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TacNukes News No. 9

 

 

 

 

 

This edition of TacNukes News looks at the impact of the Ukraine crisis on the issue, and the U.S. Administration's latest spending requests and plans for modernizing the B61 nuclear bombs.

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 here 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 the sub-heading to jump to the particular section below.

  • Partner-related resources

    1. NATO and Russia experiences with nuclear transparency and confidence-building measures

    2. Lessons learned from past experiences with transparency and confidence-building measures

  • Arms Control

    1. Impact of Ukraine crisis further diminishes arms control prospects

    2. High-level transatlantic commission releases recommendations for progress on nuclear arms control

  • Europe

    1. Reinvigorated role for tactical nuclear weapons in allied security considered by some in light of Ukraine crisis

    2. Activists break into Volkel Air Base

    3. Group of parliamentarians send letter to U.S. Congress expressing opposition to B61s in Europe

  • United States

    1. U.S. Administration increases budget requests for programs related to tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

    2. United States ramps up testing of B61-12

    3. U.S. Air Force head says NATO could compensate if some European allies decide to forego B61 nuclear mission

  • Additional Resources

    1. Chicago Council launches task force to address tactical nuclear weapons

    2. Upcoming PONI debate on role of tactical nuclear weapons in Crimean crisis

 


 

PARTNER-RELATED RESOURCES

SWP background papers for the SWP-BASIC workshop in Berlin - “Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Transparency, Confidence-Building Measures in Practice”, March 27-28, 2014:

  1. NATO and Russia experiences with nuclear transparency and confidence-building measures

    Katarzyna Kubiak reviews the history of NATO-Russia developments around transparency measures related specifically to nuclear weapons, including exchanges on terminology, nuclear doctrine and definitions, data and information, and nuclear safety and security. Published April 2014.

  2. Lessons learned from past experiences with transparency and confidence-building measures

    Max Mutschler reviews nuclear, biological, and conventional arrangements in an effort to glean lessons for the debate about potential nuclear weapons-related transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) in the NATO-Russia context. Published April 2014.


 

ARMS CONTROL

1.) Impact of Ukraine crisis further diminishes arms control prospects

The Ukraine crisis seems to have dashed what remaining hope there had been for Russia and NATO to make progress on confidence-building measures around tactical nuclear weapons in the near-term. Many European security experts were agreeing that the situation appeared bleak given the further damaged relations between key NATO capitals and Moscow over Ukraine - a non-NATO member that borders NATO countries and Russia (GSN, 3/24).

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said while in Washington earlier this Spring that he “cannot exclude that the events we have witnessed in Crimea will also have an impact on the thinking about arms control, including nuclear policies” (Brookings, 3/19). While admitting that the Ukraine crisis will further dampen arms control prospects for the foreseeable future, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer has pointed to the value of existing agreements (such as the New START treaty on strategic arsenals), saying that they place “important bounds on an increasingly confrontational U.S.-Russian relationship” (The National Interest/Brookings, 4/10).

Under-secretary of State for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller delivered the United States’ opening statement at the NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting in New York on April 29. She referred to the U.S. position on nuclear negotiations with Russia:

The United States remains open to negotiate further reductions with Russia in all categories of nuclear weapons – including strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed.

Recent actions have significantly undermined mutual trust and that trust will take time to rebuild. Still, no one should forget that even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union found it in our mutual interest to work together on reducing the nuclear threat.

Russia did not comment on the non-strategic nuclear issue in its opening statement.

 

On May 5, Moscow suspended mutual military inspections with Lithuania (Reuters, May 5). The 2001 agreement allowed Lithuania to inspect Russian military in Kaliningrad, a Russian “exclave” between NATO members Lithuania and Poland. Kaliningrad has occasionally been cited as a possible location for Russian deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander tactical missiles, a controversy which resurfaced last December (GSN, 12/19/13).

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2.) High-level transatlantic commission releases recommendations for progress on nuclear arms control

The Deep Cuts Commission released its first report in April: “Options for Enhancing Euro-Atlantic and International Security”. The report was written before the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. Specifically on the issue of tactical nuclear weapons (in Chapter 3 of the report), the group of experts and former officials called for a number of steps to make progress, including:

  1. Reconfirming Russia and U.S. commitment to the 1991 and 1992 Presidential Nuclear Inititiives (PNIs) -”undertaking confidence-building measures such as exchanging data on the total number of nuclear warheads destroyed over the past twenty years, and conducting site visits to former but now empty storage facilities”.
     
  2. Resuming Russian-U.S. nuclear expert dialogue “to develop non-intrusive measures to provide for verifiable and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons”.
     
  3. Formulating “a coherent NATO policy on the role of TNWs in Europe and terms for their withdrawal”- an effort which the Commission said should be led by Germany within NATO.

The full report is available on the Commission’s website.

 

Further Reading 

  • Russia and the INF Treaty (Blog and comments cover range of arms control issues beyond INF Treaty.)
    Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk, April 28, 2014.

  • Arms Control in Times of Global Change, Chapter 1 in The Future of Arms Control
    Edited by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, in cooperation with Anne Finger and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH), March 2014.

