COLOGNE, Germany – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has entered a fiery German debate about a decades-old promise to defend the American atomic bomb in a European country as a way to obstruct Russia.
Stoltenberg believes that simply sticking to the doctrine of “nuclear sharing” will ensure Berlin’s continued seat at the table of strategic decision making in the alliance.
“NATO nuclear division is a multilateral arrangement that ensures the benefits, responsibilities and risks of nuclear prevention are shared among allies,” he wrote in the op-ed which was first posted on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung website. “Politically, this is important. This means participating allies, such as Germany, make joint decisions about nuclear policy and planning, and maintain appropriate equipment. “
The policy stipulates that a handful of countries in Europe that do not have atomic weapons will host such weapons in their territories and maintain ways to spread them. In the case of Germany, there were 20 B61 bombs that were reportedly kept at the Büchel Air Base in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany.
If requested, German Tornado pilots will fly weapons into enemy territory and throw them at targets in lofting maneuvers, releasing them during sharp up and back turns to maximize bomb airtime.
Debate has risen in recent weeks about Germany’s nuclear role, following the German Ministry of Defense’s recommendation to buy 30 F-18s for the job, because Tornado fighter jets are expected to reach the end of their useful life by 2030.
Led by Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the Social Democrats in parliament, a group within the ruling coalition’s junior party wants to get out of the NATO atomic arrangement, arguing that the agreement has also outweighed its benefits.
Not so, said Stoltenberg.
“While NATO views its own nuclear deterrent primarily as a political tool, Russia has strongly integrated its nuclear weapons into its military strategy,” Stoltenberg wrote. “This has placed nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, only 500 km from Berlin. It has threatened allies such as Denmark, Poland and Romania with a nuclear attack. Russia also forcibly and illegally annexed parts of Ukraine, a country bordering the country previously committed in honor of in return for Ukraine giving up her own nuclear protection. “
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, German defense minister and head of the Christian Democrats, also cited the remaining geopolitical tensions as an argument for safeguarding US nuclear power in the country.
“As long as there are countries that possess nuclear weapons that do not want to be part of the values of our community, we need a strong negotiating position,” he said last week, as reported by Die Zeit. “Arrangement of nuclear deterrence-sharing serves that purpose. Those who want to surrender weaken our security.”
For those who don’t know, the mere act of absorbing nuclear debate here can seem like an acid journey through various stages of German age since the Cold War. It’s easy to get lost in the details. The subtleties that are considered as a touch on anything from certifying a new jet to a nuclear mission, the stupidity of trying to run an atomic bomb with a manned jet fighter in the first place, or the value of B61 bomb prevention in Europe when another weapon class will breathe fire that is far more destructive in that continent.
Perhaps that is why the symbolic argument aimed at preserving NATO cohesion seems to be the main one among German decision makers for the time being.
Or as Stoltenberg said: “All allies have agreed that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”