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Photo Gallery: New Global Arms Race Shifts Up a Gear

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Arms Race Will Europe Be Victim of Nuclear Power Plays?

U.S. President Trump has accused Russia of violating the INF arms control treaty and has suspended the pact, firing the starting gun on a new high-tech arms race. NATO is caught in the middle of what's been described in Berlin as the "Trump-Putin problem." By DER SPIEGEL Staff

When the sprawling "Patriot" theme park was inaugurated two years ago, the Russian Ministry of Defense invited thousands of visitors to re-enact the 1945 Battle of Berlin around a life-size model of the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building, that it had built. An old German Messerschmitt airplane flew overhead, and loudspeakers blared Russian military marches and Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."

Visitors to "Patriot" get to play soldier for a day: They can spoon army rations in partisan hideouts, gander at the latest war booty from Syria, admire historic tanks and even shoot Kalashnikovs.

More recently, the sprawling, snowy grounds were the scene of another performance by Russia's military leadership. The Defense Ministry invited foreign military attaches and correspondents to bear witness as the country demonstrated its innocence to the world. Guests were ushered into an empty exhibition hall where, just to be safe, there was no mobile phone reception. And there it lay, like a coffin resting on two green, metal supports: the corpus delicti, Russia's alleged super weapon, a missile capable of traveling so far that Washington says it is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the agreement that has curbed the United States' and Russia's nuclear arsenals for decades.

Presenting the missile to the world in such a manner was an act of unprecedented transparency, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. What he failed to mention was that the missile on display was, in fact, merely a hollow metal casing void of any controversial payload.

The new cruise missile can only travel 480 kilometers (298 miles), the head of Russia's artillery and missile troops, lieutenant-general Mikhail Matveevsky, assured. With that, it remains below the 500-kilometer limit imposed by the INF treaty, he added. He indicated the white markings on the outside of the tube clearly showed there was no more room for any extra fuel.

Surely, Moscow didn't expect to impress the U.S. with its PR stunt. Andrea Thompson, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, called the demonstration "ridiculous."

A New Global Arms Race?

On Friday, American President Donald Trump made good on his threat to pull the U.S. out of the INF treaty, meaning one of the last two remaining major disarmament treaties between the U.S. and Russia will expire after six months. Nuclear arms control, which has provided Europe with security and stability for more than three decades, will be history. The result could be a new global arms race.

What may at first glance appear to be a regression to the chilliest days of the Cold War, is in fact much more dangerous. When Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty back in 1987, the world was far less complicated. There were only two superpowers, each of which was disinclined to use its nukes thanks to the prospect of Mutually Assured Destruction.

After the treaty was signed, thousands of cruise missiles and rockets with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers were destroyed. Today, there are around a dozen countries -- including China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and North Korea -- that have their own midrange rockets. These arsenals, sometimes derided as "a poor man's air force," are growing rapidly while insecurity spreads around the world. Countries as unstable as Pakistan have their own nuclear weapons, and Iran and Saudi Arabia could follow. In the Middle East, regional powers are locked in an arms race, while in the South China Sea, Beijing is stationing missile systems on islands that neighboring states say belong to them. Military strategists are planning interregional nuclear conflicts; indeed, atomic weapons no longer appear to be taboo.

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The latest generation of nuclear missiles are difficult to intercept. Advanced warning times have become so short that humans are barely capable of reacting. The danger of an unintentional escalation -- i.e., an accidental nuclear war -- is growing.

The mistrust among today's nuclear powers has reached a level not seen since the peak of the Cold War. When the INF treaty was signed, Russia was led by Gorbachev, the architect of glasnost. Fast forward to today and the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, uses unpredictability as a political weapon. And in Washington, President Trump doesn't see why the U.S. shouldn't just use its nuclear weapons.

Feeling the Fallout

In Berlin, there is talk of a "Trump-Putin problem." For months, communications channels between the Americans and the Russians at the highest levels have been silent. The last time both countries' presidents spoke to each other at length was in Helsinki in July. A meeting scheduled for November in Paris never took place. And talks on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in early December was canceled due to the crisis in the Sea of Azov.

In the U.S., the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections has put President Trump under so much pressure that there is a de facto ban on communication between him and President Putin. Meanwhile, this has endangered the extension of the last disarmament treaty, the "New Start" pact, which limited strategic nuclear weapons. It is scheduled to expire in 2021 unless it is renegotiated.

