By Ed Pond
There have been suggestions by prominent politicians that the EU should develop a nuclear weapons program, at first by co-opting French stockpiles. Their flimsy excuse is the fallacy that President Trump is not committed enough to NATO, and this makes especially Eastern Europe vulnerable to attacks from a resurgent Russia.
Reported by the New York Times (citing an interview with a German newspaper) Jaroslaw Kaczynski - the former prime minister of Poland and chairman of the ruling Law and Justice party - welcomed the idea of an 'atomic supermarket' Europe with its own nuclear arms unit to rival the capability of Russia. He expressed doubts this could happen, but the view is disturbing nonetheless.
This has been backed up Roderich Kiesewetter, a German lawmaker and foreign policy spokesman for the ruling CDU party. In an interview at the Bundestag just after the UK's referendum (again reported by NYT) he said he wanted to 'build on the existing weapons in Great Britain and France', to create a replacement or parallel program for NATO's umbrella. This would be facilitated by France, mainly funded by Germany and jointly commanded by the EU. It would see weapons based all across the bloc (sure to be popular with residents) and the strategy of responding to a conventional attack with a nuclear strike.
Though not yet a mainstream view within the union and having been met with criticism, there has apparently been increased discussion about this in Germany and France, and the very idea that anyone is considering it is most alarming. Taking into account the plans to develop the already existing EU army, it is not something to be dismissed. It is something to be vigilant about, and something that should hasten our departure from the supranational.
France would be most unlikely to share access or launch rights to its independent deterrent of 300 warheads, not least to a bloc dominated by the old enemy Germany. But bearing in mind they share naval vessels with the UK, it is not outside the realm of possibility. Also, France is not the only EU country with access to nuclear weapons. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium have access to, store and train with US bombs - though cannot activate them without US permission. At a pinch they could buy these or source such weapons elsewhere. The UK has been graciously distanced from Kiesewetter's plans because we have opted to leave, but if it was somehow contrived we didn't leave, the possibility of eventual participation with our 215 warheads could still hang over us. Further down the line, if the EU military moved to command naval and air power, there would be a great deal of money directed to it. If North Korea can develop nuclear weapons as an international pariah state, then the EU with its western respectability, riches and technological expertise would have no problems if it wanted nukes. If it became a new de facto country, then there are precedents (mentioning no names!) for newly created states getting those...
We know the EU 'defence force' has been established since 2007, in the aftermath of the 1999 Kosovo War, where the European Council felt the EU should have had the independent ability to intervene. It now comprises 18 battle groups of 1500 troops with 26 member states involved, and under the UN was deployed in Congo in 2003. We have heard from major players within the EU that they want to develop this army - and they are now using the term 'army' - as a matter of priority. Guy Verhofstadt has suggested this, alongside greater federal control, would be the answer to the EU's current woes. On the morning of the 24th June, Jean Claude Juncker regretted the UK voting to leave because we wouldn't be able to participate in the army. He later stated the once-denied army needed a headquarters which we'd all have to pay for, and continues making such announcements . It is not 'dangerous fantasy' - even the speaker of those famous words, Nick Clegg, accepts it is now a very real proposition (like infinitely increasing tuition fees) and wants the UK to go along with it. People say the EU does not have ambitions to be a super-state, but having a military under your control is the ultimate declaration of nationhood. And the logical next step is to 'go nuclear'.
Despite what many claim, President Trump has not formally suggested disbanding NATO, or even reducing US presence within it (indeed he has just proposed a 10% increase in military spending). He has merely made clear he wants the other nations within the alliance, 26 of which are European (22 EU), to commit more money towards it. This is reasonable enough, as NATO protects all these countries from the possibility of attack from Russia or elsewhere, and some of the European nations within it are not even spending the required 2% of GDP on defence. NATO is not going anywhere, and it is a long established, disciplined body dedicated to one task only (with legal bindings only covering this task). It is not perfect and in American interests, yes, but NATO taking care of military and nuclear matters is infinitely preferable to the inexperienced and overburdened EU trying to. In the words of Margaret Thatcher: No. No. No.
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