In the past, Germany was able to eschew weapons of mass destruction because its safety was guaranteed by others, a situation which today seems rather more dubious. Consequently, the principle of “Pacta sunt servanda” must now be followed by “Rebus sic stantibus.” Logically, the emergence of new crises and structural changes must now also lead to a review of the cornerstones of German defense policy.
However, because of political correctness, lack of civil courage, and lack of military-strategic considerations, the nuclear component of our safety is ignored. Instead, the decision-makers in Berlin have adopted a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil” approach. Additionally, ill-considered decisions such as the suspension of compulsory military service must also be reviewed: the recent announcement that foreigners are now to be recruited into the Bundeswehr, due to a lack of applicants, is more than troubling. Is the Bundeswehr to become a pseudo-European foreign legion because of Germany’s unwillingness to defend itself? In light of Germany’s controversial energy transition, the phase-out of nuclear power must also be reviewed. Both of these decisions have permanently weakened the morale, societal anchoring, and defense capacity of the armed forces as well as eroded Germany’s role model function as a civilian nuclear power.
In summary: The foreseeable loss of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, the lack of a European nuclear deterrent, the erosion of Western institutions like NATO and the European Union, as well as Germany’s inadequate defense culture call for a complete reassessment of Germany’s defense policy. This also begs the question: under which circumstances and at what cost could Europe’s central country become a nuclear power?
The personnel and structural changes in the United States and in the world are forcing Germany to make difficult choices, from which decision-makers in government and society can no longer shrink. The nuclearization of the twenty-first century is threatening to make Germany defenseless. Rather than engaging in disarmament, the world is threatened with the proliferation of nuclear dictatorships based on the model of North Korea. Thus, Germany must arm itself against this threat.
Moreover, Germany as a democratic nuclear power would strengthen the security of the West. These questions must be discussed without hysteria; there is no need for alarmism. Instead, the debate should focus on how to ensure Germany’s long-term security in an increasingly confusing world. Considering the general rise of national egoism, a country like Germany must look toward its own security. Ideally, every potential aggressor must be deterred by nuclear power. If the crises of the past years have taught us one thing, it is that the impossible can become a reality very quickly.
Yet, above all nuclear weapons have a political function, namely to protect a country from blackmail in crisis situations. A country’s crisis diplomacy can only be successful when it is backed by hard military power. After all, the annexation of Crimea would probably not have occurred if NATO had possessed a credible deterrent capacity or if Russia could have been deterred by escalation dominance. Therefore, Germany must also prepare itself for this eventuality.
It is all well and good to call on the Europeans to finally take their fate into their own hands, but experience has eroded confidence in the ability of the Europeans to follow a common security policy.
Finally, the ritualized idealization of European integration and the demonization of national interest has led the European Union into a dead end and deep crisis. Consequently, striking a balance between community interests and national considerations is long overdue, especially in Germany. In the face of new transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations, national defense based on an independent nuclear deterrence capacity must be given priority. As the French say “Gouverner c’est prevoir”—the art of government is based on foresight. Therefore, we must not content ourselves with high-handed criticism of Trump; instead, we must arm ourselves militarily, against all sides and by any means necessary. Following such a realistic, forward-looking policy, Germany will one day be able to handle crises confidently and strengthen the free world.
Christian Hacke, born in 1943, is one of the most renowned political scientists in Germany. From 1980 to 2000 Hacke was a professor at the University of the German Armed Forces, now Helmut Schmidt University, in Hamburg. From 2000 to 2008 he succeeded Hans-Peter Schwarz and Karl Dietrich Bracher as a Professor at the University of Bonn.
This article originally appeared in Die Welt and was translated from German by Michael Trinkwalder, an intern for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.