Remarks on the situation in Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference
I’m looking forward to my conversation with Anna and with all of you. I want to thank Atlantik-Brücke and the Munich Security Conference for bringing us together, it’s a real honour for me to address you today.
It’s also very good to see Ambassador Heusgen today. Christoph, I will always remember that during your final closing speech at the UN Security Council, you chose to take part of your time to call once again for the freedom of Michal Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who were arbitrarily detained in China. Thanks in part to your advocacy and the advocacy of friends and allies around the world, those two men are at home now.
Thank you, Christoph.
When I was preparing my notes for today’s events, I remembered speaking in 2017 at the St. Matthew’s Day Banquet hosted by then-Mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz. Sigmar was there too, he actually delivered remarks right before me that night, too.
The world has changed in the intervening five years, but what I said then remains true today. Canada and Germany have long been partners on the world stage because we share a progressive vision of the world. We understand the importance of international cooperation and partnership, and we value the rule of law and democracy.
It’s great to be back in Berlin today. Of all places, the people of Berlin know what it is to fight for democracy. I don’t have to tell you how much work it takes because you already understand that democracy never happens by accident. And as we’re reminded now, it certainly doesn’t continue without effort.
When Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he violated Russia’s international treaties and he attacked the values that form the pillars of all democracies. This kind of brazen disregard for law and human life is a massive threat to Europe and to the world.
Over the past 80 years, we have collectively established a set of rules and institutions to ensure stability and peace in international affairs. We did so to protect people and to give the best possible guarantee of respect and freedom to all our citizens. These are the rules and institutions that are being openly threatened today.
President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people who are demonstrating so much courage and resilience, they’re not only defending their country: they’re defending the democratic values that are so important to all of us. They’re standing up to authoritarianism, and Canada and Germany stand with them. With our allies and partners, we’ve put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy, and we’re making sure Putin is held accountable for his actions.
Canada also remains unwavering in our support for NATO. We’re supporting NATO’s efforts to protect Euro-Atlantic security, democracy, and the rules-based international system we worked so hard to build together.
Last month, Chancellor Scholz made a historic announcement to shift German policy to meet the challenges of today, including by supporting Ukraine with lethal aid and military equipment. While Canada and Germany have stepped up to help defend Ukraine, so has all of Europe. Under the leadership of President von der Leyen, a proud European and a proud German, the European Union is mobilized to defend democracy. And in this, Germany and the European Union can count on the full support of Canada.
Now Vladimir Putin is undoubtedly a threat to Ukrainians and a threat to people beyond their borders, but even as we are clear-eyed about the challenge he represents, we mustn’t despair. Because at its best, democracy is always stronger than authoritarianism. But if we’re going to be honest with each other, democracy hasn’t exactly been at its best these past few years.
Even as we’re fighting Putin’s invasion, we need to recommit ourselves to the work of strengthening our democracies. Apathy. Cynicism. Misinformation and disinformation. Declining voter turnout. Mistrust in our institutions. It’s our job to rebuild that trust; to give people reasons to have faith in our institutions; to get involved in civic life.
We can’t let fear, anxiety, and envy overcome the hope, the earnest optimism that is necessary for democracies to thrive. We can’t settle for simplistic answers to complex problems. We can’t let nativism distract from the hard work of building better systems and real solutions. These challenges are not easy for any of us, but addressing them head-on is essential.
This morning, Chancellor Scholz and I reaffirmed our commitment to defending democracies and fighting disinformation. Canada and Germany will increase their contributions to the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism announced in Charlevoix, paying special attention to the countries targeted by Russia’s malicious tactics. Let’s be clear: propaganda and cyber attacks are hurting our economy and undermining people’s trust in our institutions. Living in a democracy is not something we can take for granted. We must be constantly vigilant in defending our values and the institutions that protect them.
