Nuclear Roulette of the German Left and the Polish F-35

5 maja 2020, 10:04
Image Credit: R. Nial Bradshaw / USAF

A discussion has begun in Germany yet again, covering the topic of the withdrawal of the US nuclear assets from the country. Both sides of the dialogue use Poland as a reference point. They are pointing to Warsaw's relationship with the US, and its ability to work towards hosting the nuclear weapons within its territory. The above would be expected to happen within the framework of the Nuclear Sharing system.

Prominent representatives of the German SPD political party are making calls to withdraw the US nuclear weapons from Germany. In the “Tagesspiegel” interview, a view as such has been presented by Rolf Mützenich, Social-Democrats leader at the German parliament. This happened right after the head of the MoD, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (SPD ally from CDU coalition party) announced the plan to procure the Tornado replacement, taking into account acquisition of the limited amount of US-made Growler and Super Hornet platforms, alongside the German-made Eurofighters. The Super Hornet purchase is to make it possible for the Luftwaffe to carry tactical nuclear weapons belonging to the US and deployed to Germany, within the framework of NATO Nuclear Sharing.

The declaration made by the SPD leader has inspired a vivid discussion. The discussion has been happening internally, within the party, as well. So, Mützenich was also supported by the SPD Chair, Saskia Esken - she claimed that the money could be used better to combat the social inequality and support the education, while weapons of mass destruction are not a contributing factor when it comes to peacekeeping. She also claimed that she has been against a “double” stance adopted by NATO, deploying nuclear weapons to Europe and engaging in negotiation with Russia at the same time, for more than 4 decades now. She added that “who thinks that Glasnost and Perestroika have become possible thanks to the Western nuclear deterrence, really understands nothing”.  

This attitude, however, was questioned by the head of the German MFA, Heiko Mass, also a member of SPD. He has shown, in his interview for Der Spiegel, that unilateral steps that would hit the trust the most important allies have towards Germany are also undermining the Alliance as a whole, thus they are not bringing the world together, towards common removal of nuclear proliferation altogether. The declarations made by the socialist-democrats supporting the idea of withdrawing the nuclear weapons were also criticized by the CDU/CSU coalition led by Angela Merkel. CDU/CSU coalition is supporting the German involvement in the NATO Nuclear Sharing programme.

The German Tornado IDS jets are, at least partially, nuclear-capable. Bundeswehr/Ingo Tesche

Arguments brought into the debate by the experts seem to be most interesting. At least several German experts noted that the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany could push Poland towards taking steps to have those assets deployed within its territory. Ulrich Speck, Senior Visiting Fellow w at German Marshall Fund stated: “The Germans may abandon nuclear deterrence. That forces Poland to rethink the matter of nuclear deterrence once again. And this also drives the Russians to intensify their influence strategy in Central and Eastern Europe. Result: More conflicts in the east, with Europe being weakened.”

A similar, aggressive tone has been adopted by the CDU/CSU spokesperson for defence and foreign policy, Roedrich Kiesewetter: “SPD also questions the common transatlantic security space, and this drives countries such as Poland to ask for the deployment (of the nuclear weapons locally - eds.)".

Tobias Bunde of the Munich Security Conference was also mentioning the possibility that Poland could make steps towards relocating the nuclear assets locally, should unilateral NATO-exit be the case. What’s interesting, the head of the SPD also mentioned Poland, in the context of the offer that Warsaw has made, to host the US Forces at Fort Trump and to be a receiving nation when it comes to nuclear weapons.

Germany, Nuclear Weapons and Poland

It is not a secret: deployment of nuclear weapons to Germany, as a part of the Nuclear Sharing initiative, has numerous opponents. The SPD remembers that a few years after the Helmut Schmidt’s (SPD) government agreed to the deployment of the Pershing II missiles to Europe, that very government has fallen - also due to the protests staged by the peace-focused society.

