Nuclear weapons could be deployed in countries east of Germany if Berlin pulled out of a “nuclear sharing” arrangement that allows the United States to maintain weapons there, the Nato secretary-general has said.
peaking in Berlin yesterday, Jens Stoltenberg warned that the proposal by some German politicians that it quit the arrangement could prompt the US to move the missiles or close neighbours to seek their own deterrent.
Up to 20 American nuclear weapons are permanently based at the Buchel Air Base in Germany. In the event of a crisis, they would be deployed on German jets as part of the policy designed to extend the protections of nuclear deterrence to Nato allies without their own arsenals.
“Germany can of course decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in your country, but the alternative is that we easily end up with weapons in other countries in Europe, also to the east of Germany,” Mr Stoltenberg said, without specifying which countries.
Poland and the Baltic States have called for increased deterrence against Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
East-West tensions have risen in recent weeks during the migration crisis on the Poland-Belarus border.
Italy, Belgium, Turkey and the Netherlands also have US weapons under the sharing agreement.
The German Tornado bombers that would carry them are approaching obsolescence, and several Nato governments fear that an incoming governing coalition may allow the deal to wither by delaying a decision on their replacement.
Some in the Social Democratic Party, which took the biggest share of seats in the elections in September and is likely to lead the next government, have openly called for an end to the policy.
Reacting to Mr Stoltenberg’s remarks, Alexander Grushko, a deputy Russian foreign minister, told the RIA Novosti news agency: “If he really said so, that means that the Russia-Nato Founding Act no longer exists for Nato.”
He said the Act affirmed Nato’s commitments on nuclear weapons: “It says that Nato will not deploy nuclear weapons in new member states, and that there will not be any further deployment of significant weaponry.”
Last month Russia withdrew its permanent representative from Nato and closed its
Moscow office, citing “unfriendly” actions by the alliance.
Telegraph Media Group Limited