60 Years of Germany in NATO

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the international ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Germany's accession to NATO

  • 30 Jun. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 30 Jun. 2015 12:17

 Minister Steinmeier, dear Frank-Walter,
Minister von der Leyen, dear Ursula,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am both pleased and honoured to be in Berlin today.  

To join with you in celebrating 60 years since the Federal Republic of Germany became a member of NATO. 

We have found some remarkable illustrations of that truly historic moment in the NATO archives in Brussels.

15 sketches by the American war artist, Manuel Bromberg, of the day the Federal Republic became a member of NATO.

This one, for instance, showing Konrad Adenauer.

That day in 1955 marked an end, and also a beginning.

It marked the end of West Germany’s status as an occupied country.   

And it marked a new beginning: where Germany was once more an equal and sovereign member of the international community. 

Just 10 years after the Second World War, fourteen NATO Allies were ready to put their full trust in the young Federal Republic.  

A country that had proven itself worthy of that trust.  And became the fifteenth Ally.  

Germany’s accession to NATO anchored it firmly in the Western community of values. 

A community based on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

It enabled West Germany to regain its place at the heart of Europe and the emerging transatlantic community.   

It led the way to the founding of the European Economic Community as the first steps along the road to European integration.

And it made possible the eventual reunification of Germany 25 years ago.  

This journey – from enmity to the closest of friendship – is reflected in my own family. 

As it is for so many people. 

My grandfather was a prisoner of war. 

But despite his experience, he became a friend of Germany. 

As did my father, who was stationed here immediately after the War, as part of the Norwegian armed forces. 

I am proud to represent them today.

I am honoured to represent NATO.

And I regard myself a good friend of Germany.

Throughout the Cold War, West Germany was considered a “frontline state”. 

If there was to be a Soviet invasion, its tanks would roll first over German soil.

But West Germany was protected. 

Because Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty states that an attack on one is an attack on all. 

Article 5 is the strongest commitment that sovereign nations can make to each other.

It sends a clear message that no country in this Alliance will face a threat alone.

 This is the essence of the NATO Alliance. 

We stand by this commitment, today and always.

Germany benefits from that commitment.

And Germany contributes to it.

Because Article 5 is both a fundamental commitment and a fundamental responsibility.

Throughout the Cold War, West Germany was the centrepiece of NATO’s collective defence. 

It shouldered a heavy burden, with massive military deployments on its soil.

But this also established the Federal Republic as a respected and influential Ally. 

Generations of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen spent part of their careers stationed here, and formed enduring friendships with the German people.  

Including our current Supreme Allied Commander, General Breedlove.

West Germany played a major role in the development of the famous “Harmel formula”. 

Strong defence combined with dialogue. 

This formula became the foundation for NATO’s approach to the Soviet Union. 

And eventually contributed to the end of the Cold War.

A strong Alliance was the foundation for Germany’s “Ostpolitik”, which aimed to gradually overcome the division of the country. 

And when the opportunity for national unification finally came, the bond between Germany and NATO once again proved its value.

At the time, there were concerns about the direction a unified Germany might take. 

But Germany’s membership of NATO made these concerns redundant.  

Instead, a reunited Germany became the heart of a free, democratic and united Europe.   

At this momentous time in Europe’s history we had the first German Secretary General at the helm of the NATO Alliance. 

With Manfred Woerner, both Germany and NATO had the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

Woerner also defined NATO’s new role following the end of the Cold War:

He described it as “Von der Friedenserhaltung zur Friedensgestaltung”.

This is what NATO set out to do.  

It is what NATO has done ever since. 

And it is what we will continue to do.

After the Cold War, a united Germany proved itself as indispensable as ever for NATO’s success. 

NATO’s military intervention in the Balkans was a major test.  For the first time in NATO’s history, we managed a crisis beyond our borders. 

This was a huge step for the Alliance. 

And a huge step for Germany.

This was a region where memories of two World Wars were still very much alive.  

But putting an end to the bloodshed in the Balkans meant taking some risks. 

And in the end, the risks paid off. 

Through NATO, Germany sent planes, and then deployed forces. 

Your country took responsibility for the security of others. 

Today, the Balkans are no longer a powder keg.  

In Kosovo, NATO is seen as a guarantor of peace and security for all the people.

And the countries of South-eastern Europe are finally returning to the Euro-Atlantic fold. 