There was also the so-called ABM treaty, which restricted the use of anti-ballistic missiles for defensive purposes. The U.S., however, pulled out in 2002. Then there is the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which set upper limits for tanks and artillery, though the Russians haven't felt bound to that agreement for more than 10 years. And now doubt is being cast on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has prevented the spread of nuclear weapons around the world for nearly 50 years, on the condition that the nuclear superpowers work to reduce their stockpiles -- and that's clearly not happening anymore.

The biggest impact of the collapse of the INF treaty is likely to be on Europe. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks of a "great new risk for Europe" and has threatened Russia with countermeasures. "The collapse of the INF treaty is bad for NATO, bad for our security and bad for our relationship with Russia," warns Wolfgang Ischinger, the head of the Munich Security Conference.

How will NATO react? Roderich Kiesewetter, a defense expert with Germany's ruling Christian Democratic party (CDU), is already calling for a new version of the NATO Double-Track Decision of 1979, a mixture of "firmness while negotiating and a willingness to engage in dialogue." "If Russia doesn't dismantle its systems, we must ensure Europe's security and shouldn't exclude any options, even nuclear ones," he says.

The Blame Game

The German government refused to accept the danger, apparently hoping that a worst-case scenario -- the abolition of the treaty -- could somehow be avoided. It was a policy of wishful thinking. The issue is extremely unpopular with voters. Many Germans don't want to believe that the historic climate has changed and that the time of reaping the benefits of peace after the end of the Cold War is over.

It's no wonder then that the German government only grasped the gravity of the situation once it was too late. Chancellor Angela Merkel didn't devise a plan of action until Trump announced his intention to cancel the INF treaty during a campaign event in October.

Three days before the decisive NATO meeting, Merkel spoke to Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. She urged the president not to dissolve the treaty all at once, but to give Moscow a deadline. Otherwise, Washington's European allies could not clearly position themselves against Moscow and pin the blame for the treaty's failure squarely on Russia.

It's no longer about saving the treaty -- now, it's a matter of winning the "blame game." The question is who, in the eyes of the public, is responsible for the pact's failure. Is it the U.S., the one who ultimately decided to leave the treaty, or Russia, which according to NATO has been violating the treaty? "Unfortunately, the 60-day ultimatum was not a serious negotiating proposal," Ischinger says.

In fact, both sides lost interest long ago in a pact that binds them to disarmament while other countries, especially China, are free to upgrade their arsenals. In 2007, Putin threatened that if the treaty didn't apply to the entire world, it would be difficult for Russia to continue adhering to it, "especially if other countries, including ones in our direct neighborhood, have such weapons systems." He meant China, which now has around 1,600 land-based short- and intermediate-range missiles -- a source of concern not only for the Russians, but the Americans as well.

The treaty also has powerful opponents in the U.S. In late October 2018, Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, sat on a podium at an event hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington. The moderator asked him to name three things that, after his time in office, he would consider successes. Bolton laughed. "Getting out of the Iran nuclear deal," he said. And: "Getting out of the INF treaty." He would have to think about the third thing, he said.

The White House warned the German government as early as summer 2017 that Trump wanted to terminate the treaty. Four years prior, in May 2013, the U.S. made its first accusation that the Russians were developing a land-based intermediate-range cruise missile. Then in July 2014, Washington publicly accused Moscow of violating the INF treaty.

European Foot-Dragging

But Europe, where the treaty is of paramount importance for security, is still in denial. "For too long, the European alliance partners failed to develop and forcefully advocate a common position," Ischinger says. The Americans have addressed the issue with their Russian counterparts on close to 30 occasions. The reaction always follows the same pattern: The Russians admit what they can no longer deny because the evidence is overwhelming.

Still, many NATO members -- most notably France and Germany -- are hesitant to accuse Russia of a clear violation of the INF treaty. At the NATO summit in Brussels in July 2018, the heads of state and government agreed upon a statement that left open a back door for Russia: "Allies believe that, in the absence of any credible answer from Russia on this new missile, the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the Treaty."

At that, Putin seized the initiative. At a summit a few days later in Helsinki, he put forward proposals on arms control, including a renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. The weaponization of outer space was also discussed. He said nothing new about the INF treaty. Still, from the point of view of the German government, Putin's offers - also made in writing -- represented a starting point. But the Americans reacted evasively when the Germans asked them how they were planning to respond to Putin's proposals.

