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Germany’s Dangerous Nuclear Flirtation

Opening a debate on German nuclear armament, as some are advocating, would be the geopolitical equivalent of walking into checkmate. Rather than discuss a scenario that would damage the strategic environment in Europe, leaders should instead focus on reinforcing military alliances and strengthening conventional capabilities.

BERLIN – As in a game of chess, there are geopolitical moves through which a country can – unwittingly – checkmate itself. Opening a debate on German nuclear weapons would be such a move. Yet this is exactly what some Germans have recently proposed. Supporters of a nuclear-armed Germany contend that NATO’s nuclear umbrella has lost all credibility because of statements made by US President Donald Trump.

There are at least three good reasons why considering a nuclear option would be foolhardy for Germany. For starters, Germany has repeatedly renounced it, first in 1969 by signing (and later ratifying) the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and then in 1990 by signing the so-called Two Plus Four Treaty, which paved the way for German reunification.

Casting doubt on these commitments would severely damage Germany’s reputation and reliability worldwide. Germany would call into question the credibility of NATO’s nuclear deterrence, and thus the alliance itself, along with the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime.

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