The times are when questions are being asked that the experts didn’t think would become relevant so quickly. CDU leader Friedrich Merz recently raised one: In view of the threat situation, based on French proposals, does Europe need “a common nuclear capacity” as life insurance?
The background to this are threats by Kremlin ruler Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons if necessary in the Ukraine war. In addition, there is also the concern of the transatlanticists, including Merz, that a future US president, possibly Donald Trump, will again question NATO membership – and thus security guarantees for Germany as well.
The words of the new President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber from the CSU, show that Merz is far from alone. In an interview with the ARD magazine “Panorama”, he now said that the European Union was “naked in a world of storms”. The Europeans could not defend themselves without external partners. “And that means we now have to talk about the nuclear option.”
The demands – raised among others by the new head of the Munich Security Conference and former Merkel security adviser Christoph Heusgen – are for urgent talks with France on security and with regard to the nuclear protective shield. According to President Emmanuel Macron, the nuclear program could be expanded if the partners want it. Background: France has been the only country in the EU with nuclear weapons since Brexit.
Germany itself doesn’t have any and shouldn’t have any either. In the course of reunification, it renounced the possession, production and disposal of atomic bombs in the settlement agreement. According to a survey commissioned by “Panorama”, 71 percent of Germans want things to stay that way. But: A “nuclear sharing”, as agreed with the USA, should already exist.
52 percent of Germans as a whole, but even 64 percent of the Greens, who have their roots in pacifism, are in favor of it. This puts them ahead of supporters of the Union and FDP, each with 61 percent. And the Greens are also in favor of increasing US nuclear weapons in this country.
The current number is kept secret, but 20 B61 bombs are said to be stored in Büchel in the Eifel and modernized by 2024. Carrier aircraft of the Federal Air Force ensure nuclear sharing: since the mid-1980s, 36 fighter jets of the old “Tornado” type have been planned for this purpose, and they are soon to be replaced by new American F-35s to be purchased.
Apart from Büchel in Rhineland-Palatinate, there used to be nuclear weapons in Ramstein, Nörvenich and Memmingen. They left there. There are said to be 180 nuclear weapons of this type left across Europe, one of which has 13 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. After being dropped in August 1945, it cost the lives of 140,000 people within four months.
Germany and the bomb, an explosive topic. After all, the SPD, Greens and FDP, the traffic light parties, had written “Germany free of nuclear weapons” as a goal in their coalition agreement. Now, under the impression of the Ukraine war, they want to strengthen the German role in NATO’s nuclear deterrent again. And then the question of the “common European nuclear capacity” had not even arisen so urgently.