America’s new vice-president, Joe Biden, made an original contribution to the annual security conference in Munich. The fact that he wanted to give the opening address was already noteworthy – in addition he had something new to say. He distanced himself from the anti-Russia position of the previous US administration, asking for the relationship to be ‘reset’ – a new start to dealing with numerous contentious issues like Russia’s relations with NATO or the siting of weapon systems in Europe. Biden wants to start afresh and create a new climate for negotiations. I congratulate him from my heart for this initiative. 2009 is going to be an important year for European and global security.
Sixty years of NATO is an opportunity for a thorough debate about the military alliance’s future: what is its function and what is Europe’s role?
There are diverging views on the current set-up which basically still reflects its Cold War roots. Russia wants to see new talks about conventional weapons in Europe. After the military conflict in Georgia, we need to look again at all existing agreements – there will be a high-level conference dedicated to this later in the year.
Personally I think that the fight against the spread of nuclear weapons has to be a priority. Russia and the USA have to prolong and confirm the existing START treaties with a view to reaching wide agreement on a radical set of rules to halt the danger of nuclear proliferation. This isn’t a ‘reset’ but a strengthening of treaties and agreements to ensure that nuclear proliferation is brought under control in the context of an alarming growth in the misuse of nuclear energy.
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