NATO 'Experts Group' misses an opportunity for leadership on nuclear posture

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BASIC and Arms Control Association Press Release

(London/Berlin/Washington, D.C./New York) -- U.S. and European nuclear arms control and security experts reacted to the elements of a report from a group of senior advisors on reform of NATO's basic mission statement describing recommendations on Alliance nuclear policy as a missed opportunity to look forward and take the chance to mould the future of the Alliance.

"The NATO 'Group of Experts' has failed to offer the necessary practical leadership that takes NATO's nuclear policy into the new century. They continue to pin the credibility of the Alliance on the deployment in Europe of 200 U.S. nuclear gravity bombs, more suited to the Cold War doctrine of the 1960s. The lack of positive proposals could endanger the possibilities of agreement by the Lisbon NATO Summit in November," said Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council.

The report "NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement" was handed over to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today. Rasmussen will draft the New Strategic Concept which NATO member states aim to adopt at the Nov. 19-20 summit in Lisbon.

Although the Barack Obama administration has made it clear that the next round of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms talks should address tactical as well as strategic nuclear weapons, the 'Group of Experts' recommends that ‘As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO should continue to maintain secure and reliable nuclear forces, with widely shared responsibility for deployment and operational support, at the minimum level required by the prevailing security environment'.

"The expert group asserts its statements without background justification. It does not attempt to justify the continued deployment of 200 U.S. tactical bombs in Europe on military grounds, yet boldly states they 'reinforce the principle of extended nuclear deterrence and collective defence'", said Oliver Meier, with ACA in Berlin. "In fact, tactical nuclear bombs are not 'credible' weapons and are irrelevant for the defense of the alliance," he noted.

Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright said at an April 8 briefing that NATO nuclear weapons based in Europe do not serve a military function not already addressed by other U.S. military assets.
See:http://www.cfr.org/publication/21861/nuclear_posture_review.html

"This report fails to chart a route out of the Cold War trap involving the dangerous deployment of free-fall battlefield nuclear bombs in Europe," said Anne Penketh of BASIC. "To claim that transatlantic solidarity rests upon them, when host states in Western Europe are crying out for change, fails to recognize a much greater risk to Alliance solidarity in the status quo," she concluded.

"While the Experts Group calls for efforts to work with Russia to reduce the overall number of tactical nuclear bombs, they implicitly acknowledge that linking NATO actions on its tactical nuclear stockpile to Russian action is a formula for inaction and delay," noted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The experts also recommend that: "NATO should endorse a policy of not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations."

"The report thus concedes that NATO must significantly restrict the options for any use of these weapons in line with Obama's nuclear posture review," said Oliver Meier.

"Rather than perpetuate the nuclear-sharing arrangement, NATO should recognize that in the 21st century, these smaller and more portable nuclear bombs are a security liability, not an asset. They are a target for terrorists, blur the line between conventional and nuclear conflict, and are a drag on global nonproliferation efforts," said Kimball.

NOTES:

1) The NATO Experts Group report is available online at:
http://www.nato.int/strategic-concept/expertsreport.pdf

2) The Experts Group Report recommends, in part, that NATO: a) Commit to retaining a nuclear element to its deterrent strategy "for as long as nuclear weapons remain a reality in international relations;" b) Continue to deploy U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe to reinforce extended nuclear deterrence, and signal transatlantic solidarity; and c) Should support efforts to reduce further the prominence of nuclear doctrines, and should endorse a policy of not threatening nuclear use against NPT non-nuclear weapon states in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations.

For more information, see: "NATO Chief's Remark Highlights Policy Rift," by Oliver Meier in Arms Control Today, May 2010.
See: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010_05/NATO

 

Contacts: Paul Ingram, BASIC in London (Office +44 (0)207324 4680; mobile: +44 (0)7908 708175); Oliver Meier, ACA in Berlin (+49 30 4372 3970); Daryl Kimball, ACA in Washington (202-463-8270); Anne Penketh, BASIC in New York (202-570-6701).

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The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and the Arms Control Association are independent nongovernmental organizations with offices in London, Berlin, and Washington.