They did, however, pledge to gradually increase pressure on Moscow and not simply withdraw from the treaty in one dramatic move.

Yet Donald Trump once again failed to keep the promises his officials had made. On Oct. 20, the president announced the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement. In only a few sentences, he managed to effectively render the most important disarmament treaty in history null and void.

After Trump's announcement, the U.S. pressured its allies to support its decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. On Nov. 8, two high-ranking American officials from the State Department and the Defense Department shared important findings from U.S. intelligence agencies.

Little to Gain, a Lot to Lose

Unlike in the past, U.S. intelligence agencies granted its allied counterparts access to their raw data. They shared a satellite video showing that the Russians' 9M729, the cruise missile at the heart of the controversy, was capable of traveling more than 500 kilometers. They also named companies involved in the development and manufacturing of the prohibited weapons and their launchers.

The demonstration had the intended effect. In early December, for the first time, the foreign ministers of NATO announced Russia had violated the INF treaty without making any allowances.

Nevertheless, talks have continued with the Russians. On Jan. 15, Undersecretary Andrea Thompson met with a Russian delegation in Geneva. The meeting, however, didn't end well. Thompson declined a Russian invitation to have experts inspect the 9M729 missile in person. The Americans considered the offer a propaganda maneuver by Moscow. The static display of the rocket would not verify its range, Thompson said.

'These New Missiles ... Can Reach European Cities'

Three days later, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made a short visit to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow. But their joint appearance quickly became a demonstration of thinly veiled antipathy. While Lavrov proceeded to lay out Russia's position in a long-winded monologue, Germany's chief diplomat demonstratively looked at the clock, leaned back in his chair and nestled his head against his headphones. It was all too clear they were only there because they had to be.

At the time, the German foreign minister was rushing about between Moscow, Berlin and Washington -- without success. He spoke to Lavrov more than once, but never managed to come up with any suggestions or initiatives. In truth, the German government no longer believed the treaty could be salvaged, but Maas had to show that he had tried everything.

Maas is under pressure in Berlin. One opposition party is demanding "shuttle diplomacy." Maas' own party, the left-leaning Social Democrats, wants him to advocate for peace. And his party's coalition partners, the conservative Christian Democrats, accuse him of simply going through the motions. It's not clear "which approach the foreign minister is taking to persuade Russia and the U.S. to preserve the treaty," says Norbert Röttgen, a foreign policy expert for the Christian Democrats. "Travel and conferences are no substitute for politics."

For the Social Democratic foreign minister, the treaty is an issue where he has very little to gain but a lot to lose. The trauma of the NATO bilateral agreement that overshadowed the chancellorship of Helmut Schmidt and the mass protests of the 1980s against armament is still felt today. Even before the deadline facing Moscow expires, Maas has already all but ruled out the possibility of boosting NATO's nuclear arsenal in Europe in response to Moscow's missiles.

In a recent interview with DER SPIEGEL, Maas said this would be "the wrong answer." "We can't respond to today's questions of security with the same deterrent ideologies of the past century," he said.

Rolf Mützenich, another foreign policy expert with the SPD, also wants to block the planned modernization of a squadron of German aircraft, known as Tornados, which are capable of delivering U.S. atomic bombs under a NATO nuclear sharing deal. The planes are stationed at Büchel Air Base in western Germany. "From my point of view, a hasty decision on the German 'Tornados' is currently out of the question," Mützenich says.

The issue of the doomed treaty is potentially explosive for Germany's coalition government. It is "entirely wrong to say that nothing will be done," Röttgen says, criticizing Maas. "This serious security situation should not be exploited for domestic political gain, now or later." Elmar Brok, a member of the European Parliament with the Christian Democrats, says that he, too, finds it incorrect to take options off the table at an early stage. If Putin continues to reject all forms of cooperation, "one must, if need be, consider nuclear retrofitting in Europe," Brok says.

Stoking Fears for Nuclear Security

NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg is not ready to seriously discuss a possible reaction by the alliance. "We have asked our military commanders, our military authorities, to look into the consequences," he said on Jan. 15. Even after Feb. 2, Russia still has six months to bring itself back into compliance with the treaty. "After that, then the treaty has ceased to exist."

