‘Top German Politicians Want US Nuclear Weapons Out’ – Did Anti-Nuclear Actions Propel Issue Into National Elections?

A series of anti-nuclear weapons actions between March and August at Air Base Büchel in Germany brought widespread media attention to the 20 US nuclear weapons still deployed there. Surprising demands for the bombs’ removal soon came from high-ranking political leaders including Germany’s foreign minister. A timeline of events between July 12 and 18, involving a Nukewatch-organized delegation of 11 US peace activists, shows how the work may have moved the officials to speak out.

July 12 – Upon its arrival, four members of the US group held a press conference in Frankfurt accompanied by Marion Küpker, international coordinator for DFG-VK – Germany’s oldest antiwar group – and organizer of the five-month peace camp. News of the unprecedented US group was reported in the daily Frankfurt Journal ("Activists from the US land in Frankfurt: Campaign against US nuclear weapons"), the online magazine FOCUS ("Nuclear fighters receive support from the US") and picked up around the country.

July 15 – Headlines like "Today in Büchel: Action day against nuclear weapons," and "Konstantin Wecker sings for the peace," was news across southwest Germany when the well known singer-songwriter drew about 400 to his performance near base’s main gates. The US delegates all spoke briefly to the gathering through interpreters.

July 17 – Five activists including four from the US snuck deep into the air base at night, clipping four chain-link fences, and climbed to the top of a large nuclear weapons bunker. The five went undetected on base for more than two hours, before they themselves alerted guards. Detained by military and civilian police, the group was released around 3 a.m. without charges, and none have been leveled.

July 26 – News of the "go-in" action reaching a bunker was reported widely. The daily Rhein-Zeitung’s headline used Nukewatch’s moniker: "‘Prison Gang’ Inspects Büchel Air Force Base – Peace movement claims five activists succeeded in penetrating the inner security area." (The reference was to seven of the US delegates who have served a combined total of 36 years in jail and prison for antiwar actions.)

July 28 – Journalists asked experts and military officials in Berlin whether the go-in group got near the US "B61" thermo-nuclear bombs. Air Force headquarters in Berlin assured the press that "security had been maintained," and this news went nationwide. Yet the information center of the Air Force in Berlin did acknowledge the breach of security. One paper reported, "The Luftwaffe confirmed that on the night of 18 July, five persons were in the military security area of the airport, where they illegally gained access by cutting fences with cutting tools, RZ reported," referring to the regional daily Rhein-Zeitung. Another widely reported story quoted, "Military expert [Otfried] Nassauer: ‘Prison Gang’ was probably not in the sensitive area of the Büchel airfield."

July 29 – The daily paper of Nuremberg, with a circulation of 300,000, interviewed four of the US delegates and its article was headlined: "At night on the atom bunker" – Joint protest of peace activists from the region and the USA."

August 7 – Public criticism of lax security at Büchel went national when the Green Party Bundestag Deputy (Member of Congress) Tabea Rössner openly lambasted the base for not stopping the fence-cutting action. Rössner’s call for an investigation prompted the headline: "Is Air Base Büchel just as safe as an amusement park?"

Accounts of Rössner’s statement, circulated widely on social media, reported, "The Greens demanded information about the safety situation at Büchel air base. The reason is an action by activists who entered the inner security area of the airbase." Rössner’s statement said in part, "The federal government must fully explain the incident. If peace activists are in the inner security area of the Tactical Air Force squadron, Luftwaffe, Büchel, then that can mean only one thing: The security concept is more than bumbling."

"This is not a trifle," Rössner said, "even if those responsible would try to downplay the incident. It is more than frightening that at a time of significantly increased terror, the safety measures of such a site fall below the level of a theme park."

August 22 – The US H-bombs then burst into the national election campaign when Martin Schulz, the head of the Social Democrat Party (SDP) and candidate for Chancellor in this month’s elections, unexpectedly called for the ouster of the US nuclear weapons. Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Politico and major German media reported, "German rival of Chancellor [Angela] Merkel vows to remove US nuclear weapons from the country," "Searching for another point of difference, Schulz pledged on Aug. 22 to have US nuclear weapons withdrawn from German territory if, against the odds, he defeats Merkel," and "Germany’s Schulz says he would demand US withdraw nuclear arms." Schulz had said, "As chancellor, I’d push for the ejection of nuclear weapons stored in Germany."

August 29 – Conservative politicians and editors attacked Schulz as uninformed or naive, but the criticism was short-lived when Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel made a surprise endorsement of Schulz’s proposal. At a press conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, Gabrial joined Schulz’s call for withdrawal of the US weapons. The foreign minister’s surprise announcement included his blunt admission that, "I agreed with Mr. Schulz’s point that we need to get rid of the nuclear weapons that are in our country." The news startled media around the world, which reported: "Foreign Minister joins call to withdraw US nukes from Germany," and "German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has supported Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schulz’s pledge that he will push for the removal of US nuclear warheads from Germany if elected Chancellor."

The International Business Times and the Financial Tribune online declared on Aug. 31, "Top German Politicians Want US Nuclear Weapons Out." The papers noted that "Germany’s top diplomat has backed the suggestion of SPD leader and Chancellor hopeful Martin Schulz, who has pledged to rid his country of US nukes."

