Germany opts for a farewell to NATO nuclear weapons

Germany’s new government has included nuclear disarmament as a key feature into their foreign policy program.

A coalition of Angela Merkel’s reelected Christian Democratic Bloc and pro-business Free Democrats, led by new foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, is going to negotiate the complete withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from the territory of the country.

The initial question of disarmament sparked controversy among political forces in Germany. Angela Merkel’s party had spoken against the withdrawal of warheads. The Christian Democrats said Germany’s share in the nuclear weapon stockpile secures the country’s influence in this sensitive issue of politics. According to the party’s chairman on foreign affairs Eckart von Klaedan, the warheads were to be treated as an important deterrence in a world where the risk of proliferation is increasing.

However, getting rid of nuclear weapons is going to be one of Germany’s foreign policy priorities from now on. Four of the six parties that have their representatives in Bundestag were in favor of this approach from the very beginning, and had it as a chief issue in their party programs.

Guido Westerwelle was earlier reported as saying that Germany could set a good example when it comes to disarmament issues by removing the weapons stationed on the territory of the country.

In his interview to the German newspaper Spiegel, earlier in October, Westerwelle said: “We Liberals want to see Germany taking the lead again in a consistent policy of disarmament and arms control. Such a policy creates greater security and increased trust. The trend we have seen in recent years – increasing mistrust and, as a consequence, the danger of a new arms build-up – needs to be reversed by home-grown initiatives.”

Germany’s outgoing Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, endorsed Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world. In April 2009, he said that it was the right time for a new beginning of nuclear disarmament, referring to the agreement aimed at nuclear arms reduction reached earlier between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. According to him, in case Russia and the US declare they are ready to cut down on the nuclear weapons stock, there should be raised the question of nuclear arms withdrawal from Germany as a mid-term priority.

The opposition, namely the Greens and the Left party, is unanimous that Germany should get rid of nuclear weapons. Gregor Gysi, leader of the Left Party, called on the Chancellor to give up the policy of participation in NATO’s nuclear program.

“The idea that a departure from this policy would diminish German influence in NATO is Cold War thinking,” he is quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle.

Jurgen Trittin, the head of the Greens, called NATO warheads relics of the Cold War. He urged the government not to hide behind the US back.

NATO nuclear warheads were deployed across Europe, including Western Germany in the 1950s, during the Cold War stand-off with the USSR. With the exact figures and location sites not yet revealed, Germany is thought to still store an estimated 20 warheads.