A German bishop has warned of a growing “dangerous recklessness” taking hold on the issue of nuclear weapons, and has pleaded for their removal from the country.

Cautions against “false hopes” of nuclear deterrence

Bishop of Mainz and President of Pax Christi Germany, Peter Kohlgraf, made the urgent appeal to denuclearise Germany in a joint Catholic-Protestant day of action against nuclear weapons June 6.

“Together we are campaigning for Germany to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, thereby contributing to a lasting order of international peace”, Kohlgraf said in a video message to protesters, who although they were planning to demonstrate physically at Büchel air base, where Germany’s nuclear weapons are held, had to move their action online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Though Germany is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and a member of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, the country does not support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which obliges States to renounce the manufacture, possession, storage and use of nuclear weapons.

That’s because Germany believes the up to 20 US warheads kept at the Büchel air base are vital to its national security. 130 more US nuclear weapons were removed from the Ramstein Air Base between 2001 and 2005.

But Bishop Kohlgraf, in a video message to the Christian protesters in Büchel, challenged that policty of nuclear deterrence and urged that “the false hopes placed in nuclear participation” should finally be overcome.

That was especially true, the bishop said, in these times of heightened tension between the US, China and other global players that threaten a new Cold War.

“Protest is good and important”, Kohlgraf encouraged the demonstrators, but he added that just as important is chalening mindsets and promoting policies “that lead to real peace”. 

“With your political actions you are also expressing the Christian peace ethic”, Kohlgraf also told the protesters.

For her part, Annette Kurschus, the vice-president of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), warned that the promise that was made on the occasion of reunification that Germany would only contribute to world peace would not be honoured as long as “weapons produced in Germany fuel wars… every year”.

Peace activists back call for nuclear withdrawal, urge Trump to also remove troops from Germany

In the meantime, peace and nonviolence news press agency Pressenza reported June 11 that the President of the United States has decided to withdraw up to 15,000 soldiers from Germany. This announcement by Der Spiegel at the end of last week struck the transatlantic states almost like a bomb.

For half of the population in Germany, which is in favor of a complete withdrawal of American troops, the news looks more like a dove of peace on the horizon.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump’s security adviser Robert O’Brian has already signed a memorandum.

“What we must think of Donald Trump’s announcements, we know at least from his statements of retiring troops from Afghanistan and Syria. He lies when he opens his mouth”, said Reiner Braun and Pascal Luig, of the circle of coordination of the “Stop Air Base Ramstein” campaign, to put the announcement into perspective.

US troops in Europe endanger peace, increase the risk of war, and contribute to the militaridation of these countries. They pose a daily threat to people and the environment. They constitute an essential element of the policy of confrontation with Russia. Fewer troops and military forces can pave the way for a common security policy in Europe.

This decision, which was taken without the usual consultations between NATO partners, also represents a historic opportunity. After all, this is the right time for the German government to end the parking deal with the United States.

“Trump, also take Büchel’s nuclear weapons home with your troops”, demanded Reiner Braun once again, adding that it is now a revenge that politicians in Rhineland-Palatinate and many other places in Germany have not considered conversion plans.

Die Linke is the only Bundestag party to welcome Trump’s announcement of a possible withdrawal of American troops from Germany and hopes it is not just campaign rhetoric.

“The federal government must initiate the long-awaited complete withdrawal of American soldiers from Germany, including nuclear weapons, and within NATO, to prevent Europe’s security from being jeopardised by provocative transfers of US troops on the border with Russia”, said Sevim Dagdelen, foreign policy expert and head of the Die Linke parliamentary group in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The partial withdrawal of US troops should begin with soldiers who are involved in the deadly drone war program, which is in violation of international law, at the Ramstein air base in Rhineland-Palatinate.

“Withdrawal of American troops, including nuclear weapons, from Germany, the nuclear participation of the German army and the acquisition of new USA production nuclear bombers for the German army, planned by the Federal Minister of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer would also be obsolete.

“The funds thus released are urgently needed for health and education”, concluded Dadgdelen.

(With information from Pressenza)

More on Novena on disarmament:

Catholic peace group Pax Christi warns world “at tipping point” in effort to eliminate nuclear weapons


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.