The question is why the new Russian cruise missiles make NATO so nervous. It's not like there are that many of them. Military experts believe Moscow has deployed two battalions with the missiles in question: one in Yekaterinburg east of the Urals and another at the Kapustin Yar missile test site near Volgograd in southern Russia.

A battalion consists of four launchers, each of which carries six missiles that can be equipped with either conventional or nuclear warheads. That makes 48 new midrange missiles. Is that enough to throw off Europe's nuclear equilibrium?

"These new missiles are hard to detect, they are mobile, they are nuclear capable," says Stoltenberg. "They can reach European cities." In addition, the new missiles reduce the warning time and, therefore, also the "threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in a conflict." The INF treaty prohibits land-based and medium-range rockets and cruise missiles. If they're stationed on ships or aircraft, the treaty does not apply to them. Ships and aircraft are easier to monitor -- a surprise attack is less likely. Launchers for land-based systems, on the other hand, can be mounted onto trucks. They're mobile, and they are easy to hide. A barn, for instance, would be sufficient.

With only a few minutes until they reach their destination, the flight time of medium-range missiles is so short that it is hardly possible for the opponent to even react. Cruise missiles like the Russian SSC-8 may be significantly slower than rockets because they are powered like a jet by a turbine, but they can adapt their flight path to the terrain and fly so low at a height of 15 to 100 meters that they are barely detectable by the enemy radar and, as such, by missile defense systems.

"The fact that they are difficult to discover, track and defend against makes them an ideal first-strike weapon," says Götz Neuneck of the Hamburg Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH). Like many arms control experts, he considers cruise missiles to be destabilizing forces.

If the American accusations are true, then the newly stationed SSC-8 threatens Russia's neighboring countries and thus also the European NATO states with their range. The U.S. itself isn't directly affected - and this has sparked fear among Western military strategists that Moscow might believe that it not only has the ability to wage a limited nuclear war, but that it would also be in a position to win it.

The name of the strategy ascribed to the Russians is "escalate to de-escalate." Some experts doubt that these considerations even exist in Moscow, but they are being treated as fact under the new U.S. nuclear doctrine. They believe the Russians could simply threaten to use smaller nuclear weapons at a very early stage in a conflict with NATO. That would leave Washington with one of two choices: Stand back and do nothing or respond with its own intercontinental missiles stationed in the U.S.

But that could also provoke a devastating Russian counterstrike. It all boils down to the question of whether Donald Trump would be willing to risk New York's nuclear annihilation to, for example, defend Estonia.

And that's a rather unlikely scenario. U.S. defense expert Elbridge Colby argues in the November issue of Foreign Affairs magazine that NATO's deterrence is no longer credible, instead calling for the development of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons. In this case, though, "low-yield" still means having the power of the Hiroshima bomb.

A Defensive Shield

Inside NATO, another theory is circulating as to why Russia has developed a new, intermediate-range weapon: Kaliningrad. Moscow has recently armed the Russian exclave, which is located on the Baltic Sea between NATO member states Poland and Lithuania, with the most modern weapons available. They include S-300 and S-400 air defense systems, Buk mobile surface-to-air missiles, Iskander short-range missiles and cruise missiles that can be equipped with nuclear weapons as well as the latest Oniks anti-ship missiles.

The aim of the stationing is to deny NATO access and the ability to provide supplies to Poland and the three Baltic republics in the event of a conflict. The Russian defensive shield is giving military planners at NATO in Brussels a headache, because it could only be penetrated with airplanes and ships at high losses. However, it would be hard for Russia to defend Kaliningrad against an attack by NATO ground troops, unless, according to the theory of one general in Brussels, the Russian exclave were provided with protection by the newly stationed SSC-8 cruise missiles.

The fact that Russia has had an ambivalent relationship with the INF treaty for quite some time became clear during Putin's appearance at a Defense Ministry board meeting in Moscow in December. Addressing the question of why the Soviet leadership had signed it in the first place, Putin said, " God knows." After all, air- and sea-based weapons, of all things, had been excluded from disarmament, even though the Soviet Union, a land power, didn't even possess any. "From the Soviet Union's point of view, it was unilateral disarmament." The former Soviet head of state and party Mikhail Gorbachev protested Putin's statements indignantly in December.

In addition, the Russians have long accused the U.S. itself of violating the INF treaty with its Aegis Ashore missile defense system, which Washington installed in Deveselu, Romania. Although Washington and NATO vehemently deny that the facilities could also be used for offensive missiles, many Western experts believe that Moscow has a point.

