After the change of time

Politics begins with the analysis of reality.

31 July 2022 Sunday 03:48
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After the change of time

Politics begins with the analysis of reality. And precisely at times when we don't like it. Part of the reality is that imperialism has returned to Europe. Many hoped that a close economic network and mutual dependencies would, at the same time, guarantee stability and security. With his war against Ukraine, Putin has now shattered this hope in a way that is obvious to all. Russian missiles have not only caused enormous destruction in Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kherson, but have also left the European and international peace order of the last decades in ruins.

In addition, the situation of our Bundeswehr (Federal Armed Forces) and civil defense structures, but also our extreme dependence on Russian energy, are an indication that after the end of the Cold War we clung to a false sense of security. . Politics and economics and large sections of our society were overjoyed to conclude, with far-reaching consequences, from the dictum of a former German Defense Minister, that Germany was surrounded exclusively by friends.

This was a mistake.

After the change of era brought about by Putin's attack, nothing is as it used to be. Thus, things cannot remain as they are now. However, the mere realization that we are facing a change of era does not constitute a program. From the change of era derives a mandate for action: for our country, for Europe, for the international community. We have to make Germany more secure and resilient, the European Union more sovereign and the international order more forward-looking.

Part of the new reality is the one hundred billion euros that we have agreed as a special heritage for the Bundeswehr. They mark the biggest turning point in the security policy of the Federal Republic of Germany. We are equipping our military with the material and skills they need to be able to vigorously defend our country and our allies in these new times. We are simplifying and accelerating the very slow public procurement procedures. We are supporting Ukraine and we will do so as long as the country needs such support, be it economic, humanitarian, financial and in the form of weapons supplies. At the same time we take care that NATO does not become a belligerent party. Finally, we are ending our dependency on Russia for energy policy. We have already achieved this on coal. We intend to suspend oil imports by the end of this year. Regarding gas, the percentage of imports from Russia has decreased from 55% to 30%.

This road is not easy, even for a country as solid and prosperous as ours. We will have to be persistent. Already at this time, many citizens are suffering the consequences of the war, especially with regard to the high prices of gasoline and food. Many anxiously await the next bill for electricity, heating oil or gas. Therefore, the Federal Government has launched financial aid well above thirty billion euros in order to support citizens. The various measures are starting to have an effect.

However, it is also true that the world economy is facing a challenge unknown for decades. Disrupted supply chains, shortages of raw materials, insecurity in energy markets due to war: all of these drive prices up globally. No country in the world can stand alone against such a development. We have to be united and join forces, as we agreed in our country in the framework of concerted action between employers, trade unions, science and policy makers. I am sure that we will then emerge stronger and more independent from the crisis than when we entered it. That is our goal!

After having assumed the Government we soon decided to free ourselves as soon as possible from dependence on Russia in energy matters. Already last December, that is, two months before the start of the war, we dealt with the question of how we could ensure, if necessary, the energy supply of our country. When Putin started his war in February we were able to act. Plans, for example, for the diversification of our suppliers or the construction of liquefied gas terminals were already on the table. They are now being aggressively addressed. Much to our regret, however, we will have to temporarily reconnect coal-fired power plants to the grid. We set a minimum fill level for gas tanks; strangely it had not been established before. Currently the tanks are already much fuller than at this point last year. At the same time, the current situation reaffirms our goal of expanding renewable energy much faster than we have done so far. Consequently, the Federal Government has considerably accelerated the planning procedures for, for example, solar energy systems and wind power plants. Likewise, it is also true that the more energy we can all save –industry, households, cities and municipalities– in the coming months, the better.

We are not walking this path alone. We are united in the European Union and with NATO we are part of a strong military alliance. And we act based on firm convictions: out of solidarity with Ukraine, whose existence is in danger, but also to protect our own security. If Putin stops the gas supply, he will be using energy as a weapon, also against us. Not even the Soviet Union did this during the Cold War.

If we don't stand up to Putin's aggression now, he could continue. We have already seen it: the invasion of Georgia in 2008; then the annexation of Crimea in 2014; the attack on eastern Ukraine and finally, in February this year, on the entire country. Allowing Putin to get away with it would mean that violence could break the law with virtually no consequences. In that case, in the end, our own freedom and security would also be in danger.

"We cannot rule out the possibility of an attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Allies." This phrase is included in the new NATO Strategic Concept agreed upon by the thirty allies at their Summit held at the end of June in Madrid. We take this sentence seriously and act accordingly. Germany will greatly strengthen its presence in the eastern part of the Alliance; in Lithuania, in Slovakia and in the Baltic Sea. We do this to deter Russia from attacking our Alliance. And at the same time we make the following clear: yes, we are ready to defend each part of our Alliance, just as we would defend our own country. That's a compromise. In the same way we can trust the commitment of each one of our allies.

