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Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Berlin — A plan to allow the deployment of US long-range missiles in Germany drew praise and misgivings on Thursday, with supporters saying it made Europe safer but critics warning it could antagonise Russia and spark a new arms race.

The agreement, unveiled during the Nato summit in Washington, is to deploy capabilities from 2026 including SM-6, Tomahawk and developmental hypersonic weapons with a longer range than European powers have at present.

The issue could cause new tensions in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition and provide campaign fodder for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ahead of local elections in east Germany in September, where it is expected to perform well.

Germany is one of several Nato countries that host US nuclear weapons, and domestic opposition to such deployments stretches back to when then West Germany was a front-line state during the Cold War.

Moscow called it an escalatory move and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Thursday as vowing a military response. 

Nils Schmid, a spokesperson for Scholz’s Social Democrats, told Reuters “this is a necessary step to deter Russia”.

The opposition conservatives, who — given the unpopularity of Scholz’s centre-left coalition — could be in power by the time the missiles are deployed, also endorsed the move.

However, Scholz’s Greens coalition partner complained it had not been properly kept in the loop about the decision and said it contradicted a budget deal that they had only just agreed after long and difficult negotiations.

“The chancellor should explain himself quickly,” Greens spokesperson Sara Nanni told the Rheinische Post. That Scholz had not commented on the decision, she said, was “irritating” and could “increase fears and leave room for disinformation and incitement” about the threat level Nato faced.

The AfD, which opposes German weapon deliveries to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s invasion and is seen by critics as overly friendly with Moscow, said the US missile decision made “Germany a target”.

“Chancellor Olaf Scholz is not acting in Germany’s interest,” said AfD leader Tino Chrupalla. “He is allowing Germany’s relationship with Russia to be permanently damaged and we are falling back into the pattern of the East-West conflict.”

The leftist Die Linke party called the decision “highly problematic” and warned of a new arms race being launched under the guise of deterrence.

Reuters

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