Nuclear weapons: Disarmament is a thing of the past

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute warns of a new worldwide nuclear arms race, with China rushing ahead. Activists in the anti-nuclear movement are becoming lonely figures.

Every Tuesday, Rüdiger Lancelle gets into his car and drives to the Bundeswehr air base in Büchel in western Germany. The 83-year-old peace activist sits down on a camping chair in front of the gate and holds a vigil. His goal: “That the weapons lying in Büchel get removed and be scrapped,” he tells DW on the phone.

About 20 nuclear bombs are stored in Büchel and would be deployed by German fighter pilots in the event of an attack. Lancelle protests against this so-called “nuclear sharing.”

Just six months ago, it looked as if peace activists like Lancelle had most Germans on their side. A “Germany free of nuclear weapons” had also been set as a goal of the new government by the center-left Social Democrats, environmentalist Greens, and neoliberal Free Democrats. After the Russian attack on Ukraine and nuclear threats from Moscow, that now seems to be water under the bridge.

In a recent survey commissioned by the public broadcaster ARD, 52% of those polled said they were now in favor of keeping the US nuclear weapons in Germany. Over 1,300 people were polled from May 30 to June 1. In a similar survey a year ago, the figure was just 14%.