Nuclear weapons and German interests : an attempt at redefinition

Müller, Harald

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/277/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 55
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2000
Publikationsdatum: 29.01.2008
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.87 (Waffen, Kampfmittel)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Since 1995, a new debate about nuclear weapons has been under way. This no longer relates only to arms control, but also to the possibility of the complete elimination of these weapons of mass destruction. Germany, torn between, on the one hand, its identity as a non-nuclear-weapons state, and, on the other, its membership of NATO and the WEU and its close links with France, the USA, and Britain, occupies an awkward position in this debate. It is not easy for it to define its own interests, let alone formulate a coherent policy. In the past, the German stance combined verbal support for nuclear modernization with a high degree of loyalty to positions deriving from NATO’s strategy of first use of nuclear weapons against conventional and other types of military threat. Gradually, a separate German position, sometimes showing a marked divergence from that of certain other members of the alliance, crystallized out. Underlying this was the desire to keep the discrimination resulting from Germany’s distinct status to a minimum - not least as regards the competitive interests of the German nuclear industry. This concern was expressed in demands for an extension of international verification measures in nuclear-weapons states, and for greater transparency in regard to the stocks of weapons and fissile material held by such states. The dramatic changes in the German security situation after 1990 did not lead to any radical redefinition of the German position on nuclear weapons, even though, in 1997, notice was given for the very first time of the conditions in which the German government might contemplate their complete elimination: reliable systems of verification, guaranteed security by non-nuclear means, complete elimination of stocks of fissile material intended for military purposes. This study aims to provide the missing redefinition. From this perspective, factors such as · self-restraint in power politics · European and Atlantic ties · multilateralism, and · regard for international law may be seen as key components of German national interest, and not - as critics of German foreign policy have recently increasingly tended to do - as an expression of idealistic ideology. This definition of Germany’s interests enjoys broad, cross-party political consensus within the country, even if that consensus does not necessarily extend to the modalities of its implementation. Translating the consequences which this definition of German national interest has for nuclear policy into practical terms, we arrive at the following elements: · continued renunciation of nuclear weapons · reduction/elimination of discrimination resulting from status · strengthening of the principle of non-proliferation - II - reduction in the military and political role of nuclear weapons and, ultimately, actual nuclear disarmament German security within the multilateral framework is also best served by containing the threats that result from the loss of control over Russian nuclear weapons and from the residual risk of political regression by applying disarmament measures. Progress in the disarmament process is, in any case, indispensable as a way of strengthening the nonproliferation regime. Whichever way one looks at it, disarmament turns out to be in the German interest. By contrast, the classic security function of nuclear weapons within NATO strategy - namely, to offset what the West perceived as the advantage to the Soviet Union from the imbalance in conventional, chemical, and biological weapons, and to scupper any idea which the Soviet leadership might have had of engaging in a war of aggression - has disappeared. These preconditions of NATO doctrine, including first use, the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and opposition to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, no longer apply. As a result, the German interest in disarmament now takes precedence. The limits to this interest lie at the point where uncompromising prosecution could lead to serious alienation from Germany’s most important partners. The basis of relations with France, Britain, and the USA must not be jeopardized by a radicalism that takes no account of the sensitivities of these nuclear-weapons states. Of course, the correct alternative is not anticipatory subservience. Being prepared for a degree of conflict is essential. The restraint in question here relates to style and strategy, not to basic stance and long-term objectives. This requires that these principles be formulated in a clear and, if necessary, controversial form, and that the interim measures which one believes can be expected of one’s partners be proposed and prosecuted even where they initially meet with resistance. From the point of view of security, attention should be focused on tactical nuclear weapons, for the reasons set out above. The huge Russian arsenal, which numerous reports have shown to be inadequately controlled, is a source of risk that has to be neutralized. To achieve this, it will make sense, in any event, to put the tactical nuclear weapons which NATO has deployed in Europe up for consideration. If a complete renunciation of all tactical nuclear weapons cannot be achieved straight away, consolidation within central sites in the USA and Russia (if possible on the far side of the Urals) would be a secondbest solution - in which case drastic reductions on the Russian side would be appropriate. One possibility, as an interim step prior to the complete elimination of tactical nuclear weapons, would be to agree to as low a level of stocks as possible. A second priority would be to achieve as great a degree of de-alerting as possible of strategic arsenals, thus drastically reducing the danger of an erroneous or unauthorized launch of nuclear-armed missiles.1 1 Bruce G. Blair/Harold A. Feiveson/Frank von Hippel, ‘Taking Nuclear Weapons Off Hair-Trigger Alert’, Scientific American, Nov. 1997; Jonathan Dean, ‘De-alerting: A Move towards Disarmament’, UNIDIR Newsletter (July 1998). - III As regards the goal of reducing discrimination, three measures must have priority. The first is transparency of the nuclear-weapons arsenals and stocks of fissile materials destined for military purposes, to be assured through the creation of a register.2 Transparency of this kind would act as a counterweight to the privileged position of the nuclear-weapons states and would firmly establish the principle of accountability. The second priority is to provide the Cut-off Treaty with a comprehensive verification-system which would place nuclearweapons and non-nuclear-weapons states more or less on a par in terms of verification obligations. Thirdly, the handing-over of fissile material removed from military use to the International Atomic Energy Organization for verification should be made both compulsory and irreversible.3 Given its interests, it seems inappropriate for Germany to play the role of trusty henchman to the Western nuclear-weapons states. Like Canada and Australia - both reliable allies of the USA - Germany should opt for the position of ‘bridge-builder’ between the nuclearweapons states and their non-aligned critics. 2 Harald Müller, A Nuclear Weapons Register: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come (HSFK: PRIF Report 51; Frankfurt/M., 1997); see also James Goodby, ‘Casting a Wider Net: Nuclear Arms Negotiations beyond START II’, in Harold A. Feiveson (ed.), The Nuclear Turning Point. A Blueprint for Deep Cuts and Dealerting of Nuclear Weapons (Washington D.C.: Brookings, 1999). 3 Annette Schaper, ‘The Case for Universal Full-Scope Safeguards on Nuclear Material’, Nonproliferation Review, 5 (1998), 2: pp. 69–80.


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