Why Germany won’t build its own nuclear weapons and remains skeptical of a Eurodeterrent

By Oliver Meier, March 9, 2020

US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, look on as German Chancellor Angela Merkel communes with French President Emmanuel Macron during ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, look on as German Chancellor Angela Merkel communes with French President Emmanuel Macron during ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Aggressive Russian policies and the Trump administration’s transactional approach to alliances have put nuclear issues back on the agenda for European governments. Arguments for German acquisition of nuclear weapons have gained no traction among German decision makers, as this would require multiple costly and radical shifts of Berlin’s foreign and security policies. German-French convergence on the role of nuclear weapons in European security is a necessary – though not necessarily sufficient – precondition for a strengthened nuclear dimension to the EU’s security and defense policies. However, the different nuclear cultures in France and Germany, French aversion to nuclear consultations, and inter-European divisions on the role of nuclear weapons make it unlikely that Germany will support a Eurodeterrent anytime soon. In the short term, the German debate on NATO’s response to the end of the INF treaty and Berlin’s decision on new dual-capable aircraft to support NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements will be indicators of changing nuclear attitudes and policies.

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