Policy Speech by Christine Lambrecht Federal Minister of Defence on the National Security Strategy of the Federal Republic of Germany, 12 September 2022 Berlin.
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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
ladies and gentlemen,
A warm welcome to you all – and of course to the members of the diplomatic corps as well.
It is a great pleasure and honour to have the opportunity to deliver this policy speech on the National Security Strategy here today.
I just wrote in the visitors’ book that there is no better forum than this in which to speak about something as fundamental as a National Security Strategy, because all the expertise is gathered here, including critical but constructive voices.
And that is important. That is what we need for developing this Strategy right now.
I also believe that this is a very good time to be giving this address. Until a while ago, we would have called it the end of parliament's summer recess. But let us be honest: such breaks do not exist anymore, certainly not this year.
Because naturally we were all concentrating on how to continue to support Ukraine in its courageous struggle. What do they need? How do we organise the military support? And obviously there were other questions to be discussed in this context, such as the energy crisis. How do we prepare for that? How do we deal with inflation?
As you can see, we had our work cut out for us this summer, and it was absolutely worthwhile. Again, thank you for the opportunity to deliver this speech here today.
A guideline and orientation like this has really been long overdue. It should have been done sooner. I am glad that we are doing it now, as we agreed in clear terms in our coalition agreement.
The events of the past months, Russia’s terrible war of aggression against Ukraine, are more proof of how important this document is. As will be the results it will lead to and the conclusions we will draw from it.
The German Council on Foreign Relations is a traditional forum for exchange on German foreign policy. Since 1955, this has been a place for research, discussions and arguments about Germany’s role in the world. Your institution has not only supported but actively shaped the foreign policy of this nation. This is something you can be proud of.
And I am pleased to have the opportunity to meet you, Dr Wolff, so shortly after you assumed your position as the new Director of the Council, and I wish you every success in your new role.
Our discussion today – both between the two of us and the panel discussion later on – is of course part of a larger and rather lively debate we have been having at the Defence Ministry and in the Bundeswehr.
Two weeks ago, it was the topic of the closed meeting of the executive group. These exchanges are crucial as they lead to concrete conclusions for us, and we will continue the debate at the Bundeswehr Commanders’ Conference later this week. This is what is important to me, to make good use of the expertise of the entire Bundeswehr in this context. And that is what we are going to do.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have spent months discussing urgent strategic questions. The energy supply situation has been the focus of intense debate for many weeks now; the high inflation rate, the price of electricity, gas, fuel and groceries is something that affects so many people in this country.
These issues are intimately connected with the brutal war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine in February. This war that is causing death and destruction, displacement and horrible suffering, day by day.
We feel it, too, while offering shelter to so many people seeking refuge from this war in Germany.
And this is why it is so important to ask: are we equipped to deal with such conflicts? And it is a good thing that we have made our positions so clear.
You just said it: our response was resolute. Not only did the Federal Chancellor announce a 100-billion-euro special fund for the Bundeswehr, by now it has been enshrined in our constitution. We have taken a clear stand, across party lines.
It is a remarkable aspect of this special fund that in this crucial question, we were able to put aside party politics and obtain the majority required to amend the constitution. We could not have sent a better message during this time.
We will and we must invest this amount in the operational readiness and combat power of our armed forces.
And I would like you to know that this sum is not an arbitrary number that was picked from thin air to sound huge and important.
This is exactly the amount that we have calculated, that we will need to ensure the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr in the long term, with state-of-the-art equipment and everything else that is needed after years and years of cutbacks.
Which is why I am very happy that the sum has been set at 100 billion, for the Bundeswehr.
It was not easy to get it approved. Because there are other challenges that must be considered in this context, which is part of the allure and the relevance of this National Security Strategy, that we are thinking beyond individual ministries.
That we work together, not only to understand interdependencies, but to identify solutions. It is obvious, for example, that when we talk about an integrated approach to security, questions of development cooperation will play a role as well. Questions of cybersecurity. I have already mentioned the area of energy security.
They are all part of this approach, and it is a good thing that by establishing this special fund, we managed to avoid cuts for other ministries, which would have been unavoidable if we had tried to fund this from our current budget. It would have been completely wrong to skimp on these areas. To allow cuts particularly in those areas that I just mentioned.
