The overwhelming majority of Germans – a staggering 93 per cent – want nuclear weapons to be banned just as chemical and biological weapons have been banned, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), an ICAN partner organization.
Sascha Hach, a spokesperson for ICAN in Germany, called on the German government to join other nations in efforts to ban nuclear weapons. “At present, 127 nations are striving for a ban on nuclear weapons,” he said. “Germany is not yet among them. It voted against a ban last year in the United Nations General Assembly.”
The poll also showed that 85 per cent of Germans want US nuclear weapons removed from German territory – they are located at the Büchel air base to the west of Frankfurt – and 88 per cent are opposed to plans to replace those weapons with “new and more usable” nuclear weapons.
Germany is one of five nations in Europe that host an estimated total of 180 US nuclear weapons on their soil as part of a NATO “nuclear sharing” arrangement. The others are Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, all of which claim the practice does not breach the 1968 non-proliferation treaty.
According to Inga Blum, a doctor who serves on the board of IPPNW in Germany, the strong poll results provide the government with “a clear mandate from the people” to implement a decision reached among parliamentarians six years ago to remove the highly controversial weapons from German soil.
IPPNW, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for helping bridge the cold war divide, has warned of the catastrophic human and environmental impacts of any use of nuclear weapons. “No effective humanitarian response would be possible in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation,” Dr Blum said.
At major UN talks last month in Geneva on new legal measures and norms to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, Germany was one of a small number of nations that voiced its opposition to a global ban on nuclear weapons, asserting that the current security climate is not conducive to that goal.
But campaigners in Germany reject this position, arguing that it is precisely because of the increased tensions between Russia and NATO – and tensions on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere – that progress on nuclear disarmament is so urgent. Nuclear weapons do not enhance security, but undermine it.
The UN talks will resume in May, and it is likely that pressure on nations such as Germany to join the international mainstream in rejecting nuclear weapons will intensify. The results of this week’s poll leave no doubt that the government’s position is entirely out of step with public opinion.