SZ: Mr. Minister, the US President was the man. which You called a “preacher of hate”. It came out of my mouth?
Steinmeier: in Spite of my long years in politics and the experience of many election campaigns, I was terrified of this American election campaign. And it seems that I was not alone in this. The President of an African state asked a very Frank question about this election campaign: “Mr. Steinmeier, this is Your idea of democracy that You want us to believe?” And indeed, we have never experienced such polarization in American domestic politics, and nobody, not even Donald trump can’t dispute that he, the then member of the election campaign, was more involved. We have to hope that the President’s position — other than the participant’s election campaign. We are talking not about details but about fundamental questions of our identity, as, for example, on the question of torture.
For this You can not hope.
The inauguration was only a few days ago. Speech at the inauguration is not yet contained in those guidelines which are expected. The first press conference suggests that the format of the election campaign has not yet refused. The conflict with the media may be delayed. On the contrary, the first appointed Ministers statements sound quite constructive. All of the suggests which of the proclaimed changes will follow, and what they will mean for Germany. What is clear is that we are entering a phase of many uncertainties. I hope that on the other side of the Atlantic ocean we will find listeners who, like us, are convinced that transatlantic relations are the Foundation of the West. This Foundation will be strong only if it will benefit both sides.
However, this speech is the first strong message. Does she have a sense of fear?
If I wasn’t worried, I wouldn’t have spoken about it publicly. Concern is felt not only here but also in the United States. However, I would not want to raise the alarm: “America First” is, apparently, primarily to signal to their constituents. We are still waiting for signs that trump wants to unite the whole country. I hope “America First” does not mean that the US will take international responsibility. I hope that trump and his associates will increase awareness that a large country like America, need partners and friends abroad.
The trend toward nationalization and rejection of complexity is everywhere. The message means alone will be better. What would You do against this?
You need to policy is again explained. We live in the era of paradoxes: the world is closely rally. Managed to reduce poverty, improve education and health, to raise the living standards in the world. However, it seems that all of this is belied by the paintings of need, poverty and war that we see on a daily basis. Both is part of the comprehensive truth. All this independently from each other, as well as news about crises and catastrophes without respite falls on people. Many people are not able to bear it. The rate at which old truths disappear without replacing them with new security guarantees, leads to fear of losing something and to concerns about their identity. Thus, there is fertile ground for populist movements.
This analysis also helps in the fight against the profanation and nationalism.
The policy task is to explain that the answers can’t be easier, when problems become increasingly difficult. This implies the credibility of the democratic institutions. We can support these institutions only in the case if we don’t go to a fantasy world, which imperceptibly disappears, the distinction between truth and lie. Democracy is the Foundation on which we decide their disputes. We have to argue about ways and solutions, but with respect to each other and without the poison of lies, slander and rejection of legitimacy. However, we should not be discouraged: when and where populism rules do successfully and was able to present the results?
Tramp with great skepticism refers to the EU. As You want to prevent this?
First we need to figure out what is the basis of the criticism of Europe the new American President. I do not Harbor the naive hope that I could explain to him in detail the growth and development of the European Union from the ruins of world war II. But the fact that the US gets nothing in the case of the weakening of Europe — that should do it. USA can’t be interested in that other EU member States followed the British example.
The US President calls the deficiencies, including the insufficient contribution of the Europeans to ensure their safety. Is he right?
The call for greater contribution to international security is not new. Europe has not ignored it and has already responded. The Warsaw NATO summit documented this trend has changed, including us. By the way, security policy is more than military spending. This includes the conflict prevention, resolution and mediation or active participation in peacekeeping activities. I can’t remember a time when Germany would do more to overcome crises and conflicts.
And yet Europe fainted.
And whether it is possible to conclude a nuclear agreement with Iran without the participation of Europe? Probably not! And without this agreement, the region would move toward war with Iran. But punctuation’s foreign policy, there is no point, there’s only a comma. The decision is rarely final. Iran must show that he is not only ready to abandon the development of nuclear weapons but also play a constructive role in the region filled with conflicts. That includes progress in the relations with Saudi Arabia, which feels threatened hegemonic aspirations of Iran. Here Europe can and should help.
That is what the nuclear agreement trump, if he keeps his word, cancelled. How dangerous is it?
The termination of this agreement would free Iran from its obligations. I can’t imagine how this would be American or Israeli interests. I well understand Israel’s concern over the growing influence of Iran in the region. But these fears will not diminish from the fact that Iran will again work on the creation of nuclear weapons.
To prevent the worst — this also applies to the second major conflict during Your tenure as Minister, the war in Ukraine. Why nothing is impossible?
There is no doubt who is responsible for the conflict in Ukraine. Illegal from the point of view of international law the annexation of Crimea, destabilize Eastern Ukraine Russia is to blame. But we remained indifferent. We prevent that from unrest in the East of Ukraine is not a hotbed of war in the country and in the region — with dangerous consequences for all of Europe. This conflict has not been overcome, but as a result of the conclusion of the Minsk agreement, it failed to mitigate. The pace often occur annoyingly slow. And yet I would not advise to abandon it out of frustration and annoyance. Bloody conflict might return faster than we ourselves are presenting today.
You always said that in Syria there is no military solution. Now it looks like You have denied. What happened?
That for Syria there is a military solution, believes even Russia. In my experience, Moscow is aware of the fragility of the truce and its lack of scale.
However, Russia has almost reached the victory on the battlefield.
Russia’s military actions, of course, contributed to the fall of Aleppo and the support of the Assad regime. However, this is not the solution for Syria. Both Russia and Turkey know that the solution to the conflict can be achieved only with the participation of those players who is constantly involved in the Syrian war. Turkish-Russian efforts in Astana will be only an intermediate step. Both will be keen to shift responsibility for a political decision on a few shoulders, that is to return it under the roof of the UN.
You remain practical optimist. In fact, the West did not achieve anything in Syria. What does it mean for the world?
I don’t want to sugarcoat it. Syria is primarily an example of the incapacity of the security Council. The question is where and when the damage began. I think the Syrian crisis is a chronology of missed opportunities. From the very beginning.
The first chance was lost long before the civil war. I am not sympathetic to Assad, but I think the young President ways to cooperate with the West and, therefore, also visited Damascus. In Washington, by the way, also in Paris, I was faced with harsh criticism. There was prefer to declare Syria a part of the imaginary axis of evil. Kofi Annan did then after the outbreak of the civil war, proposals that many at the time considered unacceptable because they did not include the immediate departure of Assad. If realism were a few more, first two conference on Syria would not have failed.
Shouldn’t You say that Putin was a world he wanted? Soldiers, weapons, the army again became the main currency.
Active participation of Russia in Syria, for sure, was also due to the desire to refute provocative attributing it to the category of regional powers. At least from the Russian point of view, did it, take Russia seriously as a military and as a political player. It may briefly satisfy many in Russia. However, Russia must not be deceived. There will be no turning back in the old world of Yalta.
Russia could find partners not only on the basis of newfound military power. Also, Moscow is inevitable search of political partners, if she wants to play an influential role in the international community. In historical periods of transition, with all the crises and uncertainty she required a thoughtful course of action, joint discussion, the conviction that it is important for us, and orientation.