Possible disturbing fall-out (pun intended) from The Donald’s election–guess how the Russkies would react to the prospect of Germans with their own, not dual-key American, nuclear weapons (yes Virginia, they’re still there)–at Spiegel Online:
Elephant in the Room
Europeans Debate Nuclear Self-Defense after Trump Win
For decades, American nuclear weapons have served as a guarantor of European security. But what happens if Donald Trump casts doubt on that atomic shield? A debate has already opened in Berlin and Brussels over alternatives to the U.S. deterrent. By SPIEGEL Staff
The issue is so secret that it isn’t even listed on any daily agenda at NATO headquarters. When military officials and diplomats speak about it in Brussels, they meet privately and in very small groups — sometimes only with two or three people at a time. There is a reason why signs are displayed in the headquarters reading, “no classified conversation.”
And this issue is extremely sensitive. The alliance wants to avoid a public discussion at any cost. Such a debate, one diplomat warns, could trigger an “avalanche.” The foundations of the trans-Atlantic security architecture would be endangered if this “Pandora’s box” were to be opened.
The discussion surrounds nuclear deterrent. For decades, the final line of defense for Europe against possible Russian aggression has been provided by the American nuclear arsenal. But since Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States, officials in Berlin and Brussels are no longer certain that Washington will continue to hold a protective hand over Europe.
It isn’t yet clear what foreign policy course the new administration will take — that is, if it takes one at all. It could be that Trump will run US foreign policy under the same principle with which he operates his corporate empire: a maximum level of unpredictability…
what happens if the president-elect has an even more fundamental shift in mind for American security policy? What if he questions the nuclear shield that provided security to Europe during the Cold War?
For more than 60 years, Germany entrusted its security to NATO and its leading power, the United States. Without a credible deterrent, the European NATO member states would be vulnerable to possible threats from Russia. It would be the end of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Could the French or British Step In?
In European capitals, officials have been contemplating the possibility of a European nuclear deterrent since Trump’s election. The hurdles — military, political and international law — are massive and there are no concrete intentions or plans. Still, French diplomats in Brussels have already been discussing the issue with their counterparts from other member states: Could the French and the British, who both possess nuclear arsenals, step in to provide protection for other countries like Germany?
An essay in the November issue of Foreign Affairs argues that if Trump seriously questions the American guarantees, Berlin will have to consider establishing a European nuclear deterrent on the basis of the French and British capabilities. Germany’s respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, meanwhile, even contemplated the “unthinkable” in an editorial: a German bomb.
‘The Last Thing Germany Needs Now’
Politicians in Berlin want to prevent a debate at all costs. “A public debate over what happens if Trump were to change the American nuclear doctrine is the very last thing that Germany needs right now,” says Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference. “It would be a catastrophic mistake if Berlin of all places were to start that kind of discussion. Might Germany perhaps actually want a nuclear weapon, despite all promises to the contrary? That would provide fodder for any anti-German campaign.”
The debate however, is no longer relegated the relatively safe circles of think tanks and foreign policy publications…
Could be a scary new world. By the way, for quite a few years during the Cold War Canadian forces with NATO in Europe also had dual-key nukes–see “The Great Canadian Traditional Peacekeeping Myth vs Nuclear Weapons“. How many Canadians today are aware of that?
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds