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Comments by: Heiko Maas, SPD, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Questions/report: Mitri Sirin
Broadcast on: 1.12.2020 / 7.07 a.m.
Question: (...) What could the announced withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan mean for German troops and other NATO Allies?
Answer: We hope today to receive some detailed information on this from the US Secretary of State. It is important for us that the parts of the US troops needed for the security of German servicemen and women remain in Afghanistan. Evacuation helicopters are one example. (...)
Otherwise, we will no longer be able to guarantee the security of German soldiers in Afghanistan. That applies ... to soldiers from other countries, too. And that’s why it is very important that the right soldiers remain among the 2,500 US service men and women who will stay in the country, so that other armed forces in Afghanistan are not put at risk by the withdrawal of the Americans.
Question: (...) If these important US soldiers do not remain stationed there, should the Bundeswehr soldiers then stay in Afghanistan?
Answer: The Bundeswehr soldiers cannot and should not stay in Afghanistan forever. We have a mandate from the German Bundestag. It applies until 31March 2021. And we are currently preparing for that. For the first time in 20 years, there is a peace process in Afghanistan in which the Afghan Government and the Taliban are sitting down together to negotiate a peace treaty. And this should naturally be safeguarded by the presence of international armed forces, too.
That means we need to see the two processes jointly. In other words, the withdrawal of the international armed forces from Afghanistan should be coordinated with the peace talks. And that’s why it is important that we work extremely closely together here. We also hope this will work better with the new Biden Administration than with the current one.
Question: (...) Do you think ... it will be possible to convince the new US Administration not to withdraw the troops from Germany?
Answer: We will definitely discuss this with the new US Administration. In any case, the processes that have been started take a very, very long time, so the US won’t withdraw its soldiers from one day to the next. That’s why we’re very curious to know what the Biden Administration has to say about this.
And naturally we are happy to keep the US servicemen and women in Germany. By the way, their presence not only fosters German security, it also makes Europe more secure. And we will certainly discuss this with the new Administration. I hope this will also work better than has been the case so far.
Question: (...) NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has now presented wide-ranging reform plans. For example, NATO and the EU should cooperate more closely on the military level. How much substance does this have?
Answer: It has a lot of substance. And it actually also reflects what we are aiming to do within the European Union. We want to strengthen the European pillar in NATO. I think this is also very important because I assume that many things will improve with Joe Biden, but that not everything will change, so we will need to do more ourselves to look after our interests.
And we will need to discuss how Europe can do more in its immediate neighbourhood, for example in Africa. We do this in Libya, but also in the Sahel. And that’s why I think it is extremely important that NATO and its European pillar are very clear on what we bring to the table and what the United States will continue to bring to the table in the future.
And this process is very, very important for this. There are 138 proposals, and we’re going to spend the next two days looking at them. This also comes at the right time.
Question: Another proposal concerns the veto principle. (...) How realistic is the idea of relaxing the need for unanimity in NATO?
Answer: I don’t think it is very realistic. One cannot compare the EU with NATO here. We adopt directives and legislative proposals in the EU. NATO deals with security policy ‒ with the question of war or peace. And that’s why I believe it will not be possible to relax the need for unanimity with the Allies in NATO.
So that’s the reason why a lot of proposals are being made on how to improve political coordination in NATO ‒ how we should meet more often and discuss various topics in greater depth.
I don’t think there will be a right of veto or that the principle of unanimity in NATO will be dropped. I think it would make a huge amount of sense in the European Union, but not as regards foreign and security policy issues in NATO.