To help the Germans see the permanent elimination of US nukes, the movement here has to generate enough push-back to cancel Congress’s plan to replace – instead of retire – the US H-bombs in Europe. Nixing the B61-12 plan would save at least $12 billion.

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

13 thoughts on “‘Top German Politicians Want US Nuclear Weapons Out’ – Did Anti-Nuclear Actions Propel Issue Into National Elections?”

  1. Tabea Rössner, how naive you are…the American AND German forces will not physically harm any of the protesters, no matter how stupidly they act.
    If they were shot cutting that hole in the fence, what would you say then?

    They are acting at their own risk and are very lucky to have not caused irreparable damage to themselves and to the program that their politicians agreed to, as an ally of the United States.

    Do you really think the US is going to get rid of the B61-12 plan? That will never happen, not at this moment in history with North Korea in missile-range of all of Europe.

    Remember what happened last time the Germans pissed off the United States?
    So disappointed in German politicians, they will say anything they think people want to hear without thinking.

    1. It is clearly time Germany and everybody else in the global community starts pissing off the USA. It is a parasite empire holding the world hostage to its insanity.

      1. The US doesn’t owe any other countries self-protection or foreign aid, it is a privilege of cooperation and self preservation. Since you hate the US so much, but love your first amendment rights, you really don’t deserve to be in The United States at all. Go and see how the rest of the world treats you for being a Westerner. We have shown great restraint with our WOMD, but that’s not good enough for you people, you want the next generation to be left defenseless while you rot in your graves….

          1. K neighbor, so enjoy the non-protection that we do not owe you from the current threat of NK. Only an insane person would blame the actions of NK on anyone other than NK themselves. How can you fail to see the difference between showing restraint with WOMD and leaving one’s land defenseless. Putin said it best, “NK would rather eat grass than give up its nuclear weapons program”.

          2. Oh, so you’re about showing restraint with WMD? Let me know when the US is done destroying its nuclear arsenal, stops using chemical weapons on its own people, and winds down its pretty much weekly tests of missile and other international weapons systems.

          3. Those are called tests for a reason. The weapons are for self-defense and the US is not using chemical weapons on its own people. I’m sure you’ll come back with something like chem trails, which is a whole different issue than what we are discussing here.

          4. Do not be pompous dude. Do not you see that US plays same game over and over again, until it stops working. Step 1, promise something — anything — to get someonee sign on the dotted line. We ghen sign th deal, and before the ink is dry — we accuse the other party of breaking the deal! We cite the violation — something that was not part of the deal, but we want it. Step2, never fullfil our end of bargain, as “they” violated the deal. Step 3. Make a new agreement, now including the item we valled “violation”. Sign, do not wait for signature to dry, and cry about some another violation….

            The only time this did not work is the agreement with Iran.
            There were many parties to the deal, and constantly pulling another demand — stopped working. Everybody got tired of it, and something was put to rest. But it is not natural for US elite to just give up scamming.
            It is in the blood.

            As for your brand of patriotism, where on earth is it coming from? Hillary and Demicrats do not like people to be Americans, but to have their identities be their refuge. To be a woman, a gay, an African-American, Latina.. anything but as American that cares for our common interests. If you are ghe Trump patriot, did not you hear him talk of idiotic wars, of corporate greed and vicious Washington swamp if bureaucrats, media vjltures, and lies they paddle? Ni need kecturing others for not being patriotic — if that is your yardstick, then our president is not a patriot.
            Why do not you send him to another country — if he does not approve of the way our political elite runs the country.

            We are an empire, a shill for glibalist no-birder society so we can be fleeced with impunity, as nibody in particular will be responsible or accountable.

            So, what is wrong with people preferring to luve in an dmpire, as opposed a grimy, crime ridden dusty imperial colony. It is not that Empire is so freedom minded to allow freedom of speech — it is just utterly unconcerned about anyone’s ability to harm them.
            As they are stuffing their pockets with abandon fhriving on war industry, you are defending their honor snd patriotism. Keep on beleving, it is easier with the green pill.

            But remember, you cannot click your heels three times and get out of this nightmare.

          5. Nuclear War as a defensive option.. yeah. Right.

            That kind of talk reminds me of the “we have to overthrow the elected regime of Nicaragua or there will be a communist army walking up to colorado so we’ll warn america with a really stupid movie, call it Red Dawn and …. ” so forth and so on. Nobody else in the world has the right to bear arms, and with NATO, US interests demand that Americans and ONLY Americans can call the literal shots and everybody else better just god-damn obey our rule. Oh, and there’s the bit about a million pounds of nerve gas in Iraq that just wasn’t there. Our government has lied to us so often we expect it. The hawks know it and don’t care, they’ve been conditioned to believe that lies are necessary.

          6. I do not recall glorifying anything nuclear. But the world is racing to become nucleer, as anybody that gave up nuclear program ended up smashed to smitherines. Just noticing.

  2. Good for them. The American Empire has out stayed its welcome. Not just in Germany but everywhere else in the world. It is time for the Amerian Empire to be ended, like Trump promised or is he just another liar in the white house.

    1. Both, it seems. Trump lies, and the empire has to go. I don’t see Trump leading anybody, more like pushing.

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