So that is another point of relevance: besides the fact that this amount is what we need and what has been made available, other ministries were left untouched.
The special fund is not the only important innovation that was introduced this summer. We made important and major decisions both in NATO and in the European Union.
In NATO, we adopted a new Strategic Concept, a document that underpins our shift of emphasis towards national and collective defence.
The Allies have also decided to accept Finland and Sweden into NATO. What a historic step. After decades of non-alignment, these countries now felt it was time to seek the protection of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. While this strengthens Finland and Sweden, it also strengthens NATO. We will be joined by more well-equipped armed forces. A crucial reinforcement for NATO.
This is so important because we Europeans must increase our own contribution to our security, and we must lighten the burden for the United States in Europe.
This is a concept also taken up by the Strategic Compass, which was adopted by the European Union this spring. This document, too, is the first of its kind. It represents a historic step, showing that we increasingly consider the EU, too, as an instrument of security provision.
At the same time, we are witnessing an ongoing polarisation of the political and public debate in the United States, our most important Ally.
The domestic situation in the United States is of major importance for us and our security. The Trump administration turned the spotlight on our dependency on American security guarantees and prompted many questions.
While it is as clear as ever that the US is still irreplaceable as a protective power for Europe, we also know that we Europeans must at the same time develop forces and capabilities to make us stronger, increase our operational readiness and enhance our credibility in matters of security.
One reason is that we have witnessed a dramatic worsening of the situation in the Strait of Taiwan this summer. US forces will be increasingly tied up in Indo-Pacific theatres, which will become more and more important. It is therefore our task to do more for Europe.
This short overview, which is by no means complete, shows
Ladies and gentlemen,
The National Security Strategy is an important project. The urgent strategic questions require more than just good crisis management and quick responses.
That is what everybody is asking for nowadays. But we need long-term policies, well-founded and soundly financed. And most importantly, one thing is needed in Germany, from all of us, and that is change.
Let me make this clear: with caution alone, by simply invoking the established traditions of post-war Germany, we will not be able to ensure our security in the future. A future of peace and freedom for our children and grandchildren cannot be guaranteed by reverting to old identities.
Which is why I am telling you: if we want this free and peaceful future, we will have to change course. We will have to recognise that security, and that means military security as well, is a key task of this country – and act accordingly.
Security will once more become one of the main responsibilities of the state. Based on one single concept, shared across ministerial divides, as the notion of an “integrated approach to security” suggests. But at the same time, and this is very important to me, we must be aware of the boundaries between internal and external security that are laid down in our constitution and which must not become blurred.
This, too, is a clear message: as much as we want to pursue an integrated approach, this we must understand, and this we will observe.
As Minister of Defence, I can tell you that the Bundeswehr in particular will play a more significant role in our future political thinking and acting.
We have become used to perceiving our armed forces exclusively as a player in crisis management operations abroad or as a provider of administrative assistance – to help fight the pandemic, floods, or forest fires. Those times are over. We must return to seeing the Bundeswehr as an organisation that provides an essential public service – every day.
Our armed forces are not just our own insurance policy. They are our contribution to a common pool from which everyone in Europe and in the Atlantic region draws security. During the Cold War, we were the biggest beneficiary of this arrangement. Today, we must be one of the largest providers of forces.
And at this point I would like to say, because this is something that is being discussed right now: will they – NATO, our Allies – be able to rely on us, like we relied on them during the Cold War? Like we relied on them to stand by our side? As the Minister of Defence, let me make this very clear: we must guarantee that they can!
This, too, will have to be discussed thoroughly within NATO. I understand that in his recent, much-cited statements the NATO Secretary General called upon us all to find ways of further and more extensively supporting Ukraine.
But not at the expense of what we have just pledged in Madrid: to further increase German contributions, be a reliable partner and thus strengthen the trust placed in us. This is what I gathered from his words, and this is also something that defines us: being a reliable partner.
Especially our Allies on the eastern flank are counting on our reliability, and the Chief of Defence and I have once more discussed all possible options at the weekend. Of course there will be more support for Ukraine, but we must all be clear about the fact that we will be honouring our obligations and our Allies will be able to rely on us.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is hardly surprising that, after the crimes we committed during the Nazi regime and after the war of extermination waged by German forces in Europe, our people have made a virtue out of a certain scepticism towards anything military – for the past years, even decades.
