Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Dear Major General Qu,
Dear Defence Attachés, spearheaded by Colonel Richard Taylor (Defence Attaché NZ), Chairman of the Beijing Military Attaché Corps Executive Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to all of you! I am delighted that you have joined us today to celebrate the German Armed Forces Day and to honour the achievements of our active servicewomen and men and civilian employees.
On November 12, 1955, the first Defence Minister of the young Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Blank, presented the first 101 volunteers of the Bundeswehr in Bonn with their certificates of enlistment. This day was deliberately chosen, as it was the 200th birthday of the Prussian Army reformer General Gerhard von Scharnhorst.
Together with Neidhardt von Gneisenau, Scharnhorst modernised the Prussian Army in the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment, abolished the nobility’s prerogatives and introduced military conscription. Ten years after the end of World War 2, it was of utmost importance to the founding fathers of the Bundeswehr to make a clear-cut and lasting break with Hitler’s National Socialist Army, the „Wehrmacht“.
Since then, November 12, 1955 has been considered the birthday of the Bundeswehr. On the ruins of National Socialism grew a free, democratic West Germany with democratically legitimised armed forces. Thus, for the first time, in Germany, a real parliamentary army was created, not a state within a state as in the past, but armed forces focused on securing peace and freedom in Europe.
The last 68 years, men and women have been serving in this parliamentary army to protect our citizens and the security of our country and that of our allies. Our Bundeswehr is firmly rooted in the core of German society; men and women from all walks of life, different ethnic backgrounds and different religious orientations serve in it. We are particularly proud of that.
The upheavals in our recent German history could hardly have been more dramatic: first the peaceful reunification of divided Germany with the consent of its neighbours and Moscow, but later the regrettable collapse of the European arms control and disarmament architecture, followed by the return of war to Europe, most recently culminating in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
These events necessitated a re-thinking and re-orientation of our security policy and thus had a fundamental impact on the mission, structure and size of our armed forces.
After the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist, the Bundeswehr engaged over almost three decades in multilateral missions as well as in humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations at home and abroad in the framework of the UN, the EU and NATO.
Due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which violates international law and disregards the UN Charta principles, defence has once again come to the fore, both at national and alliance level. In a time of crisis, the Bundeswehr stands by the side of our partners and allies.
And let me clearly state here: Ukraine has the right to defend its state and territory and so does Israel after the barbaric terror attacks by HAMAS. As we have to witness day by day, war takes a terrible toll on innocent civilians – in Ukraine, in Israel, in Gaza. War must remain a weapon of last resort and all parties must do their utmost to respect humanitarian law and protect civilians.
Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr has the same responsibility: to defend our security against external threats. It is fundamentally oriented towards defence and, together with its allies, primarily serves as a credible deterrent in order to safeguard peace.
In addition to NATO, which is founded on our transatlantic partnership, the European Union is of the utmost importance in forging shared European defence and security capabilities and activities.
That is why we have developed guidelines for our Common Security and Defence Policy, the so-called „Strategic Compass“. With the „European Defence Fund“, we are strengthening the European defence industry; by means of the „European Peace Facility“, we are improving the Union's ability to prevent conflicts, consolidate peace and strengthen international security.
Despite the dramatic developments in Europe, Germany will continue to play a very active role in the United Nations in future and will be represented with armed forces in peacekeeping missions worldwide. One cannot overestimate the United Nations’ unique role as a peacekeeper and bridge-builder between nations.
Indeed, Bundeswehr and People’s Liberation Army soldiers do work alongside in UN missions. Last but not least, German Navy and Air Force deployments to the Asia-Pacific region will continue within the framework of the German Indo-Pacific Guidelines in order to promote cooperation and mutual understanding.
Dear Defence Attachés, there is no need to explain to you what an immensely important role you are playing in building and maintaining military-political and interpersonal bridges!
Personally, I hope that in future we will foster an even more intensive exchange between the Office for International Military Cooperation and military attachés accredited here in Beijing.
By demonstrating openness and transparency, we increase the chances of avoiding miscalculations, building trust and finding peaceful solutions – for the benefit of our citizens and our nations.
Thank you very much.