German political leaders have welcomed US President Obama's plans for a non-nuclear world. Now calls are mounting from opposition parties for the withdrawal of the remaining American nuclear weapons on German soil.
Germans would like a new US-Russia disarmament treaty
Germany has voiced strong support for US President Barack Obama's call to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons.
On the sidelines of a European Union-United States summit in Prague on Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that she saw the announcement as an important signal.
"This is not just a long-term goal," Merkel said. "President Obama has also proposed practical measures such as negotiations with Russia on a new START treaty which could lead to disarmament steps in the short term."
In a speech at Prague Castle, Obama pledged to lead the quest for a world without nuclear weapons. He denounced fatalism over nuclear proliferation and called for an immediate end to nuclear testing.
Serious talks on arms control
Steinmeier thinks the US can negotiate a new START treaty
Last Wednesday the US president discussed missile reduction with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on the sidelines of a Group of 20 economic summit. The two leaders pledged to pursue a new deal on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as START I.
The 1991 treaty limits the number of missiles and warheads that each side may have in its arsenal and was the basis of Cold War strategic arms control.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he expects the two leaders to pursue the talks seriously.
"This is not a consensus forged behind closed doors, but an agreement made in front of the whole world," he told German public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday. "That is why I'm convinced that both Russia and the United States are interested in a new treaty."
Claudia Roth, co-leader of Germany's Green Party, said Obama's speech marked a historic change.
"After years of an unprecedented nuclear arms build-up by the Bush administration, the speech highlighted a landmark shift in US policy," she told reporters in Berlin.
The Greens leader called on Merkel's government to work to get NATO to abandon its strategy of nuclear deterrence and make sure that the remaining US nuclear weapons on German soil be removed.
Westerwelle (left) and Roth also support Obama's plan
The US Army has an unspecified number of nuclear warheads at its bases in Germany.
The call for their dismantling was echoed by Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the opposition Free Democratic Party.
"I demand the withdrawal of all nuclear warheads still based in Germany," he told ZDF television on Sunday. "They are a remnant of the Cold War and don't belong on German soil. The German government must begin talks with NATO on these warheads immediately."
Wolfgang Gehrcke, the foreign policy spokesman of Germany's Left party, urged the leaders of the European Union to join Obama's vision of a nuclear-free world. As a first step along this road they should press for the dismantling of such weapons in Europe, he told Monday's edition of the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
"A nuclear-free world would eventually make the existence of large military blocs a thing of the past," Gehrcke added.