"I can understand why this gives the Russians a headache," says Munich rocket scientist Markus Schiller. The MK-41 vertical launching system is capable of firing not only defensive missiles, but also Tomahawk cruise missiles. "A conversion would be relatively straightforward," says Schiller.

NATO has so far been unwilling to yield. The next few months, during which the U.S.'s final withdrawal from the INF Treaty will begin, are to be used to examine the possible options NATO has available. An obvious move would be to react symmetrically to Russian armament and to station new nuclear weapons-capable, medium-range missiles in Europe. But that would meet with fierce resistance in many European countries, particularly in Germany. Nobody wants another debate over a nuclear arms race of the kind seen here in the 1980s. Moreover, it would pose a major technical challenge. Because of the INF treaty, no land-based medium-range weapons have been deployed in the West for three decades. Getting a project like that off the ground would take years and devour billions.

A massive expansion of missile defense would be another option. However, the systems stationed in Europe are directed against ballistic missiles: it is unlikely they would be able to intercept a low-flying cruise missile like the SSC-8. What would be effective are defense systems like the American Patriot, but it only has a range of a few dozen kilometers. To protect Europe as a whole, an enormous number of such defensive batteries would be required.

Upping the Ante

For these reasons, the arms race between the nuclear powers is shifting to another realm. For years now, the U.S. has been running its Prompt Global Strike program, which aims at providing the capability to destroy any target on the planet within an hour using conventional weapons. In mid-January, President Trump also announced he would invest massively in missile defense in space, as well.

"Taken together, this reinforces the Russians' primal fear of losing their nuclear second-strike capability in the long term," says Wolfgang Richter, an international security expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin. He says the U.S. could one day be in a position to destroy large parts of the Russian nuclear arsenal in a first strike with ultramodern weapons. The rest, he adds, could then be intercepted by an upgraded American missile defense system. That would make Mutually Assured Destruction, which is the basis of nuclear deterrence, obsolete.

The American Prompt Global Strike program includes hypersonic weapons like the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, which is launched into space aboard a Minotaur rocket and is then intended to speed toward its target at 20 times the speed of sound. The hypersonic speed range begins at Mach 5 -- i.e., five times the speed of sound. But the missile failed during the first flight tests.

Companies like the defense giant Lockheed Martin are currently working on several new hypersonic weapons on behalf of the U.S. Air Force, including the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon. It's based on the technology of the hypersonic missile X-51 Waverider, whose test flights made headlines years ago.

The Russians have been seeking their own way to counter those developments. In late December, Moscow announced the successful test of the Avangard, a missile that can reportedly reach Mach 20. "Russia has a new strategic weapon," Putin announced on state television. At the first presentation of the system in March, the president had already described the missile as "invincible" and showed a PR video in which the weapon allegedly curves around missile defense systems.

This capability will also be available on the Kinzhal ("dagger") hypersonic missile, which was presented last March together with the Avangard. It can fly a range of 2,000 kilometers and also carry nuclear warheads. Videos show how a MiG-31 fighter jet fires a Kinzhal for test purposes.

Truly terrifying is the Sarmat (NATO codename "SS-X-30 Satan 2"), an intercontinental ballistic missile that is said to weigh 100 tons, three times as much as the Minuteman III, the U.S.' standard model. It can reportedly carry up to 24 atomic warheads or maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicles. Western military officials believe that Sarmat will be delivered to Russia's missile units in two years.

Last March, members of the U.S. Senate questioned John Hyten during a hearing. As head of the United States Strategic Command, the general is responsible for America's nuclear arsenal. When asked whether the U.S. had the means to defend itself against hypersonic weapons, Hyten had to answer: "We don't have any."

China Catches Up

Russia and the U.S. together possess over 92 percent of all nuclear weapons, but other countries are also arming themselves in their shadows. The week before last, China's People's Liberation Army reported that two DF-26 medium-range missiles had been fired in a missile test "somewhere in northwestern China." The missiles are better known by military experts as the "Guam-killer." Contrary to "doubts" by the Western media, the army says its missile is very capable of hitting a "slow moving aircraft carrier."

