Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), has vowed to remove US nuclear weapons from German territory if he defeats Chancellor Angela Merkel in upcoming elections.
“As chancellor, I will commit Germany to having the nuclear weapons stationed here withdrawn from our country,” Schulz said at a campaign rally in the southwestern German city of Trier, weeks before the vote on September 24.
Unofficial figures indicate that the US has been storing up to 20 nuclear warheads at a military base in the western German city of Bueshel for several decades.
“The upper limit for nuclear weapons in our country must be 0,” Schulz later tweeted.
During his campaign speech, he also said that he would resist demands by US President Donald Trump for NATO members to raise their defense spending.
“Trump demands that 2 percent of GDP — €30 billion — should go to military spending, and Merkel agreed to that without asking German citizens,” Schulz said.
A day after a March meeting with Merkel in Washington, Trump said that Germany “owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
While the German government has agreed to increase its defense spending, it has not agreed to increase it to the 2-percent benchmark — at least not yet.
Germany is to increase defense spending in 2018 by 1.4 billion euros to reach 38.5 billion euros. That would mean a 3.9-rise, but the sum would still be 1.26 percent of its economic output.
Spending a full 2-percent of Germany’s GDP on the military would put Berlin’s defense budget on a par with Russia’s at around 65 billion euros (70 billion dollars).
Recent opinion polls show that Schulz’s party enjoys a 24.5-percent support, some 14 percentage points behind Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Most analysts expect that a booming economy and low unemployment will carry Merkel into a fourth term in the September 24 elections.