Jürgen Trittin in Frankfurter Rundschau
Security in Europe only exists with Russia
We are facing a new arms race, but this time, deterrence might not work and it is not enough to simply point at Russia. A guest column.
The 2019 Munich Security Conference marks an apogee in transatlantic relations. The strategic alliance between Europe and the US, long understood as the West, is failing as a political factor. The standing ovations for the Chancellor in Munich came from the relief of hearing it said out in the open. Also from the clarity with which she rejected the new American unilateralism – in method, as well as in the real world. Whether trade war, Iran agreement, or energy policy, at none of these points did she omit the contradiction to the ultimate demands from the Trump administration.
Berlin wanted to sit out Donald Trump
Merkel’s applause was countered by the booming silence with which the traditionally brave transatlantic community in Munich reacted to the remarks made by US Vice President Pence. Not only did he demand dropping out of the Iran agreement, but threatened to deprive Europe of protection if it did not finally call it quits with Russia. For a long time, the federal government believed that it could just sit out Trump. A bitter mistake. The current US administration combines the erratic destructiveness of Donald Trump with the neo-conservative aggressiveness of Pence and Bolton. This is a toxic mixture. It endangers the security of Europe. After the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Iran Agreement and Unesco, the US has kicked the the next international agreement into the trash bin, with the INF Treaty – to Vladimir Putin’s secret joy. How substantiated the mutual reproaches are is secondary. Both have little interest in actually saving the contract in the remaining six months. And in 2021, the New Start contract expires, which limits the number of nuclear warheads.
Facing a new nuclear arms race
If this also gets dropped, the armor spiral will really start spinning. The Cold War would be back. Then the world would face a new nuclear arms race. And Europe should be one of the locations.
But what is Europe’s response to that? To refer to Russia alone, as Foreign Minister Maas does, will not help. Simply doubling arms spending, as Merkel promised in Munich with the support of Olaf Scholz, will fuel the arms race. The idea of so-called “mutually assuranced destruction,” MAD, ie the threat of mutual suicide, is already “mad.” But that it leads to peace and stability is historically wrong. During the Cold War, the world was constantly on the brink of nuclear war. It would have been the last on this earth.
Anyone who claims today that the then threat of retrofitting led to agreements such as the INF Treaty, forgets the peculiarities of the time. With Gorbachev, a new way of thinking moved into Soviet foreign policy – and a realistic view of their own economic opportunities.
A world of multipolar, often autocratic nuclear powers
In addition, today we no longer have a bipolar world: France and Great Britain are established nuclear powers. Israel is a de facto one. China, India and Pakistan as well. Others, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or Egypt, have aspired to or strive for, nuclear power. In a world of multipolar, often autocratic nuclear powers, the threat of mutual suicide runs dry. Security will only be guaranteed in a world without nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are not just a threat. They have become goals. We must reduce them, not increase them.
That is why the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty is so important. It is negligent of Merkel to continue to fight this treaty, instead of joining it. It is time for a European disarmament initiative. After all, security in Europe only exists with Russia. NATO should offer to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and also renounce the US missile defense National Missile Defense (NMD) – if Russia is also prepared for disarmament steps on Iskander missiles and cruise missiles.
It would be a reciprocal business: Europe reduces its nuclear threat, Russia its economic. A massive investment in new nuclear weapons would be an internal political risk for Putin – see the demonstrations against his pension policy. Upgrading for deterrence is expensive. From a security point of view, it has nothing to offer except a romantic hope: things are still going well. . .
A policy of mutual disarmament ties in with elementary interests. It is hard Realpolitik. Such a policy is overdue in Europe.
Jürgen Trittin has been in the Bundestag since 1998 for Alliance 90 / The Greens. He is also a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.