 


 

EUROPE

1.) Reinvigorated role for tactical nuclear weapons in allied security considered by some in light of Ukraine crisis

Authors of a report for the Center for European Policy Analysis called on NATO to consider moving tactical nuclear weapons into eastern European member states as part of a package of measures to bolster Eastern European allied security in light of recent developments around Ukraine (CEPA Report, 3/25). Elizabeth Braw of Newsweek (4/15) interviewed several current and former officials from Central and Eastern European NATO countries who asserted that the crisis has strengthened the justification for retaining U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. (Although not specifically on the nuclear issue, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, head of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, had said recently that, in light of the crisis in Ukraine and tensions with Russia, NATO political leaders would need to consider the “positioning” of forces to reassure Eastern European allies (Military Times, 5/09). U.S. troops have been deployed in small numbers to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland (Army Times, 4/22). The Czech Republic’s defense minister, however, said his country would not seek to host foreign NATO troops (Reuters, 5/12).

Further Reading

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2.) Activists break into Volkel Air Base

On March 18, activists from the group “Disarm” broke into Volkel Air Base in The Netherlands, where U.S. B61 nuclear bombs are thought to be stored (Bloomberg, 3/18; GSN, 3/25) . The activists took a photo of a bunker that they thought housed B61 bombs, and called on President Barack Obama to take the bombs “back to the U.S.A.” when he visited the country for the Nuclear Security Summit that was held on March 24 and 25 (NoNukes.nl, 3/21).

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3.) Group of parliamentarians send letter to U.S. Congress expressing opposition to B61s in Europe

On May 6, 136 parliamentarians from several B61 host countries and European Parliament, sent a letter to members of the U.S. House and Senate to express their opposition to continuing to base the nuclear bombs in Europe and to developing a nuclear capability for F-35 aircraft. For the full letter and list of signatories, see Letter to Congress: 136 NATO Parliamentarians Oppose B61 Nuclear Bomb, Friends Committee on National Legislation website (an initiative of FCNL, International Coalition Against U.S. Nukes in Europe, and PAX).

 


 

UNITED STATES

1.) U.S. Administration increases budget requests for programs related to tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

The Obama Administration issued its Fiscal Year 2015 budget earlier in March. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) requested $643 million for the B61-12 Life Extension Program, which includes modernizing nuclear weapons for strategic bombers and tactical fighter aircraft (DOE/NNSA, Weapons Activities, Directed Stockpile Work, p. 66). The increase is about 20 percent over FY 2014. The program has encountered skepticism in Congress because of growing cost estimates, which have reached over $10 billion in total according to the Pentagon (Defense News, 11/6/13). For the B61 Tail Kit Assembly (TKA), which is a new feature that will improve the accuracy of the bombs, the Pentagon is requesting $198.4 million, compared with $33 million in FY 2014. The Air Force says the full TKA project will cost about $1.2 billion (DOD Overview, p. 21). The Defense Department requested $15.6 million for developing nuclear capability for the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (large file: DOD, AF Justification Vol. 3a, p. 231), and $154 million to pursue additional security enhancements for the B61 bombs currently based in Europe (DOD Military Construction Program, p. 6, and Kristensen, 3/11).

Further Reading

  • B61-12: The New Guided Standoff Nuclear Bomb
    Hans M. Kristensen, Presentation for NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting side event in New York, United Nations (event organized by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), May 2, 2014

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2.) United States ramps up testing of B61-12

The B61-12, which is different from current B61 variants stationed in Europe in part because it will include the provision of the new “tail kit” (Sandia Labs, 4/14) that is intended to enhance accuracy of the nuclear bomb, underwent its first full-scale wind tunnel test (NNSA, 4/14) in preparation for a series of “drop tests” that will occur this summer. Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists explains the significance of the new design and findings of the wind tunnel tests (FAS Strategic Security Blog, 4/16). Kristensen also reports that according to the U.S. Air Force budget request for FY 2015, “integration of the B61-12 on NATO F-16 and Tornado aircraft will start in 2015 for completion in 2017 and 2018” (FAS Strategic Security Blog, 3/13).

 

 

(Photo: NNSA)

 

Further Reading

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3.) U.S. Air Force head says NATO could compensate if some European allies decide to forego B61 nuclear mission

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 14 -saying that NATO allies “could pick up the load” if certain European countries currently hosting aircraft assigned to the B61 mission decide to forego having their own nuclear aircraft capability in the future (C-SPAN, 3/14). He did not specify which country or countries would compensate, but the United States is known to have this capability (GSN, March 26).

 


 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

1.) Chicago Council on Global Affairs Convenes Task Force on Reducing Nuclear Weapons in Europe
The Chicago Council is partnering with Global Zero to convene a task force to offer recommendations on reducing tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. The task force aims to make its recommendations in time for the NATO Summit in Wales this September, and plans to issue a report in June. The task force will be headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, facilitated by the direction of Council President Amb. Ivo Daalder (former U.S. Ambassador to NATO) and U.S. Chair of Global Zero Amb. Richard Burt (former U.S. Ambassador to Germany).
Chicago Council on Global Affairs Press Release, March 6, 2014

2.) Upcoming Event
PONI Live Debate: The Role of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Responding to the Crisis in Crimea
Debate between Peter B. Doran, Director of Research, the Center for European Policy Analysis, and Kingston Reif, Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
-To be held at CSIS in Washington, DC on May 19, 2014

 


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