NATO’s Nuclear Debate

BERLIN (Own report) – In view of the NATO Summit scheduled this year in Warsaw, the deployment of nuclear arms against Russia is being discussed within the German military and think-tanks. The Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS), for example, accuses Moscow of “neo-imperial aggression” against Eastern Europe and calls for a revival of the “nuclear deterrence” strategy. According to BAKS, the idea of a nuclear weapons-free world should be considered as “unrealistic” – after all, “disarmament is not the primary raison d’être of a nuclear weapon.” The government-affiliated German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) sees it similarly, and opposes particularly a general ban on nuclear weapons, proposed by a United Nations working group. Such a “nuclear arms ban treaty” would be in contradiction to NATO’s role as a “nuclear alliance,” SWP claims. It would, however, be “conceivable” to strengthen the” linkage between conventional and nuclear capacities” and the “inclusion” of nuclear arms “in exercise scenarios.”

“Unrealistic” Renunciation of Nuclear Weapons

According to the German government’s military policy think tank, the Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS), NATO’s “nuclear strategy” should be “re-discussed” – “in view of Russia,”[1] because of Moscow’s perceived “neo-imperial aggression” against Eastern Europe. “Russia has definitely backed out of the partnership [with NATO] and is defining itself as an anti-western power.” This would necessitate “shortening the time of reaction” for engagement with nuclear weapons as well as “an increase of exercise activities” in the “nuclear field.” It is, “in a way, ironical” that these issues should be discussed at the Warsaw NATO summit in early June, when US President Barack Obama will give his “NATO farewell address,” according to BAKS. After all it was Obama, who had received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize “for the – from today’s perspective – unrealistic vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”[2]

The Deterrence Renaissance

Already early last year, BAKS stated that, after having taken a backseat for two decades, the “nuclear deterrence issue” is again “center stage,” not only because of a perceived Russian “aggression against Ukraine,” but also because of “Moscow’s aggressive nuclear posture.” Russia, according to BAKS, has “constantly reinforced and modernized” its nuclear arsenal and them in its “military scenarios.” For example, in 2009, Moscow “simulated the engagement of nuclear weapons against Poland,” and the corresponding maneuvers have been taking place “almost on a monthly basis” since the beginning of the Ukrainian civil war. Under these circumstances, NATO’s doctrine of “nuclear deterrence” is experiencing a “renaissance,” BAKS declared – just as during the cold war against the Soviet Union, western nuclear weapons have become a “means of preventing war.”[3]

Practice Nuclear War

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) has expressed itself along the same lines taken by BAKS. For example, it is “conceivable” to “enhance the integration of nuclear weapons” in NATO’s planning, “wherein stronger links are drawn between conventional and nuclear capabilities.” In addition, “nuclear weapons capable systems could become more integrated in maneuver scenarios,” and “maneuvers could be held more often and become more realistic.” There is also the possibility that the period will be shortened “in which the US Europe-based nuclear weapons become operational.” The SWP, like BAKS, does not hesitate to pin blame. These above named measures are only following the “Russian example,” according to the think tank.[6]

The Right Mixture

In the meantime, leading representatives of the German military and university professors have expressed similar views. In an interview with the German press published at the end of last year, the Bundeswehr General Hans-Lothar Domröse, Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum (Netherlands), declared that he is “very concerned” about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy. “Now, we have to watch carefully whether we, the NATO, will not become too small and he too big. If the relations between the two become unbalanced, there is a danger that deterrence becomes shaky. On the other hand, nuclear weapons are a “component of deterrence.”[9] In an article appearing at about the same time, Carlo Masala, Professor of Political Science at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, proclaimed his partisanship to the strategy of nuclear “deterrence” vis à vis Russia. This, however, must be accompanied by “proposals of cooperation,” according to the scholar – adding that most important is the “right mixture.”[10]

Full article: NATO’s Nuclear Debate (German Foreign Policy)

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