A Sight on European Defence

Regarding the building up of a unified European Defence, which scares some Anglo-Saxon people, everything is all right. We are still very far from removing the US nuclear umbrella and lifting the ambiguities.

Today, let us have a look at German policy.

Lately Guido Westerwelle, German Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his satisfaction for seeing some European joining German stance on the ban of Nuclear Weapons from the European soil. Of course, getting partners in such an essential issue for our security is definitely positive. However, those partners are Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway. I would have preferred Germany to discuss a stance with partners of the same level, which are France and the UK in the first row and then Poland, Italy and Spain.

On 26th March 2009, Mrs Angela Merkel expressed herself in favour of the total ban of the weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, at that time she expressed the opinion of a vast majority of Germans who have grown up in the belief that being a nice guy was enough to avoid war. Let us remember the huge demonstrations against the Euromissiles and the intense debate when Joschka Fischer, the then Green minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed his support to the NATO Air campaign in Kosovo.

Firstly, France and the UK are among the major European countries and belong to world’s nuclear powers. I really do not think Belgium able to influence France on nuclear weapons. In the second circle, Italy, Poland and Spain are simply the other major European partners, considering that a constant element drives the foreign policy of Poland: security. Whatever can improve the feeling of security is good for Poles, and US nuclear weapons belong to those assets.

I can hardly think that Germany really wants to ban all nuclear weapons from Europe. Indeed, while declaring in this statement from 2009 her commitment for the ban of nuclear weapons, Mrs Merkel reaffirms simultaneously its strong support to the German involvement in the nuclear capability. After some research on the web, I could learn that the Luftwaffe Tornados of Büchel Airbase were equipped to fire the US nuclear weapons. By the way, I could not confirm this information on any official or governmental website. The only and thin piece of information I could get access to are on the Luftwaffe Website and are really elliptic: “keep ready for national defence tasks” (in German language: Verteidigungsfall’). This terminology is used only in cases related to defence to the national territory, in the NATO collective defence framework. Mrs Merkel assesses this nuclear and not so public nuclear role of Germany as a vector of influence of her country in the NATO.

On the other side, France, Germany’s major partner in Europe does not specify that all the WMD should be ban. Of course: this is the main, or the only trump that this country has in its hands when referring to the UN Security Council. Therefore, taking a rather different stance than Germany, France promotes a reduction of the arsenals of the main powers as well as the inclusion of the tactical nuclear weapons in the negotiations. By the way, one should say that French nuclear weapons are not included, in the French concept, within the tactical weapons: they belong to the strategic autonomy (cf French White paper on Defence).

Therefore his German initiative is really to be looked at quietly: in the conclusions of EU council of 29th March 2010, one of the strongest statements is when the EU is “reaffirming the commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons”.

Of course dreams cannot be banned. French and UK nuclear deterrence systems will not be dismantled, and that better, as long as a major partner like Germany will not look frankly at the issue and will not be truly coherent.
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