We all have a responsibility to deal in facts, and to fight the flood of disinformation and manipulation. While social media has a profound positive effect on society, it also has a role in enabling harmful content like hate speech and misinformation. Domestically, our government is working on new legislation to address online harms. This year, Canada is Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition, and our goal is to encourage the public to have informed and meaningful engagement in society, both offline and online. We all have more work to do.
In the 1930s, Thomas Mann described how democracy is built on the respect for the infinite dignity of each individual. One of the most powerful ideas Canada hopes to share with the world is our deep and abiding belief in diversity. Not only do we believe in it, we embrace it. Although that’s not to say we have it all figured out: we’re making progress but there is always more work to be done on fighting systemic racism, on gender equality, on defending LGBTQ2 communities, on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Last summer, Mary Simon became the first Indigenous Governor General in Canada’s history. When she was in Germany for her first state visit just a few months ago, she led Canada’s delegation at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Because it’s only through sharing knowledge and listening to Indigenous peoples’ perspectives that we can hope to fully achieve reconciliation. That’s why we need to stay open to hearing their truths and honouring their stories through books, oral history, and celebrating together their culture.
The respect for the infinite dignity of each individual means no one should get left out. And this is also true for people who hold different political views. We all need to commit to more listening and less shouting. Diversity of ideas helps us learn from one another. Talking with people who think differently from us is how we challenge ourselves, and challenging ourselves is how we grow. So, by strengthening our open, inclusive societies, everyone benefits, democracy benefits. It’s true for Canada, it’s true for Germany, and it’s true for everyone around the world.
There are still a number of challenges before us: the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, the climate crisis. The consequences are real and they affect people’s lives every day. To face these crises, our democracies must be strong and robust, and we must continue to work together.
Whether it’s the immediate challenge of high gas prices, or the long-term consequences of climate change, democracies need to be at their best to have the tough conversations needed to figure that out. Earlier today, Germany signed on to Canada’s Global Carbon Pricing Challenge and Canada signed on to Germany’s Climate Club. Now, not only do we both have a price on pollution at home, we’ll both be driving this work on the world stage, too. Canada and Germany are also two of the world’s biggest economies, so when we stand united on something, it matters. After all, as this crisis in Ukraine has laid bare, we must keep working together.
I know that European leaders have been calling for acceleration in the shift to clean sustainable power as Putin tries to hold a continent of homes hostage over oil and gas. So, I want to commend the leadership of Chancellor Scholz to halt the certification of Nord Stream 2 Russian pipeline. This was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision.
You will not bend to intimidation, and you will find a path forward on a secure and sustainable energy future, you’ve made your vision clear and Canada will stand with you. My friends, as long as we don’t take our democracy for granted, as long as we keep working to make it better, as long as we stay united, we needn’t ever feel intimidated by tyrants.
Over the past years, Putin made the mistake of seeing disagreements as division and debates as weakness. It’s actually our greatest strength.
This Friday will mark two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This health crisis has been a challenge unlike any other, but it also showed how people stepped up for one another. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and worked together. That is the story of the pandemic. We worked together, just like we’re seeing now from people all around the world offering to welcome Ukrainian refugees and send humanitarian aid.
Vladimir Putin made serious miscalculations. He underestimated the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people, and he underestimated the resolve and unity of democratic allies and partners in the face of authoritarianism. In these dark days, the courage of Ukrainians is a source of inspiration for the entire world.
We have to continue fighting lies with truth, fear with facts, division with unity.
As you all know, the Atlantik-Brücke turns 70 years old this year. I can tell you that this bridge of transatlantic cooperation between our nations will remain strong and sturdy for many years to come. Like I said, a lot has changed since I was in Hamburg five years ago; however, the importance of working together to allow democracy to flourish, and ultimately to prevail, is as true today as it was then.
Democracy is not just a concept in a political science textbook, it’s our everyday lives. Standing up for our shared values requires constant efforts, but I know that Canadians, Germans, and people everywhere are up to the challenge.
In the words of President Zelensky, “light will win over darkness.”
Thank you very much. Thank you all. Danke schön.