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Bundestag Debate on Nuclear Arms Buildup (October 10, 1981)

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Schmidt sharply criticized the organizers of the demonstration, saying they were not willing to distance themselves from communist groups. With that, they had missed the chance “to use balanced language.” The Germans’ desire for peace is not helped if they let it be organized by communist groups. “We Germans cannot let decisions be made for us by those who have made themselves willing tools of another country.” He added that the German communists who supported foreign political agendas through manipulation in the Federal Republic are “at best” mistaken. The law allows them to proceed but they should know, Schmidt continued amidst thundering applause throughout the entire house, that his political friends in the Soviet Union and the GDR were not allowed to demonstrate, and they should also know that there was no conscientious objector status there. Schmidt also received applause when he called upon demonstrators to let no one try to tell them that the Bundeswehr serves any other purpose than defending the Federal Republic.

It was striking how harshly Schmidt disapproved of the Soviet Union in his speech. He criticized the Soviet Union for “regrettably” not complying with the joint declaration of May 1978, whereby he and [Soviet Premier Leonid] Brezhnev had committed themselves to a policy of “approximate equilibrium” in the military sphere. The fact that the Soviet Union had not kept to the agreement as regards intermediate-range weapons was the reason for NATO’s dual-track decision, which was the subject today, he said.

The talks beginning on November 30 should not be used to firm up existing – or create new – imbalances, but to negotiate stability at a lower level. Everyone was agreed, Schmidt said, that the ideal outcome of the talks would be a “mutually agreed upon” zero option, by eliminating the Soviets’ increased arms buildup. Neither side could determine what comprises equilibrium, but Schmidt said it would be easier to reach agreement if the Soviet Union offered some transparency in this difficult area of negotiations and stopped, right now, deploying a new SS-20 missile every week. Schmidt said that problematic would be an important topic at his upcoming meeting with Brezhnev. He assured that he was looking forward to the talks and would conduct them as “part of the Western alliance.”

Speaking to demonstrators, Schmidt said that he is not lumping them together with those who view violence as a means of policy. But he called upon them to consider that some “very dubious characters had grabbed onto their coattails.” They should not let themselves be exploited by them. “Speak to all those who possess nuclear weapons to reduce their nuclear armaments. Also speak to all those who increase their stockpiles,” said Schmidt, as he called upon demonstrators not to forget to direct their protest to the Soviet Union as well.

Source: “Schmidt: Die Jugend soll auch die Sorgen unserer Generation ernst nehmen / Warnung vor ‘zwielichtigen’ Demonstranten in Bonn / Kohl: Zwei verschiedene Welten in der SPD” [“Schmidt: The Youth should also take the Worries of our Generation Seriously / Warnings about ‘Dodgy’ Demonstrators in Bonn / Kohl: Two Different Worlds within the SPD”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 10, 1981.

Translation: Allison Brown

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