Exclusive: German Heiko Maas criticizes UK plans to expand its nuclear arsenal

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed his criticism of Britain’s plans to expand its nuclear arsenal in an exclusive interview with DW on Thursday.

We do not want nuclear arsenals to grow. “If you don’t want that to happen, you can’t expand it,” Maas said while sitting with Richard Walker, DW International Editor in Berlin.

DW then asked the Secretary of State for his opinion of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday that his administration will increase the maximum number of Trident warheads at nuclear storage facilities in the United Kingdom for the first time in more than 30 years.

Maas replied to the federal government: “As you can see, there are actually too many nuclear warheads in the world, not very few. That is why we do not want nuclear arsenals to grow.”

The past has shown that when one side has more nuclear weapons, the other side will try to catch up. This is the disastrous arms race that we have seen for decades, “the Social Democrat added.

The United Kingdom deploys its Trident missiles on four submarines, one of which is constantly floating at sea, to maintain counterattack capability in the event of a nuclear attack. The decision would increase the number of missiles in the UK’s nuclear supply by more than 40% – from 180 to 260 warheads.

According to MAS, binding international treaties are key

When asked directly whether he thought the UK’s decision was a mistake, Maas repeated that Germany wanted to reduce its arsenals. He replied: “If this is what you want, you cannot expand it.”

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Maas stressed the importance of international treaties in this regard, and said that people should be able to rely on them to contain arsenals and prevent their expansion.

However, he acknowledged that such a situation would only work if all parties followed the rules.

He said that without international rules: “We will always see that individual countries feel that they have new weapons systems to maintain deterrence. Unfortunately, this is the situation we are in now.”

The United States uses “clear language” with Russia

Maas was also asked about recent statements by US President Joe Biden, which indicate that Biden believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”

He refused to comment on this particular comment, but pointed out that “there is a very clear language in the United States about Russian activities, for example in Syria, but also about influencing elections in third countries.”

The German diplomat stressed the pragmatism associated with this direct approach: “I think it is an important indication that the foreign policy of the United States is clear on the one hand with regard to human rights and freedoms, but it also wants to be able to support it that opens the window. For dialogue with Moscow when it comes to issues. Big challenges such as Disarmament and climate change. “

Annexation of Crimea “a clear violation of international law”

Speaking from Ukraine exactly seven years after Russia annexed Crimea, Maas said that this law is a “clear violation of international law” and said that the position of Germany and many of its allies must continue to decline. He said: “It is not a problem that can be solved militarily, but we will clarify this expectation more towards Russia.”

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He said that Russia itself may have an interest in normalizing relations with Europe years after it was excluded again from what is now known as the G7. An important step in improving relations is “finding a solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine”.

When asked if he really believes that Crimea will become part of Ukraine again, Maas said: “This is our position. I realize that this might be a very difficult road.”

Lukashenko “tramples on our democratic values”

Maas also discussed the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Belarus after last year’s highly competitive elections and the subsequent crackdown on protests by the opposition and politicians. Although the European Union has faced difficulties in responding as quickly as individual countries like the United States can in imposing sanctions, Maas called for action not on one side but at the European level.

“We also have to make sure that sanctions in such situations affect the right people and not the civil society as a whole,” Maas said. So we have to look at the economic consequences of such moves. That is why, in the case of Belarus, we decided to target those responsible. Not only. [President Alexander] Lukashenko, but all his machines. ”

When asked how he saw the man often referred to as “the last dictator in Europe,” Maas said: “He clings to power by dictatorial means and tramples on our democratic values ​​with his feet.”

Richard Walker of DW contributed to this report.

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