With both NATO and Europe suddenly unsure of what a radical foreign policy by the Trump administration could mean for NATO funding and European joint defense, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said that Europe needs to think about developing its own nuclear deterrent strategy given concerns that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could scale back U.S. military commitments in Europe.
Speaking to Reuters, Roderich Kiesewetter, foreign policy spokesman for the conservative bloc in parliament, said that Germany could play an important role in convincing nuclear powers France and Britain to provide security guarantees for all of Europe. "The U.S. nuclear shield and nuclear security guarantees are imperative for Europe," he said in an interview. "If the United States no longer wants to provide this guarantee, Europe still needs nuclear protection for deterrent purposes." As a reminder, Germany is among the powers which possess the ability to create nuclear weapons but has agreed not to do so (under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as reaffirmed by the Two Plus Four Treaty).
French Marine officers wait atop ''Le Vigilant'' nuclear submarine prior to the
visit of France's President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Kiesewetter's comments follow our report from this weekend according to which "NATO Panics As Putin Urges Trump To Force Alliance Withdrawal From Russian Border", and reflect grave and growing concerns across Europe about what Trump's election will mean for the United States' commitment to NATO and to providing a strategic nuclear deterrent against a potential attack by Russia.
Kiesewetter said he was not reassured by President Barack Obama's comments on Monday that Trump would maintain core strategic relationships, including with NATO. "That's all fine and good, but we have to measure Trump by his actions," Kiesewetter said. "Europe must start planning for its own security in case the Americans sharply raise the cost of defending the continent, or if they decide to leave completely."
There are, of course, complications among which that that despite Article 42, Europe still does not even have a standing army. That however is not a big hurdle to the German: Kiesewetter said a Franco-British nuclear umbrella for Europe would be costly, but could be financed through a joint European military budget that is due to begin in 2019, along with joint European medical, transportation and reconnaissance commands. Alas, in recent years, when it comes to "joint" funded efforts, Europe has had its share of quite prominent setbacks.
He said he had proposed development of a European nuclear deterrent within security circles before the U.S. election, with little result, but believed the suggestion would be taken more seriously after Trump's win.
And then there is the question of Germany becoming a nuclear power at a time when tensions within Europe are at unprecedented levels: Kiesewetter believes that Germany should not aim to become a nuclear power itself, so as to discourage any proliferation moves by other European countries. "We have to plan ahead and cannot let ourselves be surprised," he said.
HIs idea appears to have some backing in parliament: German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and other senior government officials have said it is clear that Trump's victory means Germany and Europe will have to take on more responsibility for their own defence.
However, if only for the time being, the proposition is being shot down. Rainer Arnold, defence spokesman for the Social Democrats in parliament, dismissed Kiesewetter's suggestion as "off base," saying Trump's own U.S. Republican Party would never accept a weakening of NATO and would be sceptical about any plans to boost European nuclear capabilities.
Perhaps the reason why the Reuters article did not even mention what a Russian response could be to an incipient push for a nuclear rearming of Europe, is that it was all too clear: Putin would surely just sit back and smile as Europe starts piling up nukes, taking it all in stride.