Nuclear Bombs to Stay in Germany as WWII US Bomb Destroys Munich Neighborhood
September 6, 2012 The Local
American nuclear weapons will not be removed from Germany, despite their departure being a long-term aim of the German government. Meanwhile, nuclear bombs aren't the only US weapons troubling Germany these days. The detonation of a WWII bomb in Munich's Schwabing district on Tuesday caused massive damage to surrounding buildings, leaving a huge, unanswered question about who would pay to fix it all, as well as a big hole in the ground.
BONN (September 5, 2012) -- Although Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had put the removal of the 20 or so US nuclear warheads from Germany at the heart of his foreign policy aims, signs emerged two years ago that this might not be feasible.
Now, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reported on Wednesday, the government has bowed to NATO plans to not only keep the bombs in Germany, but to modernise them.
Billions will be spent on modernising the bombs themselves, while the Bundeswehr is expected to spend around €250 million to keep its Tornado fighter jets – which would be used to drop the US nuclear bombs – serviceable until 2024.
In what it called an about-turn in German defence policy, the newspaper said the move was particularly painful for Westerwelle, who it noted had anchored the withdrawal of the US nukes from Germany in the 2009 coalition agreement.
Officially there are between 10 and 20 nuclear bombs at the Büchel Air Base in Rhineland Palatinate - relics of the Cold War stock of about 200 which were kept there until the 1990s.
Although many do not see the point of keeping the weapons in Germany, the paper said France, Turkey and eastern European states are keen to see them stay, while other countries want to see Russia reduce its tactical nuclear weapons arsenal first.
The Berliner Zeitung newspaper heard from military experts that the government had given up its position at the NATO summit in Chicago at the end of May, when Chancellor Angela Merkel and Westerwelle both assented to a joint declaration.
That declaration included a statement saying that nuclear weapons were a central component of the total NATO capacity, and that the current deployment was sufficient to provide an effective defence.
But although the foreign ministry still stresses that NATO is, in principle, working towards disarmament and control, Karl-Heinz Kamp, research director of the NATO Defence College in Rome, said there were several reasons why the Germans had to back down.
“Generally the euphoria about nuclear disarmament has dissipated,” he told the Frankfurter Rundschau. “And the relationship between Russia and the USA has cooled again. And with his public foray, Westerwelle did not make negotiations in NATO easier.”
He said the US was planning to spend around $4 billion to modernise the bombs and make them steerable rather than just drop bombs as they are now, yet this has also brought criticism.
“The modernisation of these weapons by the USA threatens to remove the strict distinction between tactical and strategic weapons,” said Gernot Erler, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD).
He said the SPD would call on the government to explain what steps it now planned in working towards the aim of removing US nuclear weapons from Germany and Europe.
Munich Bomb Blows Open Compensation Question The Local
MUNICH (August 29, 2012) -- No one was hurt, Jörg Fiebach, chief of the Munich fire brigade, told journalists in Munich on Wednesday. But half of one house was almost completely burned out, and many windows were shattered in the blast. Several buildings were set on fire by flying burning chunks of straw from the bomb site.
The extent of the damage is still unclear, but is expected to be in the millions of euros. The city council said several houses were uninhabitable, and two are considered to be in danger of collapsing.
A spokeswoman for Allianz insurance company told The Local on Wednesday that although acts of war were excluded from their policy coverage, the company would make an exception and still cover damages to policy holder's homes and belongings.
It remained unclear whether the city would pay for the damages. Munich Mayor Christian Ude called the issue of liability a "difficult question of law, which will likely end up being decided by experts," but added that "of course, those affected will receive compensation."
But Peter Lueg from the city's Regional Administration Office stressed there was no public liability claim to be made against the city. The detonation was carried out "according to the rules of the art", said Lueg, and the resulting damages were unavoidable. He spoke of "the long-term consequences of war."
Experts said the bomb was American-made, reported Der Spiegel magazine. It had a chemical detonator, consisting of a glass ampoule of acetone, which made the whole thing very unstable. Initial expectations that the bomb could be defused were quickly rejected in favour of a controlled detonation.
Head of Munich’s police Wilhelm Schmidbauer said, "razor-sharp bomb splinters" had been found 300 metres away from the blast site, proving that the decision to evacuate everyone with a 1,000-metre radius was the right one.
Some 2,500 residents were moved from their homes in the central Schwabing district. Although most had returned home by Wednesday afternoon, those with homes closest to the site of the blast were still waiting for the all-clear.
Load-bearing masonry is the typical construction style in the Schwabing area, making a detailed check of external walls imperative, said Norbert Gebbeken, Vice President of the Bavarian Engineering Chamber.
The bomb was discovered underneath the site of the popular "Schwabinger 7" bar on Monday.
After it became clear it would the bomb's chemical delayed-action detonator would make it too dangerous to diffuse, officials detonated it late on Tuesday.
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