TacNukes News No. 8

This edition of TacNukes News includes updates on political developments in Germany and The Netherlands, and on the B-61 nuclear bomb Life Extension Program in the United States.

TacNukes News summarizes recent developments and resources covering tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe. This newsletter is compiled and distributed by BASIC. As part of a broader joint project on reducing the role of TNW in Europe, BASIC is cooperating with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The current project page is available on BASIC’s website.

The views expressed in the resources and references below do not necessarily reflect those of the project funder or partners.
 

In this edition

Click on a sub-heading to jump to a particular section below.

Partner-related publications

  • Trapped: NATO, Russia, and the Problem of Tactical Nuclear Weapons
  • Nuclear Deterrence Summit: Extended Deterrence and Assurance
  • Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control malaise

Recent Developments

  • Europe
    1.) New German Coalition revises government position on TNW
    2.) Dutch ministers say they need to defer to NATO on nuclear question
     
  • United States
    1.) B61-12 Life Extension Program fully funded for FY 2014
    2.) Former U.S. officials critique status quo on B-61/TNW
    3.) Senators comment on financial challenge to transatlantic mission
     
  • Russia
    1.) Iskander controversy heats up, then dies down again
    2.) NATO mulls approach to Russia

Other News and Resources

 


Partner-Related Publications

  • Trapped: NATO, Russia, and the Problem of Tactical Nuclear Weapons
    Dr. Oliver Meier of SWP, and Simon Lunn, former Secretary-General of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, explain many of the reasons behind the continuing impasse between, and within, NATO and Russia in achieving arms control measures addressing tactical nuclear weapons. The authors point out that while one of the more promising avenues for moving forward on the issue includes addressing transparency, “in some cases, NATO itself is not ready to exercise the kind of transparency on tactical nuclear weapons it is demanding from Moscow” in part because, as the authors point out, “Nuclear declassification rules apparently have not been changed since the Cold War” (p. 21). Meier and Lunn go on to recommend a series of shorter-term steps that the United States and the rest of NATO could take to make progress, even during a time of increasingly difficult relations with Russia.
    -Arms Control Today, January/February
    http://bit.ly/1cfbTpF

     

  • Nuclear Deterrence Summit: Extended Deterrence and Assurance
    Summary of BASIC panel discussion held on February 12, 2014, at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit, in cooperation with the ExchangeMonitor. Panelists included Paul Ingram of BASIC; Shmuel Bar of the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Studies, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology; Guy Roberts of Computer Science Corporation, and formerly with NATO.
    http://bit.ly/MSyeTV
     
  • Russian-U.S. arms control malaise
    Chris Lindborg, This Week, BASIC, February 10, 2014
    http://bit.ly/1h41emM

 

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EUROPE

GERMANY

1.) New German coalition alters government position on TNW in Europe
Near the end of November, the political parties forming a coalition for the new German Government, which includes the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Christian Social Union (CSU), put forward their agreed policy document that contained a revised position relevant to U.S. tactical nuclear weapons based in Germany. The text of the new coalition document more closely reflects NATO’s stated position - that of calling for successful talks between Russia and the United States over the reductions of these weapons as a precondition for the removal of U.S. TNW from Germany and the rest of Europe. The previous government coalition program of 2009 more forcefully called for working toward the removal of the weapons from Germany.

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THE NETHERLANDS

2.) Dutch ministers say their country will need to defer to NATO on nuclear question
Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans, sent a letter to the lower House of Dutch Parliament saying that NATO might require The Netherlands to carry out a “nuclear task” and that the successor to the F-16 planes could also have a nuclear capability. The Netherlands has plans to procure from the United States F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but these could be solely conventional. The ministers' statement ran counter to an expression of the Dutch Parliament in November, when the House issued its preference for the next generation fighter not to be nuclear weapons-capable (see TacNukes News, November 2013).

Further Reading

  • Dutch Government wants to be part of any process on nuclear weapons, but actions speak louder than words
    Susi Snyder, No Nukes blog, January 29, 2014
    http://bit.ly/1k24Ohb

 

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UNITED STATES

1.) B61-12 Life Extension Program fully funded for FY 2014
Congress fully funded the controversial Life Extension Program (LEP) for the B61-12 warhead in the FY 2014 budget at $537 million, a process which was wrapped up in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Omnibus bill) in mid-January. The extent of funding had previously been placed in doubt when Senate Appropriations had reduced funding in committee because the National Nuclear Security Administration’s overall B61-12 program costs had doubled. The bill requires the NNSA to submit an analysis of warhead LEP alternatives (for the B61 by April 1, 2014) before allowing the program to proceed to the development engineering phase. The B61-12 LEP would include the bombs based in Europe assigned to tactical dual-capable aircraft, but would also include other bombs in the U.S. arsenal assigned to strategic aircraft.

Further Reading

  • FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Summary and Analysis
    Kingston Reif, Laicie Heeley, and John Isaacs, January 15, 2014
    http://bit.ly/MSyO43
     
  • The Smart Choice on the B61
    Stephen Young, The Hill, Congress Blog, January 13, 2014
    http://bit.ly/1a2XZeS
     
  • Opposition to B61 threatens nuclear reductions, deterrence
    Thomas Karako, The Hill, Congress Blog, January 3, 2014
    http://bit.ly/19MByua

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2.) Former U.S. officials critique status quo on B-61/TNW
Stimson Co-founder Barry Blechman hosted Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz (U.S.-ret.) and Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt (U.S.-ret.) to discuss the future of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The event was related to the more broad-based Stimson report on the Peterson Defense Advisory Committee, with the discussion focused on congressional concerns around defense budgets and the increasing costs of the B61 LEP.
Gen. Schwartz made clear that he supports the triad of strategic nuclear weapons, but acknowledged that resources are diminishing and questioned planned spending for pursuing nuclear capability for the F-35 tactical aircraft. Absent European financial commitment and burden-sharing, he said that those resources for the F-35 (in block 4) should instead be allocated toward the next generation long-range bomber. He added that B61 life extension certification would still be necessary for modernization and long-range striker certification. Gen. Schwartz said the United States would need to consult more with allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, however, before making changes.

Ambassador Richard Burt reviewed the changing role of nuclear weapons and security environment since the end of the Cold War. He acknowledged that the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe remains politically controversial, but said there is a decreasing willingness among those countries that host the B61 bombs to retain nuclear-capable aircraft for the tactical mission. He suggested that the United States might be “sleepwalking into unilateral disarmament while at the same time spending money on a weapons system that no one wants to use.” He suggested exploring whether Russia might eventually be willing to move toward a more stable nuclear posture with its sub-strategic nuclear weapons even though its relations with the United States and NATO have become more strained.


During the same Stimson event, Gen. Schwartz (U.S.-ret.) said that the B61-12’s lower yield and guided tail kit for precision targeting were desired capabilities that would enhance deterrence. Hans Kristensen points out that these capabilities, which are new and seem to run counter to the Administration’s pledge not to develop new nuclear weapons capabilities, might “close the gap” for military planners, allowing them to include the B61 in some scenarios they would not have considered before.



Additional Reading

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3.) Senators comment on financial challenge to transatlantic mission
During a CSIS Transatlantic Security Forum event in Washington, DC, Senate panelists were asked to comment on the F-35/B-61 cost issues. Sen. John McCain (Republican - Arizona) severely chided the F-35 program for its cost overruns and, while not commenting directly on the B-61 warheads for Europe, said that there might not be enough F-35s to be assigned to the mission because their systems might not be sufficiently proven. Sen. Christopher Murphy (Democrat - Connecticut) said generally that he thought Europeans should contribute more on defense but refrained from commenting specifically on the F-35 or nuclear issue.

 


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♦♦♦♦
NOTABLE QUOTE

Unfortunately, perhaps, the credibility of this extended assurance does not fully permeate through all America’s allies, with or without the B61s in Europe.
-Paul Ingram, BASIC, speaking on panel at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A., February 12, 2014
♦♦♦♦


RUSSIA

1.) Iskander controversy heats up, then dies down again
On December 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied reports elsewhere that Russia had deployed Iskander tactical missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian “exclave” between Lithuania and Poland. Several days before, a Russian official had seemed to confirm a German tabloid report, by saying that Russia had deployed Iskanders, a nuclear-capable missile with a range of about 400km/ 250m, to a "western" part of Russia. In recent years, Moscow has at times threatened to deploy Iskanders if the United States and NATO were to proceed with plans for deploying missile defense in Europe.

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2.) NATO mulls approach to Russia
As discussed in the Meier and Lunn article in Arms Control Today mentioned above, on December 6 NATO’s Special Advisory and Consultative Committee on Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-Proliferation backed two transparency and confidence-building measures to be pursued in a possible future dialogue with Moscow on TNWs, including unilateral and joint statements on nuclear policy, and a possible dialogue and reciprocal sharing of briefings on Russian and U.S. TNW in Europe.  Frank Rose, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, reaffirmed this continuing emphasis on transparency and reciprocal dialogue with Russia, during a presentation at The Swedish Institute of International Affairs on January 17.

  • Trapped: NATO, Russia, and the Problem of Tactical Nuclear Weapons
    Oliver Meier and Simon Lunn, Arms Control Today, January/February 2014
    http://bit.ly/1cfbTpF
     
  • Next Steps in U.S. Arms Control Policy
    Remarks by Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, U.S. State Department, Stockholm, Sweden, January 17, 2014
    http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/2014/220687.htm


Additional Reading

 

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OTHER NEWS AND RESOURCES


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Past issues of TacNukes News

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