As German Chancellor Angela Merkel floats the notion that Europe cannot rely on the United States in the capacity is has in the past, core U.S. allies are ramping up discussions of a European Union nuclear weapons program—or “Eurodeterrent”—that would place France’s weapons arsenal under a common European command, the New York Times reports.
Though proponents are in the minority on the European continent, the idea is a sign of growing concern that the United States, under President Donald Trump, is not committed to the defense of Europe in the same way his predecessors were.
German Council on Foreign Relations head Jana Puglierin said some senior European officials have “triggered a public debate about this, taking place in newspapers and journals, radio interviews and TV documentaries.”
“That in itself is remarkable,” she added. “I am indeed very astonished that we discuss this at all.”
Foundation for Strategic Research deputy director Bruno Tertrais told the Times he previously would have said, “don’t bother, there’s no story here,” but said such a plan could be enacted provided “a serious loss of trust in the U.S. umbrella.” And, given Britain’s pending departure from the E.U., “the French might feel they have a special responsibility” to protect Europe.
Such a loss in trust may be on the horizon. Trump is just now returning from a trip to a NATO summit, which House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said “disrespected out closest allies.” He also failed to voice support for NATO’s Article 5, which is the principle of collective defense that guides the alliance. It commits member nations to protect fellow members and was invoked for the first time after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
On Saturday, Chancellor Merkel argued, “the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days.”
“'We Europeans must take our destiny into our own hands,” she added.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Vipin Narang, who was originally skeptical of a “Eurodeterrent,” acknowledged “there is a logic” to such a plan.
“I never thought we would see this again. I never thought there would actually be this concern,” he said. “You can see where the debate is surfacing from.”