Schmidt has also been mentioned by those who criticize the SPD’s intention to withdraw the US Nuclear Assets, claiming that the Chancellor whose stance was also a foundation that motivated the USSR to start the disarmament talks resulting in signature of the INF Treaty (recently breached by Moscow), is “doing somersaults in his grave”. One should also remember that Germany expects the parliamentary election to happen next year. Most of the SPD would like a left-wing coalition to be formed, with the post-communist Die Linke and the Green Party. Both Parties mentioned here are strongly opposing the Berlin’s involvement in the Nuclear Sharing program.

Deployment of Pershing II missiles to Europe also inspired intense protests in Germany. Image Credit: US DoD/Wikimedia Commons.

All of the factors listed above shall not obscure the fact that SPD, one of the main German political parties, is capable of questioning the alliance-related commitments for the sake of gaining ad hoc political benefit. Not only are those commitments confirmed within the NATO documents, as they have also been mentioned in the internal German documents, such as the White Paper of 2016, recently adopted by the CDU/CSU-SPD coalition.

Poland in Nuclear Sharing?

Potential involvement of Poland in the NATO Nuclear Sharing programme has somehow been a subject of an expert debate from time to time, without any concrete steps. The possibility has already been mentioned in December 2015 by the Deputy Minister of Defence, Tomasz Szatkowski, is the Polish ambassador to NATO HQ at the moment. Officially though, Warsaw is not taking steps towards a solution as such. The Polish Government is indicating that there is still a necessity in place, to reinforce the allied (collective) deterrence mechanisms and to pursue arms control. It is  though the Polish F-16 jets are not nuclear-capable, they have been involved in NATO nuclear deterrence exercises at least a couple of times (Steadfast Noon), carrying out support missions for the aircraft that were tasked with carrying the nuclear weapons.

It is not a surprise - the western European states would certainly oppose a solution where co. We also do not know whether the US would be keen on considering a scenario as such. On the other hand, the Polish involvement in the Nuclear Sharing programme has been a recurring theme in the analytical studies published by the American think-tanks.

One shall also remember that NATO-Russia Founding Act also includes a clear declaration that the allies are not planning to deploy nuclear assets within the territory of the “new” member states, and that no needs within that scope are expected to emerge. This is a bit different from the declaration on refraining from the potential deployment of substantial (conventional) military forces and infrastructure, as the latter was valid on condition that the “current and foreseeable security environment” would prevail (so after a Russian annexation of Crimea and continued aggression against Ukraine deployments of substantial conventional NATO forces into the Central and Eastern Europe could be deemed possible within the Founding Act provisions).

The NATO-Russia Founding Act is still viewed as valid, particularly in Western Europe including Germany. Furthermore, many of the SPD opponents have been referring to that document, criticizing the Party’s drive to unilaterally withdraw the nuclear weapons from Germany. Potential deployment of armament as such, should the allied mechanisms still be in place, the Nuclear Sharing system included (with Germany playing a key role here) would not be plausible.

However, if those mechanisms become invalid, the presence of the US nuclear weapons in Poland could potentially be considered, should Washington be interested in the implementation of a solution as such. There is still a long way to go, towards that objective.

Joining the Nuclear Sharing programme would be very difficult for Poland, and it would also require numerous steps of technical and political nature, along with a proper preparatory process for the military. Possibly, one could consider a possible scenario just hypothetically - especially in the light of the fact that it has been discussed by the experts in Germany.

Probably, shortly after all of the political and legal obstacles are tackled (if that would be possible) it would also be necessary to ask the USA to tailor and certify the Polish F-35 to carry these bombs. It would be less probable that F-16 upgrades would take place, as the platform in question is less capable in the area of penetrating the enemy air defence network.

Tailoring the jets would need to take place in parallel to obtaining of proper infrastructure and ensuring extra protection of bomb storage locations and the jets from the actions that the enemy could take against them. There is no doubt though, should Poland become a part of Nuclear Sharing, one should take an intense reaction on the part of Moscow into account, including info-warfare, cyber-warfare, and powerplay aimed at creating internal conflicts, both within the Polish society, as well as among the allies.

