On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that it is Germany’s special responsibility to keep NATO’s defenses strong by remaining the linchpin in NATO’s nuclear deterrent. His statements came just before talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel begin. NATO’s nuclear strategy currently hinges upon the storage of US nuclear weapons at several sites throughout Europe. In the event of a nuclear war, German planes would be expected to carry bombs.

After the recent German elections, there have been concerns that Germany would try to leave its role in NATO’s nuclear strategy. The Social Democratic Party and the Green Party are both expected to be a part of the new government, and both parties have softer stances on Russia than Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. The Green Party in particular is strongly opposed to nuclear weapons. Being that the current German bombers are nearing the end of their life cycle, its well within the realm of possibility that the new German government will not replace them, leaving a huge hole in Europe’s nuclear umbrella.

Given the rising tensions between NATO and Russia, I think now is a terrible time for Germany to remove itself from NATO’s nuclear sharing strategy. Combining that with the general perception that America is shifting its focus, would leave Europe in a much weaker position in its negotiations with Russia. It would also weaken or remove Europe’s ability to deter further Russian provocations. I think it’s good that Stoltenberg is publicly applying pressure on this issue, and I would like to see the US join that effort. I understand that Germans have become very pacifist in recent decades for good reason, but Germany is the largest economy in Europe, and they must step up militarily.