NATO members, at last weekend’s summit, agreed to review the alliance’s “overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats”. The summit did not set a deadline for the review, but the North Atlantic Council should be tasked with reporting on its progress at least at the April Foreign Minister’s meeting. The plan is to use the “Defence and Deterrence” section of the new Strategic Concept as a basis for the review. NATO leaders agreed that the essential elements of the review would include the range of NATO’s strategic capabilities required, including nuclear posture, missile defence and other means of strategic deterrence and defence. Likely due to urging from the French, this review applies ONLY to nuclear weapons assigned to NATO. Consensus on conducting such a review appears to be a way to delay a decision on how the alliance should respond to the calls from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and others to meet their NPT agreement from earlier this year to “pursue policies that are fully compatible with the Treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons” specifically by calling for the withdrawal of US sub-strategic nuclear weapons from five European host nations. This review is an opportunity for the alliance to present a series of scenarios for withdrawal of these weapons.
Agreement to do such a review has clearly illustrated the division within NATO about what to do with the 200 or so forward deployed US nuclear weapons currently stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. Insiders have made it clear that the only country willing to expend any political capital to keep the weapons stored in Europe is France, every other NATO member either supports their withdrawal or considers a fight to keep them just not worth their energy. What the deterrence review should do is present, at an early date (maybe even the April Foreign Minister’s Meeting?) a plan of action for how to remove the weapons.
There is nothing in either the new Strategic Concept or in the Summit Declaration that would prevent an end to NATO’s Cold War practice of nuclear sharing. The Strategic Concept makes it clear that “the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance”. This deterrence review should come up with scenarios by which to “ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in collective defence planning on nuclear roles [and], in peacetime basing of nuclear forces” that reflects the majority opinion that these US weapons should be removed.
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