By Tyler Brown
German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized “freedom and partnership” in a speech at Stanford on Thursday where she called for strong international cooperation on winning the war in Afghanistan, repairing repercussions from the financial meltdown and fighting climate change. It was the only speech Merkel is to give during her visit to the United States this month.
Dinkelspiel Auditorium was packed wall-to-wall for Merkel’s address, given mostly in German, before the chancellor attended the dedication for the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford’s Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab.
“In the 21st century, we have responsibilities where we only can ensure success when we stand together,” Merkel said through a translator after a moment of silence for four German soldiers killed in Afghanistan this week.
“Security is the precondition for us being able to live in freedom,” Merkel said. She acknowledged that many Americans and Germans had doubts about Western military involvement in the Middle East, but was adamant about following through in Afghanistan.
“I would like to state here very clearly: I stand behind this mission,” Merkel said. “I support this and I think it is necessary to support this mission until this country is able to stand on its own feet.”
Nevertheless, Merkel said, she believes that the world has to take a careful and intelligent approach.
“We need to do more research; we need to gain more insights…about Afghanistan, the region, ethnic tribes, roots of readiness to resort to violence,” she said.
One of the greatest single challenges making today different from the Cold War era, she said, is that nuclear material could now be obtained by terrorist groups.
“It is absolutely obvious that such a threat will not be mastered by a single country alone,” Merkel said.
Turning her attention to Iran, Merkel explained that the Iranian nuclear program could not be stopped without the support of countries beyond the United States and Europe.
“[I]t is not only a danger to Israel, it is a danger to all of us,” she said.
She said that Europe and the United States are natural partners.
“If we want to maintain our prosperity, Europe and the United States need to work together” to retain economic and technological advantages, she said.
In addition, there “need to be structures where Russia also feels its place.”
“[We need to] convince those who come from different cultural background that we don’t wish to impose ourselves,” she said.
Another pressing issue, she said, recovering from the international economic crisis.
“It came at us out of the blue two years ago, and the repercussions were felt all over the world,” Merkel said.
While wealthy countries were hit hard by the crisis, Merkel said she believed they owe it not only to themselves, but also to developing countries, to revamp the world financial system. She proposed a new global financial architecture that would extend beyond current organizations like the World Bank and trade agreements like NAFTA.
“We need to do everything we can to prevent protectionist measures and [encourage] free world trade,” she said. She added that there should be “an equitable balance between economic freedom and rules.”
Merkel also touched upon climate change, which she described as, “one of the great challenges of mankind.”
“In Copenhagen we advanced very little…it is very hard to find common answers among more than 100 participants,” she said.
Merkel appealed to the students in the audience to press current leaders to legislate solutions to climate change. “Turn up the heat, exert a little pressure,” she said.
Speaking in English, she related her years as a student in Germany behind the Iron Curtain.
“I would like to thank the very first president of Stanford, David Starr Jordan, who made the wise decision” to choose Stanford’s motto, Merkel said. Translated from German, the University’s motto is, “The wind of freedom blows.”
“The wind of freedom — this is what I felt when the wall came down,” Merkel said.
In the audience, a graduate student in applied physics asked the Chancellor, “Is there a certain event that incited you to go into politics?”
It was “personal experience that made me go into politics,” Merkel said. “The wall fell. I felt as many others did that we can’t allow the same people to pursue politics who had done it before.”