Chancellor Olaf Scholz accused Russia of "blatant imperialism" before the United Nations and promised Ukraine further support, including weapons. "Putin will only give up his war and his imperial ambitions if he realizes that he cannot win this war," Scholz told the UN General Assembly in New York. "Not only is he destroying Ukraine, he is also ruining his own country."
That's why no Russian "dictated peace" will be accepted - and no sham referendums either, emphasized Scholz. He was alluding to the votes planned by separatists in three Ukrainian regions that were announced on Tuesday. It is now feared that Russia, as in the case of Crimea in 2014, could annex the three regions.
Scholz had already declared the planned votes to be contrary to international law before his speech on the sidelines of the general debate. It is "very, very clear that these sham referendums cannot be accepted, that they are not covered by international law and by the understandings that the international community has reached," said Scholz. "It's all just an attempt at imperialist aggression that's supposed to be embellished."
First Chancellor's speech in the UN general debate in 15 years
Scholz gave his 16-minute speech mainly in German, he only spoke the first few sentences in English. It was the first of a Chancellor in the general debate of the UN General Assembly in 15 years. Scholz did not speak until around 8:30 p.m., a time when the General Assembly hall was only about a fifth full. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who arrived in New York on Tuesday to hold bilateral talks and take part in international meetings, also took a seat in the fifth row of the German delegation.
Scholz' main topic was the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its consequences for the world order. The Chancellor also advocated harsh punishment for Russian war crimes. "We have to look and act when Russia commits war crimes in Mariupol, Bucha or Irpin. We will hold the murderers accountable." Germany is doing its utmost to support the International Criminal Court and the independent commission of inquiry set up by the Human Rights Council. Putin himself did not name Scholz in this context.
Scholz: The return of imperialism is a disaster for Europe
Ukraine must be able to repel Russia's attack. "We are supporting Ukraine with all our might: financially, economically, humanitarianly and also with weapons." Shortly before the chancellor left for New York, the federal government had promised further weapons from Bundeswehr stocks, including four heavy artillery pieces of the Panzerhaubitze 2000 type.
Warning to China: implement UN recommendations on Uyghurs
The Chancellor stressed how important it was for Germany to "respect and defend human rights everywhere and at all times". In this context, he also had a message ready for China. He called on Beijing to implement the UN Human Rights Office's recommendations on the situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. "That would be a sign of sovereignty and strength. And a guarantee of change for the better," he said, according to the manuscript.
In early September, the UN Human Rights Office described signs of crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. The government in Beijing reacted with outrage to the publication. Tensions between the ruling Han Chinese and ethnic minorities have long existed in Xinjiang. Uyghurs have complained of cultural and religious oppression, while Beijing has accused Uyghur groups of extremism and separatism.
Application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council renewed
In his speech, Scholz urgently appealed to the international community to protect the UN Charter - the set of rules of the United Nations. "This charter is our collective rejection of a disorderly world."
The chancellor also called for institutional reforms and renewed Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Germany is ready to take on greater responsibility - initially as one of the ten rotating members in 2027 and 2028, but also as a permanent member in the future, he said. "I ask you to support our candidacy - the candidacy of a country that respects the principles of the United Nations, that offers and seeks cooperation."
"We have to adapt our rules and institutions"
The Security Council is the most important body of the United Nations and is responsible for conflict resolution and peacekeeping. It includes 15 of the 193 UN member states. Five nuclear powers are constantly present and have the right to veto all decisions: the USA, China, Russia, Great Britain and France. Some of the other 188 member states rotate the other 10 seats every two years. Germany applies for it every eight years.
For years, the body has been considered largely incapable of action on key issues due to mutual blockades by the USA, China and Russia. And a fundamental reform of the Security Council has been discussed for decades without any progress being made. "We have to adapt our rules and institutions to the reality of the 21st century," Scholz demanded, according to the speech transcript. "Far too often they reflect the world of 30, 50 or 70 years ago. This also applies to the United Nations Security Council."