What will this world look like in fifty years – or even in ten years? Of course we don’t know. But one of the rather unsettling possibilities is that the future will have to accommodate a Germany with nuclear arms.
Let me explain. For the short period of time after WWII that the United States was the only nuclear power, the world was a stable place. But it didn’t last long. The Soviet Union soon caught up, and the world became very unstable indeed. The frightening climax came in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when human beings were a hair’s breadth away from nuclear winter. Fortunately for all of us, sanity prevailed and catastrophe was avoided. An understanding of sorts was reached between the two superpowers that even outlasted Russia’s loss of superpower status. The threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD) resulted in a long peace.
But all of this began to change in the 1980s. India and Pakistan both insisted- against logic – on acquiring nuclear weapons solely for the purpose of threatening each other (India in 1988 and Pakistan ten years later). An unstable and irresponsible Pakistan then began peddling nuclear weapons to all comers. In short order, North Korea, Iraq, and Syria – all highly dangerous regimes – were well on their way to acquiring nuclear weapons. It was only because of the foresight (and bravery) of tiny Israel that Saddam’s Iraq and Assad’s Syria do not today have nuclear weapons (Israel bombed Saddam’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, and Syria’s Al Kibar reactor in 2007- probably with American assistance). The idea that those two rogue countries could easily have had nuclear weapons should send a shiver down all of our spines.
But now Iran is working towards becoming a nuclear power. This is a real game changer, and it threatens to very significantly change the balance of power in the region, and indeed in other parts of the world. If Iran succeeds in its quest to build nuclear bombs, how long will it be before Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt feel that they must have nuclear weapons as well? Although it is officially denied, Israel has had nuclear weapons for many years. But this has not upset the fundamental balance of power in the Middle East. However, if Iran acquired the bomb, things might go downhill fast. After all, Iran’s former president, Rafsanjani, called Israel a “one bomb country”, meaning that Israel could be literally wiped off the map by one nuclear bomb. This description is true, and no one knows it better than Israel. Being children of the Holocaust, it seems extremely unlikely that Israeli Jews will sit by waiting for an Iranian style judgement day. Much more likely they would opt to take action before it was too late.
Meanwhile on the Korean Peninsula, Kim Jong-Un is making his plans. Exactly what they are is anybody’s guess. It is nice to hope, as the Trump administration appear to be hoping that the mercurial dictator is planning to voluntarily get rid of all of his nuclear weapons, as Ghadaffi’s Libya, and the Ukraine did. But Kim-Jong Un knows that voluntary relinquishment did not work out so well for either Ghadaffi or Ukraine. He also knows that his nuclear weapons are really the only thing that he has going for him. It is nice to hope that he will simply give them up, but what happens if he doesn’t?
Will Japan and South Korea – and perhaps Taiwan – then start down the road of nuclear armament, perhaps with permission, and even urging from a Trump administration irked at Jong’s duplicity? And what will China do about this?
This is all making for a rather frightening scenario.
Which brings us to Germany. In a world bristling with nuclear arms – perhaps some will even have found their way to terrorist groups by that time – will Germany be prepared to be a sitting duck in a nuclear world? The Trump administration has made it clear to Europe that it no longer wants to be Europe’s protector. What they don’t seem to understand is that this may well force Angela Merkel’s successor to decide that a much more militarized Germany, with nuclear weapons, would be necessary for the country to be able to defend itself in a world made more dangerous by American withdrawal from Europe’s defence.
And Germany is unlikely to remain the chastened pacifist nation it has been since WWII. Even now, there are great pressures within the country to adopt a more forceful military stance.
It is not so well known that Germany currently has American nuclear weapons on its soil. In the event of war with Russia, the United States would transfer those bombs to the German Air Force for use. With American cooperation, Germany would have its own nuclear weapons in a trice – without cooperation it would take just a little longer.
Domesday anti-Islamist theorists are convinced that soon Germany will lose its German identity as a result of the massive immigration into the country of Muslim people from Syria, Turkey, and other countries, and become part of a “Eurabia”. But Germany could just as easily go in the opposite direction -a rearmed, intolerant and nationalistic Germany that once again threatens Europe. The Germany of today sees itself as a pacifist nation. But it has been otherwise many times in its history. Do we really want to see what a militarized, nuclear Germany, would look like? How would that change the world?
We don’t know what the future will look like. But we do know that the Trump administration is thoroughly shaking up the existing order. We should hope that they – or more accurately “he”, as it seems to be a one man show at work- actually knows what he is doing. If he is actually just rolling the dice to see what shakes out – the art of the deal – we might all be in serious trouble.
No one knows what the future holds. If someone had told you not that many years ago that in 2018 there would be such a thing as a 3-D printer that could make a deadly weapon by means of computer signals originating a thousand miles away, you would probably have dismissed the idea. But now there is such a thing.
We don’t know what the future will bring, but we should do our best to prepare for it.