But today we can state that the Germany that committed these acts has been gone for almost 80 years. The Bundeswehr has nothing in common with the armed forces in the Third Reich.
Germany is a democracy, firmly integrated, with peaceful intentions. Germany’s armed forces are part of society, they are not separate. They have sworn to uphold the free and democratic constitutional order. This is what is important, and special, and this is what must be emphasised at every solemn pledge ceremony. Our armed forces practice conscientious, not unconditional obedience.
73 years of democracy and 67 years of democratic armed forces in Germany have created a different country, a different trust, and a different self-confidence.
And this tradition of freedom and peace in particular has created new expectations and greater responsibility, in military terms as well.
The war in Ukraine has made it clear to everyone, even to us Germans, who have become so accustomed to living in peace, that nations need armed forces as a last resort.
We need them every time we face an enemy determined to make use of invasion, destruction, killing and displacement to attain their ends.
This is what is happening today, at this moment, in our immediate neighbourhood.
The only reason that Ukraine still exists is because it can defend itself with military means. The lesson to be learned from this is the following: we, too, need strong, combat-ready armed forces so that we can defend ourselves and our Alliance, if need be.
In 2022, this is no longer a theoretical scenario. It is a political reality.
For the National Security Strategy, this means: not just as a budget position, but in conceptual terms, too, the Bundeswehr is a primary instrument of security provision. It is not a secondary topic. We should not be ashamed of its existence. It must return to the spotlight. We must all understand this. We argue about money, we did that during last week’s budget debate, of course we did, but before everything else we must argue about what we want to and must be able to accomplish.
The real “Zeitenwende”, after all, is not primarily a matter of funding, but a question of mindset. And we all know that this is the hardest change to make.
Changing your mind is painful. Re-evaluating one’s convictions, changing a political culture, adapting one’s behaviour – this is the real challenge of our time.
This includes, by the way, decisions on what German forces will not be expected to provide anymore in the future. That is important. The National Security Strategy can shed light on this as well.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It has become clear by now that at its heart, this debate is about how Germany understands its role as a nation, as a neighbour, as a democracy, as an ally.
In short, it is about what it means to be a leading nation.
This may feel alien to us, not only when it comes to the military. But this wariness fails to take note of something very important, namely that Germany effectively leads even when it does not want to.
Germany’s size, its geographic location, its economic power, in short: its heft makes it a leading power whether we want to or not. And that includes the military domain.
With this comes great responsibility. We can see that in the questions we are asked: will the German military really be there when it is needed? Is Germany really capable of fighting for the protection of its NATO Allies? Will we really be there, when push comes to shove, or does Article 5 exist only on paper for us?
The National Security Strategy must give a clear and credible answer to this.
What, then, does Germany’s leading role entail?
We built this trust after the war by being extremely cautious and prudent. Back then, that was the right thing to do.
Today we build trust by taking a stand, being prepared, contributing substantially, being present, sharing burdens, and if need be, larger burdens than others. These investments in security that we are now making will ultimately be to Germany’s own benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The most important message I have for you today is this: Germany can do this.
Germany has no reason to be afraid of this new role. Because
Especially given our history, we can take a level-headed perspective on power and everything military.
And this is exactly what enables us to be a reliable partner, a rational, judicious but still resolute partner – including in the military realm.
In this spirit of level-headed and judicious commitment, we will now write our National Security Strategy.
In my opinion, this document will have three purposes:
Let me therefore give you a brief explanation of these three points:
1. Germany and Europe depend on a security architecture whose stability they cannot ensure on their own. The guarantor of our security is our most important Ally, the United States of America.
This Ally has now, for good reason, turned its focus towards security in the Pacific region, however.
In future, it may thus not be able to guarantee the defence of Europe to the extent that it used to in the past.
The consequences are obvious: we Europeans, and before anyone else that means we Germans, must make more efforts towards credibly projecting enough military strength that other powers will not even think about attacking us.
2. For the foreseeable future, there will be no substitute for America’s nuclear deterrence, which also protects Europe from blackmail.
