Europe, UK might establish a nuclear shield if Trump wins: German minister

Europe, UK might establish a nuclear shield if Trump wins: German minister

Shafaq News/ The UK could contribute to a new European nuclear shield if Donald Trump becomes US president again, a senior German minister has suggested, drawing British politicians into the debate about how Europe’s security could be bolstered in the event of the Republican frontrunner winning in November.

Questions over a European nuclear deterrence have intensified after Trump’s remarks on Saturday that he would not defend any Nato member that failed to spend 2% of its gross domestic product on defence – and would even encourage Russia to continue attacking.

European leaders have interpreted the comments as a warning that the alliance’s largely US nuclear shield can no longer be taken for granted if Trump returns to the White House. On Tuesday, Christian Lindner, the German finance minister and the leader of the Free Democratic party, called on politicians to consider an alternative model that could include British and French nuclear weapons.

In an article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he wrote: “The strategic nuclear forces of France and Great Britain are already making a contribution to the security of our alliance. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has made various offers of cooperation. We should understand Donald Trump’s recent statements as a call to further rethink this element of European security under the umbrella of Nato.

“The question is: under what political and financial conditions would Paris and London be prepared to maintain or expand their own strategic capabilities for collective security? And vice versa, what contribution are we willing to make? When it comes to peace and freedom in Europe, we must not shy away from these difficult questions.”

The central issue in the nuclear debate is less whether Britain or France would put their nuclear weapons at the disposal of the EU, but whether the two countries could agree to put them at the service of a deterrence strategy for Nato’s European alliance area.

Although France keeps its nuclear deterrent outside the Nato command structure, Macron has offered to cooperate with Europe on nuclear defence. In 2020, he called for a “strategic dialogue” on “the role of France’s nuclear deterrent in [Europe’s] collective security”. Germany never took up that offer.

Manfred Weber, the German conservative who heads the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) grouping in the European parliament, has thrown his weight behind the debate. He said he did not rule out a European nuclear umbrella and called for “a new chapter” to be opened with London.

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“Macron has already made a vague offer to talk about the importance of the French nuclear forces for Europe,” Weber said. “Now that Donald Trump is openly questioning the role of the USA as a protective power would be the right moment for this. The same applies to the British, with whom we should finally start a new chapter of cooperation after Brexit.”

Speaking this week, Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, said Macron’s offer of a possible Europeanisation of nuclear weapons to create a common security system should be taken “really seriously”.

The issue is likely to become a theme of the European elections in June, with Katarina Barley, the top candidate for Germany’s Social Democratic party, also appearing to back the idea. Trump’s recent statements meant the US guarantee could “no longer be relied upon”, she told the Tagesspiegel.

Not everyone is in favour, however. The German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, also from the SPD, has called for calm, noting for starters that Trump has yet to win the Republican nomination. “I can only warn against starting such a discussion with such carelessness just because Donald Trump, who is not even a presidential candidate, makes such statements,” Pistorius said.

Another SPD politician, Ralf Stegner, described the push for common European nuclear weapons as an “extremely dangerous escalation”. He told the Tagesspiegel: “There is no need for a European nuclear power – it would be the opposite of European security.”

The UK has said its nuclear weapons would be available for use at the request of Nato’s supreme allied commander Europe, the alliance’s most senior uniformed officer, and that they would only be used “in extreme circumstances of self-defence including the defence of our Nato allies”.

This offer, however, was made in the context of a US nuclear presence in Europe.

The Labour party has promised to intensify defence cooperation with Europe, including a commitment by the shadow defence secretary, John Healey, to reach an agreement with Germany within the first six months of taking office. But this modest pledge had nothing to do with the sharing of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

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