Speech by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the UN General Assembly regarding the conflict in Ukraine, 1 March 2022
A baby girl was born in a metro station in Kyiv a few days ago. Her name, I have been told, is Mia. Her family was forced to shelter – just like millions of others all across Ukraine. Shelter from bombs and rockets, from tanks and grenades. They live in fear, they live in pain. They are forced to separate from their loved ones. Because of Russia launching a war of aggression against Ukraine.
I believe today’s vote is about Mia. It is a vote about the future of our children. It is about a future that is our choice. I am standing here in front of you as my country’s Foreign Minister, but I am also here as a German who had the immense privilege of growing up in peace and security in Europe. After the end of the Second World War, after a ruthless war that was launched by Nazi Germany, the United Nations was founded 76 years ago to maintain peace and security. It was founded, as it says in the Charter, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. To save generations like mine, but also generations like Mia’s.
The principles of the United Nations provide the framework for our peace: For an order that is based on common rules, on international law, on cooperation and on the peaceful settlement of conflict. Russia has brutally attacked this order. And that is why this war is not only about Ukraine, not only about Europe – but about all of us.
Russia’s war marks the dawn of a new era. It’s a watershed moment. Yesterday’s certainties are gone. Today, we face a new reality that none of us chose. It is a reality that President Putin has forced upon us.
Russia’s war is one of aggression. And it is based on lies. They were repeated again by Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Human Rights Council today in Geneva. You say you are acting in self-defence. But the whole world watched as you built up your troops over months in preparation for this attack. You say Russia is acting to protect Russian-speakers from aggression. But today the whole world is watching as you are bombing the homes of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Kharkiv. You say Russia is sending peace-keepers. But your tanks are not carrying water, your tanks are not carrying nutrition for babies, your tanks are not carrying peace. Your tanks are carrying death and destruction. In fact, you are abusing your power as a permanent member of the Security Council. Mr Lavrov, you can deceive yourself. But you won’t deceive us. You won’t deceive our people – and you won’t deceive your own people.
Russia’s war marks a new reality. It requires each and every one of us to take a firm and responsible decision, and to take a side. My country is stepping up its support to Ukraine with medicine, food, humanitarian goods and shelter to refugees. So are many of us here today. And I applaud you for it.
We note that there are rumours spreading – also today in this room – that people fleeing from Ukraine who are of African origin are being discriminated against at the EU’s borders. I was in Poland this morning. And together with my Polish and French colleagues, we made it very clear: Every refugee must receive protection, no matter what their nationality, their origin or the colour of their skin.
We have decided to support Ukraine militarily – to defend itself against the aggressor, in line with Article 51 of our Charter. Germany is deeply aware of its historic responsibility. That’s why we are and will always be committed to diplomacy and seeking out peaceful solutions. But when our peaceful order comes under attack, we must face up to that new reality. We must act responsibly. That’s why we must unite for peace today!
I have heard some of my colleagues say, when I was speaking on the phone around the world in the last days: “You are calling on us to show solidarity for Europe. But where have you been for us in the past?” And frankly speaking, I am telling you: I hear you. We hear you. And I truly believe we should always be willing to critically question our own actions, our past engagements in the world. I am willing to do so.
But this is about now. This is about families sheltering in subway stations because their homes are being bombed. What’s at stake is the life or death of the Ukrainian people. What’s at stake is Europe’s security. What’s at stake is our common Charter of the United Nations. Almost every country represented here in this room has a larger, more powerful neighbour. This is about all of us, ladies and gentlemen.
That’s why I urge all of you: to unite for peace and to vote yes to the resolution before us. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”, that’s how Bishop Desmond Tutu once put it. Now, we all have to choose. Between peace and aggression. Between justice and the will of the strongest. Between taking action and turning a blind eye.
When we go home after our vote, each and every one of us will have to face our children, our partners, our friends, our families at our kitchen table. It is then, when each and every one of us will have to look them in the eye and tell them what choice we made.