The new reality includes that the European Union has also come together more closely in recent months. It has reacted to Russia's aggression with a broad consensus and has applied unprecedentedly harsh sanctions. The sanctions take effect, every day a little more. And make no mistake, Putin knew from the start that we would probably have to keep our sanctions in place for a long time. It is also clear to us that in the face of a peace dictated by Russia, not a single one of these sanctions will be lifted. Russia will have no choice but to conclude an agreement with Ukraine on such terms that the Ukrainian men and women can accept.

Putin wants to divide our continent into zones of influence; into great powers and vassal states. We know the catastrophes to which this has led us in the past in Europe. For this reason, at the last European Council we offered an unequivocal answer. An answer that will change the face of Europe forever: we granted Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova candidate country status and reaffirmed Georgia's European future. We made it clear that the prospect of membership of the six countries of the Western Balkans must at last become a reality. This promise is valid. These countries belong to our European family. We want them to be part of the European Union. Of course the road includes numerous conditions. Pronouncing this openly is important because there would be nothing worse than giving false hope to millions of citizens. But the way is open and the goal is defined.

In recent years there have often been calls, and rightly so, for the EU to become a geopolitical actor. It is an ambitious requirement, but it is correct. Through the historic decisions of the past few months, the European Union took an important step in that direction. With unparalleled determination and unity, we affirm that Putin's neo-imperialism must not succeed. However, we should not limit ourselves to that. Our goal must be to close ranks in all the areas where we in Europe have struggled to find solutions for too long: for example, in terms of migration policy, the construction of a European defense, technological sovereignty and resilience democratic. In this regard, Germany will present concrete proposals in the coming months.

We are well aware of the consequences of our decision in favor of a geopolitical European Union. The European Union is the living antithesis of imperialism and autocracy. That is why it is a nuisance for power holders like Putin. Constant disagreement, constant dissent between Member States weakens us. Therefore, Europe's most important response to the change of times is unity. We have to preserve it at all costs and we have to deepen it. To me that means: no more selfish blocking of European decisions by individual Member States. Enough of solo performances harming Europe as a whole. National vetoes, for example, in foreign policy, are luxuries that we can no longer afford if we want to continue to be taken into account in a world of great powers in competition.

At the global level too, the change of era seems like a burning mirror that exacerbates already existing problems, such as poverty, hunger, interrupted supply chains and energy shortages. It also reveals in an extremely violent way the consequences of an imperialist and revanchist power politics. Putin's treatment of Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe has neo-colonial features. Putin openly dreams of building a new empire modeled on the Soviet Union or the empire of the tsars.

The world's autocrats are watching closely to see if it succeeds. In the 21st century, does the law of the strongest or the force of the law prevail? Is the multilateral world order being replaced by lawlessness in our multipolar world? We are faced with these very specific questions.

I know from conversations with our partners in the Global South that many of them recognize the risks. However, the war in Europe for many is very far away, while the consequences of it are perceived very directly. In this situation, it is worth taking into account what unites us with many countries of the Global South: the commitment to democracy, regardless of whether it has different characteristics than in our country; the Charter of the United Nations; the law Empire; the fundamental values ​​of freedom, equality, solidarity, the dignity of each person. These values ​​are not linked to the West as a geographical place. We share them with citizens from all over the world. In order to defend these values ​​against autocracy and authoritarianism, we need a new cooperation between democracies on a global level, beyond the West in the traditional sense.

To achieve this we have to make the concerns of the Global South our own; we must avoid double standards and honor our commitments to these countries. On too many occasions we speak of an "equal to equal" treatment, without really putting it into practice. We have to change this for the simple fact that many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have long been on an equal footing with us in terms of population and economic power. I very intentionally invited my colleagues from India, South Africa, Indonesia, Senegal and Argentina to the G7 Summit in Germany recently. Together with them and with many other democratic countries, we are developing solutions for the problems of our times: the food crisis, climate change or the pandemic. In all these areas we made tangible progress at the G7 Summit. These advances build trust; also confidence in our country.

This will serve as a foundation when Germany assumes its responsibility to Europe and to the world in these difficult times. Leading has to mean bringing together, both working out solutions together with others and giving up acting alone, and connecting, as a country located in the center of Europe that was on both sides of the Iron Curtain, East and West, North and South. of Europe.

Putin's propaganda alleges that Germany and Europe have sunk into self-convinced saturation; that their post-heroic societies are unable to defend their values ​​against resistance. The same was stated even recently by some observers around here. During the last few months we have witnessed a different reality, a new reality.

The European Union is more attractive than ever; it is opening up to new members and, at the same time, it is going to be reformed. NATO has seldom been so full of life, and with Sweden and Finland it is gaining two strong friends. Across the globe democratic countries are drawing closer and new alliances are emerging.

Germany, too, is transforming itself in light of the changing times. The change of time makes us aware of the value of democracy and freedom and that it is worth defending them. This releases a new force. Force that we will need during the next months. Strength with which we can design the future together. Force that our country, in reality, carries within.



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