It is absolutely imperative for us Europeans that it is maintained. We must work on this together with Washington and within NATO.
And we must underpin the Alliance’s nuclear sharing with the necessary resources and capabilities.
Which is why our decision to renew and continue to keep ready our own capabilities – to purchase the F35 to succeed the Tornado systems – was so important.
3. NATO remains the cornerstone of our security. It anchors America to Europe.
At the same time it is a place where Europeans show their solidarity with the United States. We must foster, appreciate and strengthen this Alliance.
And especially as Europeans, we must therefore become much stronger within NATO to ensure our own security. And to show the Americans that we are committed Allies that know what their obligations are.
4. For decades, the protection of the United States has saved us costs that we would otherwise have had to pay ourselves. This is a truth that needs to be stated.
Therefore, the more we have to and want to do ourselves, the higher the price. And this comes at a time when our economy is under pressure, inflation leads to dwindling purchasing power and we are increasingly losing room for manoeuvre.
Let us not fool ourselves: if we must increase our efforts with fewer resources, we are going to need an internal redistribution.
Therefore, there will have to be political decisions about which public services should be prioritised in the allocation of state funds.
Our best argument in this dilemma is a clear, analytical look at the threat situation, at the very real risks to our system, to our peace and freedom.
And we will have to consistently and convincingly explain this. This is another important task of the National Security Strategy.
5. Let me be perfectly clear: military security is not a frivolous game with expensive toys. It is an essential component of existential security.
It is a task that is deeply embedded in the nature of the state as a guarantor of freedom.
And it is even more: it is a promise of protection for the future. A promise that we must keep at all costs. We must make investments today that will enable future generations to enjoy the same freedom that we enjoy today.
Military security, deterrence, operational readiness – these are all matters of intergenerational justice.
And this is what we have to ultimately lay down in the National Security Strategy.
These considerations have some very practical implications:
1. For the Bundeswehr, national and collective defence will in future be at the top of the agenda.
Core business is core business again. Of course, we will still have to shoulder operations abroad in the context of international crisis management. They, too, continue to be relevant for our security.
The focus, however, is clear. We are already in the process of adapting Bundeswehr structures accordingly, for example by setting up the new Territorial Operations Command.
2. We will have to spend more on defence.
Intergenerational justice does not come for cheap. Modern armed forces are expensive.
They generate high operating costs for
If the “Zeitenwende” is to be sustainable, if we are to succeed in our task of providing security, then we will have to spend even more on defence. Real money, not abstract metrics. This is a hard truth that we must all come to understand.
The direction is clear: we have committed to the two percent goal in NATO. We agreed on it together in 2014 at the NATO summit in Wales. And the Federal Chancellor confirmed it again in his “Zeitenwende” speech.
Two percent of our economic output for our security. It is important to talk about it, and in NATO we will have to take the next decision on financing in 2024, so we will certainly be discussing this matter, including what capabilities we need to be a strong Alliance and live up to our responsibility. And create a clearer picture.
That is the right thing to do. But it should not distract us from the fact that at the end of the day, we need this sum of money. It will be specified further, the details will be hammered out, but ultimately, this is the money we need, no ifs or buts.
More than anything, we need it for the long term: to ensure that the 100 billion euros, all the effort that we are now investing will not be in vain, if in a few years’ time we are faced with a similar situation to now. Where equipment has been procured, but cannot be maintained because the spare parts were not procured at the same time. That simply cannot be.
Or, where it is not possible to provide the appropriate infrastructure. That is why our efforts must be sustainable. 100 billion euros is an immense sum. But it must be financed sustainably, so that the investments we make now will be available for our security in the long run.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We must foster NATO, the Alliance that we benefit from so much, keep it strong and step up our game.
For Germany that means, on the one hand, to consistently commit now to securing the eastern flank of the Alliance: we said we would, and I am prepared to comply with this commitment.
We already have a strong presence there. And we are, right at this moment, further increasing our presence by deploying brigade elements to Lithuania.
On the other hand, it means that we must meet the NATO planning goals as agreed.
This may sound technical or even trivial, but it is of high political relevance. Our credibility depends on it. It is a budgetary and military effort that must succeed.
For instance, we want to provide three operationally ready and combat-capable army divisions by the 2030s. They will be fully equipped, with three brigades each, plus additional forces.
