After a brief period of disarmament, we are witnessing the destruction of the pillars of nuclear arms control, the cornerstone of the international security architecture, new sabre-rattling, armament and confrontation – a new Cold War is coming. Nationalism and militarism are setting in motion a new spiral of armament and militarization. Last but not least, the rise of the new superpower China must be used to justify the new arms race. Seventy-five years after the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the nuclear arms race reached unprecedented proportions. Global defense spending amounts to about two trillion U.S. dollars. “The Corona crisis shows drastically how irresponsible this waste of money is. In Latin American countries, for example, large sections of the population are vulnerable to the virus because of a lack of comprehensive health care and the privilege of the two-tier medicine there. At the same time, defense spending in the region has risen sharply – money that is lacking for the much-needed expansion of health and social care systems.”
The German Federal Government is also playing an inglorious pioneering role in arms matters. Not only is Germany the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter, but it has moved up to seventh place among the countries with the most arms spending. If the federal government met NATO’s target of spending 2% of GDP on defense, it would mean a further increase in the defense budget from the current budget of just under 50 billion to more than 70 billion U.S. dollars. At the same time, the Corona pandemic in the Federal Republic of Germany is relentlessly revealing the seriousness of the misallocation of public funds. The 2020 federal budget originally included 12% of the expenditure on the defence budget.
Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump wants to “punish” Germany with a partial withdrawal of US troops, because the “freeriders”, the German free-riders, keep their military budgets chronically too low, and instead aliment Moscow (“Why does Germany pay Russia billions of dollars for energy, and then should we protect Germany from Russia?” Currently, about 34,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Germany. In addition, there are about 17,000 U.S. and 12,000 German civilians employed by the U.S. military.
As a punitive measure, the threatened withdrawal is completely unsuitable. On the contrary, it is urgently needed. Representatives of the left-wing opposition and the peace movement rightly reacted positively to the announcement from Washington that the relics of the Cold War would be withdrawn from Germany. “The federal government should accept it with gratitude and prepare a complete withdrawal of US soldiers with the Trump administration in a timely manner. If the soldiers are withdrawn, they should take the US nuclear bombs with them at the same time,” explained Dietmar Bartsch of the LINKEN.
This would have the benefit of saving taxpayers around 12.5 billion euros if the new fighter jets were not to be purchased to replace the outdated tornadoes at the air base in Büchel in the Eifel, which, in the event of war, fly the US B-61 nuclear bombs that were bunkered there in protected underground magazines to the site.
CDU security politicians such as Norbert Röttgen and Roderich Kiesewetter gave an almost embarrassing performance. In other words, those politicians who, in making the case for an alleged Russian threat, gratefully seek the closeness of American “peacekeepers” who are waging their global drone war from the Palatinate Ramstein. “The plans show once again that the Trump administration is neglecting an elementary leadership task: the involvement of the allies in decision-making processes,” lamented Johann Wadephul, deputy leader of the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
In this context, the question arises as to why the issue of why the US military is still stationed in Germany does not play a role in the public debate. After all, the former Soviet troops have been completely withdrawn since 1994. The united Germany is only “surrounded” by allies, partners and friends. In 1997, NATO and Moscow certified themselves in the so-called NATO-Russia Act to “not regard each other as adversaries”. Moreover, the Western alliance promised Russia that it would not permanently deploy any substantial troop contingents to Eastern Europe. But in the aftermath, NATO moved closer to Russia’s western border and built a confrontational relationship with Moscow. Principle: You threaten others in order to feel threatened.
The Federal Republican peace movement has been working towards such a withdrawal for decades – but on closer inspection, the joy of the announcements may be clouded:
First, the term ‘deduction’ is misleading. 5,600 of the soldiers currently in Germany are to be transferred to other locations in Europe. It has been speculated for some time that Poland in particular could “benefit” from this. Poland has already housed 4,500 U.S. soldiers before it decided in June last year to send 1,000 more U.S. soldiers and build six additional military bases. In addition, NATO has deployed an additional 4,000 troops in the Baltic States and Poland as part of the “enhanced forward presence”. A further increase in the US presence in Poland would therefore probably be the final sargnagel for the NATO-Russia act.
Secondly, the US plans are currently being used as an argumentative vehicle for the supposedly necessary build-up of additional military capabilities in Germany and Europe. Europe will have to take more responsibility," are the conclusions in conservative circles of politics and the military. For Henning Otte, spokesman for the CDU/CSU on defence policy, this means: “We must strengthen the European pillar in NATO.” Michael Roth, SPD Minister of State for Europe in the Foreign Office, blows the same horn: “We should not whine and fall into lamentations now, but see the move of the UNITED States as a wake-up call and an opportunity to strengthen our European sovereignty. It is time for Europe to strengthen its role in the world and stand on its own two feet. It’s about our self-assertion.”
Third, Germany remains the US’s “bridgehead” for US operations in Africa and the Middle East, among other things. The central component of this base is ramstein Air Base, the largest U.S. military airport abroad and headquarters of the U.S. Air Force for Europe and Asia (USAFE/AFARICA), the Third Air Force and NATO’s Allied Air Command (AIRCOM). Ramstein is “the most important logistical hub for all U.S. operations in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia,” said Michael Williams, a professor of international relations at the University of New York. At the base is a relay station for communication with U.S. drones, which is controlled from the Counterterrorism Airborn Analysis Center in Nevada for killings in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia that violate international law.
A US troop withdrawal would also be welcome in terms of peace policy if the Trump administration were to simultaneously transport and scrap its nuclear weapons in Büchel, thereby reducing the risk of nuclear war. The withdrawal would be good for the people around the military bases, it would stop noise and water pollution, it would be good for nature and the environment, enormous emissions could be eliminated. This requires conversion plans and concrete civilian projects for the civilian use of military properties and for the creation of new jobs. Ultimately, it would be a win for security: instead of US and NATO confrontation policy with Russia, fewer troops could pave the way for a common security policy in Europe.
The arms race, the Corona pandemic, climate change – all these huge challenges threaten social cohesion and increase social inequality. To overcome these, a strong welfare state and public investment are needed – in health and care, in the education system, in a social-ecological design of the energy and transport transition, in municipal and digital infrastructure, and in social housing. That is why peace activists and trade unionists are calling on the Federal Government to finally break away from NATO’s 2 percent target and to invest the funds earmarked for arms spending in a socially just Germany and Europe with sustainable future prospects.
The Federal Government must also finally sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is a question of a fundamental change of direction: dismantling rather than upgrading. Every effort must be made to stop the madness of armaments. This requires a strong peace movement.