Roundtable on NATO's Nuclear Posture and Burden Sharing Arrangements: an Italian Perspective

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BASIC held a roundtable in Rome on June 15, 2011 in cooperation with the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). The roundtable explored Italian perspectives on the future of NATO's nuclear posture and burden sharing. It also looked at Italy's position on the current debate about tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe.

The main points raised at the roundtable were as follows:

1) The Alliance’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) will need to answer a fundamental question regarding the future of NATO: deter whom, how and from what.

2) Forward deployed TNW have little meaningful strategic or military value in the current security scenario. However, they still have some political and symbolic value and may retain a certain deterrence effect in some scenarios (albeit unlikely).

3) Participants differed on the issue of whether extended deterrence is strengthened by the physical presence of TNW in Europe. Many expressed the view that their presence masks a deeper and more fundamental lack of trust and confidence in the future of US commitments, diminished solidarity within the Alliance and long term uncertainty over relations with Russia.

4) Participants stressed the need to engage Russia constructively whilst also addressing some NATO allies’ security needs.

5) The compatibility of TNW with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) raises a number of issues.

6) Removing TNW from European soil would concretely demonstrate European countries’ commitment to nuclear disarmament.

7) The stationing of US TNW on European territory sets a dangerous precedent of forward deployment on other countries’ territories that could in the future be repeated in more dangerous circumstances.

Italy’s current position was explored in detail. The main points raised were:

8) The military value of TNW in Italy has drastically weakened, and that the status quo is probably untenable.

9) Historically, the reason for hosting nuclear weapons on Italian territory was the acceptable “Italian path to the bomb” and the prestige associated with this.

10)  Italy has adopted a low profile on this particular issue due to a lack of political leadership, public awareness, and thus of any pressing interest. But also, a deeply-rooted elite strategic culture prioritises multilateralism, and this has meant a preference for the status quo over any difficult conversations that would seek an alternative consensus.

To read the full report please click here


This roundtable is one of a series held throughout Europe and was organized by BASIC in cooperation with the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) as part of a project involving the Arms Control Association and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy Hamburg with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust


For more information please contact Laura Spagnuolo at lspagnuolo(at)basicint.org or ++44 (0)20 7324 4680