Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the United Nations Security Council: Anniversary of Russia's attack on Ukraine, New York, 24 February 2023
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaking in the UN Security Council on 24 February 2023, © German Mission to UN
Bucha, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Bakhmut. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is causing nothing but destruction, suffering and death.
Yesterday, the General Assembly sent a powerful message against this ruthless war. An overwhelming majority of 141 States stood united for peace in Ukraine. A peace that is just, comprehensive and lasting. The General Assembly presented a peace plan - a peace plan that is based on the principles of the UN Charter.
Today, the eyes of the world are on the Security Council – the body that bears primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security in this world. Every further effort to move towards peace from a member of this Council is valuable. But peace must mean peace. Peace must not mean that we ignore who the aggressor is - and who the victim. Because subjugation is not peace.
Not naming the aggressor would mean accepting a world in which the mighty rule. It would mean accepting a world in which bombing schools, kidnapping children, and shooting people off their bicyles is part of foreign policy. Not standing by the side of the victim would mean a world in which none of us would be able to sleep peacefully, because we would all have to fear an attack by a stronger neighbour.
To prevent such a world, the U.N. was founded. That is why we cannot stand idly by. The Charter obliges us, us the Nations of the world, to act. I know that some of you claim that by sanctioning the aggressor, by standing by the side of Ukraine, by supporting Ukraine in its right to self-defense we are adding fuel to the fire.
I would like to ask you: Where would Ukraine, that voluntary gave up its nuclear weapons, because it believed in peace, be today if we had not supported its right to defend itself, supported its people, elderly, mothers, fathers, children – together with so many international partners? Can we imagine what this would have meant? More Buchas, Kharkivs, Mariupols, more Bakhmuts? More atrocities against civilians? More children drawing a house where their beloved one once lived? Imagine more crimes. More Crimes against humanity. I don’t want to imagine such a world. And I don’t want to be responsible for such a world. I think most of us do not want to be responsible for such a world.
I would like to underline what State Secretary Blinken said: “If Ukraine stops defending itself, Ukraine end”. If we stopped standing with Ukraine, Ukraine would end.
The Russian representative asked just a couple of minutes ago here in this Council: Why would you think that Ukraine would end? Well, because your President one year ago told us that he would like to “demilitarize” Ukraine. And we saw for 365 nights and days what this means. That your tanks did not bring water. That your planes did not drop baby nutrition. But your tanks and planes, night and day, only brought destruction and death of thousands of fathers and mothers and children.
And yes, it brought death and destruction around the world. Not directly by tanks and bombs, but by the food crisis. You can deceive yourself, but you cannot deceive the world.
All those of us who sincerely and honestly believe in a peace that means peace, a peace based on the Charter of our United Nations, must show their true colours on this. And stand by the peace plan by the General Assembly.
President Putin is speculating that, at some point, our clear stance against his war will weaken. He is speculating that, by staying the course, he will be rewarded for his ruthless aggression. For a war that is also causing great suffering to his own people.
Some 200,000 Russians have already been killed or wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Russians have left their country because they do not want to be part of this war. Russian children are going to schools in Germany now and I am very happy about this. More than 1,000 international companies have pulled out of Russia – taking with them a crucial part of Russia’s prosperity and intelligence.
This war is not the world’s war. This war is not the war of the Russian people. This war is Putin’s war. The Russian President is risking the future of his own country, his own soldiers, Russia’s own children. That is why a just peace - the peace plan presented yesterday by the 141 states at the General Assembly -, is also in the interest of people in Russia.
When I look around this table, I am under no illusion: We will not convince the Russian representative today. But what we can do, is not to let this Council turn a blind eye to Bucha, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Bakhmut. To the people and children of Ukraine.
What we can do is stand up for a world where peace means peace.