The challenge of Afghanistan was even more daunting than that of the Balkans. 

But the Alliance did what we set out to do.   

To deny international terrorists safe haven.   

And to give the people of Afghanistan an opportunity to shape their own future. 

Germany has played – and continues to play – a leading role in helping Afghanistan secure itself.   

Deploying brave and professional men and women that you can be very proud of. 

And whose sacrifice we all honour.   

And when I visited Afghanistan last year, I took part in a moving service at the memorial for the fallen in Mazar-e-Sharif. 

And I met some of your outstanding soldiers.

The strong bond between Germany and NATO also proved vital as we opened the doors of the Alliance to the new European democracies.  

Germany’s role was essential for NATO enlargement.  Germany made the case for giving the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe a home in NATO.  

The enlargement of NATO and of the European Union has been a historic success.

And Europe is the better for it today.

Germany also laid the groundwork for a new relationship between NATO and Russia. 

The NATO-Russia Council offered Russia a unique degree of access to NATO. 

And it enabled us to work together on many issues of common concern.

NATO enlargement and our engagement with Russia yielded enormous dividends. 

And over the past 25 years, we were able to move ever closer to a Europe “whole, free and at peace”. 

But today, armed conflict has returned to Europe through Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continued efforts to destabilise eastern Ukraine. 

A conflict that has already cost more than 6,000 lives.

Russian leaders now speak of a “zone of privileged interest”.  We risk returning to a time when great powers held sway over smaller states. 

When nations were not free to decide their own fate.

This could create a sphere of instability for us all.  It is not the sort of Europe we want 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The path to peace in Ukraine remains the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. 

Agreements brokered by Germany, together with France.

And I thank Chancellor Merkel and Minister Steinmeier for their tireless efforts.

Germany  is also the driving force behind the European Union’s sanctions against Russia. 

To make clear that breaking the rules has costs and consequences.   

And we are determined to defend the values that we hold dear.

NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia.  

Nor do we seek its isolation.

And we will not be dragged into a new arms race.

We still aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia.

One that benefits Euro-Atlantic security and the whole international order.  

But Russia has changed, and we must adapt. 

The formula of a strong defence and dialogue is once again deeply relevant. Russia is our biggest neighbour - the question is not whether we have a relationship, but what kind of relationship we will have. During the Cold War, West Germany benefitted from NATO’s cast iron guarantee of collective defence. 

Today, Allies from Central and Eastern Europe look to NATO to provide that same guarantee. 

Germany is no longer a net recipient of collective defence. 

It is now a critical provider of it.

Germany is playing a central role in NATO’s Readiness Action Plan, the most significant reinforcement of our collective defence since the Cold War.

Together with The Netherlands and Norway, Germany is among the first Allies to participate in our new Spearhead Force, the Very High Readiness Task Force.

Just a few days ago, I took part in an exercise where, for the first time, the new Spearhead force was deployed from Germany to Poland. 

Minister von der Leyen was there too – and so were many others from across the Alliance.

I met skilled and committed German soldiers.    

And I was struck by the  strong symbolism of Germany and Poland working together with so many other NATO Allies. 

This clearly demonstrates that the Alliance stands strong, ready and united. 

But strength needs resources. 

And at our NATO Summit in Wales last year, all Allies pledged to increase defence spending over the next decade to 2% of GDP.

German leadership on investing in defence, and on our modernizing our defence capabilities, is crucial – for our Alliance and also for the EU.

I commend Germany for taking steps towards implementing this pledge.     

So I count on all of you to continue making the case that defence matters. 

And that our new strategic environment requires new spending and new capabilities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The stories of Germany and of NATO are forever linked.

And they are stories of success. 

Germany and the Alliance need each other. 

To defend our values. 

To keep our nations safe. 

And to protect peace in Europe and the world.

From that day in 1955, Germany has been a political and moral force for good. 

And it has been an anchor of stability at the centre of NATO. 

In a minute, I will presentyou, Minister Steinmeier, with a book, produced especially for today by the NATO Archive.

And let me also give you the collection of sketches of that great day in history.

Together, they tell the whole story of Germany’s accession.  From the original invitation to join the Alliance, to the final accession document, signed by the Foreign Minister of every Ally, 60 years ago. 

Germany has been a staunch Ally ever since.  

I am truly proud to celebrate that with you all today.

Thank you.