NATO Nuclear Sharing - Technical Possibilities

NATO Nuclear Sharing is based around less than 200 B61 bombs stored at a couple of bases in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, and the Netherlands. Dual Capable Aircraft, DCA, including F-16s (belonging to USAF and programme participants), F-15E Strike Eagles (US), and some of the Italian and German Tornadoes, are all able to carry the bombs in question. The bombs, however, are owned by the US. Nonetheless, some of them could be transferred to the conflict-involved nations, should a conflict break out. The aforesaid design of a joint deterrence system makes it more credible and balanced, as the system is managed by a larger group of nations, not just the US alone.

Many of the jets involved in the Nuclear Sharing Programme (F-16AM/BM, Tornadoes) will need to be withdrawn and replaced soon. Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the US decided to procure and introduce the F-35A jets that would be tailored to carry nuclear weapons, thus becoming DCA in the future. The bombs are also subjected to modernization - up to the B61-12 version with a guidance system that enhances the range and hit accuracy.

B61-12 tested on the F-15E Strike Eagle. Image Credit: NNSA

Germany and Nuclear Sharing

On the other hand, further involvement of Germany, in the light of the Tornadoes becoming obsolete, is also becoming questionable. The Eurofighter jets that would take over most of the Tornado’s mission capabilities are not tailored to carry the B61. Berlin is not eager to procure the F-35 as well - taking care of its industry. Angela Merkel and CDU/CSU are proposing the procurement of a small quantity of Super Hornets that could be rapidly certified to carry nuclear armament. However, even that compromise solution is criticized in Germany. Another option is the acquisition of F-15 or F-35 or integration of the weapons in question on the Eurofighter.

However, the SPD made one step further, asking for the unilateral withdrawal of nuclear assets from Germany which could be politically beneficial during the upcoming election, considering the pacifism of most of the German society and antipathy towards the US in general and Donald Trump in particular.

From the Polish point of view, it is even more relevant that one of the primary political powers of a major NATO Ally can question the basic commitments, due to the internal powerplay. Even though no final decisions have been made and at least until Angela Merkel is the leader of the German government the unilateral withdrawal is unlikely to happen, any declarations such as those by prominent SPD politicans shall be viewed as a dangerous political roulette, with the credibility of the allied deterrence at stake. And this may have dire consequences, both within the context of the security in Europe, as well as in the domain of future criteria that could be adopted by the allies of Germany, Poland included, when assessing different solutions covering the international cooperation in the field of security.

CommentsComments: 8
Troll i to wredny
piątek, 8 maja 2020, 17:05

Świat się zmienia. Poteoretyzujmy przez chwilę. Można wyłożyć garść grosza na czarter, ale przyjmijmy, że ktoś chce być anonimowy. Ten ktoś kupuje skrzynkę wódki, lub jeszcze lepiej większy zapas ,,śniegu" i...szuka kandydatów na prezesów spółek śmietnikach przy dworcu w Warszawie...albo innym Amsterdamie. Gdy ma już odpowiednią ilość patologii z aktualnymi dokumentami tożsamości, wynajmuje na jednego z nich adresy zastępcze, zakłada im konta, doprowadza ich do stanu...przyzwoitego. Kupuje na nich gotowe firmy, od specjalistycznej kancelarii prawniczej. Firmy występują do setek instytucji finansowych o kredyty (różne). Gwarantem wypłacalności (poręczycielem) są pozostałe firmy. Nasz pan X już jest milionerem o ile nie miliarderem. Przyjmijmy, że nie pieniądze są jego motywacją... Kupienie starego (lata osiemdziesiąte, powyżej 17 000 godzin nalotu) samolotu odrzutowego , to koszt ok 300 000 USD. Pan X zyskuje anonimowość i ....takiego samolotu nie szkoda zniszczyć zacierając ślady. Wynajęcie najemnika, albo fanatyka, lub zwykłej niczego nie świadomej ,,kukły", to...bilon. Wycieczka do Afryki. Pobranie wybroczyn od chorych na gorączkę krwotoczną np. (epidemia Ebola w Kongo) i ...lot do punktu docelowego. Zastraszenie, przekupienie, zmanipulowanie jakiegoś dzieciaka pracującego w McŻarciu na wynos ze dwie przecznice od Wall Street, czy londyńskiego już banał. Dodanie ,,broni biologicznej" do sosów, plus 15-40 000 porcji wydanych dziennie...zmienia świat. Po co dyskusje o broni atomowej, skoro jeden dobrze wyszkolony oficer wywiadu: Iranu, Korei Pn., czy dowolnej organizacji terrorystycznej może zmienić losy Świata w 3 dni ??? Po Covid-19 ta planeta nie będzie już taka sama, a F-35 są już anachroniczną zabawką dla ...idiotów.

