The Federal Republic of Germany: No Nukes, now or ever

Friday, December 4, 2015

In 1997, the writer spent several weeks at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, exploring a possible exchange of cadets with the Virginia Military Institute.

An academic environment less military (or—Vagts—militaristic) could scarcely have been imagined. Our hosts talked little of current military matters or of military history, not excluding their county’s pre-Nazi military legacies. They seemed ignorant of such military heroes as Moltke, Blücher, Von Schlieffen (as they were ignorant of Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Schumann). I was astonished by it. Franklin Roosevelt’s determination that Germany, all its citizens, acknowledge their culpability in the nation responsibility for starting and sustaining the war in Europe with all its collateral, genocidal horrors, continued then, in 1997 and now, 18 years later. They still sear the national consciousness and still condition German strategy by (among other things) excluding the preparation of nuclear weapons of any kind. Practically, of course, Germany remains bound by the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (and its successors) not to produce such weapons; and it is difficult to imagine the Merkel government or it successors arguing the need for them whatever circumstances might seem to provoke arguments to the contrary. Opposition is, and will remain, fully settled and fervent.

On the other hand Germany still develops and builds components of various weapons of mass destruction not excluding chemical agents, but nuclear instrumentalities of war remain, in the cliché, beyond the pale, and for many reasons, almost surely will remain so.

About the Author

More from Foreign Affairs & National Security