Henry A. Kissinger

Speeches and Public Statements

Remarks Upon Receiving Baden-Württemberg Verdienstmedaille

Stuttgart, Germany

March 19, 2007

Mr. Minister President, Distinguished Guests,

It means a great deal to me to receive this award from the Ministerpräsident of a state with which I have had a warm relationship for many decades and at the hand of a governmental leader whose activities and pronouncements I have followed with great respect. Mr. Ministerpräsident, I shall remember your thoughtful and eloquent speech on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of James Byrnes's seminal speech in Stuttgart as well as the warm hospitality you extended to me then.

This may be the occasion, as well, to mention my connection with this state through the Bosch Company, on whose international advisory board I have had the privilege to serve for nearly three decades. Hans Merkle, Hermann Scholl and Franz Fehrenbach have represented the high moral standards, dedication and efficiency that are rightly associated with this state. Allow me to use this occasion to thank them for their friendship and to express my respect for the efficient and responsible manner in which they carry out their duties.

Mr. Ministerpräsident, an honor bestowed in this country always has a special significance for me. For Germany inevitably plays a special role in my life. The difficulties of my childhood do not obliterate the ties formed by early experience and the memories that cannot avoid becoming an integral part of my later life in which the connection with Germany was so central. I was an infantry soldier in one of the first divisions to enter Germany near Aachen. I then served in the army of occupation in an intelligence role and, later, in a civilian capacity at a military school. Later, I had the opportunity to work on German-American relations from the White House and the State Department. I have thus experienced - and had the opportunity to collaborate with German officials and leaders in - the extraordinary recovery of Germany as one of the pillars of the Atlantic community and of the European Union. Of course, there have been occasional disagreements, but I am proud that the fates of Germany and America have been so indissolubly linked in my by-now somewhat extended lifetime and that I was permitted to work together with German leaders in some parts of it.

What a change has taken place in that period. When I first dealt with the reconstruction of Europe, after the Second World War, Europe was still divided into national states and demoralized by the legacy of two world wars. It is moving to look at contemporary Europe, in the process of modifying the emphasis on sovereignty in favor of the vision of a European Union. In the same period, America has moved from the traditional isolationism to a permanent commitment for peace and security in the world.

In the process, almost inevitably some differences of perspective emerged. Europe finds itself midway on its journey between a past it is attempting to transcend and a vision of the future it is still building and an America still acting in the tradition of the nation state. For America, the first experience of being attacked on its own soil for the first time in its history evokes reactions more elemental than would be the case in societies for whom danger from abroad has been an inseparable part of their experience.

Nevertheless, America and Europe - and especially Germany - are acting in concert on a series of issues which define how far they have come in their cooperation and in what a positive way the world has evolved. The Atlantic Alliance no longer needs to fear a land invasion. The threats to its members are more abstract, residing in a radical ideology of religious origin which, in the Islamic world - especially in the Middle East - rejects the concept of the nation and of the secular state as it evolved in the Western world since the Treaty of Westphalia. The challenge is therefore not so much military as conceptual. How does one create a world order whose members have an interest to maintain it because they consider it just and yet secure against new forms of warfare unimaginable a few decades ago?

In the process, a whole new set of challenges has emerged requiring an unprecedented degree of international cooperation:

    -- War between major countries would be an unimaginable catastrophe. Hence non-proliferation will test our joint ability to spare future generations the fear of genocidal warfare.

    -- Environmental policy challenges us to avoid being consumed by the technology of our own invention but also to create a world of esthetic meaning.

    -- Development requires the vision of a world in which the weak can be secure and the disenchanted uplifted so that all humankind feels part of a common enterprise.

    -- Energy: Every industrial and industrializing country is experiencing a rapid rise in the consumption of energy. Global demand is rising more rapidly than supply. The danger is that the competition for energy sources may take in some of the attributes of the colonial struggles of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The energy consumers need to develop a new pattern of cooperation, both for exploration and for the development of alternative energy sources.

    -- Globalization: Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the contemporary world is the process of globalization which spans the world. Ruled by principles of efficiency and cost, it is not bound by classic principles of national interest. But while enhancing the global benefit, it also produces dislocations that create tensions between the political process based on the state and the economic world governed by principles of globalization. This raises the need for dimensions of cooperation inconceivable even a few decades ago.

I do not want to tax the audience with a long speech detailing all these issues. I want to stress that the challenges of our period are an unprecedented opportunity to shape a new world order. The nations of the North Atlantic, sharing comparable views of human dignity, democratic government and market economies, should build on this achievement of the last half-century. I thank you for this honor and the friendship it reflects. And I am confident that the two sides of the Atlantic will live up to their opportunities.

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