Why the talk about nuclear armament is nonsense – and a nuclear power Germany would be a fatal signal. A guest article.
These are truly uncomfortable times we are living through. Not only is the heat threatening us (where is the security policy strategy against climate change?)?). West and East are also diligently turning the nuclear escalation screw. U.S. President Trump postulates "peace through strength," "unchallenged power" – including nuclear weapons. And Russia’s Putin announces "revolutionary weapons systems" to carry nuclear warheads "past any defenses, to any place in the world".
As if this were not enough, the development is taking place at a time when solidarity is in a bad way. The nuclear power Great Britain leaves the EU; France continues to think nuclear deterrence first nationally; and also the NATO stockpile guarantee wobbles. Plus arms control in crisis, a nuclear North Korea and modernization programs in nuclear weapons states.
Precise systems with less explosive power are intended to lower the deployment threshold and provide an even more credible deterrent. To make matters worse, so-called hypersonic gliders are being constructed in the USA, among others, which are so fast that they make effective countermeasures impossible. If, after all, early warning systems are permanently threatened from cyberspace, then the Cold War principle of "mutually assured destruction," the credo, "He who shoots first dies second," seems to provide stability.
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What could be more natural than to arm oneself with nuclear weapons?? Are not at least tactical nuclear weapons, as Konrad Adenauer said in 1957, "nothing more than the further development of artillery"?? The bomb must come, also for Germany!, the first calls have already sounded.
But what would that look like? First and foremost, a withdrawal from the German nuclear phase-out of 2011 would be necessary. At least one enrichment and reprocessing plant would have to be built. Train and develop specialists in nuclear technology. Because bombs don’t build themselves. When would they be used, for and against whom?? And how would they be carried to the target? On land, at sea or in the air?
If tactical weapons were developed to respond flexibly and in a phased manner, such as to a limited nuclear strike against an aircraft carrier in the Baltic Sea, against a German one that would then likely be present? And how would human lives, cities against cities, be set off against each other??
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Steps far below the nuclear threshold are possible, however
All these questions are frightening, they shake people up. And yet they are discussed, indeed answered, in the nuclear weapon states. Knowing it is therefore important, not out of agreement in its necessity, but as a basis for mutual understanding. A nuclear power in Germany, however, would be a fatal signal, a blatant break with core components of Germany’s postwar identity; a rejection of declarations such as the "Two-plus-Four Treaty," the renunciation of weapons of mass destruction of any kind.
Not to mention the effects on the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the "German question" would be back on the international agenda. Because not just any country would have set out to become a nuclear power, but the one that has recently failed to reach agreement, for example, on its austerity and migration policy. If we go down this path anyway, we will, as Wolfgang Ischinger recently put it, "checkmate ourselves". But the moves to get there have not yet been made.
Steps well below the nuclear threshold are possible, however, from increased conventional deterrence efforts to promoting dialogue with European and other partners about what strategic stability means today. And arms control and disarmament could also be revived in a further step. Certainly none of this would be a panacea and certainly would not work alone. But the summer is already frighteningly hot – and the fire bubble after a nuclear weapon explosion has 8000 degrees Celsius.
More on the topic
Report from peace research institute Sipri: Nuclear powers are arming their arsenals
Tobias Fella is a consultant on German and European foreign and security policy at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin