Wednesday

26th Apr 2017

Germany and US pledge to 'confront' Russia

  • Von der Leyen: "Our way of life is under attack … We can’t accept this" (Photo: securityconference.de)

Germany’s defence minister has described Russia as a threat to Europe’s “way of life”, while also lecturing US president Donald Trump on values.

Ursula von der Leyen said at the opening of the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Friday (17 February) that “the aggressive nature of the overall picture” had become clear after Russia invaded Ukraine and rolled out its anti-Western propaganda campaign.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Mattis said US would “confront those” who attacked “innocent people or our democratic processes” (Photo: securityconference.de)

“We see projection of military power, combined with subversive methods. We see zones of influence being redefined at the expense of international law and order,” she said.

“We see bots and trolls and fake news and we see how these are undermining the credibility of our democratic institutions”, she added.

“Our open societies are under attack, our freedoms, our way of life is under attack … We can’t accept this,” she said.

Von der Leyen said Germany was creating a new cyber-defence HQ in April amid concerns that Russia would try to hack its upcoming elections.

She also noted that German soldiers were now in Lithuania as part of a Nato force to deter Russian aggression.

The minister said that Germany would heed US calls for European members of Nato to spend more on defence and to play a larger role in combat operations.

But she added that transatlantic cooperation must be based on “shared values” after Trump indicated that he approved of torture and tried to ban Muslim immigrants on security grounds.

“Nato is a community of shared values bound by human dignity … this leaves no room for torture,” she said.

“We must beware of turning this [counter-terrorism] into a fight against Islam and Muslims per se, otherwise we risk deepening the trenches from which violence and terrorism grow,” she said.

She spoke out against Trump’s hints of a grand bargain with Russia.

“There can be no policy of equidistance between allies on the one hand and those who are openly testing our values, our borders,” she said.

Referring to Trump’s recent verbal attacks on Nato, the EU, and Germany, she added: “Our American friends know that their tone towards Europe and Nato has a direct impact on the cohesion of our continent.”

Her warnings on Islamophobia and fake news also came after Breitbart, a US website close to Trump, published fake stories designed to stir anti-Muslim feelings in Germany, and amid deep mistrust of the new US leader in German society.

Seventy eight percent of respondents said they viewed Trump with concern, compared to 58 percent on Putin, according to a poll for ZDF television out on Friday.

Another 46 percent of respondents told the GfK SE pollster that they would reconsider visiting the US due to Trump.

Mattis

Trump’s new defence chief, James Mattis, spoke in Munich alongside Von der Leyen in a sign of solidarity.

He thanked her for her “stirring words” and said the US had “great respect for Germany’s leadership role in Europe.”

He said that his warning, issued at a Nato meeting in Brussels this week, that the US might “moderate” its involvement in Nato if European states did not spend more on defence did not call into question Nato’s mutual defence.

“Article five is a bedrock commitment,” he said, referring to the Nato treaty clause on the issue.

He praised the EU and said that “American security is permanently tied to the security of Europe”.

He also said that Nato allies had a joint mission to “protect the rules based international order” and the “values that grew out of the Enlightenment.”

He said the US would “confront those” who attacked “innocent people or our democratic processes” in a reference to Russia's bombing campaign in Syria and its US election hack.

Juncker attacks US on Nato spending

The commission head says the US should count EU development spending as a form of security, in a direct challenge to US comments on Nato.

Interview

Sikorski: Let's give Trump time to be 'educated'

Former Polish foreign minister said he hoped new US president will learn how the world works and that EU leaders have "enough statesmanship" to steer Europe out of trouble.

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament moves to lift Le Pen's immunity
  2. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's university law
  3. Scots slowly losing appetite for independence - poll
  4. Council of Europe puts Turkey on watch list
  5. EU to put parental leave on political agenda
  6. Israel cancels German meeting over human rights groups
  7. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  8. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  2. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  3. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts
  4. European states still top media freedom list
  5. Let’s not put European public health at risk
  6. Threatened Budapest university calls for EU support
  7. Orban set to face down EU threats
  8. Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU