NATO has missed an opportunity to clear up the divisive issue of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe at its Chicago summit, BASIC Executive Director Paul Ingram said today.
“If the U.S. and its allies aren’t careful, they will find themselves scrambling to control disarmament by default , as the Germans and others take decisions about the future delivery systems of these Cold War relics which they all know serve no military purpose,” said Ingram.
At the summit, NATO issued a seven page Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR) covering the mix of nuclear and conventional weapons. It instructed ‘appropriate committees’ to undertake a future study on nuclear sharing arrangements if the 180-odd B61 gravity bombs were removed from Europe, but no sense of when the study would be completed. On past experience, more conservative allies will obstruct timely completion. This week’s Review represents a compromise which essentially kicks the issue into the long grass because of disagreements mainly involving Germany, France and the Baltic states.
“The Alliance must be proactive on this issue, rather than waiting for concessions from Moscow. Russia sees Alliance disunity on this issue and has every incentive to stall,” said Ingram. He said politicians were making a “false comparison” between the small number of U.S. tactical weapons and Russia’s much larger arsenal believed to be around 2,000. “This is comparing apples and oranges. The sole remaining purpose of the U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe is to reassure allies about U.S. support. This reassurance does not have to be nuclear,” said Ingram.
The U.S. free-fall nuclear bombs are stored on bases in five European countries – Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. Current plans in Washington to spend $6bn on the B-61 warhead upgrade, including adding JDAM tail-fins for pin-point accuracy, and potential replacement of delivery aircraft in Europe to the (hugely expensive) stealthy F-35, represent a step-change. BASIC consultant Ted Seay has described this as an ‘escalation by default’.
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Email: pingram (at) basicint.org
Ted Seay is a BASIC consultant and former U.S. diplomat at NATO.
NATO's DDPR text online: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-193D7980-4A881D9C/natolive/official_texts_87597.htm?mode=pressrelease