Can Europe defend itself without the help of the USA: Negotiating Nuclear Policies

If something has worked so far, it is nuclear deterrence, Jens Stoltenberg responded at a meeting of NATO defense ministers

by Sededin Dedovic
Can Europe defend itself without the help of the USA: Negotiating Nuclear Policies
© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

The Western military alliance is facing challenges that threaten to deeply shake its stability and effectiveness. The problem of the lack of ammunition for Ukraine is only the tip of the iceberg. The war in Ukraine is sinking deeper and deeper into a stalemate, with an increasing number of casualties and little hope for a peaceful, negotiated solution.

Additionally, the temporary suspension of US military aid to Ukraine puts Kiev in an even more difficult position as the fighting continues. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) has made it clear that a discussion about nuclear weapons is the last thing needed at this time.

He points out that it is a complex topic that requires careful consideration, especially considering the current situation on the ground. On the other hand, his party colleague Katarina Barli, the SPD's main candidate for the European elections, came forward with the idea of a "European atomic bomb", opening a new dimension of the discussion.

The head of the Munich Security Conference, Christoph Heusgen, said in an interview with DW that Trump is right because of his latest statements, which have created the biggest rift in NATO in recent years. Heusgen also commented on former US President Donald Trump's recent statement about NATO, which upset European politicians: "Maybe this will surprise you, but Donald Trump is right," says Heusgen.

"The European members of NATO, i.e. all member states of the Alliance, committed themselves ten years ago to spend two percent of their GDP on defense, and many countries, including mine, have not fulfilled that. Only now, finally, with a special effort, that two percent has been reached, and it will be crucial that Germany and other partners continue to do so - not to do President Trump a favor, but to ensure European defense, to strengthen the European part of NATO." In addition, Heusgen suggests that to strengthen Germany, a French offer to negotiate a "Force de Frappe", French nuclear forces, with other European partners within the NATO alliance should be considered.

This discussion should also include Great Britain in order to assess the possibility of establishing a European shield that would be complementary to existing nuclear capabilities within Europe. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz today assessed as irresponsible and dangerous the recent statements of former US President Donald Trump, in which he promised that he would no longer guarantee the protection of NATO countries from Russia if they did not pay their share.

"Any relativization of NATO's aid guarantee is irresponsible and dangerous and only serves Russia's interests," said Olaf Scholz at a press conference in Berlin. Apart from within the German political scene, NATO itself considers such "new openness" towards nuclear weapons unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that the nuclear deterrent has worked so far and that its effectiveness should not be questioned. He particularly referred to the American nuclear shield for Europe, stressing that it is a key element of stability in the region, especially in light of current geopolitical challenges.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stands in front of a Leopard tank of the Polish Army© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

However, while the potential threats of nuclear weapons are discussed, Europe faces real challenges in the field of conventional defense.

Political analyst Jana Puglierin warns that the withdrawal of American soldiers from Europe would have serious consequences for the security of the region. This would lead to the loss of key military capabilities, such as reconnaissance, airlift and rapid troop deployment, seriously undermining Europe's defense capability.

With the lack of US military support, European countries face the challenge of coordinating the procurement of military equipment. Although NATO member countries have increased their military budgets, national interests still often prevail over the need for joint action.

This fragmentation makes it difficult to efficiently procure and distribute military equipment, which further weakens the defense capacities of the region. Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine requires an urgent response. The US has announced its support, but expects greater involvement from Europe in providing military assistance.

American ambassador to NATO, Julian Smith, points out that it is necessary for Europe to assume a greater part of the responsibility in solving the crisis in the east of Ukraine. This puts additional pressure on European leaders to take concrete steps to support Ukraine and preserve regional stability.

In light of these challenges, Europe is faced with the necessity to review its defense strategies and ensure that it is capable of responding adequately to all security threats. This requires not only an increase in military budgets, but also better coordination between NATO member countries and the European Union.

Of course, Europe has the money to build a formidable army, but that will be a big bite considering that even 2 percent of GDP is a lot for some countries to invest in their security. Looking at the current geopolitical situation and the world we are in, Europe should invest at least a double-digit percentage of its GDP in security.

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