By Horst Teubert
From German Foreign Policy, a Eurocritical web site
Feb. 8, 2017
The Polish government’s éminence grise, Jarosław Kaczyński, has picked up the German establishment’s call to acquire its own nuclear weapons. He would welcome it, if the EU would become a “nuclear superpower,” Kaczyński told a leading German daily. Last week, the left liberal, government critical “Panorama” television program of the ARD’s Norddeutscher Rundfunk channel called for launching an “open debate” on the “German nuclear bomb,” because “no state” could presently be “confident” that the USA, under President Trump, would “unconditionally defend the other NATO allies.”
To “deter” Russia from attacking a member of the Alliance, in this situation, it is necessary to have national control over nuclear weapons, claimed the authors of the program. Numerous experts from think tanks, the media and from the political domain have expressed similar views, even while differing, on whether to confide the nuclear war potential to the authority of the EU’s military bodies or to the German government.
A few days ago, analogue to Kaczyński’s statement, the left liberal, government critical television “Panorama” program broadcast by the ARD’s Norddeutscher Rundfunk public channel, called for an “open debate” on a “German nuclear bomb.” Even though “unpopular and sensitive,” the topic could “become relevant earlier than expected, in view of the new man in the White House.”
To substantiate their opinion, the authors of the TV program referred to Ulrich Kühn, a scientist, who also works for the Bundeswehr-affiliated Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) in Hamburg. “Should the security situation in Germany and Europe deteriorate over the next few years – i.e. should Russia continue to threaten peace in Europe and, simultaneously, the United States withdraw from Europe, I do not want to rule out Germany beginning to think about how to really defend itself,” Kühn is quoted.
“Panorama” also referred to Roderich Kiesewetter, foreign policy spokesperson for the CDU/CSU group in the Bundestag. To an international press agency, Kiesewetter, a former general staff officer and President of the Reservists Association of the German Armed Forces declared that the EU needs its “nuclear protection for deterrent purposes.” “We have to plan ahead” for all eventualities, “and cannot let ourselves be surprised” by a US withdrawal from Europe, Kiesewetter declared. Concerning the acquisition of nuclear arms, there should be no self-censorship, he said an interview with the German public radio a few days thereafter.
To Think the Unthinkable
A few days later, Berthold Kohler, the co-editor of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” – widely considered a flagship journal – made a case for the German nuclear bomb. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) In an editorial, Kohler wrote, because of reasonable “doubts about US guarantees,” Germany is confronted with the “question of its own nuclear deterrent” – although is seems “completely inconceivable to the German mind.” “Successful negotiations with the Kremlin are only possible, if one demonstrates the will and the capacity to defend one’s interests, values, and allies.”
Consensus Not Required
On this subject, other German mass media organs have followed suit in the same tenor. For example, at the end of January, Berlin’s “Tagesspiegel” carried the apodictic title “Germany needs Nuclear Weapons.” The author, the political scientist Maximilian Terhalle, explicitly stated that, in reaching for the bomb, he was “not in favor of first achieving a consensus with the other 27 EU member nations,” because that “would allow Russia ample time to take hybrid countermeasures.” “A Germany …, seeking to rein in the power of Putin’s Russia, to thereby maintain an independent and politically unrelenting Europe, that upholds our scope of domestic and foreign policy, must do so militarily and with nuclear weapons. Anything else is mere illusion.” Therefore, “Germany’s comprehensive nuclear arming” is compulsory, explained Terhalle.
Major Armament Debate
The internet portal “Spiegel Online” launched the current discussion on German acquisition of nuclear weapons early last November. In anticipation of Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, the media scholar Henrik Müller predicted a “major armaments debate” in Germany. “In the event of NATO’s disintegration and the complete collapse of the American security guarantee …, this will lead to a new arms race, like those now taking place elsewhere in the world. Even a debate on Germany’s acquiring its own nuclear weapons would be conceivable.” Moreover, due to the “isolationist atmosphere developing on the other side of the Atlantic,” it has become imperative to “prepare for such a scenario.” Nearly simultaneously, the Director of Berlin’s Global Public Policy Institute, Thorsten Benner, suggested that the German political leadership “rethink their nuclear postures.”
