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Worried about Trump, Germany debates a nuclear shield for Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker Getty Images/Agence France-Presse The shock declarations of Donald Trump, who threatened to no longer guarantee the protection of NATO countries against Russia if they did not pay their share, are accelerating a discussion that has been brewing since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Sophie Makris – Agence France-Presse in Berlin

10:56 a.m.

  • Europe

Two years after the spectacular shift made by Germany in its defense policy, in reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the country is tackling another strategic taboo, by debating 'a European nuclear umbrella.

Faced with the specter of Donald Trump's re-election to the American presidency, a European atomic shield “could be a subject”, said a figure in Olaf Scholz's social-democratic party, Katarina Barley.

These few words from the head of the party list for the European elections triggered a national debate, charged with emotions, in a deeply anti-nuclear and long-pacifist country, which has always partnered with States -United top priority.

The shock declarations of Donald Trump, who threatened to no longer guarantee the protection of NATO countries against Russia if they did not pay their share, are accelerating a discussion that has been brewing since the Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer spoke out in December in favor of a European nuclear deterrent.

“Should the Federal Republic have nuclear weapons ? No. Europe ? Yes”, because “the world has changed”, said this figure of the Greens, a party born from opposition to nuclear power.

The lines are moving

On Tuesday, it was Finance Minister Christian Lindner who deemed it necessary to consider the organization of a European nuclear deterrent in cooperation with France and Great Britain, the two nuclear powers of the continent.

“Under what political and financial conditions would Paris and London be ready to maintain or develop their own strategic capabilities for collective security ? And conversely, what contribution are we ready to make ?”, asks the head of line of the Liberal Party in a column in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Seeing no alternative to the transatlantic partnership, German governments have so far been unenthusiastic when their partners, first and foremost France, have pushed to strengthen the autonomy of European defense.

“I don’t see the point of this discussion today,” Olaf Scholz said in December. Its spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit reaffirmed the same thing on Wednesday.

However, “the lines have moved,” Markus Kaim, international security expert at the German SWP institute, told AFP. “Ten years ago there was a consensus in Berlin that nuclear weapons were useless.”

“We must now discuss concrete implementation,” continues the expert, who does not underestimate the numerous obstacles.

Sharing this defense between EU member countries ? “The EU would have the money and the know-how but as long as the United States of Europe does not exist, the model cannot work”, believes the expert.

Expanded umbrella

Because who is to decide, for example, on the use of nuclear weapons ? The presidency of the European Commission, the head of EU diplomacy, the capitals of the 27 member states in turn role ?

“This option presupposes a massive step towards EU integration, from which we are still very far away,” adds Lydia Wachs, researcher in international relations at Stockholm University.< /p>

Another alternative: the protection of France, the only EU member to possess nuclear weapons since Brexit.

Would the French be willing to share control of their nuclear weapons with their allies ? Would the Germans, scarred by the horrors of the Second World War, be willing to consider a nuclear response?

Expanding the French nuclear umbrella to cover all of Europe “is very unrealistic, from a political, military and technical point of view,” says Lydia Wachs.

“Paris should first make credible its willingness to accept the destruction of its own country to defend its allies. Second, it would need to massively develop and transform its nuclear arsenal and change its strategy, which would take time and require investment,” she explains.

In 2020, Emmanuel Macron proposed to EU countries a “strategic dialogue” on the “role of French nuclear deterrence for our collective security”.

For the daily Handelsblatt, Germany can no longer afford the luxury of ignoring the logic of nuclear deterrence: “Hope that Biden will win the election or things won't get too bad if Trump is elected seems like a comfortable strategy, but also a very risky one.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116