David Cameron: Berlin Security Conference speech

Speaking at the Berlin Security Conference today, Conservative Party Leader, David Cameron said:

“It is a great honour to have been invited by the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union to speak here today.

Eighteen years ago, the wall that divided Berlin between those living in freedom and those living under Communism was torn down.

My first visit to Berlin was the year after, as a guest of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

I remember going to see parts of the Wall that remained – Checkpoint Charlie and areas of East Berlin that would have been closed to me just the year previously.

And I believe now, as I did then, that the unification of Germany was one of the greatest political achievements of the twentieth century.

The CDU and the CSU played a vital role in that achievement and I would also like to place on record today my admiration for the magnificent leadership shown by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl in insisting that a unified Germany remained a part of NATO.


Momentous and lasting benefits flowed from that act of leadership.

NATO was not just preserved but enhanced, with enlargement to the east.

And this in turn assisted the process of enlarging the European Union.

But two decades after the fall of the wall, Europeans face challenges and opportunities not only in our own continent, but across the world – as this important and timely conference recognises.

Today, what happens in Asia has become as important to us as what happens nearby.

That is why it is right that NATO is on the front line in Asia as well as in Europe.

And I believe there is no more important commitment than that being shown today by NATO in Afghanistan.

Let us never forget that the Taliban regime backed Al-Qaeda and helped export terrorism around the world.

We all have a responsibility to do all we can to help Afghanistan succeed.

I know that overseas military commitments are not always popular.

But real leadership is about doing what’s right, making the argument and leading public opinion. NATO must deliver the means as well as willing the end.

So I would like to pay tribute to your leadership in the recent decision of the Bundestag to renew Germany’s vital participation in NATO’s operation in Afghanistan.


But I believe international co-operation should take place between like-minded political parties, as well as countries.

British Conservatives and German Christian Democrats may not agree on everything.

But there is far, far more that unites us than divides us.

For example, the need to tackle climate change.

The need to fight terrorism.

And the need to expand prosperity through the free market.

So I am delighted and proud that last month, Chancellor Merkel and I agreed the establishment of joint working groups between the CDU and the Conservative Party on these three crucial areas of policy.

And particularly delighted that we can announce today that the working group on fighting terrorism will be jointly chaired by our Shadow Security Minister, Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, and the German Deputy Interior Minister Peter Altmaier.


Let me also thank the CDU and CSU for convening this conference.

The world’s centre of gravity is moving from Europe and the Atlantic to Asia and the Pacific.

This shift presents a massive opportunity to both our continents.

It was Japan’s former Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, who spoke about Asia being an ‘arc of freedom and prosperity.’

In terms of total GDP, three of the four richest countries in the world are on the Pacific.

Last year, E.U. trade with India increased by sixteen percent.

And Singapore’s economy ranks second in the world economic freedom index.

But this panel discussion is about threats, not opportunities.


And the threats that this conference is debating are very real.

Global pandemics.

People trafficking.

Nuclear proliferation.

Terrorism motivated by extremist ideology.

And of course the threat when these last two dangers come together and grow within failed states.

That will be my focus today, as perhaps the best example of the way in which modern security risks unite Europe and Asia.

Failed states not only fail to provide security for their own people, they threaten the security of others by serving as a launchpad for terrorism and violence.

And failed states have a global, not just a regional impact.

Failed states in Europe can threaten Asia …

As the presence of Chechen extremists in Afghanistan shows.

And as we have seen all too clearly in recent years, failed states in Asia can threaten Europe.

So political leaders in both continents have a responsibility to develop firm and effective security responses.


For our discussion today, I would like to propose two principles that should guide our security policy-making.

They represent a change, I believe, from the approach of the recent past – certainly in the UK.

My first principle may seem counter-intuitive: that to help protect international security, any state must put its own national security first.

My second principle is that we should replace the doctrine of liberal interventionism, famously propounded by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in a speech in Chicago in 1999…

…with the doctrine of liberal conservatism – conservatism not in its narrow party political meaning, but in the sense of a sceptical attitude towards the ability of states to create utopias.

I believe that these two principles – national security first, and liberal conservatism – together represent the right combination of realism and idealism that we need to deal with the serious dangers of the modern world.


“National security first” may sound like a perverse principle to adopt in an age of complex and globally linked security threats.

Surely it is more important than ever that we put international security first?

I don’t agree.

Every good military commander understands that no campaign will succeed unless you secure your home base first.

