As the spectre of a new nuclear arms race is back in Europe, leading European politicians of the SPD demand a relaunch of German and European security policy. It is “high time for a new policy of disarmament and détente”, write ex-party leader Martin Schulz and Achim Post (Minden), Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party of Europe on the eve of the Munich Security Conference, the ”Neue Westfälische” reported. Here is original text, translated for our English readers:
High Time to Act – for Disarmament and a New Policy of Détente
by Martin Schulz and Achim Post
Europe and the world are facing a new arms race. It is high time for a new policy of disarmament and détente, for which Germany and Europe must raise their voices and give impetus. Even though the framework conditions are extremely poor, because both the USA and Russia are currently focusing on rearmament and escalation: Germany and Europe must act now to protect the international arms control architecture from collapse.
President Trump’s cancellation of the INF Treaty banning land-based medium-range nuclear missiles is a highly dangerous setback for disarmament and arms control both in Europe and worldwide. In addition to the withdrawal from Iran deal which has already taken place and the threat of non-extension of the New START deal in 2021, limiting strategic nuclear weapons, the consequences are dramatic. This is not only because the USA and Russia are evidently again rearming themselves with nuclear weapons without any regard for the European peace and security order. The situation is made worse by the fact that if there is no longer any credible regime to limit the American and Russian arsenals of nuclear weapons, nuclear arms build-up will continue to gain momentum in other parts of the world. Compared to the manageable bipolar confrontation of the Cold War, such a global and confusing “arms race 2.0” is likely to prove to be much more dangerous.
Europe’s direct influence on the two nuclear superpowers may be limited. But Germany and Europe must not just stand at the sidelines. Fatalism and resignation would be the worst advisers. Instead, Europe must do everything it can to promote disarmament, dialogue and détente wherever possible:
Firstly, nothing must be left untried to save the INF Treaty after all. Europeans must use the remaining six months to insist that the US and Russia clarify and refute each other’s accusations. To this end, Russia must allow independent inspections. Conversely, Russian concerns about US missile defence systems in Romania and Poland must also be taken seriously.
Secondly, both Germany and Europe must do everything in their power to maintain and upgrade the disarmament regime as a whole. The disarmament conference in Berlin invited by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas for March can provide an important impetus for this. The rapid technological development of ever new weapon systems such as hypersonic missiles, for which there are no international regulations to date, confronts us with challenges of a new kind. A prolonged and renewed INF treaty could also provide an answer to these challenges, ideally involving other states in addition to the USA and Russia.
Thirdly, Germany and Europe must leave no doubt that a new nuclear arms race on European soil is unacceptable. Should the USA actually want to deploy new medium-range missiles in Europe in reaction to the Russian missile programme, there can only be one answer: no new nuclear weapons both in Germany and Europe! Instead, a completely different signal would be reasonable: the complete withdrawal of all US nuclear weapons from Germany.
Fourthly, we must finally become serious with self-reliance of Europe’s foreign policy. Europe can no longer afford its security to depend on the interests and temperaments of an unreliable US President. That is why we need an impetus, particularly now, to strengthen European foreign policy, which should preferably come together in the hands of a genuine European Foreign Minister.
Fifthly, it is important for Germany to adopt both a responsible and a clear position within NATO. On the one hand, the security concerns of our Eastern European NATO partners in particular must be addressed seriously and the Alliance’s defence capabilities in Eastern Europe further consolidated. At the same time, however, Germany must make it unmistakably clear that we reject US President Trump’s excessive NATO build-up plans. No matter how important good equipment is for the Bundeswehr, there is no justification for investing 2% of the total gross domestic product in defence and the military.
Sixthly, we need a new attempt at a policy of dialogue and détente, particularly with regard to Russia. We are by no means unaware of Russian policy – from the annexation of the Crimea, contrary to international law, to Russian attempts to exert influence and manipulate elections, including European countries, to the worrying human rights situation in Russia itself. However, all this does not change the fact that a lasting European peace order is ultimately not possible against Russia, but must be sought in cooperation with Russia. Instead of further confrontation, we therefore need to take steps in confidence-building measures, diplomacy and dialogue whenever there is room for manoeuvre. For this purpose, existing formats and forums such as the NATO-Russia Council or the OSCE must be used better on the one hand, and new formats must be developed on the other – for example through the EU’s contacts with institutions dominated by Russia such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAWU). In short, a new Ostpolitik and Policy of Détente is urgently needed.
Now more than ever, German and European foreign policy is called upon to avert a total loss of the international arms control architecture and to strengthen Europe’s role as as an international power for peace. In this context, political initiative must go hand-in-hand with initiatives of civil society. The voice of the people and civil society in Europe and beyond is now of vital importance. Ultimately, nothing less is more important than a new peace movement to counter the nuclear arms race insanity of Trump, Putin and others by means of a strong voice of reason.
Source (translated by Wolfgang Biermann and Pierre Shori): Höchste Zeit zu handeln – für Abrüstung und eine neue Entspannungspolitik