Break a National Taboo
The last time German nuclear weapons had been a media theme was back in 2006. Germany’s former Defense Minister Rupert Scholz, (CDU) had dropped the hint, as a means of – as he formulated it – “adequately responding” to a “nuclear threat made by a terrorist state.” Building its own “nuclear deterrence system” would be particularly necessary if NATO refuses such “guarantees” for Germany’s security, explained the politician. According to his own admission, Scholz was well aware that he was breaking what is widely seen as a “national taboo.” By joining the Nonproliferation Treaty, the Federal Republic of Germany has accepted the obligation under international law, never to produce its own nuclear weapons.
Expand Nuclear Sharing
However, in the 1950s, during West Germany’s remilitarization, West Germany’s reach for the bomb had already been acute. The German Chancellor at the time, Konrad Adenauer (CDU) publically held the opinion that nuclear weapons are “basically nothing more than the further development of artillery” – a development, that the nascent Bundeswehr “must, of course … take part in.” Adenauer’s Defense Minister, Franz-Josef Strauss,(CSU) had a similar view. Without nuclear arms, the German army’s task would amount to nothing more than serving as the “apprentices of the bakers and cooks” for the military forces of the other NATO partners. Although that sector of the German elite, represented by Adenauer and Strauss had not carried the day, the Bundeswehr subsequently did receive weapons and launchers, capable of use with bombs and rockets armed with nuclear warheads. Germany’s so-called nuclear sharing within the NATO framework remains valid still today – and now is supposed to be drastically expanded.
In any case, Jaroslaw Kaczynski has picked up Germany’s plea for the creation of the EU as a nuclear power. This brings to mind a precedent case a few years ago. In November 2011, the Polish Foreign Minister at the time, Radoslaw Sikorski, declared at a public appearance in Berlin, “I am less afraid of German power than of German inactivity.” Feeling legitimized by Sikorski’s appeal for “German leadership,” German President Joachim Gauck later launched his demand for a more expansive German foreign policy, also at the military level. He included this demand in his October 3, 2013 speech, which served as the starting point for Berlin’s broad campaign in favor of a more aggressive German global policy. In the course of the campaign, the German side has repeatedly declared that fear of German domination is no longer appropriate, since even government representatives from the Republic of Poland, which had suffered enormously under German aggressions, are making a plea for more “German leadership,”. Kaczynski is now giving Berlin the opportunity to repeat its pattern.
 Donald Trump und US-Atombomben in Deutschland. Panorama, ARD, 02.02.2017.
 German lawmaker says Europe must consider own nuclear deterrence plan. www.reuters.com 16.11.2016.
 “Wir werden mehr Geld für unsere Sicherheit ausgeben müssen”. www.deutschlandfunk.de 18.11.2016.
 See Shock as Opportunity.
 Berthold Kohler: Das ganz und gar Undenkbare. www.faz.net 27.11.2016.
 Maximilian Terhalle: Deutschland braucht Atomwaffen. causa.tagesspiegel.de 23.01.2017.
 Henrik Müller: Wie Trump Deutschland zur Aufrüstung zwingen könnte. www.spiegel.de 06.11.2016.
 Thorsten Benner: Germany Can Protect the Liberal Order. www.foreignaffairs.com 16.11.2016.
 Germany may need own nuclear weapons: Scholz. www.expatica.com 26.01.2006.
,  Zitiert nach: Michael Bienert: Adenauers Bombe. www.tagesspiegel.de 16.12.2007.
 “Deutsche Macht fürchte ich heute weniger als deutsche Untätigkeit”. dgap.org 28.11.2011.
 See Sleeping Demons and Three Years New Global Policymaking.