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World

'Disarmament means increasing security'

At a summit in Chicago, the members of NATO stated their intention of reducing their tactical nuclear weapons arsenals in the long term. DW spoke to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Guido Westerwelle is a Free Democrat and Germany's foreign minister.

DW: Foreign Minister, you have described the document NATO has published on nuclear weapons, the "Deterrence and Defense Posture Review," as "remarkable." What is so remarkable about it?

Guido Westerwelle: The crucial thing is that for the first time a security alliance like NATO has made disarmament a constituent part of its own strategy. This makes it clear that disarmament does not mean less security, it also means increasing and benefiting from security. I very much welcome the fact that tactical nuclear weapons will now also be included in these disarmament talks. Tactical nuclear weapons are relics from the past. In the talks with Russia we naturally also want to see these tactical nuclear weapons gradually disappear.

You support the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons, but the document itself doesn't say that they should be withdrawn. So there'll just be talk?

Yes, but that's how things are always done in questions of disarmament. When discussing disarmament, guidelines are set at summits like these. They provide the orientation for the talks, for example the forthcoming talks with Russia. We follow these guidelines, and this is then implemented step by step. Disarmament is a slow and difficult business. There's no denying that it takes money and perseverance. That's always been the case with disarmament, but in the end it's a security gain for the world. That's why we will persevere in conducting ongoing negotiations.

So how do you intend to convince Russia eventually to agree to this?

It's clear that financial necessity, the pressure on national budgets, also plays a role. Disarmament is sometimes also the result of pressure on national budgets. It's already happened that way in the past. The main thing is that we achieve the right result, i.e. fewer nuclear weapons - above all, fewer tactical nuclear weapons. What has been decided here is not yet a breakthrough in the sense that everything has been resolved. But it is a new departure - a departure in the direction of disarmament. The disarmament train is now safely on the rails and continuing to pick up speed. As always in history, disarmament is a matter that calls for perseverance and strength.

How long will it be before the train reaches its destination? Five, 10, or 15 years? Is there a clear timeframe?

If we look back at the last two years, we can congratulate ourselves on the progress we've made. In the last two years we have achieved success in the field of disarmament that should not be underestimated, particularly in the field of nuclear disarmament. Not long ago, no one would have thought this possible. If we tell other countries that they should not acquire nuclear weapons - and we do - then as the West and as an alliance we of course have greater credibility if we also reduce our own nuclear arsenals. So nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are closely linked. It's a mutual promise.

Interview: Bernd Riegert / cc
Editor: Nicole Goebel