We need not only the equipment and the personnel, but also the money to operate, maintain, train, and exercise all of that.
If we are successful, the message will surely be heard:
We must make Europe stronger from the inside.
I believe that the European Union, too, can play a role in ensuring that European nations do more for their own security. We should fully exploit this potential.
For example in the area of procurement. If we want to collaborate better on acquisitions, we need joint European procurement agencies.
We have two of them: one is the EDAEuropäische Verteidigungsagentur in Brussels. We are making it stronger, soon there will be a German Deputy Chief Executive.
The second agency is OCCAROrganisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d’Armement. We want to enlarge it to include all EU Member States. This will provide more momentum for increased cooperation.
Another big project is military mobility, i.e. better infrastructure for faster logistics.
The EU has earmarked 1.5 billion euros from its budget for this project. Germany is one of the main contributors, due to its special obligation as a central hub and host nation. I will work to ensure that we step up our efforts in this area even more.
As a third example, I would like to cite the European Defence Fund. We are using this money for capability research and to promote capability development. Better use should be made of the EDF, including by Germany. There is great untapped potential here. The fund should also be augmented significantly. The need for such a boost is obvious in the current situation.
Generally, we can say that the EU has a sufficient number of tools at its disposal. But we, the Member States, have to accept and make use of these tools. The EU, that is us!
We cannot just look to Brussels and hope for somebody else to do the work. The onus is on all of us. That includes Germany.
This is also true, by the way, with regard to European armaments cooperation. It is our goal in the EU to spend 35 percent of our armament investments on joint procurement. Right now, it is a mere eight percent. There is much room for improvement here.
I know that multilateral projects can be difficult. I see that in the negotiations in which I take part. But there is no other way
Germany has to get better here, as we are still complicating these cooperative projects by insisting on special arms export regulations.
My question is: how can we expect our partners to invest in joint projects with us if they have to worry about us hindering exports, hampering refinancing?
With our moral reservations, we put ourselves above our European partners. But what do European values even mean if we tell our partners that their morality is not good enough?
After all, we are not talking about weapon sales to rogue regimes. We are talking about exports that, say, France, Italy and Spain deem acceptable – how can we justify doing our own thing then? I do not think we can.
We like to invoke the European spirit, and for good reason. In this case, it translates into a concrete obligation:
We have to review German export regulations to truly drive European armaments cooperation forward.
I will put this on my agenda and the National Security Strategy should push in the same direction.
Let me get back to the culture change I referred to earlier:
Part of this change will be us policymakers understanding that we have long had public support for Germany's new role.
Every survey confirms this, be it about support for Ukraine, the Bundeswehr, or NATO. And this is also my personal experience as a politician. My personal discussions with citizens may not be representative, but the surveys speak a clear language.
Despite all the support, one thing is for certain: there is no tendency at all towards sabre-rattling or militarisation among our population. That is hardly surprising.
Germans have a very keen sense of this. They have an astute understanding of what is possible, what is necessary and what is unthinkable.
Let us trust ourselves and the citizens of our country as we lead Germany towards its new role, which time and circumstance require. For most people in this country, this is much less controversial than we may sometimes believe in our so-called Berlin bubble.
This culture change should find a concrete and visible expression on the political stage in Berlin.
This is why I suggest we establish a yearly “national security day” at the German parliament and elsewhere.
A day to learn about, discuss and debate all aspects of our security, be it
So as not to ignore these topics, but acknowledge them, be open for debate – and then learn and draw conclusions from that.
It should be a public, citizen-centred and interministerial event, organised together with partner organisations from all areas of security provision, in line with a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach to security.
This, ladies and gentlemen, would be the kind of landmark format for parliament and society befitting of the new National Security Strategy and well-suited to Germany’s new role. It would also be a format that reflects the new global situation that we must take an active part in.
We are facing an extraordinary situation in foreign and security policy right now. We are all well aware of that.My plea at the end of my remarks is this: let us Germans show ambition! Ambition when it comes to resolving this situation and to securing our future. Let us make a significant and generous contribution, with confidence and the willingness to make a difference.Let this ambition guide us as we develop our National Security Strategy.
Thank you very much.