US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Since the beginning of May, a discussion has again flared up in Germany on the country’s participation in the NATO program for the joint use of nuclear weapons. It all started with an interview with the chairman of the Social Democratic Party in the Bundestag, Rolf Mützenich, to the Tagesspiegel publication. He spoke out for the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Germany and its withdrawal from the NATO program, saying that the concept of using American gravitational nuclear bombs delivered by aircraft of European allies is a relic of the Cold War.
At the same time, Mutzenich does not criticize the very policy of nuclear deterrence and does not question the meaningfulness of the existence of the American “nuclear umbrella.” Germany could, he said, continue to actively engage in shaping the Alliance’s policies within its Nuclear Planning Group.
Mutzenich was supported by the co-chairs of the SPD, Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, and opposed, in particular, by the Social Democrats, who are responsible in the government and the Bundestag for foreign policy and the security sphere, including Foreign Ministry Heiko Maas. On May 4, Steffen Seibert, head of the German Federal Government’s press service, confirmed that his country would continue to participate in the program, calling it an important element of NATO’s robust containment system. The German ruling coalition, which has existed since 2018, believes that only successful negotiations on disarmament between the United States and Russia can be a condition for the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Germany.
The impetus for the German discussion was the April Ministerial Secretary of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) decision on the choice of new aircraft for transporting American nuclear bombs. They should replace the Tornado fighter-bombers, which they will stop using, at the latest, in 2030. The Minister decided to choose 45 Eurofighter aircraft, as well as 45 American Boeing aircraft F / A-18E / F Super Hornet and EA-18 Growler (30 and 15, respectively). This step was discussed with representatives of the SPD government: Heiko Maas and Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz (they belong to the party’s moderate wing).
However, the left wing of the SPD, which opposes Germany’s continued participation in the program for the joint use of nuclear weapons and the storage of American nuclear bombs on German territory, criticized the decision. Now it is his representatives who are beginning to gain the upper hand both in the SPD faction in the Bundestag and in the party as a whole, as indicated by recent personnel decisions.
The movement did not announce a change in official position on the issue under discussion, but Mutzenich expressed in his interview the opinion of the overwhelming majority of members of the faction and party, thereby going against the agreements reached within the coalition. Most Germans (60-70%), according to polls in recent years, also favor the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Germany.
A change in the approach of the SPD may be a factor that will actually call into question Germany’s participation in the nuclear weapons sharing program. If the Germans do not buy new dual-use aircraft, they will gradually begin to leave it. During the work of the parliament of the current convocation, the SPD will block the process of preparation for the purchase of F / A-18 aircraft, which is planned to be implemented after the 2021 election. Completing this process under such conditions will be a difficult task. If a coalition of the CDU / CSU and the Greens appears, the prospect of buying new cars cannot be completely ruled out, however, problems may arise due to serious differences in the attitude of members of the second of these forces to the topic of nuclear weapons. In the case of the formation of the Green coalition with the SPD and the Left Party, the transaction will most likely not be completed. Most of all chances to acquire new planes and continued participation of Germany in the NATO program will be if the least credible coalition arises: the CDU / CSU and the Free Democratic Party. Based on the foregoing, we can talk about the likelihood of the development of such a scenario, in which Germany will gradually exit the program as the Tornado dual-use aircraft are withdrawn from service in the absence of a decision to purchase new aircraft.
Germany’s withdrawal from the nuclear weapons sharing program will negatively affect the security of both the EU as a whole and NATO’s eastern flank in particular. From a purely military point of view, as some experts believe, the NATO concept in connection with the development of other (American) nuclear weapon delivery systems plays an increasingly less important role. Meanwhile, politically, the program is still important in the context of the unity of the Alliance and confidence in the nuclear deterrence strategy in Europe.
Russia will perceive Berlin’s refusal to participate in it and the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from Germany as a sign of weakening US-European cooperation. Meanwhile, close US-German military cooperation is an extremely important factor for European security and the defense of NATO’s eastern flank. The German decision may entail similar steps by other allies participating in the program, in particular, Belgium and Holland, whose inhabitants, like the Germans, also have a negative attitude to nuclear weapons.
The completion of the nuclear weapons sharing program will put an end to the distribution of risks and responsibilities between the United States and European allies in this area. The risk of a divergence of the positions of Washington and Brussels, including in the field of security policy, will increase, and Moscow will begin to reckon less with the nuclear deterrence system in Europe. Discussions about the reform of the NATO program, concerning the expansion of the list of countries participating in it or the deployment of new American systems on the European continent, can, in turn, exacerbate the differences between the members of the Alliance.
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