A European Nuclear Bomb Is the Wrong Response to Trump

Trump has triggered a shock wave by expressing doubts about the NATO alliance. This could be positive if Europe draws the right conclusions.

One of the last remaining taboos related to security policy is falling away: Germany is debating nuclear armament. It is understandable that the German minister of defense is stepping on the brakes for alliance-related reasons. Nevertheless, the discussion is useful, if only because it has the potential to clear up misunderstanding. Our security depends not only on the capabilities of the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, but also on the credible threat that an attacker might unintentionally trigger a global nuclear war and thus destroy itself.

Within NATO, only the U.S. possesses an arsenal of sufficient size for deterrence. This is why former President Donald Trump’s expression of uncertainty regarding the alliance’s pledges affects the very cornerstone of our security. But turning away in disgust doesn’t help, as Europe has no alternative in the long term — anyone who promises another solution is leading the country astray.

German nuclear armament is out of the question. The process would be too complex, too protracted, too costly, and politically explosive in Europe. Germany becoming a nuclear power would be a nightmare scenario, even for our neighbors in the EU. Above all, the need to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would open the floodgates, potentially triggering a dangerous global nuclear arms race. However, this problem would also arise if the EU had common nuclear defenses. In addition, even in terms of foreign policy, a united Europe is only partially capable of acting, and not at all capable in matters of defense. If a common army cannot be established, who should actually press the red button?

Instead of Nuclear Debate, We Should Swiftly Honor European Pledges within NATO

The remaining nuclear powers in Europe are the U.K., which we can no longer rely upon to protect the continent after Brexit, and France. After all, President Emmanuel Macron offered to start a dialogue on the role his nuclear weapons could play in Europe’s collective security years ago. There is nothing wrong with dialogue. But this lacks substance. First, the French nuclear arsenal is far too small to be a fully fledged deterrent. Second, there has been no offer from Paris and not even the slightest sign that it seriously wants to put up a credible protective shield over its European neighbors, thus increasing the risk of nuclear devastation at home. France, like the U.S., does not want to relinquish control of its nuclear weapons.

Unlike the U.S., France does not offer any nuclear-sharing arrangements, and it is not even a member of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group. Nuclear deterrence only works if there is a credible threat that the weapons will be used. That is still most likely to be the case under the protective umbrella of the U.S. It is also in America’s interest that this remains the case. Trump is correctly calling for greater commitment from allies. But even under Trump, the U.S. would want to remain a world power and prevent the rise of new nuclear powers.

Trump also knows that he needs allies. Instead of sending Washington a fatal signal that Europe is preparing for separation out of fear of separation, we should do everything we can to strengthen the NATO alliance. It is therefore important that European pledges to increase defense efforts in the alliance are swiftly honored. The latest figures from the NATO countries are heading in the right direction. However, if Germany wants to keep its promise in the long term, it will soon have to allocate an additional 30 billion euros (approximately $32.4 billion) a year to the Bundeswehr. Germany should now center the debate on this challenge instead of on pipe dreams.

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About Kirsty Low 74 Articles
I am a German to English translator from Scotland with a passion for all things related to language and translation. I have experience translating texts from diverse fields and enjoy taking on new challenges.

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