In the spring of 2020, the German Ministry of Defense announced plans to replace current delivery systems by purchasing 30 F-18 E/F Super Hornet aircraft. In an interview in early May 2020, SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich fundamentally questioned technical nuclear sharing. An intensive public debate among experts and politicians followed.
The following list contains some of the most frequent arguments for and against a continuation of technical nuclear sharing without evaluation or factual review. Its main objective is to provide readers with an insight into different positions.
Arguments in favor
- American nuclear weapons stationed in Germany (and the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy) provide cohesion in NATO and bind the US to Europe.
- Nuclear sharing strengthens NATO solidarity and is a concrete example of the often-demanded burden-sharing within the Alliance.
- Berlin’s influence in NATO is strengthened by nuclear weapons on German soil (see Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung)
- US nuclear weapons stationed in Europe are necessary bargaining chips for future disarmament negotiations with Russia
- The nuclear weapons stationed in Europe have a (political) deterrent effect, in particular stabilizing NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression.
- Other alternatives to ensure deterrence (such as the stationing of nuclear weapons in Poland) are no security gain for the Alliance and potentially destabilizing for the relationship between NATO and Russia
- The combination of fighter-bombers and gravity bombs is now militarily obsolete (see also Scientific Services of the Bundestag and Greenpeace).
- The cost of modernizing the delivery systems is too high, especially when the primary function of the new combat aircraft is the nuclear role
- Deployment of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear-weapon states constitutes a breach of the agreements of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
- Hosting nuclear weapons in Germany is incompatible with the German government’s declared goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
- The stationing of nuclear weapons in Büchel exposes Germany to multiple risks: It makes the deployment site a potential target for military or terrorist aggression and exposes the surrounding civilian population to the risk of accidental detonation or radiological accidents
- The use of the bombs stationed in Büchel would most likely violate international humanitarian law and would have unacceptable humanitarian and ecological consequences
In addition to the substantive points, the political discussion also dealt with the question of whether nuclear weapons withdrawal could even be discussed. Some authors took the position that the debate alone would already weaken Germany’s position vis-à-vis new threats, for example from Russia. Others made it clear that such a debate is part of democratic decision-making and called for greater transparency.