become part of the Alliance, and reminding the audience that both nations had excellent armed forces and much eastern flank experience.
Pistorius maintained that Germany stood ready to take on even more responsibility: “To us, national defence equals collective defence.” Germany would meet the NATO capability goals by 2025 and was strongly committed to the two-percent pledge. “I will be working hard to make sure we finally achieve this overdue target”, Pistorius promised. He went on to say that Germany would be a powerful military partner cooperating with and supporting its allies – not only with regard to national and collective defence, but also to international crisis management. Because there were other regions, too, where “security and stability are at stake – above all the Indo-Pacific region”, the Minister argued.
During the subsequent panel discussion on NATO’s eastern flank, Latvian President Egils Levits referred to Minister Pistorius’ speech: “You rightly said that national defence is collective defence.” Together, what would soon be the 32 countries of NATO would be much stronger than Russia, President Levits said with a nod to Finland’s and Sweden’s requests to join NATO.
Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway, stressed that it was time to think about the future of European security, expressly including resilience. In order to be better equipped for the challenges of the future, Minister of Defence Pistorius and his Norwegian counterpart Bjørn Arild Gram signed an agreement on the common procurement of ground systems at the Munich Security Conference.