AGiven the uncertainties surrounding the upcoming presidential election in the USA, a discussion has begun in Europe about the future defense of the continent. This is also about the nuclear component. Who will put the “nuclear umbrella” over Germany in the future if President Donald Trump no longer wants to do this? Here we first look at the French and also the British arsenals, although national interests and vanities must of course be taken into account. Debates about nuclear weapons and the transatlantic relationship have accompanied the alliance for decades.

Peter Storm

Editor in politics, responsible for “political books”.

For several years in the 1960s, NATO discussed a model that would have put nuclear defense on a completely new footing, the “NATO Multilateral Nuclear Force” (MLF). This happened against the backdrop of a world in which the USA and the Soviet Union were at least perceived to be on equal terms when it came to nuclear weapons. In addition, Great Britain had nuclear weapons, France was just building up a corresponding capacity. Although London maintained close relations with the United States, it did not want to be seen as merely an appendage of Washington. As nuclear “have-nots,” the other NATO states ultimately had to rely on America to support them with full military force in the event of a conflict.

However, this basic trust was shattered by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer after President John F. Kennedy took office in Washington. Adenauer feared that America would unite with the Soviet Union over the heads of the Germans. Even numerous assurances to the contrary from America could not dissuade him from this idea. The situation was not made any better by the Kennedy government's rather blatantly expressed sympathy for Adenauer's opponent in the 1961 federal election, the governing mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt.

Kennedy's first thoughts

Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan expressed their first thoughts about an MLF at a meeting in the Bahamas in 1962. The MLF was intended to be a solution to the problem that several NATO states wanted to have a say in the use of nuclear weapons. During this time, both the military and politicians spoke quite freely about such an operation. The Federal Republic, which continues to strive for international appreciation, should and wanted to have a say. Bonn had renounced the possession and production of its own nuclear weapons. But the need for a say was not only very strong for reasons of prestige. Rather, the federal government had to reckon with the fact that its country could become the scene of the most serious fighting in the event of a conflict.

On the other hand, less than 20 years after the end of the war, not all allies felt good about the idea that the Germans, of all people, should have access to the ultimate weapon in the NATO arsenal. In order to somehow reconcile the divergent interests of the alliance partners, the Americans came up with the idea of ​​the MLF. Specifically, this should consist of a larger fleet of submarine and surface ships on which a total of several hundred nuclear-equipped missiles with a range of around 4,500 kilometers should be stationed. The crews of the ships should come from several NATO countries. A NATO command would have had control over the weapons.

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