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Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
Polish Politician Ponders Nuclear EU
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March 2017

As President Donald Trump raises the prospect of a diminished U.S. role in defending European allies, a prominent Polish politician suggested that the European Union consider developing its own nuclear deterrent force. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former prime minister who is currently chairman of the ruling nationalist conservative Law and Justice Party, told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Feb. 2 that he likes the thought of the EU becoming a nuclear power “able to keep up with Russia.” The idea is unlikely to gain traction in European capitals because it would break the current nonproliferation regime and, as Kaczynski acknowledged, would require “huge expenditures” at a time of difficult economic conditions in the eurozone. 

Nick Witney, a former head of the European Defense Agency and now senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, expressed skepticism regarding the prospect of a nuclear-armed EU. “You would need institutions for that, which the EU doesn’t have,” he told Deutsche Welle. But he said it is “not surprising” the issue arises now because of concerns about Trump’s intentions.

Twenty-six European countries, including Poland, currently fall under the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella as part of NATO mutual defense commitments. In addition, France and the United Kingdom have their own nuclear arsenals.