Defense: Barley: EU nuclear bomb "can become a topic"

Election campaign statements are fueling doubts about the reliability of the USA as a NATO partner if Donald Trump becomes president again. What does this mean for Europe’s nuclear deterrent?

The SPD’s top candidate for the European elections, Katarina Barley, has doubts about the reliability of the US nuclear weapons shield for Europe because of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. “In view of Donald Trump’s recent statements, we can no longer rely on this,” she told the “Tagesspiegel”.

Against this background, Barley answered the question of whether the EU needs its own nuclear bombs: “On the way to a European army, that can also become an issue.” At the same time, the Social Democrat said that it was still in the interests of the Americans to provide a significant amount of nuclear deterrence for Europe.

Former US President Trump said at a campaign appearance at the weekend that he would not protect NATO partners who did not invest enough in defense from Russia in an emergency. He would “even encourage Russia to do whatever the hell they want.” This questioning of NATO’s duty to provide assistance triggered a wave of indignation from Washington to Brussels to Berlin. Trump wants to run for president again in November.

Macron has offered talks to Europeans

After Great Britain leaves the European Union, France is the only EU country with nuclear weapons. Against the background of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the prospect of a possible second Trump term in office, the question has already been raised several times as to whether nuclear deterrence in Europe needs to be reorganized.

Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner is in favor of more cooperation with France and Great Britain. “French President Emmanuel Macron has presented various offers of cooperation,” wrote the FDP chairman in a guest article for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. “We should see Donald Trump’s recent statements as a call to further rethink this element of European security under the NATO umbrella.” The group leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, recently spoke about the creation of a “European nuclear protection umbrella”.

Macron has already repeatedly offered Germany and other EU partners talks about a European nuclear deterrent. However, nothing concrete has resulted from this so far.

Tusk open to Macron’s offer of talks

But things could now be moving. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk described Trump’s threat on Monday evening during his inaugural visit to Berlin as a “cold shower” for all those “who continue to underestimate this increasingly real threat to Europe.” Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to put pressure on the West by repeatedly threatening the possibility of using nuclear weapons.

“It would be good to take all ideas and projects that would strengthen our security in this regard very seriously,” emphasized Tusk, referring to Macron’s offer for talks. France is ready to make its nuclear capabilities available to all of Europe as part of a pan-European security system. “These types of signals have been around for some time, and I think they are worth taking very seriously.”

Scholz continues to rely on US nuclear weapons

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), on the other hand, made it clear that he was relying on NATO’s existing system of nuclear deterrence, which is based on US nuclear weapons. “We have a functioning NATO, a very good transatlantic partnership. This also includes what we have developed in terms of nuclear cooperation,” he said on Monday at a press conference with Tusk. He pointed out that Germany is involved in NATO’s so-called nuclear sharing. This means that US nuclear weapons are stationed in Germany and the Bundeswehr is providing fighter jets to use them in an emergency.

Scholz had already clearly rejected the discussion about Europe’s own nuclear deterrent in January. “I don’t know what this discussion is about today,” he told “Zeit”. He considers nuclear sharing with the USA “to be the more realistic path”.