Germany to remain part of NATO’s nuclear sharing under new government

File photo. A tornado combat aircraft with a special 'Immelmann' anniversary outfit during a spotter day at the German Air Force's airfield in Jagel, northern Germany, 13 June 2019. [EPA-EFE/FOCKE STRANGMANN]

Germany will remain part of NATO’s nuclear sharing agreement under its new government, according to a coalition deal agreed on Wednesday (24 November), a move that will prevent a rift in the Western military alliance at a time of rising tensions with Russia.

Germany does not possess nuclear weapons, but hosts US nuclear bombs that German Tornado fighter jets are meant to carry to target during a conflict.

It had not been clear how the incoming government would handle the issue, as some lawmakers in the new coalition oppose Berlin’s participation in the nuclear sharing deal.

The coalition agreement supported fulfilling Germany’s commitments to NATO.

“As long as nuclear weapons play a role in NATO’s strategic concept, Germany has an interest in participating in strategic discussions and planning processes,” the document said, referring to Berlin’s seat on NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group.

The new coalition also aims to replace the German air force’s ageing Tornado fighter jet, the only Bundeswehr plane fitted to carry US nuclear bombs.

The German air force has been flying the jet since the 1980s. The defence ministry plans to phase it out between 2025 and 2030 as it is expensive to maintain and difficult to find spare parts for.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had intended to purchase F-18s made by Boeing as a replacement but the decision was postponed until 2022.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that US nuclear weapons might be moved further east if Germany dropped out of the nuclear sharing deal – a move that would anger Russia.

The coalition deal also included an agreement to arm the next generation of German military drones. Some Social Democrats had previously opposed doing so.

The chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan in August will be subject of a parliamentary investigation, according to the coalition deal.

As part of NATO’s deterrence, the United States has deployed nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey – all NATO allies that do not have their own nuclear weapons. In the case of a conflict, the air forces of these countries are meant to carry the American nuclear bombs.

Around 20 U.S. nuclear bombs are estimated to be stored at the German air base of Buechel, in a remote area of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the alliance’s nuclear sharing “our ultimate security guarantee” on a visit to Berlin last week, and added he counted on Germany to remain committed to the agreement.

Nuclear sharing also gives a country like Germany a seat at the top table, in the form of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, where relevant issues are discussed in the alliance.

Stoltenberg said that U.S. nuclear weapons might be moved further east if Germany dropped out of the nuclear sharing deal – a move that would trigger counter-measures by Russia.

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