Germany’s refusal to stand up to US sparks new nuclear arms race
Germany neither needs nor wants nuclear weapons but 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the country is still hosting American B61 nuclear bombs as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy, much to the dismay of most Germans.
Instead of removing the last bombs, the U.S. is now preparing to replace them with new advanced B61-12s, according to a recent report by Germany’s public-service TV broadcaster ZDF.
20 U.S. nukes are currently stored at Büchel Air Base, where Tornado aircraft of the German Luftwaffe are ready to deliver the bombs in case of war.
Local residents have been fighting for the bombs’ removal for decades.
Overwhelming nationwide support for this cause eventually prompted the 2009 government of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) to include nuclear disarmament in its coalition agreement.
In 2010, the German parliament called on the Merkel-led government to follow up its words with deeds by telling the Americans to remove the nukes. Neither parliament nor public knew at the time that Merkel had already assured Washington that the bombs could stay in Germany.
Five years later, the American nukes are still at Büchel Air Base and the U.S. is about to upgrade the base’s nuclear arsenal with new B61-12s, according to Pentagon budget documents seen by ZDF. Experts describe it as a “covert nuclear armament” because the B61 Mod 12 is more accurate than the currently deployed modifications 3 and 4.
Willy Wimmer, former parliamentary state secretary in the German Defense Ministry and close associate of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, condemned the move as “a conscious provocation of our Russian neighbors” and criticized Merkel’s subservience to Washington.
Wimmer participated in NATO’s last WINTer EXercise (WINTEX) in spring 1989, which simulated a nuclear war against the Warsaw Pact. He was shocked by the scenario and canceled the exercise with Kohl’s backing after he was asked to drop nuclear bombs on cities in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), such as Dresden and Potsdam.
The current German government seems to have forgotten the lessons from the Cold War and prefers to apply double standards when it comes to modernizing nuclear weapons.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told ZDF that Moscow is alarmed by these developments. President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov went even a step further and warned that U.S. plans to deploy new B61-12s to Germany “would definitely cause Russia to take corresponding counter-steps and counter-measures in order to restore the strategic balance and parity.”
Peskov didn’t specify what sort of “counter-measures” he was alluding to but an unnamed “military-diplomatic” source told Interfax that Russia could respond by redeploying nuclear-capable Iskander-M tactical missiles to Kaliningrad.