środa, 3 czerwca 2020, 14:49

Nice arguments. Are you not surprised that nobody has done it yet? Do you think you are the first to think about it? As practice shows, it is not so easy, otherwise we would have long "sucked blood". I don't know exactly why no one has done it yet, but maybe he was afraid that he would be the victim of his own weapon. And the leaders of terrorist organizations want to live in contrast to the volunteers they send to suicide.

środa, 6 maja 2020, 11:31

If, Germany doesn't agree to acquire the F-35 for the Nuclear Strike Role. Then give Poland the mission and additional F-35's to do it......

środa, 20 maja 2020, 21:12


środa, 6 maja 2020, 03:17

It amazes me that it took less then two generations of Germans to forget who was saving their fat Arsch'es for 45 years. German elites are heavily infiltrated by Russian services. Former PM Schroeder (whose father btw perished in Russian captivity) best example. It would be naive to think that Russians leaving East Germany and occupied countries of Eastern Europe have not left behind well placed network of moles. The worst are most likely former citizens of GDR, country that combined worst of Nazi Germany with worst of Soviet Russia, where every citizen was a subject to Orwellian style of indoctrination and infiltration. Fortunately in Poland we have different point of view. First of all our national identity is based on long heritage of Democracy. Our Kings/Queens were being ELECTED, and the pinnacle of our democratic process occurred on 03MAY1791 when the Polish Parliament passed first written democratic Constitution in Europe, second only to the one of United States. Hence we do appreciate presence of US troops on our soil. Just like we did appreciate American airmen of the Kościuszko Sqn who helped us to stop Russian bolshevik's invasion of Europe in 1920 (as aftermath world got the movie "King Kong" produced by Sqn Ldr M Cooper who after the war proceeded to become Hollywood producer). Poles like Kościuszko and Pulaski fought in US war of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, friend of Kościuszko called him "the purest son of Freedom". And in my opinion this is why we consider presence of US troops here as something natural. Common heritage, born during the age of Enlightenment. Germans so easily seem to forget the darkest days of 1948-49 when Allies saved West Berlin. Air lift that even today impossible to organize by any other Air Force in the world but USAF. Planes landing every 60 SECONDS at its peak, at 3 airports (2 of them built within 2 weeks) and RAF flying boats on lakes/ river Spree. Russians were ridiculing it, saying it was impossible then could only watch it in vein and try to disrupt, blinding crews landing at night with powerful AA search lights or DROPPING PARATROOPERS in Allied air corridors. I know moderator on this site doesn't like placing links but I hope for this one they will make an exception, in honour of all those brave Allied airmen:

Max Walyer
niedziela, 24 maja 2020, 05:01


środa, 6 maja 2020, 04:29

P.S. Forgot to mention .. a sunny day, summer of 1944 when my grand mother was visiting Nazi occupied Cracow.. suddenly the sky was filled with the roar of 400 thousands horse power of Wright Cyclone engines, box of over 100 USAAF B-17s passing majestically over Cracow from the mission of bombing German synthetic fuel plants in Silesia. As she recalled people were standing on the streets crying, as for them the roar of those engines was the sound of Freedom .. Germans also watched and by that time they must had realized that the war was lost for them. At Cracow Rakowice airport there was Luftwaffe fighter squadron and night fighter school based at that time, not even one attempted to take off.

Jan z Krakowa
wtorek, 9 czerwca 2020, 17:44

Yes, indeed. I know about it. The German synthetic fuel plants in Silesia it was probably Buna factories. And may be one of these bombers was destroed by German FLAK near Cracow and beeing damaged, it has launded close to Skawina, which is small town near Cracow (as my father saw, beeing temporarily in Skawina in this time)