The people who let off bombs on London’s public transport system were not agents of Saddam Hussein, they were British citizens.

Two of the three people who allegedly plotted to let off bombs in Frankfurt were German-born, Fritz Gelowicz and Daniel Schneider, driven by an extreme ideology.

Only from a position of security at home can states confidently promote security abroad.

And in the modern world, I believe there are four types of security that any successful state needs to provide: institutional, cultural, economic and physical.

Institutional security is vital because it provides the platform for stability and progress.

But we should not make the mistake of assuming that institutional security is the same thing as democracy.

Of course democracy promotes security because it enables states to make peaceful change.

But there are some institutions that must come first: the rule of law and a strong civil society, with public institutions that people can trust.

I believe one of the greatest sources of German security is your institutional strength: especially your commitment to regional government underpinned by the Constitution of the Federal Republic.

The second form of security that modern states need is cultural security.

A state without a clear and confident national identity creates the space for ethnic conflict and extremism.

Here, we can learn from India’s experience, dealing in challenging circumstances with the need to bind people together in a shared national identity.

And we can see from Japan’s economic success the vital importance of the third form of security that modern states need: economic security.

It has enabled Japan to be a force for progress in Asia and around the world.

Fourth, there is physical security: states without strong defences and secure borders are less able to deter aggression and stop terrorists and those who inspire them.

States that provide these four types of security will be in a stronger position to provide both an example to others and assistance to others.

For us in Britain, this requires action on a number of fronts that have been dangerously neglected in recent years.

Promoting national cohesion and clamping down on people and organisations that undermine it.

Strengthening our border protection – and I believe in this area we have a great deal to learn from Germany’s border police, as I discussed with Minister of the Interior Schauble three weeks ago.

Making sure our armed forces are properly supported with the training and equipment they need.

And modernising our machinery of government to end the division between domestic and foreign security policy, instituting a new national security approach.

These are all actions that we can and must take in the short-term, based on the principle of national security first.


But in the long-term our objective must be to help all states, everywhere, to become strong, self-confident nations that contribute to, rather than undermine, international security.

There is an ideal we must work towards.

States with institutional security – based on the rule of law.

States with cultural security – based on shared values.

States with economic security – based on market economics and free enterprise.

And states with physical security – based on strong borders and strong defence.


The question is, how do we move towards that ideal?

My judgment is that in the face of the new challenges we jointly face in the twenty-first century, the immediate response of some the approach that has become known as liberal interventionism – the idea that we should just get out there into the world and ‘sort it all out’ was the right impulse; was morally correct, but failed to strike the right balance between realism and idealism.

I think the right balance can be found in what I believe in: liberal conservatism.

Liberal – because I believe civil rights, democracy, pluralism and the rule of law are the source of progress and a key component of lasting security.

But conservative too: because I recognize the complexities of human nature, am sceptical of grand utopian schemes to remake the world, and understand that you have to be hard-headed and practical in the pursuit of your values.

Let me illustrate what this would mean in practice.

One example is our proposal for a Partnership for Open Societies in the broader Middle East, helping to support political, economic and social reform in the region. This explicitly recognizes that reform means building the institutions of civil society over time, not believing that democracy alone is a panacea.

Another is our proposal for a new international framework to reward good governance and the rule of law, including permanent representation for Germany, India, Japan, Brazil and an African nation on the UN Security Council, and greater European support for and engagement with organisations like ASEAN.

But just as good governance and the rule of law should be rewarded, so too should their opposites be punished.

Take Iran.

It needs to understand what is expected of it.

An end to aiding and abetting militias in Iraq and beginning to play a positive role in the future of that country, an end to the threats against Israel, and an end to the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

We Europeans have an important role.

We need the Iranians to understand that when it comes to them not getting a nuclear weapon, we mean business.

And if we are to reduce the chances of military action, then we must be ready to apply sanctions which really target Iranian financial institutions and trade.


So I am clear about how the next Conservative government in Britain will respond to the modern security challenges we are discussing today.

First, a clear-eyed recognition of the dangers we face together.

Second, a willing acceptance of our responsibility to play our part in upholding international security.

Third, an equal recognition that we can only play that part if we put national security first and ensure that we are strong at home.

Fourth, that the way to enhance international security is not through liberal interventionist utopias about remaking the whole world, but through the more hard-headed approach of liberal conservatism.

Based on these principles, I am confident that we can develop an effective response to the modern dangers that unite us all.” 

(Speech taken from Conservatives.com)


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