Huge controversy has erupted in Germany over the country's nuclear deterrence posture towards Russia after provocative words by the country's Christian Democrat caretaker defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. She said NATO is "prepared" and ready to activate its nuclear arsenal against Russia if it attacks a member of the military alliance. It appears she was advocating for a "first use" policy when it comes to Russia, in order to dissuade any potential future aggression.
She said in an interview early this week: "We have to make it very clear to Russia that in the end – and that is also the deterrent doctrine – we are prepared to use such means so that it has a deterrent effect beforehand and no one gets the idea, for example, the areas over the Baltic States or in the Black Sea to attack NATO partners."
“That is the core idea of NATO, this alliance, and it will be adapted to the current behavior of Russia. In particular, we see violations of the airspace over the Baltic states, but also increasing attacks around the Black Sea,” she added.
The comments were made in the wake of this month's rapid deterioration in Russia-NATO relations. After NATO expelled eight Russians on accusations that they were spies from Russia's diplomatic mission to NATO HQ, last week the Kremlin declared it would withdraw from the diplomatic mission altogether, severing contacts completely. And more recently as Reuters reported, "NATO defense ministers agreed a new master plan on Thursday to defend against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts, reaffirming the alliance's core goal of deterring Moscow despite a growing focus on China."
The German defense minister's comments were made in reference to the breakdown in communications with Russia and the implementation of this so-called master plan.
With relations deteriorating, despite ongoing cooperation on other key fronts - most notably the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline which is still awaiting final approval from German regulators before it sends Russian natural gas into Europe - an incensed Russian Defense Ministry summoned the German Embassy’s military attaché in Moscow to account for Kramp-Karrenbauer's words on nuclear strikes.
The Russian ministry said in a Monday statement that Berlin’s envoy "was asked to appear before the Main Directorate for Military Co-Operation." The statement described that in the meeting "attention was drawn to the remarks made by German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on nuclear deterrence against Russia, and a diplomatic note was handed over."
As for the provocative remarks on nuclear deterrence options within Germany, some corners of German parliament also reacted angrily to the "irresponsible" words, with head of the Social Democrats Rolf Mützenich mocking: "It is a mystery to me whether the minister also thought of the nuclear weapons still stored in Germany."
Here's what Mützenich said according to European reports:
Mützenich is especially known for his pacifist views, having written his 1991 doctoral thesis on nuclear-free regions and regularly argues to exclude the stationing of US nuclear weapons on German soil.
“It is a mystery to me whether the minister also thought of the nuclear weapons still stored in Germany,” said Mützenich.
It is understood that there are about 20 nuclear bombs of varying sizes lying in wait on German soil at an airbase in Rhineland-Palatinate as a result of NATO nuclear sharing.
Lately German and other officials in the EU have expressed deep frustration over being too beholden to Washington's foreign policy and military adventurism abroad, particularly after the failed Afghan debacle and NATO's inability to conduct a safe and efficient evacuation of Kabul airport in August.