A number of German politicians have suggested that Europe should get its own nuclear weapons, if Donald Trump returns to the White House and removes US support from NATO.

Last weekend, the Republican favourite to challenge Joe Biden in November repeated a threat made during his first term in office: that US support for NATO was reliant on other members spending at least 2 percent of GDP on their militaries.

This time Trump went further, recalling a conversation with the leader of a NATO member state: “You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?…No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.” His comments received rebukes from Joe Biden and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

While more than half NATO members are expected to reach the 2 percent military spending target in 2024 – some German lawmakers have suggested that now is the time to talk about Europe getting its own nuclear weapons and cut reliance on the US nuclear arsenal.

Only two European states have their own nuclear arsenals, France and Britain – the latter being dependent on the US and assigned to NATO. The only other nuclear weapons in Europe are US B61-12 bombs, located at a number of sites in western Europe, but under US control. The big nuclear force on the NATO side, is of course, the US’s own massive arsenal.

The idea of a European nuclear force was raised by French president Emmanuel Macron in 2020 but he failed to gain much support. Now the situation is changing.

Katarina Barley, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD party, who is running in upcoming EU parliamentary elections, told the German newspaper Tagesspiegel that: “Given Donald Trump’s recent statements” the European reliance on the NATO nuclear umbrella “can no longer be relied upon,” which could also “become an issue on the way to a European army.”

Free Democratic party leader Christian Lindner, who also serves as finance minister in the Scholz coalition, suggested Britain and France could form part of a European nuclear system.

Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Linder said: “The question is: under what political and financial conditions would Paris and London be prepared to maintain or expand their own strategic capabilities for collective security? And vice versa, what contribution are we willing to make? When it comes to peace and freedom in Europe, we must not shy away from these difficult questions.”

Other significant voices in Germany are opposed to such a move, including the SPD defence minister Boris Pistorius and fellow party member Ralf Stegner, the latter calling the idea an “extremely dangerous escalation” and “the opposite of European security.”

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said:

“Absolutely Britain needs to decouple from the US and its nuclear weapons. But absolutely not in order to create a new nuclear force in Europe. Those who urge such options are completely at odds with international law which demands nuclear states disarm and forbids nuclear proliferation.

There is a nuclear frenzy taking hold in political circles that must be opposed with all our might. A European nuclear force would be a massive drain on public resources, would be a direct provocation to Russia, and would take the world closer to nuclear Armageddon. Last month Grant Shapps said we were in a ‘pre-war world’. This latest disastrous idea will hasten that war. It’s time for the voices of good sense to prevail, to stop wars, and to disarm our nuclear weapons.”

Photo credit: US Department of Defense / Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley