Living On a Powder Keg

The US is revamping its nuclear arsenal in Germany

For several months now, the media and politicians in the West have been prophesying that Russia's use of nuclear weapons may be unavoidable, either to attack Ukraine or target some cities and military facilities in the West.

But in reality, it is the US that for decades has been insisting on its right to be the first to use nuclear weapons. By contrast, the Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin has only mentioned the possibility of using "all available weapons systems" in the event of "a threat to the territorial integrity of the country", in a sign that Russia intends to abide by its official policy of "no first use" of nuclear weapons.

Tellingly, President Biden openly walked back on this policy earlier this year so it is not surprising that the media and think tanks in the UK and the US have been discussing the possibility of a first nuclear strike against Russia with alarming openness and candour.

Washington has been an adherent of the "first use" policy ever since the 1990s and its posture remains unchanged with the US remaining the only country in history to have used nuclear weapons in a war when the atomic bombs were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. By the US's own admission, it would be prepared to do it again at any time.

Living On a Powder Keg
A scorched city. The aftermath of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

If things come to a head, it will be the US's own allies who would become the primary victims of its nuclear doctrine, since the US mainland would be safe at least from any use of tactical nuclear weapons by an adversary.

This represents a particularly grave danger to Germany that serves as the US forces’ logistics hub catering for the entire European and Africa-Asia region with its 120-something US military facilities. Besides, US nuclear warheads have been kept on the German soil for tactical use since the very end of the Cold War.

For decades, Germany's allies who were granted limited "joint access to nuclear weapons" have been kept in the dark as to their quantities and deployment locations thought to be at US facilities in Büchel, Ramstein, and Memmingen, a degree of secrecy that is irresponsible and unacceptable from a civil defence perspective. None of this seems to matter to the US's minions in the country's federal government. Speaking at a press conference held at Germany's Federal Defense Ministry on October 25, 2021, in response to a question about the US nuclear weapons kept in Germany that in a case of emergency "would be automatically targeted by the other side and would thereby annihilate Germany", the Ministry's spokeswoman Fregattenkapitän Christina Routsi replied tersely that "for reasons of secrecy, we do not comment on our nuclear policy. It's a good tradition, and I don't intend to break with it."

Living On a Powder Keg
Fregattenkapitän Christina Routsi, spokeswoman for Germany's Federal Ministry of Defense, is a keeper of "good traditions."

US nuclear weapons is the reason why Germany has been sitting on a powder keg since the 1960s. Detlef Bald, a Munich-based historian and, until 1996, director of the Bundeswehr's Social Science Institute, reviewed Pentagon's secret documents that had been kept under wraps for decades to gain insight into US plans that threatened to turn Germany into a contaminated wasteland if they were ever to come to fruition:

"There were about 700 explosive nuclear devices stored in ten warehouses set up along Germany's internal border. These were later spread across several munitions depots outside Stuttgart and Frankfurt," Bald claims. "They were intended to be used for a first nuclear strike."

It is presumed that, nowadays, US nuclear weapons in Germany (believed to be B61 type nuclear bombs) may be kept at the US facility in Büchel, Eifel, since German news agencies are not aware of their exact location. Plans to upgrade the nuclear arsenal have been in the works for many years. This would involve deploying more modern B61 Mod 12 hydrogen bombs with a relatively low yield of between 0.3 and 50 kt that could also be used in a tactical role. To compare, the yield of the bomb that exploded over Hiroshima measured 13 kt.

Living On a Powder Keg
Büchel Air Force Base.

The upgraded nuclear munition is capable of being used from fighter jets as a regular gravity bomb or as a guided weapon. In November 2021, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), part of the US Department of Energy, announced the completion of the development of the bomb's first production unit. Full-scale production started in May 2022 and is anticipated to be completed in 2026.

According to the original plan, the new bombs were not supposed to be deployed until next spring. However, reports started to surface in October that the new bombs would be shipped to Europe as early as in December 2022. According to Politico, a US-based political magazine, US officials made this announcement during a closed-door meeting with their NATO allies in Brussels.

Living On a Powder Keg
The B61-12 tactical nuclear bomb under the wing of a US bomber.

The upgrades to the B61 program have been openly discussed in budget documents and public statements for years, and Pentagon officials have said the upgrades are necessary to ensure the stockpile is modernized and safe. However, according to Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the measure is "in no way linked to current events in Ukraine and was not sped up in any way."

Nevertheless, the scheduled date of arrival of the upgraded bombs to the United States' European bases came as a surprise to some observers who fear it could "further stoke an already dangerous situation in Europe," Politico wrote.

For Germany, however, the arrival of the new generation US nuclear weapon changes nothing. As a de facto occupied US protectorate, the country continues to be held hostage by the West's hegemon. The country's politicians seem to just shrug this notion off, something they have been doing for decades.

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