China, which is not limited by any disarmament agreement, already possesses the world's largest arsenal of ballistic missiles. About half of these are medium-range weapons designed to keep Beijing's opponents at bay, far out in the Pacific, where the Americans operate a gigantic air force base on the island of Guam.

"China is concerned about its nuclear deterrent potential and its second-strike capacity," says military expert Tong Zhao of the Beijing Carnegie-Tsinghua Center. The end of the INF treaty is further fueling that concern. "If the treaty is abandoned and Washington even begins to discuss increasing its medium-range arsenal, that will be a reason for China to invest even more," he says. And unlike Russia, Beijing has sufficient resources.

So far, China's leadership has shown no interest in joining an expanded INF treaty. Retired general and disarmament expert Xu Guangyu says his country "cannot be at ease for the time being." It's quite possible that Beijing will join a multilateral disarmament treaty at some point, "but it won't come after China has caught up with the other nuclear power, but rather when the others have reduced their arsenals to our level," he says.

Differing Sensibilities

When this article went to print, officials in Brussels assumed the U.S. would be informing the Russians in writing about the suspension of the INF contract. That would be the point at which the discussion would begin over how the NATO alliance should best deal with the new situation. And that discussion could spark tensions because NATO member states in Western Europe have a much less robust response in mind for the Russian missiles than the Poles and the Baltic states. "NATO cohesion is in great danger," warns Ischinger.

And there is no shortage of military officials who feel that may be the true Russian calculation at play here. They believe Moscow wants to drive a wedge through NATO. From a Russian perspective, there is nothing better that could happen than for the U.S. to terminate the INF treaty, says Ischinger. "So they can split NATO."

The reason for this is that the Europeans in the West and the East assess the Russian threat very differently. For the West, particularly in Germany, the INF treaty was the product of a patient policy of dialogue. The lesson being that trust and conversation are possible, even with opponents.

But that's not the kind of thinking that Poland, Romania and the Baltic States could ever really sign up to -- their historical traumas are too deep-seated. "We feel much more directly threatened than the countries in the West," says Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz. Russia, he says, only understands the language of strength.

As such, Poland is pleading for the stationing of American nuclear missiles in Europe. "There is no reason to believe that nuclear weapons will not secure peace in the future," says Czaputowicz. "It is in our European interest that American troops and nuclear missiles are stationed on the continent."

The minister also doesn't want to rule out the possibility that NATO nuclear missiles might one day even be stationed in Poland, in what could be a breach of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. "That's not at all what we want," says Czaputowicz. "But it all depends on how Russia behaves in the future, and whether it continues with its aggressive arms policy." He says that NATO, as a community, will have to decide on that.

In Berlin, one thing has so far been the main aim: to avoid a new debate on an arms race. Many consider it wrong to even think about what to do after the end of the INF treaty as long as there are still efforts underway to save it.

Instead of conducting the necessary discussion on security policy, they are holding out hope agreement can be reached. "After all, everyone ultimately wants a world without nuclear weapons," Foreign Minister Maas said in the interview with DER SPIEGEL. All countries that have nuclear deterrence potential would have to sit down at the same table "and talk about how we can establish a new arms control architecture." There is nothing wrong with his idea, but it has little to do with reality.

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The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 6/2019 (February 2nd, 2019) of DER SPIEGEL.

Maas is planning a disarmament conference in Berlin in mid-March, but neither the U.S. nor Russia nor China have pledged to participate at a politically relevant level. "A multilateral treaty remains desirable," says Maas' party colleague Karsten Voigt, "but it is unfortunately deeply unrealistic."

The Polish Foreign Minister is well-aware of that, too. Instead, he proposes strengthening European defense. Czaputowicz is promoting the idea of Europeanizing the French nuclear arsenal, the "force de frappe." The Polish foreign minister emphasizes that Europe's security is based on the deterrent potential of nuclear missiles. And following Brexit, he notes, France will be the only country in the EU with its own nuclear weapons. He suggests these could be placed under European control, thus increasing the continent's military might.

Of course, Polish leaders are also fully aware that Paris is not simply going to delegate its nuclear deterrent to Europe unconditionally. "But that would be in keeping with President Macron's idea of a sovereign Europe," says Czaputowicz.

By Markus Becker, Christian Esch, Matthias Gebauer, Konstantin von Hammerstein, Christiane Hoffmann, Peter Müller, Jan Puhl, Christoph Schult, Klaus Wiegrefe and Bernhard Zand
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