Social Democrat Martin Schulz has vowed to remove US nuclear weapons from Germany's soil if he defeats Chancellor Angela Merkel in the upcoming election. Schulz's SPD has 24 percent support, according to the latest poll.
Martin Schulz says he would push to remove US nuclear weapons from Germany's soil if he were to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel. For several decades, the United States has reportedly kept up to 20 warheads south of Cologne at a base in Büchel (pictured) - although Germany's Defense Ministry has never confirmed this.
"As chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, I would push for the removal of nuclear weapons stored in Germany - and, if they're stored in Rhineland Palatinate, then [the removal of] those stored in Rhineland Palatinate," Schulz said Tuesday while campaigning for his Social Democrats (SPD) in the western state. He added that US President Donald Trump's conflict with North Korea "shows more than ever before how urgently necessary it is to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to promote disarmament."
Schulz accused Merkel of caving to the US president with her plan to spend 30 billion euros ($35.3 billion) on the Bundeswehr to meet a NATO defense-spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product. "It can't be that Germany, without comment and without action, continues to take part in an armament spiral as wanted by Trump," Schulz told the SPD late Tuesday.
Schulz has quite often criticized other world leaders who are currently unpopular in Germany during his campaign, not least Trump in the US and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in the Bundestag, criticized Schulz's stance in an interview with the AFP news agency on Wednesday, calling the comments a sign of Schulz's "growing desperation."
"Security policy is a very complex topic that is not ideal for town square polemics," Hardt said. "The SPD's chancellor candidate would be well advised not to question Germany's place within the world's security architecture for the sake of sensationalism."
By the numbers
Schulz's comments come as he and his party continue to languish well adrift of the CDU in the most recent poll of 2,501 voters conducted for the magazine Stern and the private broadcaster RTL.
The poll gives Merkel's CDU a 38-percent share of the vote, down a point from the week before but still up by 14 percentage points over Schulz's SPD, which recently made minor gains to reach 24 percent - the party's highest level of support in nearly three months.
The CDU and SPD, which govern in a grand coalition, would have to form separate alliances with Germany's smaller parties in order to achieve an independent parliamentary majority. But given the current numbers, only the CDU is liable to have that option.
The CDU's most likely potential partners, the pro-business Free Democrats and the ecologist Greens, had 8 percent and 7 percent support, respectively. The Greens were down a point from the previous poll.
The Left had 9 percent support while the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) was up a point to 9 percent support - the party's highest level since April.
The number of nonvoters and undecided respondents was down two points, but still stands at a whopping 24 percent almost a month to the day before the September 24 elections.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)