Toward a Meaningful NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review

A group of experts, including former officials from offices of State, Defence and military services, have sent a letter to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to offer a series of recommendations for the Alliance’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review.

» Read the letter here

US nuclear bomb to get new, improved capabilities

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) writes: «A modified U.S. nuclear bomb currently under design will have improved military capabilities compared with older weapons and increase the targeting capability of NATO’s nuclear arsenal. The B61-12, the product of a planned 30-year life extension and consolidation of four existing versions of the B61 into one, will be equipped with a new guidance system to increase its accuracy. As a result, if funded by Congress, the U.S. non-strategic nuclear bombs currently deployed in five European countries will return to Europe as a life-extended version in 2018 with a significantly enhanced capability to knock out military targets.»

Read the full article on the FAS Strategic Security Blog

RUSI Report: “If the Bombs Go”

Cover of RUSI reportThis Occasional Paper published by the British think-tank RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) draws together analyses of issues that might arise if US nuclear weapons were removed from Europe. The paper examines how NATO’s assurance and deterrence relationships might be altered.

The role of the remaining US non-strategic nuclear weapons stationed in Europe is likely to be considered during the current NATO Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR).  There have been several studies that focused on the possible effects that further withdrawals of these weapons might have on deterrence and arms control, and suggested a range of options for consideration by NATO. This report complements these and the ongoing debate by analysing the issues that could arise if the US nuclear weapons were removed.

The seven authors of these papers, from France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey and the UK, were commissioned by RUSI to examine these issues and to pay particular attention to the views of key officials and advisors in their own country or region.

Download the report here

The Placebo Effect – US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

Last week I attended a small – but very good – meeting in Helsinki, organised by the Finnish Peace Union and BASIC, entitled “NATO Nuclear Deterrence and Defence: A Nordic Perspective”. It was an informal dinner and a seminar with government representatives from the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Eastern and Central Europe, think tanks and NGOs. Gunnar Westberg and I were there for IPPNW. The meeting was “behind closed doors”, so I can’t attribute any comments to anyone in particular, but I can tell you a little about what I gleaned from the discussion.

Read this article by Xanthe Hall on the IPPNW Peace and Health Blog

NATO’s Nuclear Weapons: Here to Stay

Here in London, where I am based, I’ve written for TIME on several occasions about a strange arrangement that means that Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands are de facto nuclear weapons states. The U.S. stores  200 B-61 thermonuclear gravity bombs in those five European countries, and under a NATO agreement struck during the Cold War, the bombs can be transferred to the control of a host nation’s air force in time of conflict. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, European pilots fly training sorties in which they rehearse the detonation of nuclear bombs whose sole “tactical” purpose is to fend off the Russian army if it chooses to sweep across Central Europe in a kamikaze invasion. Absurd, I know.

Read article by Eben Harrell on TIME’s Battleland

World Council of Churches urges NATO to remove all nuclear weapons from Europe

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and church organizations on both sides of the Atlantic are urging NATO to remove all United States nuclear weapons still based in Europe and end their role in the alliance’s policy. In a letter of March 16 to US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, leaders of the church bodies argue that the 200 or so nuclear weapons involved are “remnants of Cold War strategies – NATO should rethink deterrence and security cooperation in Europe”, they say, and make good on NATO’s new commitment last year to “creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons”. Removal of the US weapons still stationed in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, the churches note, would reduce by one-third the number of countries that have nuclear weapons on their soil, to 9 from 14. The church organisations acted in anticipation of an important NATO nuclear policy review this year. That review and a NATO summit in 2012 present an “opportunity for change that is long overdue and widely anticipated,” their letters say. See: Churches engaged for nuclear arms control

Nukes, What about them?

The upcoming NATO Defence and Deterrence Posture Review has sparked a number of debates, both here in the Netherlands and abroad. The Dutch Senate accepted a motion which states that the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons should be a target of Dutch foreign policy. Furthermore, it asks the Dutch government to elucidate its plan of action on nuclear disarmament. This coincides with an opinion poll which shows that 87 per cent of the Dutch people want to get rid of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that are based in Volkel.

And the NoNukes team has not exactly sit still either! Last month, we published a booklet titled “Nukes, what about them?”, which answers all the important questions about nuclear weapons in a simple and understandable manner. We’re also looking forward to the launch of our report “Withdrawal Issues – What NATO countries say about the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe” on the 30th of March in the Netherlands. For this report we spoke to all 28 NATO delegations and a number of key NATO staffers to ask them about the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. You can read all about it in this newsletter.

Susi Snyder

Next, the Tactical Nukes

Joint Op-Ed in International Herald Tribune by Carl Bildt – Foreign Minister of Sweden – and Radek Sikorski – Foreign Minister of Poland, 2 February 2010

We hope that we will very soon have reason to welcome a new agreement between the United States and Russia on further reductions of strategic nuclear weapons. It makes no sense for either country to spend billions on weapons systems of such radically diminishing strategic utility.

But as we look forward toward welcoming such an agreement, we simultaneously call for early progress on steep reductions in sub-strategic nuclear weapons — in Europe often referred to as tactical weapons.

While the strategic nuclear weapons are seen as a mutual threat by the United States and Russia, nations like ours — Sweden and Poland — could have stronger reason to be concerned with the large number of these tactical nuclear weapons.

Most of the active sub-strategic nuclear weapons in the world today seem to be deployed in Europe in theoretical preparation for conflict in our part of the world.

The actual numbers are obviously closely held secrets. A recent report by the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament indicates that the United States possesses approximately 500 active warheads — of which approximately 200 are said to be stored in Western Europe; Russia holds around 2,000 warheads, the vast majority in the western part of the country.

Although this is a sharp decline from the height of the Cold War — when the United States held approximately 8,000 tactical nuclear warheads, and the Russians approximately 23,000 — the numbers are still substantial. The focus now must be on deep reductions and their eventual elimination. One also has to keep in mind that according to other sources current stockpiles of tactical nuclear arms are even greater.

As part of efforts to further reduce nuclear weapons in general, as well as to build confidence in a better order of security in Europe, we today call on the leaders of the United States and Russia to commit themselves to early measures to greatly reduce so-called tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. These measures could be the result of negotiations, but there is also room for substantial unilateral confidence building efforts.

We understand that Russia is a European power, but we urge Moscow to make a commitment to the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from areas adjacent to European Union member states. We are thinking of areas like the Kaliningrad region and the Kola Peninsula, where there are still substantial numbers of these weapons. Such a withdrawal could be accompanied by the destruction of relevant storage facilities.

But these measures should only be seen as steps toward the total elimination of these types of weapons. The need for deterrence against rogue nations could amply be fulfilled with existing U.S. and Russian strategic assets.

With some exceptions, tactical nuclear weapons were designed for outdated, large-scale war on the European continent. Their use would have brought destruction to Europe on a scale beyond comprehension and would in all probability have lead also to the destruction of Russia and the United States in a strategic nuclear duel.

One thing is absolutely clear: The time has come to cover sub-strategic nuclear weapons with an arms control regime, which would look like the one that was established long ago for strategic arms.

We still face security challenges in the Europe of today and tomorrow, but from whichever angle you look, there is no role for the use of nuclear weapons in resolving these challenges.

Such weapons are dangerous remnants of a dangerous past — and they should not be allowed to endanger our common future.

Source: International Herald Tribune