Nuclear sharing arrangements and the active deployment of US theatre nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are viewed as critical components of its deterrence posture. Previously, this nuclear posture was aimed at the former Soviet Union (USSR) and Warsaw Pact alliance during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War and the absorption of former Warsaw Pact states into NATOthe official justification for those systems remaining is not connected to any specified enemy.
As part of its military doctrine, NATO relies on nuclear deterrence based upon the strategic nuclear arsenals of the United States and the United Kingdom. There are also U.S. B61 tactical gravity bombs based in five other member states as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements. Leaders and constituencies from NATO member states hold different views on how much emphasis the Alliance should place on the nuclear component of its military doctrine, and what the composition of the nuclear forces should look like.
The public discourse around nuclear weapons policy can be deceptively binary: countries should retain nuclear capabilities or they shouldn’t; nuclear weapons provide security and strategic stability or they don’t. However, it is generally only the tip of the iceberg that makes its way into mainstream debate. In reality, a web of incredibly technical, expert discussion takes place below the surface which defines how substantive nuclear policy decisions are taken.
—Progress on nuclear reductions will require more successful engagement with Russia President Barack Obama set out his second term nuclear agenda on June 19, 2013 in a major speech in Berlin, and in tandem released elements of his long-awaited Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy. No major policy shifts were revealed in his speech, other than issuing the conclusion that the United States could reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal down to about 1,000 warheads if Russia is willing to make similar reductions. The Obama Administration will need to proactively engage Russia and manage potential obstacles in Congress if he is to follow through on this agenda.
This Wednesday, President Obama is slated to give his next big foreign policy speech at the historically significant Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It was at this Gate – an enduring symbol of both the division and subsequent unity of East and West Berlin – that Ronald Reagan urged then-General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to “tear down this wall” in 1987, and President Clinton spoke of a free and unified Berlin in 1994, following the end of the Cold War.
This week the Labour Party conference continues in Manchester. Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy spoke this morning with a focus on defence spending and support for service personnel. However, the future of Britain’s nuclear arsenal hit the headlines in this year’s conference season, with last week’s headlines reporting comments from recent Defence Minister Nick Harvey about the government’s review on Trident alternatives at the Liberal Democrats conference.
BASIC will hold the second of its bipartisan "strategic dialogues" on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, this time on "Making sense of the nuclear posture". This week’s event is timely because President Barack Obama has recently concluded his oversight of the nuclear guidance, two years after his Administration's formal nuclear posture review.
The third briefing report from the BASIC Trident Commission focuses on the nuclear relationship between the United Kingdom and France, and the two countries' attempts at nuclear cooperation. Written by Dr. Bruno Tertrais, this report evaluates lessons from past cooperation attempts between London and Paris and investigates the impact of present arrangements.